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He was a gentle dreamer whose genial bearded visage was recognized around the world, but most people got to know him only through the iconic characters born of his fertile imagination: Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, Miss Piggy, Big Bird. The Muppets made Jim Henson a household name, but they were just part of his remarkable story.
This extraordinary biography - written with the generous cooperation of the Henson family - covers the full arc of Henson’s all-too-brief life: from his childhood in Leland, Mississippi, through the years of burgeoning fame in America, to the decade of international celebrity that preceded his untimely death at age 53. Drawing on hundreds of hours of new interviews with Henson's family, friends, and closest collaborators, as well as unprecedented access to private family and company archives, Brian Jay Jones explores the creation of the Muppets, Henson’s contributions to Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live, and his nearly 10-year campaign to bring The Muppet Show to television. Jones provides the imaginative context for Henson’s non-Muppet projects, including the richly imagined worlds of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth - as well as fascinating misfires like Henson’s dream of opening an inflatable psychedelic nightclub.
An uncommonly intimate portrait, Jim Henson captures all the facets of this American original: the master craftsman who revolutionized the presentation of puppets on television, the savvy businessman whose deal-making prowess won him a reputation as "the new Walt Disney", and the creative team leader whose collaborative ethos earned him the undying loyalty of everyone who worked for him. Here also is insight into Henson’s intensely private personal life: his Christian Science upbringing, his love of fast cars and expensive art, and his weakness for women. Though an optimist by nature, Henson was haunted by the notion that he would not have time to do all the things he wanted to do in life - a fear that his heartbreaking final hours would prove all too well founded.
An up-close look at the charmed life of a legend, Jim Henson gives the full measure to a man whose joyful genius transcended age, language, geography, and culture - and continues to beguile audiences worldwide.
10 Best Audiobooks of 2013 (Salon) "The biography’s delightful surprises include a disastrous run on the first season of Saturday Night Live ('the mucking Fuppets,' John Belushi grumbled), an early milky-blue iteration of Kermit sewn from Henson’s mother’s felt coat and the story of how Frank Oz became Yoda." (Kyle Minor, Salon)
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By T on 10-01-13
I had my worries when the first chapter went back to a great great grandfather story, but in the end this is just an example of the approach of being one seriously complete biographical chronology.
With access to some of Henson's personal journals as well as a suite of the key people, the author has done a great job walking you through the twists and turns which made this life. I leave the book with specifics I did not know (Kermit did not start as a frog - really?), with a YouTube playlist of old mesmerizing performances the author pointed me to, and with a recognition not just of a man's genius but the amazing amount of hard work and drive that Henson expended to recognize this genius and change the world some small bit.
Good solid performance helping keep the material from getting too dry. Enjoyed the stretch to capture certain Muppet voices - each of which drove a flashback to childhood comfort and a small smile.
If you are looking for an abridged narration of a story told in dramatic language showcasing a suite of magical moments, this is not the book for you. If you want a straight well-told complete chronological biography of a complex life, this should be right up your alley.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
By Ed on 10-01-13
The author did his homework
What made the experience of listening to Jim Henson the most enjoyable?
I know a great deal of the history of the Muppets, but the many personal recollections, details, reasons, and even anecdotes of specific Muppet and artistic moments gave me a better picture of this guy I've either loved or feared since I first watched Sesame Street.
The Narrator (Heyborne) is clearly a fan. His subtle (but deliberate) impressions of Jim, Frank, Jerry, Richard, and others when they are directly quoted were wonderful embellishments to the text. Very nicely done.
In case anyone wonders, Jim's life was not about fame, money, or scandals and neither is this biography.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Jim Henson?
Many great insights into the roots and planning of Muppet and Henson projects.
Jim's love for his kids from their birth long into their success as adults.
Jane, Juhl, Oz, and Bernie Brillstein were far more important to Jim than you'd guess.
Jim was a great artist and he knew it, but he was very grateful for others. Honestly collaborative and trusting. His gentle, visionary leadership really allowed talented people a chance for greatness.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful