The Museum of Pop Culture (also known as MoPOP) in Seattle announced this week that it has the privilege to become the first stop of “The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited.” Organized by the Museum of Moving Image (MoMI), this traveling exhibition will stay on site from May 20, 2017, through January 3, 2018, before traveling the world. The project will open in advance of MoMI‘s permanent gallery of Jim Henson and his creations later this year in New York.
So, it’s time to play the music and light the lights as “The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited” will explore the creator’s works right from the beginning and see his company’s impact on today’s pop culture. The exhibit will showcase various Muppet works including The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and more. More than 20 of the famous Muppet puppets will be on display as well as character sketches, storyboards, scripts, photographs, film clips, TV clips, behind-the-scenes footage, costumes, and perhaps the most fun of all, interactive experiences the will allow guests to give puppeteering a try in front of a camera and designing their own puppets.
“The exhibition prominently features an exploration of The Muppet Show from a concept Henson first developed in the early 1960s to an internationally beloved series,” says MoPOP.
“This section features iconic puppets that helped define this world-wide brand, including Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, and Scooter, as well as material from the Muppets’ transition to the big screen, with set models and storyboards illustrating how sets were designed to accommodate puppets and performers.”
Born on September 24, 1936 in Greenville, Mississippi, Jim Henson was had a huge interest in art and television and was very close to his artistic grandmother who liked to paint, quilt, and do needlework. While in 5th grade, Jim and his brother Paul experimented with different art forms and by the time Henson was in high school, his first puppets were on the air in the form of a Saturday morning TV show on WTOP-TV in Washington, DC. The following year he was given his own five-minute show, Sam and Friends, which aired twice a day, five days a week on WRC-TV. He did the show with fellow University of Maryland student, Jane Nebel, who later became his wife. It was during this show that Kermit the Frog was born.
After the success of Sam and Friends, Jim began to appear with “his friends” on national TV programs such as The Steve Allen Show, The Jack Paar Show and NBC’s Today while also make numerous TV commercials across the country. By 1963, Muppets, Inc. had its first nationally known character. No, it wasn’t Kermit the Frog. Rowlf the Dog (who is usually seen today playing the piano) appeared regularly on The Jimmy Dean Show from 1963 to 1966. New Muppets were created for the new concept in children’s programming, Sesame Street which began airing in 1969. The new, now iconic, characters were Ernie and Bert, Oscar the Grouch, Grover, Cookie Monster, and Big Bird.
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It wasn’t until 1975 that production began on The Muppet Show which also gave the world new characters to love including Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, The Great Gonzo, Scooter, and Rizzo the Rat. Each week’s half-hour show featured a different celebrity to sing and do silly sketches with the critters.
The success of The Muppet Show led to a long string of Muppet movies as well as experimenting with other Muppet-themed movies such as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth and new TV shows like Fraggle Rock and the animated Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies which won four Emmys for Outstanding Animated Program.
Before his death, Jim Henson’s last project was working on MuppetVision 3D, an attraction built for the Disney MGM Studios theme park (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) in Orlando, Florida. Henson passed away on May 16, 1990, but his memory lives on as The Muppets continue to make appearances in both film and TV.
[Featured Image by Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo]