Jim Henson's Fantastic World - Museum of Science + Industry

Touring exhibit presented by The Jim Henson Legacy and The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

September 24 - January 23, 2010
Museum of Science + Industry, Chicago, IL
Click here for hours and directions.

Click here for more information on the exhibit.

Click here for a tour schedule for the exhibit.

 

 


 

The Miss Piggy puppet from Muppets Take Manhattan will be on display at the museum with Jim Henson's Fantastic World for the first time in the life of the tour.

 

 


 

Some have asked why the exhibit on Jim Henson is in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. Jim Henson would have been very pleased to have his story in a museum of science and industry (and he did bring an exhibit of his work here in about 1984). The placement speaks to Jim's innovative thinking and his interest in new technologies and how they could be applied to sharing his creative vision.

Jim was the first to look at puppetry in the context of the television media and the technical possibilities it offered to the development of on-camera puppetry. Before Jim, puppetry on television was just transplanted stage puppetry including the use of a puppet theater. Jim did away with the theater, recognizing that he could use the television screen itself as the proscenium. Moving away from the traditional hard materials previously used to make puppets, Jim created characters from soft materials allowing them to be incredibly expressive - especially taking advantage of television close ups and changes in lens focal length to lend believability to his creations.

Beyond the new style of puppetry and innovative use of television, Jim was also experimenting with film techniques, always trying out new equipment, editing processes, adopting video over film early on, and generally taking advantage of any innovations in the field to better present his stories and characters. As early as 1970, he was doing computer animation for Sesame Street. In the late 1980s, before the age of reality television and YouTube, Jim was taken with the possibilities on the new hand-held video cameras and tested a reality show that featured young people traveling the country with their handi-cam.

Jim was always looking for ways to solve problems - how to make it look like puppets were riding bikes, swimming or rowing boats - without distracting the audience from the story. In the 1970s, he and his team developed animatronic puppets. They became more sophisticated for The Dark Crystal, and for Fraggle Rock the use of radio control allowed for the performance of the tiny Doozers and the giant Gorgs. At the end of his life (long before Avatar), Jim, working with PDI, developed the first digital puppet performed via a motion capture performance system. That initial experiment eventually led to the Henson Digital Puppetry Studio that is used today to create the PBS show Sid the Science Kid.

Jim's desire to entertain audiences by sharing his creative vision led him to seek out the best way to achieve believable performances of his characters through a combination of the simplest ideas (butterflies on sticks) to the most complex technologies (digital characters performed remotely). In Jim Henson's Fantastic World, we hope that visitors will be inspired by Jim's optimism and his unwillingness to acknowledge that there might be limits to what he might achieve. If he could dream it, he could do it.

-Karen Falk

Jim Henson Company Archives

 

Click here for the Museum of Science and Industry podcast interview with Karen.

 


 

 

(left) Arthur Novell, Executive Director of The Jim Henson Legacy; Jane Henson, Founder of The Jim Henson Legacy; Bonnie Erickson, President of The Jim Henson Legacy; Elmo; Frederica Adelman, Director of Exhibits at Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service; (front) Karen Falk, Archivist at The Jim Henson Legacy & Director at The Jim Henson Legacy; Jennifer Schommer, Assistant Director of Public Relations, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service

(left) Arthur Novell, Executive Director of The Jim Henson Legacy; Jane Henson, Founder of The Jim Henson Legacy; Bonnie Erickson, President of The Jim Henson Legacy; Elmo; Frederica Adelman, Director of Exhibits at Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service; (front) Karen Falk, Archivist at The Jim Henson Legacy & Director at The Jim Henson Legacy; Jennifer Schommer, Assistant Director of Public Relations, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service

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