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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

  • 10 Best Audiobooks of 2013 (Salon)
  • "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)

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Extraordinary!

I have always been a fan of Jim Henson and the Muppets. It's because of him I learned to count, share, and speak Spanish. Hearing the details of his life and creativity is inspirational. I couldn't stop crying in the last chapter. He touched so many lives. It's wonderful to know he was just as great in real life as I imagined.

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Interesting story

A little too much detail at times, but overall a pretty good story. Interesting to hear how his success came to be.

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A wonderfully written and truly entertaining book.

I could not put this book down. I loved it! It was well written and gave alot of insight into Jim Henson's life, as well as a look behind the scenes of how some of his shows and movies came to be.

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Sesame Street, Muppets, Yoda, Dark Crystal, Labyrinth

I forgot how prolific and revolutionary Jim Henson was. This comprehensive bio kept me riveted as I relived my own youth through milestones like Sesame Street and The Muppets.

The author covers every major and some minor creative periods in the puppet performer and filmmaker's life. I was esp intrigued by his marginalized (at the time) films: The Dark Crystal and The Labyrinth, which I am going to have to watch again, and his short-lived TV series, The Storyteller.

I had no idea Henson was behind the film The Witches or that author Roald Dahl, who wrote the source book, could be such a grump.

Henson comes off as a likable, forward-thinking genius with a George Lucas-like obsession with technology and a talent for creative collaboration. Henson's kids were as integral to his life and work as they were to the writing of this biography. They are extensively quoted.

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Best with visuals

Chronological telling of Jim Henson's life. I recommend accompanying your listen with a visual resource. I purchased the book, Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal, and I Googled quite a bit during my listen.

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I loved it.

Interesting. Well told. Diverse. Easy to follow. I learned new things and remembered things I'd forgotten. A lovely biography. Recommended.

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This is the first audio book I have ever listened to.

Like I said , this is the first audio book I have ever listened to . I prefer a hard copy but I knew I would never get through a biography . I am a huge fan of Jim Henson and everything he has ever done . This book was amazing . The beginning was a little bit slow but so are most biographies. The book was read so well that even know I am aware that Jim is no longer with us as the reader inches closer to the final days I began to feel sadness thinking it's close soon Jim will be dead ,I was reminded by my husband that he is already dead but it didn't matter it was like watching someone you love die.

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Incredibly, amazingly great

Just like Jim Henson himself, the story of his life was moving, motivating and wonderful. I loved this book and the narrator does a suprisingly good job in the few places he has to channel a Jim Henson-voiced character. Just as superb is how the narrator channels Jim Henson himself. I learned about so many less-well-known projects Jim Henson undertook, and finding out about things like The Storyteller has been a joy. The story of his death and the memorial service were brutally sad. But I just loved this one so much. 5 Stars in every way conceivable.

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Beautiful Genius

This audio book was by far the most comprehensive and informative on one of my heroes. It covers everything from Jim Henson's Birth to His untimely passing.

It also covers the leadership ,and business skills of one of the greatest optimist ever. In a world of television ,and film Jim Henson shows people that it is possible to be successful without having to sacrifice kindness to others.

I did not want this audio book to end. The narrator not only kept me interested ,but captured the essence of the performers, Muppets, Family. Friends ,and of course Jim Henson himself.

I highly recommend that people check this audio book out. You won't regret it.

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  • Brian
  • Tampa, FL
  • 07-18-15

A thorough exploration of Jim Henson and his works

Where does Jim Henson rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Middle of the pack

Who was your favorite character and why?

Jim. How much of a master of his art he was.

What about Kirby Heyborne’s performance did you like?

Good job with voices when needed. Good delivery and accent.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The Life and Work of Jim Henson

Any additional comments?

I enjoyed this audible book; however, it was a bit long.