Saturday, September 24, 2011

I'm My Mommy ~ I'm My Daddy

I'm My Mommy, I'm My Daddy
featuring Jim Henson's Muppets
Daniel Wilcox ~ Mel Crawford ~ Golden Books, 1975

All you long time readers know, I'm a big Jim Henson fan. Since I was a wee girl, I signed everything Mrs. Henson. I followed everything he did from Sesame Street to the Story Hour. For me, it was always about the man and less about the Muppets. He died when I was a senior in high school. My mother came to school and pulled me out of class to tell me the news. I sat in my room for days listening to my Muppet Movie vinyl and crying my eyes out.

Some people cried when Elvis died. Some people mourned when John Lennon was killed. For me, it will always be Jim Henson.

I worked for the company for a short time when it was in transition. When the children sold it to a German conglomeration who at the initial meeting told us our offices would no longer be referred to as "The Muppet Mansion" but would now be called "The International Brand Management Center". I watched closely the sales and passing of torches that followed, always with a sad heart.

I applaud all the artists who have, in the years since his passing, worked to keep the Muppets alive. I have my fingers crossed, hoping the new Muppet movie will be watchable, but seeing as the trailer has a fart joke in it, it's doubtful. Those characters are more than a licensed product. They were the man and the people he brought into his creative circle.

Life Magazine did a cover story after he died written by Stephanie Harrigan, and the last passage of it still rings true.

Jim Henson changed puppets forever, changed them into Muppets. One look at Henson's creations and few people ever wanted to see a stiff, dangling marionette again. His puppets were designed for the close-in scrutiny of the television camera. Their eyes were uncannily expressive, their wide mouths moved in perfect sync with their words. They did not just represent living beings - they were alive themselves.

Or so we can't help believing. "There is something about putting life in the inanimate doll," Jane Henson said. "There's a bit of divinity in it that all puppeteers understand."

That was the thought that kept coming back to me as, later that day, I went on a tour of the workshop where the Muppets are made. Amid all those half-assembled creatures of flocked foam and slush latex, a puppetmaker named Ed Christie showed me a file cabinet where the characters from "Sesame Street" - the actual working Cookie Monsters and Oscars and Grovers - were kept when not in use.

"Here's the real Bert," he said. "And down there is the real Ernie."

He took them out of their drawers and held them up, Bert with his familiar scowling face and repose, their mouths open, their arms hanging idly at their sides, they were creepy. They seemed not only inert but bewitched, frozen under some dark spell. And it seemed at that moment that only Jim Henson, whose genius had created them, and who was now gone, could ever release them.

"That's all they are," Ed Christie said, "just lumps of fabric." I watched as he put Ernie back into the drawer, next to a Ziploc bag filled with spare rubber duckies, and closed the file.

Jim Henson would have been 75 today. Rest in peace, my friend.

(I'm My Mommy ~ I'm My Daddy is a flip book illustrated by the always awesome Mel Crawford. In both stories, child and parent play a game of pretend where the child acts like the parent and the parent, the child. Adorable, old school Sesame Street.)

Other Old Sesame Street Titles:
Sherlock Hemlock and the Great Twiddlebug Mystery
Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum
The In and Out and All About Sesame Street Coloring Book
The Together Book
The Many Faces of Ernie
The Great Cookie Thief
Sesame Street 1,2,3 Story Book
The Amazing Mumford and His Amazing Subtracting Trick
The Sesame Street Bedtime Storybook
The Pecan Tree
The Sesame Street Decorate a Tree Book


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Antmusic said...

Ha! We just picked this up about two weeks ago at a garage sale! I've been reading "Freaky Friday" with my 6 year old... So it tied in, in an odd way.

Ms. said...

Me too---though I came to Him late in life, I watch snippets on the web from the originals to this day. He was a gentle man and a humanitarian too....mental floss is a blog I follow, and this post with pieces from the memorial service at St. John the Divine here in NYC is a really heart-touching one, if you are up to it--

Christina said...

Whoa — a look at a book that we actually have! Cool!

Sew Flippin Cool said...

My parents brought my old copy of this book with them when they visited this summer. My two girls LOVED seeing where I'd written my name and the words I LOVE MOMMY on the inside cover. :)

Michelle E. said...

I loved this post -- thanks!

sunnybrookgal said...

Loved your post, and agree 100%. To me, anyway, Sesame Street has lost its soul compared to the way it was when I was a child. It was kinda clunky and gentle and hippy-ish and very optimistic about life; now it seems a bit too frenetic and loud. The characters are the same, but its as if they aren't really ALIVE anymore. I guess that's the difference between a marketed commodity and a loved creation.

Everytime I need a smile I go to Youtube and watch a rerun of the Sesame Street peanut butter song (also a feel good fav of my 3 year old). Can't watch it without a grin:)

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