Interview with Brian Henson
By Colin Mahan - TV.com
May 1, 2006 at 05:42:00 PM
talks to the man behind The Jim Henson Company.
youíre a fan of The Muppets, Sesame Street, Dinosaurs,
Fraggle Rock, or cool movies like Dark Crystal, Labyrinth,
or Little Shop of Horrors (and really, who isnít?),
then youíre a fan of the The Jim Henson Company. This production
house created by the late Jim Henson, and now run by his son
Brian, is responsible for creating some of the most memorable
characters in the pop-culture pantheon.
TV.com caught up with Brian and
asked him what was in store for his company, how he thought
computer generated 3D animation stood up to good old fashioned
puppetry, and more.
TV.com: Hi Brian thanks
for taking the time to talk to us. The Henson Company's 50th
anniversary was last year, and Kermit's 50th is this year--what do
you guys have lined up? Dinosaurs is coming out for the
first time on DVD.
Brian Henson: Dinosaurs
isnít linked to the 50th, itís something I have been waiting
to do for a long long time. Itís actually kind of cool that
Disney has taken so long because it is kind of dated, but in a
cool retro way. Itís evergreen b/c itís not real people
running around in 80s hairstyles. But today we wouldnít do a
show that are all animatronics that are really complex characters
running around on the screen at the same time, so itís cool in
TV.com: Is that because of
the advent of CG?
Brian Henson: Well, we
would just take a different approach. You could do hand puppet and
it would be very funny. In fact the television that the dinosaurs
watch in the show is some the best stuff, and that is all hand
puppets and thatís very funny. So thatís one approach.
Another approach is you could do
it as costume characters where theyíre not animatronics but they
are more simple costume puppets.
And another way nowadays is the
3D animation. And I think youíd probably choose one of those
before youíd choose aniomatronic puppets, which is something
that was right in itís heyday at the time of Dinosaurs.
TV.com: It seems like the
companies nowadays just want CG, they donít understand why
anyone would want something different, like puppetry or
Brian Henson: Well, yeah,
3D CGI is a different sort of thing. Itís actually any look or
feel that you want, it's a whole new palette. You can have 3D CGI
that is completely different from another 3D CGI. Itís a very
cool way of creating illusions on film. Itís all illusions
anyway. Itís all photographs.
TV.com: Do you collaborate
with Disney very closely, or do they completely decide how to use
Brian Henson: We
transferred control because they are a much bigger company, we
mainly wanted to keep the characters alive in the theme park area.
They are very slow and choosy and right now they are kind of
working on what they want to see the Muppets do. Right now nothing
is in production.
TV.com: Do you still do
the actual puppetry if there is a production?
Brian Henson: There is
actually no "us and them." We trained all of the
puppeteers, and some work here and some work there. So there
really is no us and them.
I have tried to bring the Jim
Henson Company back to creating new and original characters and
allow Sesame Workshop to be the franchise supporters for the
Sesame characters and Disney for the Muppets, so Henson can get
back to creating new and cool stuff.
TV.com: Do you have any
favorites of all the stuff you have done?
Brian Henson: Muppet
Christmas Carol was the first thing we did after my father
died. It was very scary and we worked very hard on it and I feel
very good about it. Farscape was a wonderful series for
us to have done, it was an opportunity to do something adult, and
it gave me a chance to exercise my irresponsible teenage energy
and I had a lot of fun with that.
Some of the projects back in the
80s were great--Labyrinth, and Little Shop of Horrors.
It was an interesting time because people would spend a year
making a movie, and they donít really do that anymore.
TV.com: Dark Crystal
springs to mind.
Brian Henson: Yeah Dark
Crystal I didnít so much work on I was in school, so I
visited the set a lot and watched how they did it.
TV.com: Whatís on the
horizon for the Jim Hesnson Company?
Brian Henson: These days I
am sort of equally excited by 3D animation, making it a
performance medium. Iím also starting to develop more comedy
thatís a little rough around the edges, kind of like Muppets
in the early days but with a modern sensibility. And I am starting
to develop stuff thatís a little more adult fantasy fiction, I
just completed a one hour Stephen King movie thatís part of a
new series called Nightmares and Dreamscapes, itíll be
on TNT in the summer. I did a segment called
"Battleground" and that was a lot off fun.
TV.com: Is there any
chance of more Fraggle Rock?
Brian Henson: It was just
released on home video last year, and itís doing very well. You
know, there is a good chance that weíll do more Fraggle Rock
but I donít think weíre talking about it yet.
TV.com: Well thanks for
talking to us. We look forward to seeing what you guys have in