Jim Henson: the Man, the Frog, and the Legend
December 13, 2013
I grew up in love with the Muppets. When I was a little kid, reruns of The Muppet Show aired early in the morning. I would try desperately to wake myself up in time to watch it. Kermit the Frog and company started my day five days a week, or at least as many as I could get myself to the living room on time. I was mesmerized by the antics of those crazy frogs, dogs, pigs, bears, chickens, and monsters, and I believed in them with all my heart. They never seemed like puppets or characters. They were just my friends.
Therein lies the genius of Jim Henson. He had the power to make us believe, and he used it to better the world. He is my hero. And finally, for the first time, his whole story has been told. Brian Jay Jones’ Jim Henson: the Biography is the book we Muppet fans have been waiting for—an in-depth, intimate examination of the life and accomplishments of this legendary thinker.
Coming to this book as a confessed Henson acolyte, I knew the basic trajectory of the story: his Mississippi childhood, his growing acclaim as a late-night performer in Washington, D.C., his success on Sesame Street and subsequent struggle to not be pigeonholed as a children’s entertainer. Jones fleshes out the details through painting a vivid picture of the inner workings of a laudable but flawed visionary. We get a complete look of Henson as a man: husband, father, friend, boss, colleague, and dreamer. It’s not all flattering, but it is all fascinating.
Jim Henson is one of the great American innovators, the Walt Disney of his time. It’s nice to finally have his full story to read, reread, and share with future generations of groundbreakers. Read it and be awed.
If you’d like to know more about Jim Henson and his worlds, try these books:
- Imagination Illustrated: the Jim Henson Journal edited by Karen Falk
- It’s Not Easy Being Green, and Other Things to Consider by Jim Henson, the Muppets, and friends
- Jim Henson: the Works by Christopher Finch
- Jim Henson’s Designs and Doodles: a Muppet Sketchbook edited by Alison Inches
- Street Gang: the Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis