Hello Friends and Family,

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Jim Henson's Fantastic World

Miss PiggyIt is a magical time of year when we all have the opportunity to reminisce about holidays past. Because I pass by the old HP site at the Pointe (oops, it is now called Arizona's Grand Resort), I am reminded of the days I spent there. During the holiday season, they played Christmas music exclusively on the speakers above our heads. I remember sitting at my desk working away when the voices of the Muppets could be heard — singing The Twelve Days of Christmas. Cute. Or so I thought the first few times I heard it. However, it played again and again — until I thought my head would burst whenever I heard Miss Piggy belting out "Five Goooolllllldddd Rings" — which is, of course, repeated some eight times each song.

Sam and FriendsThose thoughts all came back to me when I saw that the Arizona Museum for Youth was sponsoring a special exhibit entitled "Jim Henson's Fantastic World". It is a touring exhibition provided by the Smithsonian Institute (you know, our nation's attic). I thought this might be a fun opportunity to see some of the muppets in person. Well, it turned out to be much more than just the muppets.

It went back to the early days (1955) when Jim Henson had a five-minute television show called Sam and Friends. The photo to the left shows a very young Henson with the cast members from the show — from left to right, Harry the Hipster, Sam, Yorick and Kermit. His performing partner, Jane Nebel, eventually became his wife.

Although it was a very short show, it gained quite a following which lead to an opportunity for Jim and company to produce very short commercials — about eight seconds in length — initially for Wilkins Coffee but followed by many others. The exhibit had video of some of these old commercials which are very entertaining — and nothing like the slick commercials we view now.

Big BirdJim had a very fertile imagination as evidenced by the many drawings displayed in this exhibit. We were able to see how he envisioned some character or scene and how his associates made them real. One that I found particularly interesting was the drawing of Big Bird where the puppeteer (Carroll Spinney) would operate Big Bird's beaks with his arm raised up above his head. That had to be incredibly tiring. But oh was it worth it for the kids who have enjoyed Sesame Street these many years!

Incidentally, Carrol Spinney also was Oscar the Grouch. Curiously, Oscar was originally orange and became green after one season — but he continued his life in the garbage can.

Also on display were Bert and Ernie.

KermitOf course, it was the popularity of the Muppets Show, television guest appearances, specials and movies that gave Jim Henson so much pleasure. He said that Kermit was a lot of his personality but able to do things that Jim Henson could not. It was interesting to learn that Kermit has changed much over the years. The first Kermit (pictured above) was fashioned from his mother's old spring coat and a ping-pong ball (for eyes). A more refined version was on display (picture to the left) and I really enjoyed being able to see Kermit up close and personal.

For some reason, Kermit has always been my favorite (and close by is Animal). I can still hear him singing It's Not Easy Being Green. However, my favorite muppet song has always been Rainbow Connection (click here for a YouTube video) — naturally because of the connection to the many rainbows in Hawaii. I really love the version performed by the Brothers Cazimero (one has to admit that they have better voices than Kermit).

Miss PiggyHenson went on to apply his creativity to other incredible projects such as the movie The Dark Crystal, television's Fraggle Rock and the movie Labyrinth. Again on display were costumes, drawings and photos of the imaginative ways these creations were brought to life.

I really enjoyed the exhibit except that photography was not allowed — so I had to download these photos from the Internet. And there was one personality missing — no Miss Piggy. How could you have a Jim Henson exhibit without Miss Piggy and Henson's longtime fellow performer Frank Oz? Just so Miss Piggy doesn't get upset, here is one of her publicity photos.

If you have kids — or remain a kid at heart, I think you will enjoy this exhibit — either here or as it travels around the country.

One unrelated note — there is now construction fencing around the old HP site. I have not received any actual news of what is going on — but I can only guess that either remodeling or demolition is eminent. Another memory that will have to remain in my mind because the physical place is changing.

Here's wishing you and yours a Mele Kalikimaka.

 Life is good.

 B. David