Jim Henson

Beasts of the Southern Wild Fantasy

Jim Henson has been dead for almost 25 years. Hayao Miyazaki is retiring. And Carl Rinsch may have single-handedly killed all hope for anyone getting a lot of money from Hollywood for an original live-action fantasy film for a while. His 47 Ronin was only partly original, too, since it was based on a historical legend. Still, it was a fresh take on the true story with additions of magical and mythical creatures. The movie wasn’t just a flop; it broke the record for biggest box office bomb of all time (maybe even when accounting for inflation). So don’t expect to see any more epic entries into the genre unless they’re sure things with a built-in audience. Do we need original fantasy films, though? On TV, we have Game of Thrones, which has plenty of imagination in spite of being adapted from the novels of George R.R. Martin, and which is now back on HBO for its fourth season. And there are occasionally great movies sourced from previously written material, as well. For instance, out on home video today there’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of the Smaug, a highly entertaining installment of Peter Jackson’s second (and by most accounts lesser) Tolkien-based trilogy. Occasionally is key, however, as that was one of only three titles on my list of the best sci-fi and fantasy movies of 2013 that didn’t have sci-fi elements.

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The Muppets Christmas Carol

Another wonderful moment from the archive to help you celebrate Christmas… Christmas is just around the corner, and you’re probably catching up on some old and new favorite films about the holidays. Among your viewings of A Christmas Story, Die Hard, and Gremlins, maybe you picked up a copy of The Muppet Christmas Carol, which has recently had a 20th anniversary Blu-ray release. This repackaging of the 1992 holiday classic includes a commentary track by Brian Henson as well as a new commentary by the Muppet characters themselves. One is more technical, and the other is more silly, but together they give a nice look at the making of one of the more faithful-yet-original adaptations of the Charles Dickens book. And on to the commentary…

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hold the dark crystal

It’s a known fact that the summer of ’82 offered up perhaps the best movie season on record (no, really, you can Google it), but the entire year is a never-ending marvel of cinematic joy. A small sampling includes 48 Hours, Blade Runner, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Gandhi, Poltergeist, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Tootsie, and The World According to Garp. Hell, we even got The Beastmaster, Megaforce and Zapped. But as fantastic and memorable as those movies are there are two specific releases from 1982 that helped shape a young me into the movie lover I am today. First up was John Carpenter’s The Thing, a film I had been anxiously following in Fangoria and Starlog (and one I had to guilt-trip my dad into taking me to for having walked me out of Conan the Barbarian during the witch-humping scene), and then six months later came Jim Henson‘s and Frank Oz‘ fantastical puppet adventure, The Dark Crystal. The two movies could hardly be farther apart in tone and style, but they shared a mastery over practical effects used to create a world, build atmosphere, and enhance a story in ways many effects-filled movies never manage. We can all agree that Carpenter’s film is a classic, and my annual viewings on Blu-ray show that it holds up in every regard. But what about The Dark Crystal? It doesn’t appear in conversation nearly as often as other ’80s kids films do. You never hear any […]

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Bret McKenzie and Kermit

James Bobin’s relaunch of Jim Henson’s fuzzy felt creations, The Muppets, was one of the big success stories of 2011. It proved that The Muppets could still be box office draws, it won over fans who had loved The Muppets for years and were initially skeptical of whether it could be good, and it made a whole new crop of Muppets fans out of kids meeting the characters for the first time. A big reason for the film’s success was that it featured great songs like “Life’s a Happy Song” and “Man Or Muppet,” which were not only good enough to be put up in the pantheon of best Muppets songs ever written, but were also good enough to win their composer, Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie, an Oscar for Best Original Song (and they were also catchy enough that you’ll probably be humming them for the rest of the day now that you’ve been reminded of them).

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? In 1965, Jim Henson started working on a paper-cut animation with a pun title. This was in the midst of his commercial work – 2 years after he founded Muppets, Inc. but still a full year before his appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show which put him firmly on the map. It’s also the same year he made Timepiece, the experimental short that the Academy was smart enough to recognize with an Oscar nomination. Praise be to io9 for spotting this gem from the Henson Company YouTube channel. It’s a fantastic unfinished piece with the gaps filled in by conceptual material. Haven’t we all dreamed of being a watermelon? What will it cost you? Only 4 minutes. Skip work. Watch more short films.

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Given that it was first launched in 1969 and is still watched by tons of children all over the world today, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to call Sesame Street one of the most iconic and enduring television series of all time. Throughout the years, characters like Big Bird, Bert & Ernie, the Cookie Monster, and Oscar the Grouch have become staples of mornings spent raising a toddler. But over the course of the show’s lengthy history it has only made the jump from small screen to big twice. The first time was in 1985, when the whole Sesame Street crew was set to the task of tracking down a runaway and kidnapped Big Bird in Follow That Bird. The second was in 1999, when a capitalization on the explosion of the popularity of Sesame Street character Elmo was attempted with The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. Neither were big hits, with Follow That Bird grossing near $14m and Elmo in Grouchland only around $11.5m, despite having a budget of $26m; which would seem to point to the theory that people who have children young enough to enjoy Sesame Street don’t take them to the theaters all that often. Plopping them in front of public television every morning is one thing, but loading them up and paying to have them sit in a dark room and hopefully be quiet for a couple hours is something else entirely.

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Fraggle Rock

Dance your cares away, because there’s great news on the horizon. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rango co-writer Jim Byrkit and actor Alex Manugian have signed on to write the script for the Fraggle Rock movie. So, yes, two men involved in making a weird, wonderful movie are on board to help make a potentially weird, wonderful movie. Some crazed, colorful cave-dwellers, dangerous monsters on the surface, and a talking pile of trash. It almost makes you wonder where our H. R. Pufnstuf movie is. Of course, Jim Henson‘s name and the resurgence of The Muppets can’t hurt. Nevertheless, this is happening:

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? If it’s part creepy and part endearing, it must be from Jim Henson, right? io9 keenly celebrated this find from the ATT Tech Youtube channel – a short created by Henson in 1963 for a business owner seminar from The Bell System. Even without seeing his name on the work, you could have guessed it. His unique artistic sense is on display here in a fantastic, desperate monologue from a robot that loves ingesting vast oceans of information smoke. Adorable and unnerving. Yeah, it’s Henson alright. What will it cost? Only 3 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films.

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Follow That Bird

“But I don’t want to hunt worms. I want Snuffy to come and visit. And if he can’t come and visit, I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to go home!” If you asked a million Muppets fans why they love The Muppets, you would likely get a million different answers, but most of those reasons would probably be rooted in the caring world created by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, a world of family and friendship, of acceptance and education. And while Muppet flicks like The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper embody all those traits (and are much more likely to be the feature titles viewers think of when they think “Muppet movie”), my favorite Muppet flick that has always best exemplified all those traits is the very first Sesame Street film – Follow That Bird.

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New Prometheus Photos

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that, at least for tonight, will divert your attention away from it being a slow news day by using a rousing round-up of visual stimuli. That’s right, we’re busting out infographics! We begin tonight with one of a few hot-off-the-press photos from Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, featuring the cast. Among them was this shot of dreamy Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace, also dreamy. There’s also some pretty kick-ass science fictiony stuff promised alongside this oozing sexuality.

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Over Under: A New Perspective on Films New and Old

After cutting his puppetry teeth on short films and episodes of Sesame Street in the late 60s and early 70s, legendary puppeteer Jim Henson finally got a chance to give his felt faced creations a spotlight show of their own in the mid 70s. That show was The Muppet Show, and it was awesome. So awesome that it eventually spawned a series of feature films. While there’s always room for conflicting opinions, some consensuses (consensii?) about these movies have popped up over the years. It seems that all Muppets are not created equal. Generally everyone agrees that the original film, The Muppet Movie, was the best. And it’s also largely agreed that the first three movies, the ones that still had Jim Henson involvement, are better than the ones that came after. While there’s some general truthiness to these beliefs, I can’t say that I think those divisions hold up as absolute truths. Thank God, this column would have been a wreck otherwise.

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Jim Henson and Kermit The Frog

“Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending”. ~ Jim Henson When Jim Henson died in 1990 there was speculation about the fate of Kermit the Frog. Had Kermit died with his creator? Could Kermit, Henson’s alter ego, survive the sudden loss of the man who had lent him his voice? The answer was Kermit and his Muppet family would carry on, even without the brilliant creative force that was Jim Henson. The art of puppetry goes back thousands of years, but it’s an ancient art that Jim Henson revolutionized. What makes the Muppet world so believable even when we know we’re looking at fabric creatures? For starters Henson’s use of fabric made his puppets malleable and expressive; the faces of his puppets aren’t static. Henson also understood the power of television. On stage the puppeteer is hidden behind a curtain in a puppet theater environment. That carried over to television with, for example, the classic Kukla and Ollie puppets of Kukla, Fran and Ollie fame. Henson was inspired by them, but he didn’t use the static traditional puppet theater. He opened it up by having the cameras focus on the puppets. By keeping the puppeteers out of the frame, Henson liberated the puppets and their puppeteers, allowing them to move more freely and take on a life of their own.

