1.) How large is The Jim Henson Company Archives in terms of physical space and quantity of items?

The Jim Henson Company Archives' database holds over 10,000 records. The actual number of items in the Archives is much greater as over 2,000 of those records refer to files containing multiple documents. Our space, which we share with the Photo Library, is about 1,000 square feet. We also store some material off-site, including about 300,000 animated cels from Jim Henson's Muppet Babies.

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company

2.) What is the most challenging Muppet scene you've ever puppeteered, and why was it so challenging?

There was an episode of Fraggle Rock titled Boober's Quiet Day in which I played Boober, his alter ego Sidebottom, and Boober disguised as the Old Gypsy Lady. We used ultimatte to allow me to perform two characters on the screen at once. I performed the first character in the set, leaving pauses for the second character's lines. Then I performed the second character in front of a blue screen and it was matted into the picture. I choreographed the movements to give the illusion that both characters could move freely in the set. The episode was especially challenging for two other reasons: first, it was written as a farce and the plot was complicated; second, it was about Boober trying to integrate the two sides of his personality, and everything in the show had to support that growth.

Dave Goelz
Muppet Performer

3.) What is the most complicated creature ever created by the Creature Shop?

This question is not as simple as it might seem, for the level of complication of a puppet creature can be related as much to its size as to the intricacies of the mechanism, and I am sure that, amongst the Creature Shop designers, we would find many different personal opinions. For myself, I would say that the tiny life-size mechanical mice that we created in 1989 for Nic Roeg's The Witches represent one end of the scale, while the Flinstones Bronto-crane, the Loch Ness Plesiosaur, and the Monstermaker dragon, in their sheer huge complexity, stand at the other. But I would also say, since so much of our work is found these days in the accurate representation and performance of real animals, that a better definition of "complication" might be found in the Babe pig, as well as the truly remarkable gorilla created in London for the Jim Henson picture Buddy, which may well be the most realistic gorilla puppet ever built.

David Barrington Holt
Creative Supervisor
Jim Henson's Creature Shop

4.) Where do you get ideas when designing new Muppets?

Jim Henson designed many of the original "classic" Muppets. Having studied graphic design in college, Jim had a natural sense for creating visual interest by combining simple shapes with bright, colorful fabrics and materials. Muppet eyes are a combination of Jim's use of ping-pong balls (the original Kermit had eyes made of ping-pong balls) with solid black dots for pupils, a puppet design feature which became a trademark of the "Muppet style."

When designing new Muppets we follow much the same process that Jim did. There is an initial conceptualizing phase where quick, rough sketches are generated, usually in pencil or marker, to explore a wide range of possible forms and visual directions for the new character. This can be the most fun part of the design process, since anything goes and inspiration can come from anywhere. There is a natural tendency to follow Jim's lead by selecting simple forms. (Ernie's head is a horizontal football shape, Bert is a similar shape but vertically positioned and compressed. Big Bird's head is a simple circle with a long cone-shaped beak attached. Bunsen's head shape is also a simple circle, while his partner Beaker is a long thin cylinder.) By using basic shapes as a basis for the design, we develop a character that is simple, visually appealing and very often the most effective design. Other characters (pigs, cows or other animals) are simply exaggerated "Muppetized" views of existing creatures.

After a character's head and face have been selected, a body type tends to naturally follow along the same lines. From there it's simply a matter of refining the design and developing a costume that further reflects the nature of the character.

Edward C. Eyth
Director/Designer,
Creative Services
The Jim Henson Company

5.) If it's not easy being green, how does Gonzo cope with being blue?

Gonzo likes being blue, although he occasionally visits an ice cream stand in Bombay and has himself dipped in rainbow sprinkles and curry just to spice things up.

Jim Lewis
Writer/Muppet Genius

6.) What advice do you have for aspiring puppeteers?

Very simple; just DO IT! I've heard there are some college and university programs that teach puppetry, but I believe that if you can appreciate something, there is a good chance you can do it. So I advise fledgling puppeteers to build their own puppets if they can, and then start performing. There are many ways to start, whether it be practicing at home with a mirror or video camera, appearing at birthday parties, working at a local television station, or setting up a dinner racket, as I did. I was a young bachelor and didn't know how to cook, so my married friends would invite me to entertain their kids with a puppet, then give me a home-cooked dinner. I was already making a profit!

When I first got interested in puppets I was working at a large corporation that had its own internal television studio. I performed in some company videos and in exchange they allowed me to use the studio for practice on weekends. Later, when I was working on The Muppet Show, I performed at industrial trade shows during my time off. The two different learning experiences complimented each other very well. You can learn from every experience, so I tell people to accept all challenges and do as much work as they can.

Dave Goelz
Muppet Performer

7.) What makes a good Muppet?

The best way to describe what makes a good Muppet is to look at a great example (and the most recognized Muppet), Kermit the Frog.

Kermit is a sock puppet, one of the most simple designs available for puppetry. He is very light weight, since he doesn't have a lot of the foam, stuffing, fur or other mechanisms that some of the larger Muppets are composed of. This makes him easy to support or hold overhead for the long periods of time necessary in the production of a film or television show.

Being a simple "sock" shape constructed of soft, flexible materials makes Kermit capable of a range of expressions and emotions. In his passive or "normal" expression, Kermit's mouth is a straight horizontal line. By articulating his mouth in various ways, he can be made to smile, frown, grimace, look afraid... a whole range of feelings. This type of flexibility enables a skilled puppeteer to give a more expressive performance and really convey a sense of personality to the puppet.

Another factor that makes a good Muppet is visual appeal and personality. There is often some sense of character or emotional make-up that can be perceived in a puppet, even when it's hanging on a rack without a performer. It is often hard to describe exactly what these visual qualities are, but they are traits and characteristics that enable the puppet to be performed in a convincing, dynamic way.

So there are many elements that make a successful Muppet design, but what really makes a good Muppet is the talent and imaginative performance of a skilled puppeteer.

Edward C. Eyth
Director/Designer, Creative Services
The Jim Henson Company

8.) How much of what we see of the Muppets is scripted, and how much is ad-libbed?

Our Muppet productions are collaborative in the best and truest sense of the word. What you see is always carefully scripted, but then embellished, garnished and improved upon when the performers get hold of it. In setting up a scene, the performers will inevitably come up with some comic physical business or with unique character moments that add to mirth and mayhem. However, we almost always have a writer on the stage (lying down on the floor is my favorite spot) to make sure that what's been ad-libbed and invented by the performers works with the piece as a whole.

Jim Lewis
Writer/Muppet Genius,
Creative Services, The Jim Henson Company

9.) What is the strangest thing you have in The Jim Henson Company Archives?

While I would call it more uncommon than strange, we have a Kermit repair kit in the Archives. It was carried by Jim Henson (and crew) when he made appearances on talk shows in the late 1980s. It is a black gym bag containing Kermit fleece, sewing equipment, eyeballs, and a mike. On the stranger side, we have empty packages of Community Coffee (used by Jim in the 1960s to make commercials.) Until recently, we had actual cereal in the collection (Cröonchy Stars, the Swedish Chef's cereal marketed by Post), but decided to "deaccession" it to avoid getting bugs in the stacks!

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company

10.) In what ways is Jim Henson's Creature Shop unique among creature effects shops?

A simple answer to this question might just be that, predominantly, the Creature Shop specializes in making "characters", not just creatures, but you could argue that we are not the only people doing that. There is also the fact that the Creature Shop has been in existence since 1980, and that there has been an almost unparalleled continuity of staff and development of technology over these years, which has resulted in some stunning shows, and a generally very high level of professionalism amongst our crews. In many cases, we have been able to refine and develop techniques beyond the norm, and the company has grown substantially, with a huge facility in London working hand in hand with another fast-growing shop in Los Angeles, so that we are becoming a truly global operation.

More fundamental, in my opinion, is the fact that we represent and share Jim Henson's "ethic", namely that film and television entertainment should be used to celebrate life, and to enhance and enliven people's experience. Being guided by this ethic means that there are certain sorts of "creature" shows that we will not work on; that, on the whole, violence and gore are not our trade unless there is some serious artistic merit; and that we put more than usual emphasis into the design of meaningful and accessible characters. In addition to this, we value highly the skilled people who work for us, and go out of our way to make our staff feel part of the family. Compared to many, the Creature Shop has a reputation for encouraging individual responsibility, and whilst being innovative and professional, never to lose sight of the fact that this work should be fun; and this is an approach that we work hard to share with our clients.

David Barrington Holt
Creative Supervisor
Jim Henson's Creature Shop

11.) How did you get your start at The Jim Henson Company?

I began my tenure at the Jim Henson Company back when it was Henson Associates. I was a college intern in 1987 between my junior and senior years of college. It was a great summer—I even got to play softball with Jim Henson and Frank Oz. When the summer was over, I went back to Northwestern University with a Kermit wristwatch, lots of experience and a baseball glove signed by Jim Henson. I kept in touch with my supervisor and when I graduated from college, I was offered a job in the Public Relations (P.R.) Department. I spent three years working in P.R. as well as tending the company archives. During that time, I started writing material for both the P.R. department and the publishing division. When Jim Lewis, who was at that time the New York based staff writer, was asked to join our Los Angeles office, I was given the chance to fill his position on a trial basis. That was about seven years ago. Since then, I've written live-action and animated television shows, special Muppet appearances, radio programs, a book and tape set, liner notes for albums, two CD-Rom games and I even helped Miss Piggy write her cookbook.

Craig Shemin
Muppet Writer, Creative Services
The Jim Henson Company

12.) What was your favorite Henson production to work on?

My favorite will always be my first, which was a home video we did called Hey, You're As Funny As Fozzie Bear. (The concept was that you spend the first 20 minutes of the tape rehearsing an act with Fozzie, then, for the last 10 minutes standing next to the TV doing your act with Fozzie. Funn-ee! At least I thought so.) This was my first opportunity to work with Jim Henson and Frank Oz, who actually asked me (asked!) if it was all right to cut a few of my lines. I, of course, said "Yes"....repeatedly. To be a young writer and to be treated with such respect by artists like Jim and Frank was a moment I will never forget.

Jim Lewis
Writer/Muppet Genius,
Creative Services
The Jim Henson Company

13.) How is producing movies with puppets and animatronics different from producing those without?

The difference between a "regular movie" and a Jim Henson Picture is that all of our movies have one unifying theme: an element of the fantastic. We make movies that stimulate the imagination and celebrate life. Often times these movies have creature characters which are either animatronic, hand puppets or CG created characters. Because of this, the preparation time for the film is extended. A non-animatronic movie could take as little as two months to prepare. We need as much as a year or six months to design, build and rehearse the characters prior to starting principal photography. This means we need to know sometimes as much as a year in advance of shooting what the movie is!

Stephanie Allain
President of Production
Jim Henson Pictures

14.) What is your advice for aspiring Muppet writers?

It's the same as it is for aspiring non-Muppet writers: Write. And keep writing… then, after you've done that… re-write. And keep re-writing. You really have to develop your craft and keep working at it. One difficult thing that you have to deal with when you're just starting out (and even when you're a veteran) is that the majority of material you write will never see the light of day. But that doesn't mean you've wasted your time. Every unused spec script (a script written "on speculation") will teach you something new for the next time. Here are a few helpful hints.

  1. Don't just stay in front of the TV or the computer… live life so you have something fresh to write about.
  2. Get the basics down – figure out how to tell a story and how to build a character.
  3. Don't just write a book or a script from scratch. Start with an outline – but don't be afraid to change it as you write.
  4. Don't sweat the script format stuff too much. It's more important to develop your style and ability. You can figure out how to indent, center, etc. at a later date.
  5. Stay open to criticism and be prepared to learn from your mistakes.

And for people who want to specifically write for the Muppets, my advice is to really know the characters. All Muppet humor is dependent upon the characters and the way they interact. We do verbal jokes and sight gags – but what really makes them funny is knowing our characters and how they will react to certain things. The jokes Fozzie tells aren't funny – but we laugh because Fozzie is trying so desperately hard to be the funniest stand-up bear comic in the world with the oldest material known to man. If he was just a guy who kept telling bad jokes, he would be annoying – but his earnestness and innocence in the face of abject failure make him both lovable and funny.

Craig Shemin
Muppet Writer
Creative Services
The Jim Henson Company

15.) Which is the most challenging Muppet character to write for?

Kermit. Why? Because he's the most normal and centered of the characters. Everyone else has their quirks, foibles, shticks and peccadilloes, but Kermit is a regular, down-to-Earth everyfrog. How do I get past this? I remember what Kermit once said (and I paraphrase): "If I'm so normal, what am I doing hanging around with all these crazies?"

Jim Lewis
Writer/Muppet Genius
Creative Services
The Jim Henson Company

16.) What are the most common materials used to create Muppets? What quantity of each do you go through each month or year? What makes a good Muppet?

The most common materials for Muppets are: foam rubber, fabric dyes, and fur fabric.

It's hard to determine exact quantities as some years we are more or less busy than others.

A good Muppet is one that is well designed not only as a sculptured object, but also as an expressive acting tool for the Muppeteer. Both elements are essential.

Ed Christie
General Manager/Art Director New York Workshop

17.) How do you decide whether or not to keep something for the Archives?

When deciding whether to keep a document, piece of artwork, or object for the Archives, we consider whether it helps to document the creative side of a project or activity of JHC, whether we can store it responsibly, whether it would be useful in telling our company's history through an exhibit, and whether it would have a use visually for PR or marketing purposes. We also save everything owned by Jim Henson.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

18.) Do you find it difficult to switch back and forth between characters when writing?

Not at all. These characters have been brilliantly conceived by the Muppet performers and by writers like the great Jerry Juhl. They work together naturally, playing off each other like some kind of cockamamie repertory company. Their interactions and relationships (or "switching back and forth," as you put it) is what keeps the Muppets fresh and alive.

Jim Lewis
Writer/Muppet Genius
Creative Services, The Jim Henson Company

19.) What exactly IS Gonzo?

Nobody knows except perhaps his parents, and they're not talking. It was always one of those taboo subjects around the dinner table.

Dave Goelz
Muppet Performer

20.) What kind of education do you have to have to work in the Creature Shop?

Primarily, one must develop a portfolio of work as a sculptor, mold maker, mechanical designer, puppet fabricator, or costumer. When just starting out, you'll need to flesh out this portfolio by doing personal projects on your own time and then photographing your work. There are few classes to learn these skills, but you might check out the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, or Cal Arts in Valencia California.

Matt Britton
General Manager, Jim Henson's Creature Shop

21.) How big are the Muppets and the Fraggles?

They vary. Our Doozers and our Rats (such as Rizzo) are around 9" tall, our classic Muppets such as Fozzie , Bert And Ernie are around 20" (from the waist up- they are puppets after all), Big Bird and Sweetums are around 71/2 feet tall! We've made characters for our films that are much bigger (see Labrynth and Dark Crystal).

Ed Christie
General Manager/Art Director, New York Workshop

22.) Before Kermit was a frog, what was he?

Jim Henson first performed Kermit in 1955 on local Washington television. At the time, he was a lizard-like creature who performed varied roles, some of them female. The following are quotes from Jim regarding Kermit's evolution:

"Kermit is somebody who's been around for so long...we started him 30 years ago, and he was not particularly a frog in those days. When I started doing this little local television show, all the characters were abstract. Kermit was more a lizard-like character. We frogafied him over a couple of televisions specials we did years ago, before Sesame Street. So he just slowly became a frog. I don't think there was a conscious move to do that. It doesn't really matter what animal you call him."

"He was called Kermit. The name has been with him since the beginning. And he's very primitive as a puppet goes because he's really like a glorified sock puppet. But he changed a little bit — a few years after I first made him because when I first made him, he was — all my characters in those days were abstract. And he was sort of a lizard-like character. And then after a few years, we changed and made more of a frog-like body for him and gave him flippers for feet. And that was for a special we did called The Frog Prince. That was really when he became more of a frog."

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

23.) How old is Miss Piggy?

We were going to forward this question to Miss Piggy, but decided that we'd like to continue eating solid foods.

Jim Lewis
Writer/Muppet Genius

24.) What do Muppets eat?

Whatever Rizzo doesn't eat first.

Jim Lewis
Writer/Muppet Genius

25.) What are the most challenging types of puppets to build?

Usually the "simplest" looking characters are the most difficult to conceive such as Bert and Ernie and Kermit. Technically, characters which have Electrical and Mechanical and Computerized elements are the most impressive.


26.) What are the most significant challenges in representing the Muppets in a variety of mediums (video, photography, drawing, etc.)?

This is a very relevant question and one that the company deals with on a regular basis. Since each of the puppets is an individual with distinct characteristics, our biggest challenge is maintaining the consistency of all these unique, complex personalities as they are translated into the various media mentioned (as well as live performances, consumer products and most recently online and interactive applications). Representing the Muppets in any media, whether it's video, photography, writing or drawing, requires a degree of familiarity with each of their personalities, their humor and how they relate to each other and the world around them.

Another challenge is simply maintaining the level of quality, good taste and family appeal that was established by Jim Henson and has become synonymous with the work produced by The Jim Henson Company.

Edward C. Eyth
Director/Designer Creative Services, The Jim Henson Company

27.) Do you give tours of the Muppet Workshop?

We do not give tours to the general public. Usually, they are saved only for employees and their families, business partners- or potential ones, and occasionally for charitable requests.

Ed Christie
General Manager/Art Director, New York Workshop

28.) Where is there a map of Muppet Treasure Island?

See this road over here? Well, you follow that as far as the next turn-off and make a left, then a right, then a sharp left, then another sharp left, then two rights and a wrong. That's where we keep the map. If you see a large white oak tree with two bluebirds singing "Rhumboogie," you've gone too far, and so have the birds.

Jim Lewis
Writer/Muppet Genius

29.) How "real" do these characters seem to you, since you are actually writing their words and actions?

What a peculiar question. They are real. What makes you think they're not real? How odd. Imagine that, thinking the Muppets are not real.

Jim Lewis
Writer/Muppet Genius

30.) What is the symbol of the mask on the creature shop stand for?

Nothing in particular.

Matt Britton
General Manager, Jim Henson's Creature Shop

31.) My wife and I are having a disagreement about just how many people it takes to animate Bear from Bear in The Big Blue House. If it is only one person, how do so many things happen at once?

We cannot give away our secrets. The performers work so hard in developing their illusions that it just wouldn't be ethical. Suffice it to say, Bear is performed by only one performer in very similar ways to Big Bird.

Ed Christie
General Manager/Art Director, New York Workshop

32.) Can you give me a biography of Astoria, Waldorf's wife?

Astoria was married to Waldorf some time ago. We were unable to reach Astoria for more details, and Waldorf cannot remember anything past last Tuesday, for which he is eternally grateful.

Jim Lewis
Writer/Muppet Genius

33.) How has the use of animatronics influenced conventional film production, in relation to the works of the Jim Henson Company?

The animatronics in The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth were a natural next step in puppet technology beyond the techniques used to build the Muppets. The use of cable mechanisms and servo motors allowed the puppets to have more realistic and expressive capabilities such as eye movement. This technology continues to develop and grow on our more recent shows such as George Of The Jungle and Dr. Dolittle.

Matt Britton
General Manager, Jim Henson's Creature Shop

34.) What was the inspiration for the SciFi series Farscape?

The series creator, Rockne O'Bannon, was always interested in creating a series that featured an 'everyman' in another galaxy. Although John Crichton is an astronaut, space travel at the time of the series is much more common, and unlike, say Star Trek, where everyone knows how to operate the space ship, our guy is completely flummoxed and out of his element, the way say you or I would be. Rockne also always wanted to create a Star Wars for television.

Ellie Hannibal
Manager, Creative Affairs, The Jim Henson Company

35.) What was the first Muppet?

Jim Henson made his first puppets in the spring of 1954, his senior year in high school, as part of a school puppet club. He performed them briefly on local television that summer. Among those puppets were Pierre, a Frenchman based on a cartoon character that Jim created for a high school publication, and two cowboys, Longhorn and Shorthorn. It was not until the spring of 1955, when Jim began performing puppets on a daytime show, Afternoon, and then on his own show, Sam and Friends, that he began calling his puppets "Muppets". So, the first Muppets would be the group who appeared on Sam and Friends: Kermit, Sam, Harry the Hipster, Yorick, Mushmelon, Icky Gunk, Moldy Hay, Chicken Liver, Hank and Frank, the Professor, and Pierre.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

36.) We were curious about the Star Wars version of the Muppets and were unable to remember who played who...Could you tell us?

The stars of Star Wars (Luke, C3PO, R2D2, and Chewbacca) appeared as guest stars on Episode 89 of The Muppet Show during the 1979/1980 season. Miss Piggy dressed as Princess Leia and was called The Princess. Gonzo dressed as Darth Vader and was called "Dearth Nadir". The cover of the Summer 1983 issue of Muppet Magazine featured Kermit (dressed as Luke) and Gonzo (dressed as Darth) having a light saber fight while Piggy (dressed -- and coifed -- as Leia) looked on. Inside is a comic book parody called "Super Stars War" starring Link Hogthrob as Ham Solo, Miss Piggy as Princess Loina, Kermit as Fluke Shywalker, Gonzo as Barff McVader and Superschnozz, Dr. Strangepork as Okiwan Fenokee, and Fozzie Bear as Chewbackwards.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

37.) Where did the idea for THE ELECTRIC MAYHEM come from?

Music was always an important part of Jim Henson's work. He had a strong interest in all types and had an eclectic record library. When he began writing proposals and creating concepts for The Muppet Show in the late 1960s, they always included a house band that was to appear in each episode. At that time, Jim had a strong interest in the counter-culture movement (as evidenced by his experimental film Youth '68) and sought to reflect that in the composition of the band. One proposal from about 1970 says that the band would, "...do songs like 'Sunshine' from 'Hair'. In fact, they are all dressed to out-hair the 'Hair' cast."

The Electric Mayhem as we know it first appeared in 1975 on The Muppet Show pilot Sex and Violence. A page of ideas for the show written by Jim describes the band this way: "Rock act - far-out, elaborate weird equipment, big amps..." The same page mentions a "three-handed drummer for [a] folk or rock group." Designed by Michael Frith, that three-handed drummer evolved into Animal. For Dr. Teeth, Jim based the character on New Orleans singer and pianist, Dr. John. The rest of the band, Janice, Zoot, and hippie guitarist Floyd, were also designed by Michael Frith and made their debut on the pilot.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

38.) What are the largest characters the Creature Shop and the Muppet Workshop have ever made?

Jim Henson began designing larger than life characters in the late 1960's. The earliest of these creations was Splurge who was initially built in 1965 for the pilot of Hey Cinderella. In addition to building full body Muppets, The Workshop has also created giant rod puppets for live stage productions. Two examples of these are The Gawky Birds (about 11 feet tall) and Big Boss Man (about 12 feet tall) which were both developed in 1971 for a Las Vegas stage show with Nancy Sinatra. Other oversized Muppets include Big Bird (8 1/2 feet tall) on Sesame Street, Thig and Thog (both 9 1/2 feet tall) from The Great Santa Claus Switch, and Abelardo (8 1/2 feet tall) from Plaza Sesamo.

Jim Henson's Creature Shop has built its own menagerie of enormous characters. Starting with its first project, The Dark Crystal, the Shop designed a world that included both the Garthim (about 9 feet tall) and the Landstriders (about 12 feet tall). Other larger that life creatures include The Ultra-Gorgon (about 20 feet tall) from Monster Maker, dinosaurs from The Flintstones (one Brontocrane neck alone was 20 feet long), and The Giant Pink Sea Snail from Dr. Dolittle The Musical

Catherine Meiseles
Associate Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

39.) What is the definition of a muppet?! How did you come up with the name and how does it differ from a puppet?

In general, the term "Muppet" is used to refer to puppets made by Jim Henson's Muppet Workshop in New York. These tend to be fuzzy, cute and lovable. The puppets made by Jim Henson's Creature Shop in London and Los Angeles tend to be more realistic or scarier and are not generally called "Muppets". Jim began calling his puppets "Muppets" around 1955 with the start of Sam and Friends. In Christopher Finch's book, Jim Henson: The Works, he says, "Jane Henson recalls that the name "Muppet" was actually an amalgam of the words puppet and marionette...although Jim later insisted that he chose the name simply because he liked the sound of it." The term "Muppet" is a trademark of The Jim Henson Company.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

40.) Where did Jim Henson get the idea for Labyrinth?

The idea came from a combination of factors in Jim's life - there doesn't appear to be one moment or event that inspired Jim to create the film. The first movie he saw as a child was the Wizard of Oz which he loved, and he was a big fan of Alice in Wonderland. He had just completed The Dark Crystal with Brian Froud and was anxious to work with him again, using his unique visual sensibility to create new worlds and creatures. When writing ideas for The Dark Crystal, Jim's notes indicate that he had a surplus of ideas - some of which would be the basis for Labyrinth.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

41.) Where did Jim Henson get the idea for Fraggle Rock?

Fraggle Rock was Jim's idea for a children's show that would help achieve world peace. The different character groups were supposed to be an example of how all living things are interdependent and that not only do we need to remember that to live together in harmony but also we need to realize that our environments are interdependent. When the Fraggles decided to stop eating Doozer radish structures to be nice to the Doozers, the Doozers got overrun with structures and had to stop working - which went against their nature - so, they asked the Fraggles to resume eating.

Jim wanted people and all living things to think about and respect others and live with an understanding that what each person does effects everyone else.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

42.) Who is the oldest muppet? I have a bet with a friend that Kermit is the oldest.

Kermit was one of the earliest Muppets (built in early 1955), but the oldest Muppet would have to be Pierre. Jim built Pierre the summer after high school (1954) and tried him out on a short lived Saturday morning show on WTOP in Washington. In 1955, Pierre became a regular cast member of "Sam & Friends", Jim's show on WRC in Washington. Pierre pretty much retired after "Sam & Friends" ended in 1961, but we still have the puppet in our Archives.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

43.) I looked at the profile for Gonzo, but didn't find the answer to my question there. Is Gonzo a chicken hawk? Alien? Something else?

Thank you for your query regarding Gonzo. What good timing - Jim Henson Pictures is about to release Muppets From Space - a feature film about Gonzo's search for his roots. You'll learn all about his character's family history.

In regard to the actual design and build of the Gonzo puppet, it was created originally as a "Frackle" character. Frackles were the bad guys in a 1970 Christmas Special Jim Henson made (produced by Ed Sullivan) called "The Great Santa Claus Switch". However, I don't think that Gonzo actually appeared in that show. I do think he appeared in 1974 on a Herb Alpert show.

Someone once wrote Jim Henson a letter asking about Gonzo, and Jim answered that he was a sort of bird-like character in the turkey family. But Gonzo didn't really become the Gonzo we know and love until Dave Goelz started performing him on The Muppet Show.

So, no, Gonzo is not a chicken hawk.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

44.) I noticed that the Muppets have made several holiday shows. Have they every done a July 4th special?

In 1982, the Muppets appeared in a Norman Lear special called "I Love Liberty." On the show, the Muppets reenacted the Continental Congress and the discussions about the Declaration of Independence.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

45.) Was there ever a muppet named Yorek?

There was a Muppet called Yorick (as in Hamlet). He was the first of Jim Henson's monster characters and looked something like a talking skull (hence the Shakespeare allusion). Yorick was one of the core group of characters that appeared on Jim's first TV series from 1955-1961, Sam and Friends. Yorick was later used for appearances on variety shows like The Tonight Show and the Ed Sullivan Show. Now, Yorick appears in museum exhibits about the Muppets!

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

46.) When does Muppet From Space open?

It's now open!!!

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

47.) The new movie reminded me of how much I love PIGS IN SPACE!!! How many episodes were there? When did they start When did they end? Tell me everything!

Pigs in Space, the Muppet parody of Star Trek and other space themed television shows of the '60s and '70s first appeared on The Muppet Show during the second season (Episode #27 starring Milton Berle). Pigs in Space was on 31 different episodes (showing up twice on episode #67 starring Elke Sommer). The last episode that included Pigs in Space was #119 with Linda Ronstadt.

Jim was fascinated with space and the idea of aliens. From very early on, he worked on ideas for comedy bits portraying Martian landings, interactions with alien creatures, and alien mating rituals (the Koozebanians). The original use of Muppet pigs for outer space adventures was on The Muppet Show pilot, Sex and Violence. A group of pigs (including an early Miss Piggy) appeared in Return to The Planet of The Pigs. From that, the idea for Pigs in Space was born.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

48.) I recently saw The Dark Crystal again and I need you to settle a bet. My husband says that the big, peaceful four-armed characters (I think they were called Mystics) were performed by men in suits. I say the were more like traditional muppets, with several people working them from underneath. Who wins?

You both win! The Mystics did have a puppeteer inside the suit who did the big movements and moved the head with his hand (much like Big Bird has the puppeteer's hand in his head.) The smaller movements, such as eye, arm and tail movements, were manipulated via cable by a team of additional puppeteers. For distance shots, it was just the puppeteer in the suit. For close-up shots, the team of puppeteers worked together to produce the very lifelike movement.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company


49.) I love Pepe, I love Pepe, I love PEPE! What can you tell me about him?

We'll leave that to the King Prawn himself. In a recent chat at TV Guide Online, Pepe gave us a lot of information on his private life and Muppet career. Here are some excerpts:

On his climb to stardom: "Originally my name was Pepino Rodrigo Serrano Consales. This is too long OK. Pepe is my name OK. I started from the bottom OK. I was a chef in Madrid, Spain. But the boss didn't like me to sing in the kitchen OK. So I left Madrid quickly, OK, looking for a new lifestyle in Hollywood. There were one too many close calls in the kitchen, I was mistaken for an appetizer OK."

On his Hollywood future: "I expect several (Oscar) nominations OK. One for good looks. Acting. And choreography OK. And Foley. Also, I am currently speaking with Miramax head Harvey Weinstein OK, a remake of Don Quixote. I love Hollywood OK!"

Who are his influences? "Marlon Brando, Ruth Buzzy, Topo Gigio, Mighty Mouse."

On the inevitable comparisons to Ricky Martin: "Eh, si, I understand this is a handsome man. But perhaps one day we could meet. I understand he can sing. Ees this true? If so, maybe he will sing with me OK. I challenge him to a sing-off!"

For a complete transcript of this chat, click here.


50.) I just bought the tape and I was amazed all over again. Can you tell me how many puppeteers and how many puppets and how many days it took to get that last group shot in The Muppet Movie?

The finale of The Muppet Movie was quite a feat of puppetry and imagination. It featured more than 250 Muppet characters. 137 puppeteers were enlisted from the Puppeteers of America (along with the regular Muppet performers) to perform every Muppet extant. Prior to the day-long filming of the shot, Jim Henson gave the enthusiastic participants a lesson in the art of cinematic puppetry. Amazingly, it did take just one day. For behind-the-scenes photos, click here

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company


51.) Help! My three-year-old won't come off the ceiling! She MUST have toys from Bear in the Big Blue House! Where can I find them?!

Just to to www.bearinthebigbluehous.com and look under "shopping". You'll find a calendar of new products and the stores that will carry them.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company


52.) When creating a Muppet, does the character design or the mechanics come first?

In most cases the character design is developed first. Often a Muppet won't need any mechanisms and all the expression and emotion conveyed is completely dependent on the puppeteer's performance. When a decision is made to include a movement feature (the most common being: blinking eyes or eyebrow pivots), a mechanism is devised to achieve the required motion within the sculpted design. The Henson staff includes a number of skilled engineers who always find ways to address these challenges.

In a few cases the the design may undergo revisions if needed, to accommodate the mechanism more effectively. Occasionally a puppet will develop it's own movements, without a puppeteer, in which case it is labeled "haunted" and swiftly dismantled, since it tends to creep everybody out.

Edward C. Eyth
Director/Designer, Creative Services
The Jim Henson Company

53.) How do you tell Pip from Pop?

For the answer, we asked the man who designed them: "They were supposed to be identical, but somehow some individuality came through. Look carefully and you'll see that Pip's ears are lower on his head than Pop's are. Just remember--Pop has ears on top."

Edward C. Eyth
Director/Designer, Creative Services
The Jim Henson Company

54.) The Great Favog is my all-time favorite Muppet. What can you tell me about the Muppets on the first season of NBC's "Saturday Night." Is any information available? How many episodes were produced with that sketch?

The Muppet "Land of Gorch" sketches from Saturday Night Live appeared only on the first season of SNL. There is a good overview of this period in Christopher Finch's book, Jim Henson - the Works.

Land of Gorch, a stagnant mud flat of bubbling tarpits populated by King Ploobis (performed by Jim Henson); his wife Queen Peuta (Alice Tweedy); his son Wisss (Richard Hunt); his sidekick Scred (Jerry Nelson); the sexy siren Vazh (Fran Brill); and local deity The Mighty Favog (Frank Oz).

Both the tone and the visual style of the characters marked a point of departure for Jim Henson. The sketches touched on such adult subjects as sexual pleasure, drug use, and economic downturns. The puppets created for the Land of Gorch were far more detailed than the Sesame Steet characters. King Ploobis and his family were strange, mossy beings with intricate costumes and glass, taxidermist eyes that gave them a more naturalistic look. The Mighty Favog was a vaguely pre-Columbian, talking statue sculpted from latex foam.

The following is a chart of the airdates for that first season. It is my understanding that the Gorch Muppets appeared on each show listed.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE air dates

DATE
10/11/75
10/18/75
10/25/75
11/8/75
11/15/75
11/22/75
12/13/75
12/20/75
1/10/76
1/17/76
1/24/76
2/14/76
3/13/76
4/24/76
HOST
George Carlin
Paul Simon
Rob Reiner
Candice Bergen
Robert Klein
Lily Tomlin


Elliot Gould
Bucky Henry
Peter Cooke/Dudley Moore


Raquel Welch
NOTES





Lily Tomlin and Scred
Drunk Bit



Muppet prerecorded 1/10


written by Jim

Karen Falk
Archives
The Jim Henson Company

55.) Can you tell me what kind of feathers are used in Big Bird's costume?

We get this one all the time. Our workshop uses simple white turkey feathers that are then dyed yellow.

Karen Falk
Archives
The Jim Henson Company

56.) A question about the Muppet Show Pilot. Here it is: It is about this one sketch, (possibly the weirdest and therefore best) where 2 feathery monsters are accosted by 2 bird/squid looking characters. My brother and I swear the yellow male's name is Melg, but we can't tell what they are actually doing with the monsters. Is there any known story behind this, or a joke I missed?

The particular sketch to which you are referring was called "Aggression". The script describes it as follows: "Two really gross clumps of crud - fabric - feathers and foam - maybe just mouths - realistic red interior and teeth. One has club which he smashes the others from time to time. The other hits with fist. They just make guttural sounds to each other - dialogue is to show inflection only and is completely unintelligible."

The characters are listed as Green Heap, Purple Heap, Pink Stalk and Gold Stalk. The stalks refer to each other in the script as George and Martha. So, there you have it!

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

57.) Please give us details for the Dr. Bob sketches, we need them or our lives will be without meaning. Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We would hate for your life to be meaningless.

Rowlf, the piano playing dog, had a recurring role on The Muppet Show as Dr. Bob. He was part of the Veterinarian's Hospital sketches, "the continuing story of an orthopedic surgeon who's gone to the dogs", which debuted on episode 5 (host: Rita Moreno) in 1976. Dr. Bob was usually assisted by Nurse Janice and Nurse Piggy. There were various Muppet patients including an eternally sick cow and, on occasion, Kermit. Rowlf was always performed by Jim Henson with another puppeteer doing his right hand. Rowlf was originally built for a Purina Dog Chow commercial in 1962 and appeared regularly from 1963-66 on The Jimmy Dean Show, a TV variety show. From 1966 to 1975, Rowlf appeared on other variety shows, as a host to a summer replacement show, and as a spokesdog for IBM. Dr. Bob, on the other hand, is something of an enigma.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company


58.) What was the first toy made by The Jim Henson Company?

Throughout the 1960s, the Muppets were well known to television audiences both through Rowlf’s regular appearances on The Jimmy Dean Show and through their many appearances on variety shows such as The Tonight Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1966, Jim Henson made his first foray into the world of consumer products. The Ideal Toy Company, working closely with Jim, created three dolls: Kermit, Rowlf and Snerf. A television commercial featuring the dolls and their puppet counterparts was also produced with great comic effect. This is the only time you will hear Kermit saying, Oh, buy, oh, buy us, oh, buy us, we beg. If you don’t buy us, we’ll bite you in the leg!

For more info and pictures, click here.

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

59.) Was Oscar the Grouch named after Oscar Madison (the messy roomate in The Odd Couple)?

Thank you for your question about Oscar the Grouch. I like your idea about Oscar Madison (both Oscar are certainly messy), but Oscar was named for a NY resaurant. (I'm not sure The Odd Couple was even more than a Broadway show in 1969 when Sesame Street started.) Jim Henson's office was on East 67th Street. Just around the corner on Third Avenue was a restuarant called Oscar's Salt of The Sea where Jim often had lunch with his colleagues. So, that's where the name came from. Some of the designs that we have in the Archives were done by Jim Henson on Oscar's paper placemats!

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

60.) In the movie The Frog Prince, who performs Taminella? We've heard that it was either Jerry Juhl or Richard Hunt, and Jerry Juhl is not listed as a muppeteer or a voice. Thank you!

Thank you for your recent query regarding The Frog Prince. I was a little confused, too, given that Jerry does not get a performing credit on the show but is listed as the voice of Taminella on the original record album. Jerry originated the character back in 1962/63 for a pilot Jim did called Tales of the Tinkerdee. By the time The Frog Prince was made, Jerry was not puppeteering anymore (he was, by then, pretty much just writing). So, I asked Jerry Juhl your question. He says that he did indeed do the voice for both the show and the record, but Richard Hunt puppeteered the character for the show. It was pretty common back then to prerecord a piece and then lip sync with the Muppets. Richard was just starting with The Muppets at that time so probably wasn't doing voices yet.

So, there you have it!

Karen Falk
Archivist, The Jim Henson Company

61.) Has Miss Piggy ever appeared in a special, movie, television show, or anywhere else without gloves of some sort? I bet my friend a dinner and I'm hoping you will be able to settle our bet.

I hope this wins you your dinner. The female pig that eventually became Miss Piggy first appeared on the Muppet Show pilot (Sex and Violence) in a sketch called "Return to The Planet of The Pigs" (she was referred to as Sow #1 in the script). When wearing a blonde wig, the character wore gloves. Wearing a brown wig, the character did not wear gloves.

Miss Piggy really became Miss Piggy as we know her today on The Muppet Show. We have a press photo from the first season showing her without gloves. That would indicate that during the first season, she probably appeared that way on occasion. After that, she never, ever went without gloves. Even animated in The Muppet Babies, Baby Piggy wears short, wrist-length gloves.

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company

62.) I am very interested in working for the Muppet Workshop, in ANY capacity. What college courses should I take or what training should I aquire?

There really aren't any specific courses that would guarantee a person work at the shop. In fact, we seldom bring on anyone right out of school. Doing good work is the best thing you can do. What we are looking for is a body of good work that demonstrates your skills.

You have to have training and proven experience in disciplines like sculpture, design, fabric arts, costume design, theater craft, and (hopefully) puppetry. I would recommend that you acquire at least 3 years experience in theater or crafts after graduation from college and assemble a good portfolio and/or reel of your best work. Then contact our Human Resources Department.

Ed Christie
Vice President and General Manager
The Muppet Workshop


63.) In the opening titles of the UK edition of Fraggle rock, did you use the St. Anthony lighthouse?

"Yes, the UK lighthouse is St. Anthony's lighthouse - in St. Mawes in Cornwall, England. We'd actually designed and started building the interior set of the lighthouse before we realized that we needed a real lighthouse for exteriors. That meant we were tied down to a very particular configuration of a small lighthouse with a one-room house beside it. I was ridiculously confident that there'd be loads of English lighthouses just like this, but we decided that the fastest way to find the best one was to hire a helicopter for a day and fly round them all.

A helicopter company charted all the lighthouses from Beachy Head to Bristol, and we set off to fly over them. We started by nearly crashing into the cliff at Beachy Head. A huge gust of wind blew us towards the cliff and the pilot just managed (it seemed to me) to scramble us up over the lip. After that it was plain sailing, except that each lighthouse we came to looked nothing at all like the set we'd built. On and on we went, further and further west (and more and more expensively distant from our Maidstone-based TV crews). Finally, as we'd crossed off almost all the lighthouses on our chart - and were close to giving up hope of finding what we needed - there was St. Anthony's at St. Mawes. Perfect. What a relief. And not just a relief - over the next few years we had some wonderful experiences shooting in St. Mawes."

Duncan Kenworthy
UK Producer
Fraggle Rock

64.) Just wondering...is the name "Fozzie" (as in "Bear") some derivation of the name from his performer, Frank Oz?

There are a couple of answers to your question, depending on who you ask. Fozzie Bear's name is generally considered more of an homage to Faz Fazakas. Mr. Fazakas is an electro-mechanical wizard who designed many of the technological innovations which enable the Muppets to be more realistically animated. Fazakas created the ear mechanism which permits Fozzie to wriggle his ears. Additionally, Frank Oz contends that Fozzie's name is a play on the "fuzzy" nature of a bear. Either way, although it might seem that Fozzie is named for his performer, his name has a different origin.

Leslie Kelly
Archives
The Jim Henson Company

65.) Can you tell me what characters Jim Henson perfomed in all his years with the Muppets?

Jim Henson was an incredibly prolific performer, and over his thirty years of working with Muppets, he performed characters ranging from Pierre the French Rat, the very first Muppet, to Kermit, the frog who Jim made famous around the world.

A very complete, though not exhaustive list of the characters Jim Henson has portrayed in Muppet productions follows:

Jim Henson

Classic Characters/Muppet Show:
Kermit the Frog, Rowlf, Link Hogthrob, Mahna Manha, The Newsman, Dr. Teeth, Waldorf, Swedish Chef, Mean Floyd

Valentine Special:
Fred, Frog 2

Sex and Violence:
Nigel, Washington (Mt. Rushmore), Hammer (with Dave Goelz), Emergency Squad, Aggression Heaps (with Frank Oz), Country Trio (with Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson), People, Rex

The Dark Crystal:
Jen, A Gelfling, The Ritual-Master, Skeksis(Puppeteered only)

Saturday Night Live:
Ploobis

Tale of the Bunny Picnic:
Dog

Timepiece:
The Man

The Great Santa Clause Switch:
Fred

Sesame Street:
Ernie, Fat Blue, Guy Smiley, Sammy the Snake, Sinister Sam, Captain of the Starship Surprize

Fraggle Rock:
Cantus the Minstrel, Convincin' John

Christmas Toy:
Jack-in-the-box

Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas:
Harrison Fox, Harvey, Snake

The Frog Prince:
The King

Other Productions: Muppet Musicians of Bremen, Hey Cinderella, The King, A Muppet Family Christmas, The Muppets-A Celebration of Thirty Years, Jim Henson Hour, Muppet Meeting Films, Sam And Friends.

Leslie Kelly
Archives
The Jim Henson Company


66.) The lighthouse question a few weeks ago intrigued me. Could you describe the differences in Fraggle Rock from country to country?

The basic show was the same wherever it aired. What changed were the wrap-arounds featuring the human and his dog which were locally produced. In different countries, Doc was played by different actors (as he was speaking a different language) and had different professions and names. In the US/Canadian version, he was an inventor (in a workshop) called "Doc" with a dog called "Sprocket". In France, Doc was a baker (in a bakery) with a dog named "Croquette." In the UK, Doc was a lighthouse keeper (in a lighthouse) who was called "The Captain" instead of "Doc, but his dog was still called "Sprocket."

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company

67.) Jim Henson created a Christmas special called "The Christmas Toy". I remember Rugby and Mew, but who were the other toys in the movie?

The story of "The Christmas Toy" centers on Rugby, a brassy stuffed tiger, and his best friend, Mew, a toy mouse with an inferiority complex, as they set out on Christmas Eve to insure that Rugby will remain Jamie Jones' favorite toy. The other main toys in the story include: Apple, a doll who leads the rescue of Rugby and Mew; Balthazar, a wise old teddy bear; Belmont, a wooden pony on wheels; Meteora, an asteroid queen and the new Christmas present; Cruiser, a cool cabdriver; Bleep, a rather outdated robot; Ditz, a good hearted clown and Bessed Dressed Mandi, a fashion plate doll. Other toys in the playroom include Ding-a-ling, Jack-in-the-Box and the Motorcycle Gang. By the way, Mew is the favorite toy of the Jones' cat Ouija.

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company

68.) Was there a creature that used to devour Kermit the Frog as Kermit sang? I think I recall seeing a black and white clip where that happened. Could you tell me the character's name? He looked really old to me. Was I hallucinating?

No, you were not hallucinating -- Kermit did indeed get eaten by a creature in the early years in black and white. For early variety show appearances ( The Steve Allen Show, Al Hirt, The Today Show) in the late 1950's and early 1960's, Jim and his colleagues had Kermit (dressed as a female called Kermitina) lip synch to Rosemary Clooney's version of "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face". During the song, a small monster named Yorick eats a handkerchief that covers his face and then tries to devour Kermit. Yorick, who looks something like a skull, was one of the regular puppets on Jim Henson's popular Washington TV show called "Sam & Friends" (1955-61). He was also the first in a long line of Muppet monsters that had big appetites!

If you are in LA or New York, you can see "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face" in the video library of The Museum of Television and Radio. Images of Yorick are also in Christopher Finch's book Jim Henson - The Works. And more information is under question 45 on the Ask Henson Page of the Henson.com website. By the way, Kermit was also eaten by a voricious piano on The Ed Sullivan Show in a bit called "Music Hath Charms to sooth the Savage Beast" (in color, not in black and white!).

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company

69.) Please refresh my memory...did Gonzo ever fall for a guest star on The Muppets Show or Muppets Tonight? Do I have a chance?

Thank you for your recent query regarding Gonzo's amorous endeavors. As you know, his heart belongs to Camilla the chicken. His head does get turned by other members of the fowl family (he flirted with Big Bird on episode 66 of The Muppet Show, for example), but there have been very few times that he has pursued a human.

In the first season of The Muppet Show, Gonzo pursued Miss Piggy until, in season 2, he fell for Madeline Kahn. Unsuccessful with her, he pretty much limited his pursuits to chickens with an occasional pass at a cow. He did bring flowers to Elke Sommer in episode #67 but didn't get anywhere with her. And Lola Falana expressed interest in Gonzo as he prepared to leave The Muppet Show for a movie career in Bombay, India, but, again, the relationship never got off the ground.

So, unless you're a chicken, your chances don't look good!

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company

70.) I'm a musician, and as I was watching The Dark Crystal my attention was drawn to the flute that Jen plays in the movie. What kind of pipe was used to really play the music, and is it anything like the two-headed pipe that Jen is holding? I really like the sound. Thanks!

Jen's twin flute is represented on The Dark Crystal soundtrack by an eighteenth century double flageolet that Trevor Jones, the man responsible for the music and orchestration of the film, found in a Hampstead, England music store. There was apparently great difficulty in finding a musician who could play the flageolet to the specifications required. Jones deliberately sought an imperfect sound, which he thought would be commensurate with Jen's skill level. There are very few musicians proficient in an antique instrument, making the choice of soloists difficult. The flageolet solos were performed by Christopher Taylor.

Jones' score of The Dark Crystal was very ambitious. The sound he created for the film was a blend of orchestral and electronic music unprecedented in its day. Jones has gone on to serve as composer in some sixty films, most recently Notting Hill.

The following is a short biography of Trevor Jones included in The Dark Crystal sound track album:

    Trevor Jones was raised in an entertainment environment (his family is involved in various aspects of theater, film, and television) in Cape Town, South Africa. At the age of five he decided he wanted to compose music for films, an ambition he has fulfilled. In 1967 he came to London to study on a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. He worked for four years at the BBC as a music reviewer for radio and television, and in 1974 he went to York University, from which he graduated with a Masters Degree in Film and Media Music. Jones also studied at the National Film School, a three-year course of study in general film making and film and sound technique. He continued there until 1980 as a composer-in-residence, and wrote the music for twenty-two student projects. In 1981 he wrote the score for the Academy Award-winning short film The Dollar Bottom and another short film The Black Angel. Jones has since created the soundtracks for the BFI production Brothers and Sisters and John Boorman's Excalibur.

    About the music for The Dark Crystal, Mr. Jones has written:

    "From the very first in scoring the music for The Dark Crystal, I set out to find two melodic ideas -- one for the Mystics, the other for the Skeksis. These two motifs, when counterpointed, fuse to become one, and in the Great Conjunction at the film's climax, they join to become the central theme.

    In the Overture, this central theme is contrasted with the Landstrider motif, the nearest musical idea that not only provides good musical balance but, more important, reflects the fantasy world of the film; the melody line is played by one of over three hundred electronic sounds specially realized for the film on the Synclavier Computer, the Fairlight CMI Computer, and the Prophet Synthesizer, and used with traditional symphonic tone colors to heighten the orchestration. The Power Ceremony, which opens the film, fuses electronic sounds with the orchestration to provide a ritualistic and sinister atmosphere.

    A synthesized organ accompanies the brass in the grandiose baroque setting of the Skeksis funeral. But the transition to the Mystic ceremony is made by a double-flageolet, an English Regency instrument acquired for the film because of its characteristic capability of simultaneously sounding two independent pitches. In the feasting scene in the Pod Village the merry-making is to the music of such medieval instruments as the grumhorn, titin, and tabor. The modern okema tlaves and the double-flageolet complete a line-up spanning five centuries of instruments."

Leslie Kelly
Archivist and Photo Librarian



71.) I must know!!!! How many feathers are on Big Bird?

There are approximately 4000 feathers on the Big Bird puppet/costume. Each one is individually chosen by size and dyed various shades of yellow for the different parts of the bird. As you can imagine, it is quite a big job for the artists in our workshop. Now you know!!!!

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company



72.) There was a cool, giant Bear In The Big Blue House balloon in New York a couple weeks ago. Was there a parade he was part of? Also, wasn't there a Kermit balloon that appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in the 80's?

The Bear balloon you saw was part of a promotional campaign during this year's Toy Fair. You can see pictures of it here. In addition, the Muppets have been well represented in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. There has been a Kermit balloon (in 1977, 1985, 1987, 1990, 1991). There have been Sesame Street floats (in 1974, 1994, 1997, 1998) and I believe a Big Bird balloon. Miss Piggy rode in a Rolls Royce in the parade followed by the rest of the gang in the Electric Mayhem bus in 1979, and in 1994, Miss Piggy and Kermit rode on a float. There was also a Fraggle Rock float one year.

Muppet characters have also been represented in the Tournament of Roses Parade on several occasions, the Gimbels parade in Philadelphia, the Hollywood Christmas parade, and in the Chicago parade.
Hope this helps!

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company



73.) Did Jim Henson name Kermit The Frog after someone he knew?

While Jim Henson did have a childhood acquaintance named Kermit, it was not an uncommon name at the time, and Jim always said that the Frog was NOT named for this child from his elementary school. I think Jim just liked the sound of the name - it has nice hard sounds and a sort of nasal quality that make it rather funny. By the way, another Kermit worked in the Muppet Workshop and helped to build the original Big Bird! (Again, no relation to the Frog.) I think Jim did, however, ensure that future generations would not continue using the name for their male children!

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company



74.) I've always been curious- what do they call the Swedish Chef in Sweden?

His name in Swedish is: Svensk Kocken! So--not too different.

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company



75.) Can you elaborate on the relation between the movie Labyrinth and the work of M.C. Escher?

Jim was certainly familiar with Escher's work and admired it. The optical illusions inherent in Escher's work were ideal in terms of the illusion versus reality themes in the film. In making Labyrinth, the labyrinth itself was one of the film's central characters and took on many forms. Jim tried many variations on the labyrinth theme -- the Escher room being perhaps the most memorable one. The film started in Sarah's room where she had an Escher poster on the wall. The final song took place in the Escher-like room - the Escher's serving as bookends of sorts for the fantasy part of the film.

Jim enjoyed technical problem solving, and the Bowie character on the Escher set was a nice challenge technically. The set designer built a model of the room, and Jim worked out the shots and effects on the model. As it turned out, the filming was reasonably straight forward using existing techniques such as split screens, stunt doubles, and hair wax. Hope this helps!

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company



76.) I know that there was a character named "Lips" who played the trumpet during most episodes of The Muppet Show, but wasn't there a female trumpet player when the series first began?

