September 24, 2011
Jim Henson's 75th Birthday
We’re thrilled to share this guest post by Brian Henson about his father—puppeteer, director and producer Jim Henson, best known as the creator of the Muppets. For the next 36 hours, we’re honoring Jim’s birthday on our homepage with a special doodle created in tandem withThe Jim Henson Company. -Ed.
When we were kids, my brother and sisters and I were always allowed to stay up late to watch our father’s appearances on The Tonight Show or The Ed Sullivan Show. No matter how late it was or how young we were, my mother would wake us up and trundle us down to the living room television. We’d be giddy—like Christmas. When he came home, he’d head down to the garage where he had a workshop, and repair everything that we broke while he was away—or build a dollhouse for one of my sisters. Jim never stopped making things.
He also loved games—card games, board games, all kinds of games. He was one of those rare parents who was always ready to play again. He loved dogs, particularly goofy ones. And he lived for those moments when everyone laughed so hard they couldn’t talk. I often walked onto the Muppet set to find everyone just laughing hysterically.
Although he loved family, his work was almost never about “traditional” families. The Muppets were a family—a very diverse one. One of his life philosophies was that we should love people not for their similarities, but for their differences.
Jim often had a little lesson about the important things in life: How to be a good person. How to believe in yourself and follow your dreams. And above all, how to forgive. If anything was stolen from one of us—like when the car was broken into—he would always say, “Oh well, they probably needed that stuff more than we did.”
He loved gadgets and technology. Following his lead, The Jim Henson Company continues to develop cutting-edge technology for animatronics and digital animation, like this cool Google doodle celebrating Jim’s 75th birthday. But I think even he would have found it hilarious the way today some people feel that when they’ve got their smartphone, they no longer need their brain.
Jim was clearly a great visionary. But he also wanted everyone around him fully committed creatively. If you asked him how a movie would turn out, he’d say, “It’ll be what this group can make, and if you changed any one of them, it would be a different movie.” Every day for him was joyously filled with the surprises of other people’s ideas. I often think that if we all lived like that, not only would life be more interesting, we’d all be a lot happier.