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For Movie Making Magic

If you ever wondered how to spend a couple of hours in Queens, NY, I have your answer. It is the Museum of the Moving Image. Two weeks ago an exhibit on Jim Henson’s life, work and of course puppets, opened there. That was enough to draw me in. But, to my surprise it was not what kept me in there and for far longer than I planned. The cost of the museum is $10 and for that price you have full access to two floors of sites.

This museum is not as grand as a Smithsonian but it did have a lot of items that were well laid out. Upon making my way up to see the Jim Henson exhibit, I was derailed by all of the movie memorabilia there was. It never occurred to me that the moving image meant anything but the equipment and techniques used to make them.  

As I stumbled upon items from movies that I love like Silence of the Lambs, I was literally squealing with delight. 

I enjoyed seeing the combination of old and new movie magic. I was even a happier camper when I realized I could take as many pictures as I wanted as long as my flash was off. Sadly the one except to this rule was in the Jim Henson exhibit, but I had braced myself for that.

Now lets all sing together:

The Jim Henson exhibit was different than I pictured it. The bulk of it consisted of letters and sketches rather than puppets. It was hard to get to all of those types of pieces because they were hanging on the wall and it was very crowded despite a timed ticket entry. It was also hard to follow because there was so much reading that wasn’t necessarily in order. There were just a few puppet displays including: Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, and a Fraggle. 

The nostalgia of it all and realizing how one man’s vision created a brand new world out of nothing more than his imagination is really incredible. It’s inspiring to see just how much he did in his lifetime. There were stories and characters I had never even heard of. I also learned that he originally used puppets in advertisements. A quote on the wall was “we tried to sell things by making people laugh.” And it worked to say the least.

My only disappointment here was that I would have rather seen more much of the puppet artifacts. To see how the puppets came about and progressed into what we recognize today is the most interesting parts.  I definitely have to make my way to the Jim Henson Company in California where tours of the soundstage and Creature Shop are offered.

When I think of Jim Henson’s work I am immediately taken back to watching Sesame Street as a child. It’s where we learned to count (with you know who) and be friends with those who are different than us ala Bert and Ernie. 

This is one of my favorite clips of them:

We learned what love was through Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. I believe I am now equal parts Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch. But my ultimate favorite puppets are the ones who sat in the theater and mocked people. Apparently their names are Statler and Waldorf. I still crack up just thinking about these guys.

Here is a clip so you will too:

The Muppet Movies and Sesame Street were the predecessor for making puppets mainstream and for making a play like Avenue Q an idea that could win a Tony. In fact, these puppets are so apart of our culture remembering a time when television was not geared towards education seems like ice ages ago. It was actually all because of Jim Henson that these types of programs are in existence now.

Jim Henson's philosophy was that "we form our lives, that we create our own reality, and that everything works out for the best." Jim certainly did.

At the end of The Muppet Movie, Kermit the Frog says "Life is like a movie, write your own ending." 

I hope both Jim and Kermit are right.

If you go, and you should:

Look for the silver and pink mirrored building. The museum is easy enough to miss considering that on one side the neighborhood looks mostly industrial and closed up. On the other side is a gigantic movie theater and some chain restaurants, including one of my favorites: Panera Bread! I love their French Onion soup, combo meals, and that they serve iced green tea. I never see that anywhere. I love killing two birds with one stone!

Be aware: this exhibit is closing January 16, 2012.

Here is where you will find the rest of the information, including directions:

For the Jim Henson Company in California:


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