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The Early Experimental Works of Jim Henson

posted by Chris Valentine

Puppeteer and Muppets creator Jim Henson had some interesting, early experimental works in the 60s and 70s. Henson started making puppets in high school, working for a Saturday morning kids show. While a freshman in college, he created a 5 minute puppet show called Sam and Friends. Aired on WRC-TV (Washington D.C.) from 1955 to 1961, it’s notable for Kermit the Frog’s first appearance.

Henson spent much of the 60s and 70s working in commercials and doing special films for talk shows and variety shows. Popular commercials of Henson’s were for Wilkins Coffee, which had high levels of violent slapstick, as can be seen here:

Henson created a piano-playing dog named Rowlf. Here is Rowlf from the The Jimmy Dean Show:

Experimental Films

Time Piece was a 9 minute short that was nominated for an Oscar in 1966. Here’s a sample:

A TV movie called The Cube was made for NBC in 1969 and aired on the anthology show NBC Experiment in Television. Richard Schaal stars as “The Man”, who is trapped in a cube-shaped white room that anyone else could enter and leave, but which he himself apparently could not. The characters tell him that he can only leave through his own door, so he must find it.

Finally, check out Limbo: The Organized Mind, a surreal short that appeared on the Tonight Show in the early 70s. It shows a disembodied floating face that takes the audience on a tour through his own mind. The music was done by Raymond Scott.

Jim Henson died in 1990 from an infection from Streptococcus pyogenes, but his work will go on forever.

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