For the first time ever - a comprehensive biography of one of the 20th century’s most innovative creative artists: the incomparable, irreplaceable Jim Henson
He was a gentle dreamer whose genial bearded visage was recognized around the world, but most people got to know him only through the iconic characters born of his fertile imagination: Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, Miss Piggy, Big Bird. The Muppets made Jim Henson a household name, but they were just part of his remarkable story.
This extraordinary biography - written with the generous cooperation of the Henson family - covers the full arc of Henson’s all-too-brief life: from his childhood in Leland, Mississippi, through the years of burgeoning fame in America, to the decade of international celebrity that preceded his untimely death at age 53. Drawing on hundreds of hours of new interviews with Henson's family, friends, and closest collaborators, as well as unprecedented access to private family and company archives, Brian Jay Jones explores the creation of the Muppets, Henson’s contributions to Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live, and his nearly 10-year campaign to bring The Muppet Show to television. Jones provides the imaginative context for Henson’s non-Muppet projects, including the richly imagined worlds of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth - as well as fascinating misfires like Henson’s dream of opening an inflatable psychedelic nightclub.
An uncommonly intimate portrait, Jim Henson captures all the facets of this American original: the master craftsman who revolutionized the presentation of puppets on television, the savvy businessman whose deal-making prowess won him a reputation as "the new Walt Disney", and the creative team leader whose collaborative ethos earned him the undying loyalty of everyone who worked for him. Here also is insight into Henson’s intensely private personal life: his Christian Science upbringing, his love of fast cars and expensive art, and his weakness for women. Though an optimist by nature, Henson was haunted by the notion that he would not have time to do all the things he wanted to do in life - a fear that his heartbreaking final hours would prove all too well founded.
An up-close look at the charmed life of a legend, Jim Henson gives the full measure to a man whose joyful genius transcended age, language, geography, and culture - and continues to beguile audiences worldwide.
©2013 Brain Jay Jones (P)2013 Random House Audio
"The biography’s delightful surprises include a disastrous run on the first season of Saturday Night Live ('the mucking Fuppets,' John Belushi grumbled), an early milky-blue iteration of Kermit sewn from Henson’s mother’s felt coat and the story of how Frank Oz became Yoda." (Kyle Minor, Salon)
"I worked with Jim for more than 30 years. He was one of my closest friends. And yet I found out things about him in Jim Henson that were new to me. Brian Jay Jones has captured the layers of Jim’s genius and humanity, as well as the flaws that made Jim, like all of us, so delightfully imperfect. Jim needed this book to be written. I thank Brian for giving Jim life again. This book has captured the spirit of Jim Henson." (Frank Oz)
"Illuminating . . . As Jones expertly shows, Henson remained throughout his life an artist who was continuously in motion, conceiving, pitching, and managing multiple projects at once." (The Atlantic)
"I’m a rabid Jim Henson fan - his brilliant ideas spawned shows that entertained and educated millions, myself included. Jim Henson vibrantly delves into the magnificent man and his Muppet methods. It’s an absolute must read!" (Neil Patrick Harris)
I had my worries when the first chapter went back to a great great grandfather story, but in the end this is just an example of the approach of being one seriously complete biographical chronology.
With access to some of Henson's personal journals as well as a suite of the key people, the author has done a great job walking you through the twists and turns which made this life. I leave the book with specifics I did not know (Kermit did not start as a frog - really?), with a YouTube playlist of old mesmerizing performances the author pointed me to, and with a recognition not just of a man's genius but the amazing amount of hard work and drive that Henson expended to recognize this genius and change the world some small bit.
Good solid performance helping keep the material from getting too dry. Enjoyed the stretch to capture certain Muppet voices - each of which drove a flashback to childhood comfort and a small smile.
If you are looking for an abridged narration of a story told in dramatic language showcasing a suite of magical moments, this is not the book for you. If you want a straight well-told complete chronological biography of a complex life, this should be right up your alley.
I have always loved to read, and now I really enjoy listening to my books as well!!
I only had a casual knowledge of Jim Henson--I associated him with Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Sesame Street, and Kermit, Miss Piggy and The Muppet Show characters. I now have a deep understanding and appreciation for this incredibly talented man.
This book is very well researched and written. There is the same amount of care and detail spent on lesser known projects and events in Mr. Henson's life as there is on how the Sesame Street Muppets came to be. And it was all very interesting. The narrator was excellent as well--sounding very much like Jim Henson and Frank Oz when he was reading direct quotes.
Jim Henson was a very creative and talented man, who worked very hard and continued to pursue his dream of entertaining people of all ages. He accomplished a lot--a lot more than I ever imagined--before his life was tragically cut short. This is a wonderful way to peek inside his world--Enjoy!!
I know a great deal of the history of the Muppets, but the many personal recollections, details, reasons, and even anecdotes of specific Muppet and artistic moments gave me a better picture of this guy I've either loved or feared since I first watched Sesame Street.
The Narrator (Heyborne) is clearly a fan. His subtle (but deliberate) impressions of Jim, Frank, Jerry, Richard, and others when they are directly quoted were wonderful embellishments to the text. Very nicely done.
In case anyone wonders, Jim's life was not about fame, money, or scandals and neither is this biography.
Many great insights into the roots and planning of Muppet and Henson projects.
Jim's love for his kids from their birth long into their success as adults.
Jane, Juhl, Oz, and Bernie Brillstein were far more important to Jim than you'd guess.
Jim was a great artist and he knew it, but he was very grateful for others. Honestly collaborative and trusting. His gentle, visionary leadership really allowed talented people a chance for greatness.
Tell us about yourself!
From an early age, I was hooked on the work of Jim Henson. Ernie, Kermit, and all the rest have touched my life and influenced the way I live and how I see the world.
This book was a very in depth look into the worlds of Jim Henson from struggling to find a way to get into television, through to his trying to preserve what vision he had for his creations for the benefit of children throughout the world. This book is a fascinating behind the scenes look at the man who used his unique talent and skills to build an empire of family entertainment and amazing worlds put together for entertainment and education purposes.
Kirby Heyborne did a fantastic job with the narration. I could hear the muppet character voices in his performance. He really expressed the kindness of Jim Henson and the essence of his characters extremely well.
From before Sesame Street, to his dealings with Disney, if you have ever been a fan of his Muppets or shows or movies or anything that he has produced, this story of a gentle giant of television is well worth the time spent
I didn't know much about Jim Henson before reading this book. I do like biographies, though, and this one was great! The author weaves the many aspects of Jim's life into a seamless narrative of his life. You get the sense that the representation is fair, not overly biased to the positive as biographies sometimes tend to be. The book pulls you in, and you feel Jim's highs and lows, his conflicts and frustrations, and perhaps that is really what makes this a great read.
Kirby's narration really made it amazing. He did a great job of distinction not only in Jim's voice, but in the voice of the muppets. I NEVER expected someone could imitate the muppets nearly as well as the actual actors themselves. I was very wrong. He is dynamic and well-versed in his reading ability. SO much of my enjoyment of a book relies on a great narrator. This was too good a book not to have a good narrator.
I would say any book where you had what you thought was a decent understanding of someone only to find there was more depth and richness than you thought. I liken this to a suprise on your birthday or for christmas where you thought you might get a certain present from all the hints that you get. Only on the actual day you find the gift was even better than you thought and only a litte like it was described.
see previous comments about his amazing voice talent
If i could have listened to this book all in one sitting I most certainly would have. As it was, I could not wait to listen to the next chapter as soon as possible.
I have an amazing new appreciation for the muppets, Jim Henson, and all the work that truly went into all that they put out. I cannot watch the original muppet movie without thinking about all that. I still get a little sad when I look at Fraggle Rock or Sesame Street and think about the remarkable man we lost WAY too soon. I am happy, however, that his work and the person he would become are immortalized forever. It is the greatest gift WE could give HIM, as he gave us SO much to remember him by.
Honestly I have stopped listening to this book and I'm only half-way through. So.... to be fair it might pick up later, but after 10+ hours I give up. I find Jim Henson to be a fascinating person, however this book describes his life down to the most minute of details. It reads like a textbook and is unfortunately quite tedious.
Also the author points out ad nauseam that Jim Henson wasn't just about the Muppets. It seems that sentence is said every ten minutes. I really wanted to like this book but just can't seem to get hooked.
I thought that I would love this book. I grew up with Jim Henson's work and I loved it all. I guess I am just left scratching my head at the end of this wondering how after 600 pages that go into great detail, I am left feeling like I know Jim Henson even less now. There was something sort of cold about this book. Jim Henson was such a great story teller, but this book felt more like a text book on his life. Sure, it told me what kind of car he drove at every point in his life, all the houses he had, and all the amazing projects he was working on...but even when quoting from his journal, I still didn't feel like I understood him at all. It just felt like I was hearing a long list of everything he did, not who he was. The parts that did try and delve a little deeper left me feeling like Jim Henson was a man without emotional attachment. While the ending message was great, I felt really disappointed by this book as a whole.
As for the narrator, I was also not in love. I hated how when sometimes quoting Jim, he would slip into an impression of Jim's voice, but not always. It really took me out of the moment. He also would sometimes do muppet voices, but not always. I found it really inconsistent and sort of strange. I will give him credit though, when he did the voices, they were actually pretty good.
I love to read. On average I read and/or listen to more than 100 books a year. Audible has been a fantastic addition to my life. Love it!
This was a fantastic biography; the only that has ever made me cry. A wonderful look at the man who inspired my generation. More than a few fond memories of childhood: Disney, Muppets, Labyrinth, and Fraggles. This is a wonderful listen from start to finish.
Somewhere in the middle.
Henson himself. It was instructive to read how someone with an almost childlike optimism could not only function, but thrive amidst the corporate sharks.
Kirby Heyborne's narration is flawless. With a few exceptions he avoids any attempts at outright impersonations of the story's principle characters. His changes in inflection and accents are just enough to convey a particular personality.
1 or 2 hours a day was sufficient.
Making use of YouTube while listening to this book added greatly to its enjoyment. The early efforts, e.g., the Wilkin's Coffee comercials are there, as well as representative samples of all the television and film work over Henson's career. At the end of the book I was please to find that much of the moving NYC Memorial Service was also available for viewing on YouTube. That brought the entire listening experience to a satisfying, and emotional, conclusion.
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