NEW YORK (AP) ― It seems so familiar to us now ― puppet characters on television that are so real, so expressive, so alive that we forget there’s a human being doing the actual work behind the scenes.
There’s a reason that’s so familiar, the organizers of an exhibit opening this weekend in New York say: Jim Henson.
The master puppeteer and media innovator behind pop culture icons such as Kermit the Frog and Big Bird was a creative thinker who understood the opportunities that television and technology presented, said Karen Falk, archivist for The Jim Henson Company and curator of “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World.”
Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, poses with one of his creations, Kermit the Frog in 1988.( AP-Yonhap News)
“Jim was the first one to recognize that you can use television and get these incredibly expressive and believable performances out of puppets,” Falk said. “This was his innovation; he was the one who started this whole thing. This is why puppetry looks like this on television, because of this man.”
The touring exhibit opening Saturday is making its last stop of a multi-year trip at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, where it will be on display into January. It’s fitting that the final stop is in New York ― the museum is near Kaufman Astoria Studios, where Sesame Street is taped. Henson’s puppet creations including Big Bird and Bert and Ernie have been a vital part of what has made the children’s show a global success for decades.