The Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) in Queens is sharing Jim Henson's magical escapism for generations to come with a new permanent exhibit of his work, including 47 vintage, original puppets and Muppets.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, arguably no one has done more to bring childlike wonder and imagination without limits into popular culture quite like Jim Henson. And now, thanks to crowdsourced support from Kickstarter and funding from New York City, the permanent exhibit will open on July 22nd, 2017.
Another world, another time, in the age of wonder, Henson created a legacy without which we never would have Pixar and other studios devoted to the notion that entertainment doesn't necessarily have to be for kids just because it involves fictional characters or animation.
"The most sophisticated people I know — inside they are all children." -Jim Henson
MoMI's permanent Jim Henson exhibition will feature more than 47 original, vintage puppets — including Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Elmo, Cookie Monster, the Fraggles, and a Skeksis from The Dark Crystal — as well as puppet prototypes, original character sketches, rare behind-the-scenes footage and photographs, and interactive puppetry design and performance experiences.
While the Muppets characters were certainly as wholesome as anything from Walt Disney's studios, Henson also allowed his creative vision to bring darker visions of imaginary worlds to life, full of the narrative structure, design, and imagery of moral fables and original European fairytales.
Through experimental collaborations like Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas (created with authors Lillian and Russell Hoban in 1971), The Dark Crystal (created with Frank Oz in 1982), and Labyrinth (created with George Lucas and David Bowie in 1986), Henson forged cult classics from which entire generations now draw new tonal, visual, and musical inspiration — not to mention comfort. Henson didn't seek to shield us from the frights of the world, but rather to help us cope and experience catharsis through puppets.
"Dance your cares away, worries for another da-a-ay…" -The Fraggles
MoMi executive director Carl Goodman told Curbed that the exhibition will explore Henson's impact on pop culture as an artist, and will also take a "more holistic view" of Henson's contributions to film and television. Materials for the exhibit were donated by the Henson Family, including daughter Heather who is "keeping the magic alive" by following in her father's footsteps as a puppeteer, herself.
The permanent exhibit will open on July 22. Not in New York? A traveling version, The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited, is already underway and on the road this summer. The tour will make stops around the country and the world, and kicked off at Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture on May 20, 2017.
The Kickstarter campaign, which raised $144,230, offered exclusive (and swoon-worthy) pledge perks for die-hard fans, ranging from vintage merch and memorabilia to rare collector's items, like autographed copies of prototype scripts and original Jim Henson prints, plus modern collaborations like a chocolate bar from MAST Brothers featuring The Fraggles.