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Brian Jay Jones on Jim Henson: The Biography
Brian Jay Jones Biographers have the unique responsibility—and privilege—of living with their subjects for the years
they’re doing their research and writing. Frankly, I couldn’t have asked for better company over the last five years.
Jim Henson has been part of my life—and probably part of yours—for nearly as long as I can remember. I was two when
Sesame Street premiered in 1969, and nine when The Muppet Show debuted in 1976. That practically makes me Muppets
Generation 1.0. Why would I choose to write about Jim Henson, then? Heck, why wouldn’t I?
For the most part, the bulk of the research for this biography was conducted the old-fashioned way: sitting in an
archive—in this case, The Jim Henson Company archives in Long Island City, New York—and turning over documents one at a
time. I read through Jim’s private diaries, examined handwritten notes—sometimes just scraps of paper with ideas for a
character name or a slapdash drawing of a new Muppet—pored through business papers and receipts, and poked through
innumerable TV scripts and film proposals, many of which never made it any further than Jim’s carefully typed notes. For
the first time, you’ll read about many of these projects, and learn how hard Jim worked to bring programs like The
Muppet Show to television.
I also had the pleasure of interviewing all five Henson children and his widow, Jane—who passed away earlier this
year—as well as countless colleagues, friends, and collaborators. We spoke in living rooms in London, workshops in New
York, and film studios in Burbank. We talked over breakfast in hotels and brunches in diners. And when we couldn’t meet
in person, we talked on telephones and Skype, or wrote each other e-mails. Almost to a person, everyone was open,
honest, and thoughtful about Jim and his work—and, as you can probably imagine, many were also very, very funny.
Finally, of course, there was the pure enjoyment of going back through Jim’s work, watching Muppets and Fraggles and
Skeksis and Storytellers with a keener appreciation of how Jim wove his life into his art, and his art through his life.
Any time you can watch episodes of The Muppet Show, or old footage of Jim blowing up his Muppets on The Ed Sullivan Show
and call it work, you know you’ve officially got one of the best jobs anywhere.
It took five years to get here—and now, at last, it’s your turn to live with Jim Henson. I think you’ll find he’s
pretty much exactly as you want him to be: genuinely kind, dazzlingly inspirational, immensely talented and—as Frank Oz
said—“delightfully imperfect.” Not bad for a kid from the swamps of Mississippi.
“It’s a good life,” Jim once wrote. “Enjoy it.” And I hope you’ll enjoy Jim Henson.
A Look Inside Jim Henson: The Biography
Editing Table Jim at the editing table in 1972 as performer John Lovelady,
designer Bonnie Erickson, builder Faz Fazakas, and designer
Don Sahlin look on.Click here for a larger image
Fragle Rock Cast Jim and the cast of Fraggle Rock. Airing on HBO from 1983
to 1987, the show was the network’s first original series—the
colorful ancestor to shows like The Sopranos or Game of Thrones.Click here for a larger image
Fraggle Rock Jim loved performing the sage Cantus on the set
of Fraggle Rock.Click here for a larger image
Jim Henson Jim HensonClick here for a larger image