After finishing the recent Jim Henson biography, I’m in awe of what the man accomplished in 53 short years. Despite all his success, the book reveals little-known facts about his career. Who knew that Henson first performed a primitive, non-frog version of Kermit in 1955?
Reading about each project the artistic genius undertook brought back fond childhood memories. We take Sesame Street for granted now, but when it launched in 1969 the show was considered groundbreaking for its blend of cutting-edge educational short films and endearing Muppet skits contributed by Henson.
Not content with TV success, Henson took the Muppets to the big screen. The Muppet Movie cleverly mixed adult and children’s humor, and timeless songs like “The Rainbow Connection” made it perfect entertainment for all ages.
Frustrated by getting pigeon-holed as a kids’ entertainer, Henson ventured into more mature films with mixed results. Labyrinth was labeled a box office failure in 1986 but is now remembered for its innovative special effects, a devilish performance by legendary rocker David Bowie and the debut of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Connelly.
Other highlights of Henson’s career include The Muppet Show, The Dark Crystal, Fraggle Rock, Muppet Babies and creating Yoda for George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise.
But perhaps his greatest gift to us was his joyful, Zen outlook. “I believe that we form our own lives, that we create our own reality, and that everything works out for the best. I know I drive some people crazy with what seems to be ridiculous optimism, but it has always worked out for me.”