One of the magical things about puppetry are the multitude of ways in which the art form lends itself to drastically different kinds of storytelling. We all grow up being exposed to puppets in one form or another as children through things like Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood, but for many, there comes that moment when they see something like The Muppets or The Dark Crystal and realise that puppetry isn’t just for entertainment aimed at children.
To say that Jim Henson’s Muppets played a fundamental role in changing the way that audiences think about and relate to puppets would be fair, but still something of an understatement given how much of an outsized influence the legendary puppeteer and the company that survives him has had on the craft.
More than simply telling puppet-focused stories that treated puppets like fully-realised people deserving of the same attention as human actors, much of Henson’s Muppets work pushed the technical limits of puppetry in ways that demonstrated how much unrealised potential there was to be tapped into with them.
Without Henson’s decades of innovating the art of puppetry and teaching audiences how to consume puppet-focused shows and movies with the understanding that it wasn’t just kids’ stuff, The Dark Crystal never would have come into being, something explored in an excellent new video interview with the Henson Company’s current head Lisa Henson and film critic Elvis Mitchell.
Drastically different as they are in tone, Henson breaks down how her father’s earliest work with the Muppets served as a precursor to what he would eventually accomplish with The Dark Crystal, and how the public’s ability to watch Jim Henson’s craft evolved ultimately ended up impacting how we feel about puppets as a whole.
Henson’s point about The Dark Crystal’s enduring cult status being the result of Hollywood’s seeming lack of desire to replicate the original film is well-made, but now that Age of Resistance is out here reminding everyone why we all still love puppets, one can only hope that other studious are watching from afar and planning on getting in on all of the practically-created excellence.