Jim Henson became a hero of mine as soon as it became clear that the same soft-spoken, bearded gentleman beneath Kermit the Frog was directly responsible for The Dark Crystal—easily among the most formative works of art to an impressionable, weird kid like myself. I was just shy of eight years old when Jim died in 1990, and I recall where I was standing in my parent’s room as I watched—in disbelief—the story unfolding on the evening news. It was the first sense of grief I can recall feeling for the loss of someone I did not know personally. Even then, as a small child, I remember asking myself the somber question: “If Jim Henson has died, who will do all the things that only Jim Henson can do?”
Like so many others, my deep admiration for Jim never waned, and I have relished every opportunity to learn more about his life and his work. Jim Henson was a creative in the truest sense of the word, rarely pausing as he shifted from one ambitious, groundbreaking project to the next. Everyone knows Jim as the creator of the Muppets and puppeteer extraordinare, but his admirers know him also as a filmmaker, screenwriter, visual artist, animator, entrepreneur, visionary, and fantastically, a kind and gentle person.
In fact, Bernie Brillstein, one of Jim’s longterm agents famously said:
“Jim inspired people to be better than they thought they could be. To be more creative, more daring, more outrageous, and ultimately more successful. And he did it all without raising his voice.”
It has been my sincere joy to spend the past week or so pouring over the first official biography of Jim Henson. As someone who felt they had accumulated all public knowledge of Jim, I found in Brian Jay Jones’ wonderful book a wealth of new information on my hero as well as fresh and more thorough accounts of stories I had heard a dozen times prior.
To anyone who grew up laughing with the Muppets, learning from Sesame Street, staring in fascinated awe at the world of The Dark Crystal, singing and dancing with the goblins of Labyrinth, or hoping to discover in the corner of their homes an entrance to Fraggle Rock, I recommend this book. Jim’s legacy is fantastically robust, wonderfully dynamic, and continues to inspire new generations of puppeteers, comedians, filmmakers and dreamers the world over.
Behind the larger-than-life legacy of Jim Henson, of course, lies the man. One man, as singular and as flawed as any of us. But Jim, undeterred by his imperfections and limitations, hoped to make the world “just a little bit better for having been there.” Like Jim Henson’s work itself, his fulfilled dream of making the world a better place continues to make the rest of us dream, “maybe I can do the same thing.”