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Why Watch? It’s a class full of Muppets. Teaching you how to make Muppets. Then Jim Henson is surrounded by them while they all sing “Frère Jacques.” Why wouldn’t you watch it? What does it cost? Just 6 minutes of your time. Check out Making Muppets for yourself:

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Things We

It seems appropriate that Jim Henson’s legendary creation, the Muppets, got their start on children’s programming and public television because they have a lot to teach the world. Not only did they spearhead the low-rent show Sam and Friends on WRC-TV in Washington DC, they were also instrumental in making Sesame Street a primary education powerhouse. But even when the Muppets branched out from their roots to land in their variety show and later major motion pictures, they still had a lot to teach us. Like many folks out there, I grew up with the Muppets, and these are some of the most important lessons I have taken away over the years.

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Who is your favorite Muppet?

Asking someone to choose his or her favorite Muppet is tough. It may not be as tough as asking a parent to choose his or her favorite child; it’s maybe more akin to asking someone to choose his or her favorite ice cream flavor. Sure, there are some you like more than others, but can you rally make the defining choice between Baskin-Robbins mint chocolate chip and rocky road? But if you watch some of the old episodes of The Muppet Show or spin through the multiple Muppet movies, you’ll find that there are at least one or two characters who rise to the top…

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Why Watch? There’s something simple and raw about this footage. In it, Jim Henson takes a group full of puppeteers and Muppets through some numbers (including a musical one). It’s a window into the way the master worked. At least, it’s a view to how he taught, and those methods are all part of the magic that we never got to see because it stayed backstage while the magic took the stage. What does it cost? Just 6 minutes of your time. Check out Muppets Counting for yourself:

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Some screenplays never get turned into movies. In fact, a ton of them don’t, and the ratio doesn’t shift when talking about working screenwriters (or even legends of the game). Most have drawers of work that never made the jump from page to screen, so it’s always intriguing when someone takes an interest in something covered in dust. Of course, the dust is shinier when it’s collecting on something from the brilliant mind of Jim Henson. According to LA Weekly, Archaia (which just scored Eisner Awards for two of its titles) has converted Henson’s A Tale of Sand script (which he wrote with writing partner Jerry Juhl) into a comic book complete with a font born from Henson’s own handwriting. “It’s the last and only screenplay that Henson never got to produce in his lifetime,” said Archaia Editor-in-Chief, Stephen Christy, “so we’re bringing it to life as a graphic novel.” Christy also went on the LA CBS affiliate to discuss the project in-depth share some images from the novel. In a film culture where screenwriters are being asked to turn their work into graphic novels before getting green lights, this development might actually renew interest in the story itself as what it was originally intended to be. At least, it would be wonderful if it did. It seems ridiculous, but even if it means a production house gets to slap “Based on the Graphic Novel” on the poster, it would be thrilling to see new Henson work in theaters.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column chronicling all that is good and true(ish) in the world. But enough gay banter, its author caught the new trailer for The Muppets this evening — it’s attached to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides — and it was adorable. Not Pirates, that wasn’t great, the Muppets trailer. Speaking of Muppets, here’s something sad… 21 years ago today, Jim Henson passed away. Our friends over at /Film are remembering him by posting a wonderful documentary called The World of Jim Henson. It’s worth your time, as you might imagine.

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There’s nothing more likeable than a Muppet. I’m pretty sure that’s a proven fact. Whether you were a Sesame Street kind of kid, a lover of The Muppet Show or a fan of Fraggle Rock, chances are any show involving Muppets had the ability to bring a smile to your face – and hopefully it still does.

Constance Marks’ delightful documentary takes you beyond the foam heads and wacky personalities of the Muppets to get to know the people who bring them to life, specifically Kevin Clash, the man behind the most loving 3 ½ year old of all time, Elmo.

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s newest late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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