Today would have been Jim Henson’s 82nd birthday. Like many of my fellow puppeteers, his work caught my eye as a child and helped inspire me to achieve my dream to create and perform my own puppet characters to share with children and families.
Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending. -Jim Henson
When I was growing up all of the puppetry that I enjoyed was on television. That’s right, at this point in my life, I had not experienced seeing live puppet shows. I am not sure if my parents were aware of any local puppet shows being performed. In fairness, they certainly had their hands full raising five children, and it would have been difficult for them to shuffle us all into Boston to see one. Fortunately, my Mum and Dad were very aware of my childhood obsession with puppets. In the 1960s there were several great TV shows that featured puppets that they would tune in for me, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, Captain Kangaroo and on November 10, 1969, Sesame Street hit the public television airwaves of America.
I loved the program from the very second that my almost-five-year-old eyes saw it. Being an inquisitive child, I asked my folks about the puppets that were featured on this groundbreaking program. How were they made? Who made them? How do they create the puppet’s voices? What is a puppeteer? Can I be a puppeteer? I am sure that they did their best to answer my endless questions. Around that same time, my father read in the newspaper that the creator of the Sesame Street puppets, or Muppets as they were called, was going to be on TV to give a behind-the-scenes look at how his Muppets were made.
Please enjoy this video on YouTube of Jim Henson on Making Muppets from 1969:
I still remember seeing this program, trying to soak in everything that was shown. A little while later, while attending kindergarten at South Elementary School, I brought a puppet that I “made” after watching the program for show and tell. It was nothing more than an old green sock pulled over a soap strainer, that I would squeeze to open and close the mouth. I was very happy to perform this puppet for my classmates, telling them that it was a green frog. Sound familiar to you?
Thank you, Jim Henson, for inspiring so many future puppeteers. Your legacy lives on.