TV on DVD Review: Henson's Place: The Man Behind the Muppets (1989)

Now Available to Own

Regardless of the fact that devoted father and family man Jim Henson admits that he likes children, the Muppets creator nonetheless stuns audiences tuned into Henson's Place with the confession that he doesn't think he particularly relates strongly or works well with youngsters.

Then again, he does concede that even though he may collaborate much better with his longtime partner in Muppet crime Frank Oz than he does with kids, the puppets are the ones that work the best with the preschool set.

Encouraged to embrace his creative side by his artist grandmother, in this fascinating and rare documentary portrait of one of the late twentieth century's most beloved pop culture forces, we discover that Henson never intended to work exclusively with puppets as a job.

Having invented the first incarnation of Kermit the Frog as an introverted teenager as a way to mask his shyness, Henson began exploring the field as primarily “just a bit of fun” in college that quickly developed into a career as he and his equally talented puppeteer and wife Jane started to have success bringing their creations to the TV airwaves.

Always interested in blending the mediums of art, television and film and fascinated by the process of developing a character as first an artistic sketch before fleshing it out as a fully functioning puppet, Henson was especially intrigued by breaking new boundaries in the art form with regard to his desire for a puppet's face to rival that of a human's with extremely tiny movements that could expressively fill a screen.

So well-respected for his craft, the creator of Sesame Street stated that had they not been able to work with Henson that the popular preschool educational program wouldn't have proceeded with puppetry at all. And although Henson achieved worldwide success for his Sesame achievements, when he finally pitched his passion primetime project The Muppet Show to American networks, all three of the main stations turned him down.

Finally finding a like-minded and confident ally in British producer Lord Grade who gave Henson, Oz and their entire crew free range and a hefty budget to make their vision a reality, The Muppet Show became a smash sensation in its own right, as Henson discovered that after more than twenty years of hard work, he was finally able to work on a “delicious” series he loved.

Kindhearted, soft-spoken and contemplative about both the future of his brand as well as his professional accomplishments, Henson proudly shares some of his favorite moments in the movies and series that he developed. In the same token, Jim Henson allows the filmmakers to wander around his famous creature shop and gives them unprecedented access to the man behind the magic in this succinct fifty-two minute lovingly produced special.

Making its DVD debut twenty-one years after it first aired during TV's The Jim Henson Hour back in 1989, this delightful yet frustratingly short documentary that makes you curious to learn more about the man as well as his amazing artistic output serves as a wonderful companion piece to last month's '89 Lionsgate disc release of the Henson-centric documentary Sesame Street: 20 Years and Still Counting, hosted by Bill Cosby.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC;
All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com
Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.