July 16, 2008

Jim Henson's Early Experimental Films ARE Online After All

While he was still getting the whole Muppet thing off the ground, Jim Henson also created some seriously serious, experimental films. His 1964 short, Time Piece, is eight-and-a-half minutes of surreal stop-action animation and what not--including a 60's-style stripper, heads up--that was nominated for an Oscar.

In 1969, just as Sesame Street was kicking into high gear, Henson and Jerry Juhl created The Cube, a freaky, frustrating, and existentially bleak TV play [on NBC!] about a nameless guy trapped in a white room. All sorts of visitors wander in and out, but he can't escape. It boggles my mind that it was on actual network television.

Anyway, I'd looked unsuccessfully a few times for screenings or copies of Henson's early work. It's possible but not clear whether the screening program at the Smithsonian's just-opened, Jim Henson Legacy exhibition will include some of it. But I just found both Time Piece and The Cube--in color, no less--on Google Video. Several versions of Time Piece are listed as having been removed, so the time to view them may be limited.

Watch Jim Henson's Time Piece: 8:49 [broadcaster.com via google video]
Watch Henson & Juhl's The Cube [google video]
Jim Henson Legacy runs at the Smithsonian from July 12 to Oct. 13 [jimhensonlegacy.org via dt reader sara]


1960's television was very surreal at times. You had shows like the "Prisoner" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prisoner

I think it was all the untreated PTSD from WW2. When most of your male population is walking around with a serious mental disorder it's going to start twisting with reality in very odd ways.

The Smithsonian exhibition is showing Time Piece in a split screen with the storyboards that correspond on the other side of the screen. It's very surreal.

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