July 20, 2008

It's Not Easy Being In The Smithsonian's Jim Henson Exhibit

The girls and I went to the Jim Henson Legacy exhibition that just opened in some basement gallery at the Smithsonian, so you don't have to. Seriously, just put it in a book. Or a file folder, what a pointless hodgepodge of sketches, posters, storyboards, and three video screens, all sprinkled with the odd Muppet-in-a-vitrine. For a seemingly kid-oriented show, almost all the material is uninteresting--or because it's paper hung high on a wall, literally unviewable--for shorties.

Henson's movies are almost completely ignored. Of the three monitors in the exhibit, one is showing early Henson commercials starring puppets; one is showing a split-screen view of Time Piece and its rudimentary storyboard; and one is showing a biography of Henson by The Biography Channel, the show's sponsor.

If they'd had Time Piece on the full screen, it would've been the sole highlight of the show. Instead, that honor [sic] goes to the storyboard for this early, trippy stop-action animation for the number 12. Not because the storyboard's interesting, but because it reminded me of the clip's existence.

Jim Henson Legacy, at the Smithsonian through October 13 [si.edu]


Wow, was planning to take a road trip from NYC to see this one weekend. Do you think its worth a trip even if I leave the kids home? How disappointing!

you know, if you're a serious Henson fan, I guess it'd be interesting to see stuff that's not available to see otherwise. I mean, it was great to see a few original little 1,2,3,4,5 paintings from the falling baker series on the 'Street, but it'd make a better show to include the actual segments. The storyboard images add nothing at all to Time Piece,

And if you're a serious Henson fan, you may get pissed about all the work that gets glossed over, or how little insight it adds. Even the Muppet Show got very little coverage. the last half of the exhibit is a "resource center," with books, a Velcro make-a-muppet face wall, and a puppet stage. It was swarming with kids, pretty unusable in its original form, just a bunch of kids playing with Elmo [who wasn't even a Henson creation].

So no, unless you're already in town--at the Smithsonian--you'd do better to get a thick, Henson coffee table book and watch the bio on Biography

sigh. Oh yes "the show's sponsor", rings fear into the heart of...well everyone. I've read the horror stories. :) Dr. Seuss is opening up at a gallery here in Florida this winter and I am stoked!!1! to go see it. Apparently he's done political cartoons I have yet to see. Maybe hanging the paper up high won't be too bad of an idea on this one.

i thought it was fantastic, myself.

my son watched the first video, of "Visual Thinking" and laughed uncontrollably. he still imitates it. i don't know where i could find it anywhere.

he was even fascinated by "time piece", henson's short film, which is cool, but it wasn't kids' stuff. when you think of the time he made that film, and all the other films that have that same type of look and feel, you realize just how much his influence has been, in tv and film arts.

i had to pry my son away from the live feed camera with the puppet show. there was also this cool felt board where you could make your own muppet face. i let him play with those, while i looked around at the sketches and artwork. i tell you, he loved it, and so did i. i suppose you'd have to like henson's stuff.

i do wish they had done more, to display the work they did with the Dark Crystal, for instance. i suppose you can find that on the dvd, the making of it. But it was nice to see some of the other footage--the LaChoy dragon was hilarious! the vintage footage is harder to find on dvd, and i know most of his sketches are kept unpublished.

i really miss artists like henson, in the world of tv and filmmaking. he really was an artist first.

thanks for the info - i was seriously contemplating taking 3 yo to DC from NC for this, but we'll skip it now! too bad.

I'm not sure why you thought this was a "kids-oriented" show, but I don't remember it being billed that way. It's a Jim Henson/Muppet/Sesame Street fan show--and it's fantastic. Try a little research next time.

Yeah, I agree in that almost none of the tiny artwork or exhibition material is of any interest at all to a child, not that it impressed this adult, either. I'd disagree in that the back third of the already thin exhibit is a freaking Muppet gymboree with an on-camera Muppet theater, a wall for building Muppet faces, and an art table for drawing your own storyboard. Plus, the store is full of Elmo crap.

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