Today’s Birthday Boy 9/24

Born September 24, 1936: Jim Henson

Jim Henson was the beloved creator of the Muppets. However, an entirely different universe and collection of characters led him to attend his first World Science Fiction Convention.

The Dark Crystal, which Henson co-directed with Frank Oz and co-wrote, was released in 1982. The movie’s creatures and characters were based on the conceptual artwork of Brian Froud.

Jim Henson and producer Gary Kurtz promoted the film at Chicon IV, the Worldcon held in Chicago in September 1982.

Curiously, what is misidentified on The Dark Crystal “Making of” page as a photo from the 1982 Worldcon (below), actually is from a 1983 ceremony in France. Craig Miller, who worked on the film’s convention PR, verified that Froud did not attend Chicon IV. The correct identification (repeated below) comes from an entry at Jim Henson’s Red Book.

Jim Henson, Brian Froud, a French official, and Gary Kurtz at the “Exposition de Cristaux Geants” in Paris, 1983. Between the official and Kurtz is a Skeksis, a creature from The Dark Crystal.

Jim Henson, Brian Froud, a French official, and Gary Kurtz at the “Exposition de Cristaux Geants” in Paris, 1983. Between the official and Kurtz is a Skeksis, a creature from The Dark Crystal.

Also released in 1982 was The Dark Crystal computer game by Sierra Online — a re-creation is available for free play here.

(And Taral will appreciate it if I mention that his beloved Fraggle Rock, another Henson project, started shooting that same year in Toronto.)

Henson came to the Worldcon again in 1983, when it was held in Baltimore. Henson made a presentation about The Muppets Take Manhattan, then fielded questions about the Muppets and the world of The Dark Crystal. Henson spent some time wandering around the convention afterwards.

Although Henson did not come to the 1984 Worldcon, his presence was still felt. Two entries in the L.A.Con II masquerade re-created characters from The Dark Crystal. The following year, a participant had the chance to show him a folio documenting the presentations, and got back a nice letter about them.

A Dark Crystal-themed masquerade entry from L.A.con II.

A Dark Crystal-themed masquerade entry from L.A.con II.

Just like those costumers, many creative people were and continue to be inspired by Henson’s artistic vision.


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7 thoughts on “Today’s Birthday Boy 9/24

  1. In addition to doing the presentation on “The Muppets Take Manhattan” and “The Dark Crystal” at the Baltimore Worldcon you mention, Jim also did another program item. This was a bit unusual. We had set up a small version of the traveling museum exhibit “The Art of the Muppets” in the lobby of the Baltimore Convention Center which was up all of the convention. As a special ‘kids’ event, we set up a chair in the middle of the exhibit for Jim to sit in and any kids at the con were invited to sit on the floor around him. He talked to them, answered questions, performed Kermit, etc. Parents or other adults were welcome to stand around the periphery but this was a special program item, just for kids.

  2. My wife and I saw the Smithsonian’s “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World” travelling exhibit a few years ago (It circulated from 2005-2012.) when it was at the Arkansas Arts Center. The exhibition was wonderful. Henson left us far too early.

  3. I think I saw that Henson exhibit at Balticon. It was almost disturbing. The “Kermit” was faded yellow green, like a bowl of pea soup that had gone bad, and rather the worse for wear. And it was before a lot of Henson’s most interesting creations — was there anything from Dark Crystal or Alice (the movie about Alice Pleasance Liddle)? I certainly don’t recall any Fraggles.

  4. The exhibit was at Constellation, the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore, not a Balticon, but, yes, there were Fraggles and there were at least a couple characters from “The Dark Crystal”. At 31 years distance, I don’t remember all of what we had on display but I do remember that much. Perhaps other people have photos.

  5. The photo of the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention masquerade presentation of “The Dark Crystal” was taken by photographer Al Gillen, and the presentation was one I did. (That’s me in the Jen costume).

    Imagine my surprise in seeing it here on this site!

    To see how this presentation was put together, see my website at http://www.dark-crystal.tribute.com. I posted the website so that others could see the work involved in doing this re-creation/tribute to Henson and his amazing crew for the 30th anniversary of the release of the film.

    I give credit to the people who helped with the project, and what they did, at http://www.dark-crystal-tribute.com/behind_the_project.html.

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