Saturday, June 17, 2017

REVIEW: The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited

Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited
Inside "The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited" (MoPOP)


Organized by the Museum of the Moving Image, the traveling exhibit, The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited, has made Seattle MoPOP the first stop on its tour. It’s easy to find. Just look for the furry walls and listen for familiar tunes like "The Rainbow Connection." The exhibit is a “must-see” event for anyone who is a fan of The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth and I mean anyone. When I visited, there wasn’t a child in sight but plenty of adults taking selfies with Kermit and friends. I got a kick watching one gray-haired lady create her own Muppet character while her friend was studying clips from Sesame Street.

The exhibition features a broad range of artifacts related to Henson’s unparalleled career, including more than 20 puppets including well-known favorites like Bert and Ernie, Professor Honeydew and Beaker and Grover. And these are not facsimiles either. These are actual Muppet puppets that were used on the shows and movies. However, as much as you’d to touch them, you can’t because they are being displayed under glass.

Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited
Professor Honeydew and Beaker.
The new exhibit also presents a lot of information and history of Henson’s earliest works with clips from TV commercials that aired long before the Muppets became household names. For instance, did you know that Kermit was not the first Muppet to go mainstream? The character that was is still used often today, but chances are, you’ll be surprised. Another fact that gets overlooked often is that Henson was more than just a puppeteer. He was also a film director with a passion for projects that that didn’t even include Muppets. Three of his earliest films are on display with descriptions on the meanings of the short films.

Henson’s earliest works are celebrated in grand style before taking you down memory lane, past Sesame Street, over to The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock before finishing off with Henson’s last works of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. Since this is an exhibit about Henson and his work, Muppet movies and TV shows created after his death are not featured, but you’ll get a good sense on just what kind of man Henson was, how easy it was to work with him and why people still think of him fondly.

Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited
"Light the Lights" photo opp.
The exhibit also features sketches, storyboards, scripts, photographs, film and television clips, behind-the-scenes footage and iconic costumes that have been used over the years, but for many, it won’t be enough. There is only so many items and props that could be transported from MoMI that there will be some of your favorites left behind. That shouldn’t keep you from coming though.

In addition, the exhibit also features some interactive elements where you can record yourself in front of a camera with a real puppet and a puppet design table to see if you should consider giving up your day job. You can also get your photo taken at the “Light the Lights” display and even put on your own puppet show.

Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited
Design your own Muppet.
The Jim Henson exhibit continues through January 3, 2018. Tickets for the exhibit (which includes admission to all other MoPOP exhbits except for the Star Trek exhibit) are $33 for adults (18-64), $30 for Seniors (65+) and Students (with I.D.), $27 for Military (with I.D.), $24 for youth (5-17) and children age 4 and under get in free. Order online and save yourself two bucks per ticket. MoPop is open daily from 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. and is located at the Seattle Center at 325 5th Ave. N., Seattle 98109. For more information, visit the MoPOP website.