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Culture & Religion

A Puppeteer in His Father’s Footsteps

The first project Brian Henson worked on with his father, Muppets creator Jim Henson, was a scene in “The Great Muppet Caper” where Kermit and Miss Piggy are riding bicycles in London. In his Big Think interview, the chairman of The Jim Henson Company describes the scene as a “complex marionetting,” with cranes driving through Battersea Park. It was then that he realized his love for physics could be combined with entertainment and the family business.

In describing the genesis of a puppet character, Henson says that most puppets, at least at his company, are initially based on a real person—though as they are developed they begin to take on a life of their own. And while puppets’ expressions can be restrictive, the magic is that they still brim with emotion: A puppet never smiles, but “you can shoot that scene, and you can show it to people and they’ll say, ‘I love that scene where they all ended with great big smiles.’ It’s like, yeah, but it never really happened, you just sort of imagined it,” says Henson.

Despite the rise of digital media and 3D animation, Henson says there will always be a place for puppetry. It’s a totally different art form, argues Henson. “You can’t beat the simplicity of a puppet and a camera,” he says. “I think it’s one of the oldest art forms in the world and I think it will still be going strong.”

We also asked Henson some questions about the Muppets, who he says were like his brothers and sisters when he was growing up.  Did Miss Piggy and Kermit ever end up getting married? Henson thinks it’s still in question: “They’re one of those relationships, you know? They’re going to be together and they’re going to be pulled apart, and I don’t know. Who could live with Miss Piggy? It’s hard. Even for Kermit, that’s hard,” he says. He also admits that Kermit was his favorite Muppet, mostly because the frog reminded him of his father’s playful moods.


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