Today's article is not the start of another Wednesday series... I just wanted to add in the cute, alliterative title. That is all.
Jim Henson's Red Book Review
Michael Wermuth, Jr. - On September 24, 2010 (Jim Henson’s birthday), The Jim Henson Company added a new website, Jim Henson’s Red Book, containing excerpts from, well, Jim Henson’s red book, Henson’s personal journal. As noted at the top of the page, every day from 1965 until 1988 Jim Henson wrote one-sentence journal entries on what he did that day, and excerpts from the book get reprinted on the website. Now, this may not be too interesting to many, unless you just like knowing dates of events (and even then, Muppet Wiki has many dates posted already). Interest may be even lower if it’s not about a specific production. But many (not all) entries have additional historical information, written by archivist (note from Ryan: and good friend of The Muppet Mindset) Karen Falk. And the historic information is a real treasure.
In case you don’t know, I’m a pretty hardcore Muppet fan. I know the names of all the important characters, and the names of many minor characters you may not be aware of. But pretty much all of the historic information entries include info that even I had never previously known, and not just the kind of info I might not have cared about.
Before the Red Book website started, I didn’t know that Twill and Harrison from the “Muppets String Quartet” sketch (from The Ed Sullivan Show) had names, or that said segment was a remake of one done years earlier, or that Mahna Mahna was called “Harry” in that script. I didn’t know that Jim Henson’s Sesame Street film where kids play in the sand was titled “Body Parts vs. Heavy Equipment.” I also didn’t know what the musicians from the “Come Together” number looked like (they’re basically Beatles caricatures with the same attire as Mahna Mahna)--and these are just some of the many, many things one can learn from Jim's Red Book.
The historical information indeed provides great information, pictures, and often links to video clips uploaded to YouTube by The Jim Henson Company (just recently Jim Henson’s “Wizard of Id” pilot was uploaded). Almost every time an entry is on a variety show appearance there is plenty of detailed behind-the-scenes info and pictures. There are some great behind-the-scenes articles on scenes from The Great Muppet Caper (I am particularly fond of the article on the parachute sequence).
Although it says the red book started in 1965, there have been a few entries that pre-date 1965, such as when Jane Henson got hired in 1955 and the last broadcast of Sam and Friends in 1961. Although the book ended in 1988, I’m hoping for some kind of entry on The Jim Henson Hour. I’m hoping to eventually see entries on the making of all of Jim Henson’s Sesame Street films (especially the “baker films”), the various direct-to-video productions of the 1980s, and something related to Follow That Bird. Only time will tell.
If you don’t follow the website you really, really should. It is a treasure for Muppet fans and a great history lesson every single day.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier