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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Television > Film > Puppets > Children > Education > Henson’s Place – The Man Behind The Muppets (1984/Documentary/Lionsgate DVD)

Henson’s Place – The Man Behind The Muppets (1984/Documentary/Lionsgate DVD)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: C+     Documentary: B



For all he achieved in his life and one cut too short by illness, Jim Henson’s legacy is a huge one, yet it is not well known and he is less known.  Henson’s Place – The Man Behind The Muppets (1984) is an older but effective hour-long documentary about the talent that changed the entertainment industry forever.  With The Muppets deserving a comeback (Sesame Street never went away), it is interesting to see an honest look of how it all began.


Henson was trying to make a different kind of puppet, more cloth-based and with the new medium of TV, knew he could not move it around as much.  In the same way animated characters became shorter and simpler for the new medium, he explored the possibilities of what he could do with their faces and expressions.  The result revolutionized the industry.  He began on local TV, but when Sesame Street was gearing up for its historic run that continues to this day, some of the creative team wanted Henson to do the puppets.  They were either going to have his Muppets or the show was not going to use any form of puppeteering.


Henson’s early commercial success led to a contract with Wilkins Coffee in the 1960s with a precursor of Kermit named after the product in a series of TV ads and other tie-ins that sold the product.  When he agreed to work on Sesame Street, he created a classic line-up of characters that included Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, Oscar, The Count and Kermit had arrived.  His friend Frank Oz joined him and a classic was born.


The program then moves into how he established his production company, how it took the genius of the powerful British film and television producer Lord Lew Grade of ITC to back The Muppet Show and with it, Henson had his first big success outside of the U.S., with several feature films to follow.  Grade, Henson, Oz and many more are interviewed and we see rare and priceless archive footage worth revisiting.  Hope this gets updated sometime soon too.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot in a mix of film and videotape, both NTSC and PAL, so you get a good mix, but the footage was transferred over 25 years ago, so Muppet Show clips are not going to look as good as the new Disney Season sets, but they’ll do for the purposes her.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also mixed and somewhat aged for the same reasons, but you can hear it well enough.  This deserves an HD upgrade, which is possible with so much film involved.  The only extra is a look at the Jim Henson Company 1985/86 yearbook, but it is very nice to see.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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