You are absolutely right! In the first season of The Muppet Show, there was indeed a female member of the Electric Mayhem who played the trumpet. She was simply called "Trumpet Girl" (according to the scripts), and it is unclear why the character was dropped. Nigel, another musician type, didn't make it into the second season, either.

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company

77.) Which Muppets have appeared on both Sesame Street and The Muppet Show?

While only Kermit from The Muppet Show has been on Sesame Street, Big Bird, Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street appeared on The Muppet Show. You might be interested to know that before Sesame Street began, there was a short film used for a Press Conference to announce Sesame Street that featured Kermit and Rowlf describing the show. This was, of course, long before The Muppet Show.

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company

78.) Was Kermit always a frog or did he start out as another animal?

Jim Henson once said this about Kermit:

"We started [Kermit] thirty years ago and he was not particularly a frog in those days...All the characters were abstract. Kermit was a more lizardlike character. We frogified him over a couple of television specials we did years ago, before Sesame Street. So, he just slowly became a frog."

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company

79.) I just celebrated my 30th birthday by watching Muppetvision 3-D four times! Since there are no credits at the end, could you tell us who directed, wrote, and edited it? Was it shot on regular film, or a larger format film?

Wow, what a birthday! Glad that we could help you celebrate. Here's the information that you requested on the 3-D movie down at Disney World: The film was shot on 70 mm film and includes Waldo, the first performance based/puppeteered three-dimensional computer generated character. The script was written by Bill Prady, and the film was directed by Jim Henson. The editor was Victor Livingston. Go back and see it again!

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company

80.) Wasn't there a series of "Dog City" shorts created before the television show DOG CITY ever aired? If so, can you tell me more about them.

Produced as part of the television series THE JIM HENSON HOUR, "Dog City" was indeed the precursor to our puppet/animated series JIM HENSON'S DOG CITY from the early 1990s. The original "Dog City" was one of Jim Henson's personal favorites. He once said that he loved those pictures of dogs playing cards and that is where he got the idea for a world where everyone is a dog. Some puppet designs from the show can be seen on the henson.com website in the television series section under THE JIM HENSON HOUR. Click on "art" to see the images.

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company


81.) I'm trying to find out info on a character named Scred. He was a scruffy looking monster with a rough voice and pointy nose. Do you have any information about him?

Isn't Scred a great character? He was one of the inhabitants of the Land of Gorch, the smokey landscape created for weekly appearances on the first season of Saturday Night Live (1975/76). Jim Henson and his colleagues created a new group of characters including Scred, King Ploobis, Queen Peuta, Vazh, Wisss, and The Mighty Favog. These characters (and the sketches they were in) were meant to be edgier and more adult that what was then occupying much of Jim Henson's time, Sesame Street. Designed by Michael Frith, the characters had taxidermist's eyes to give them a more naturalistic look. With the beginning of The Muppet Show in 1976, the Muppets stopped appearing on Saturday Night Live.

Scred was performed by Jerry Nelson. Perhaps his best moment was when he sang a terrific duet with Lily Tomlin of "I've Got You Babe". Footage of this can be seen in the library of The Museum of Television and Radio in both New York and Los Angeles. Drawings of some of the characters can been seen on the henson.com website under the Featured Creature archives. More information is also included in Christopher Finch's book,

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company


82.) Can you provide some information about the Kraml milk commercials that Jim Henson made? My friend thought Kermit starred in them but I remember more nondescript characters, one of whom was blown up by a cannon when he said he didn't like Kraml milk. Also, where was the Kraml milk company headquartered? I think it was in Chicago.

Thanks for your recent query regarding Kraml milk. You have a pretty good memory! Jim Henson made about two dozen commercials for Kraml milk from 1962 to 1964 that were aired in the Chicago area. They featured two characters named Wilkins and Wontkins (WILkins WILL drink the milk, WONTkins won't!) that were originally created for a series of commercials for the Wilkins Coffee Company in Washington, DC. The commercials were so popular that Jim was able to remake them for various products in other regions. And your friend isn't crazy - Wilkins does look similar to Kermit, but he had more stuffing in his head so it appeared rounder on top.

Kermit did sell milk last year when he sported a milk mustache in a "Got Milk?" print ad!

83.) I am working on a project for my 8th grade Language Arts class. Can you tell me where Jim Henson got his inspiration for the Muppets?

Jim Henson was influenced by many things in the pop culture of the 1940s and '50s as well as, obviously, by his imagination. He wanted to work in television from an early age. An opportunity to perform puppets on a local Washington children's program gave him his first chance. He was a big fan of Burr Tilstrom, Bil Baird, and Edgar Bergan as well as Pogo and Peanuts cartoons and the books of Roald Dahl, James Thurber, Frank Baum, and A.A. Milne. He loved music of all kinds, particularly jazz. For a further discussion of this, you should read Christopher Finch's book, JIM HENSON - THE WORKS published by Random House. It gives many details about his early influences and about the creation of Jim's first puppets.

Good luck with your project!

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company


84.) Can you discuss how some of Jim Henson's puppet designs reflected countercultural and minority influences and how this resulted in an appeal to a mainstream adult audience?

I think whenever Jim created character groups - whether for Sesame Street or Fraggle Rock, etc., he tried to represent a variety of types and personalities that would enable the performers to display the full range of emotions and interactions inherent in a group of people. I don't think there was a conscious effort to show counterculture or minority influences in the characters, per se. However, there was an effort to be entertaining, and one way to do that was to celebrate the huge variety of entertainers and types of entertainment that existed in the late 1970s. Jim appreciated all types of music and wanted to represent all types on his show - so, there were jazz, rock, folk, and country musicians. There were also Broadway stars, magicians, performance/movement artists, comedians, and movie stars.

Jim certainly was interested in the counterculture movements of the late 1960s as evidenced by his film "Youth '68" and his experiments with psychedelic music in film and a nightclub setting. His skits for Saturday Night Live were liberating for him after working for children on Sesame Street for six years, and he slipped themes related to sexual liberation and the drug culture into his bits on SNL. But Jim embraced all types of entertainment and cultures, giving himself the widest possible world of material from which to work.

In regard to representing minorities, Jim was open to all types of people and looked at people as individuals. Jim just wanted to do "good stuff" from whatever minority (or majority!) culture it derived - many minority cultures were represented on the show (not necessarily in the characters but in the music, costumes, etc.) because "good stuff" could be found in all cultures.

The development of the Fraggle Rock series was much more of a conscious effort to bring together people of different cultures. The show was referred to as "the international children's show" and the hope was to promote world peace and care for the global environment by showing how the three cultures (Fraggles, Doozers, and Gorgs) were interdependent. Children were supposed to embrace their differences and understand how everyone brings something good, useful, etc. to the table.

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company


85.) I recently bought a copy of 'Labyrinth' on DVD and I noticed that several characters, including Hoggle, use the word "cor". Is that their way of cursing?

As you probably know, most of the people involved with the movie were English so much of the language is much more British than American. Below is a definition of "cor" from the Cambridge International Dictionary of English. It appears to be a common British expression.

cor (EXPRESSING INTEREST) interjection BRITISH SLANG ESPECIALLY HUMOROUS
an expression of interest and admiration or surprise
Cor! Did you see him in the blue swimming trunks?

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company


86.) Who was Jim Henson's favorite Muppet?

In most interviews, when asked, Jim Henson said that his favorite Muppet - the one he felt closest to - was Kermit. He was the character most like Jim. Jim did on many occasions discuss other characters the he really enjoyed performing. These included Rowlf, Guy Smiley, and the Swedish Chef.

Karen Falk
Archivist
The Jim Henson Company


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