Interview with Brian Henson

By Colin Mahan -
May 1, 2006 at 05:42:00 PM talks to the man behind The Jim Henson Company.

If 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. 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. 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 that respect. 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. It seems like the companies nowadays just want CG, they donít understand why anyone would want something different, like puppetry or animatronics.

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. Do you collaborate with Disney very closely, or do they completely decide how to use the Muppets.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Well thanks for talking to us. We look forward to seeing what you guys have in store!




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