Orlandotastic!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Muppet History at the Orange County History Center


Do you love Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? We do – the goofy 3-D attraction featuring Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the gang was always one of our favorite attractions. It never ceases to amaze one how Jim Henson was able to create so many wonderful and funny characters. Don’t forget – Henson was also the mind behind Sesame Street icons like Bert and Ernie. If you’re a fan of these and other similar fun and wacky Henson characters, you may want to check out a new exhibit exploring the mind behind the Muppets at the Orange County Regional History Center in downtown Orlando.

A great attraction to explore during a break from Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, the History Center debuted a new exhibit early this month, Jim Henson’s Fantastic World. Until May 3, visitors can relish in the creative genius of the multitalented creator of The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock, and the leading force behind Sesame Street.

Henson, who was born in 1936, was a celebrated artist, puppeteer, film director, and producer who created entire worlds with unique characters, objects, environments, and even languages and cultures. Visitors to the exhibit will get to peek inside those worlds by viewing more than 100 works of art, photographs, documents, movie props, and yes, puppets, as well as original video productions and excerpts from Henson’s early career.

Particularly fascinating are the Fantastic World’s sketches, which Henson’s daughter Heather Henson (a resident of Orlando) refers to as the “blueprint” of many characters and productions. And seeing so many Muppets on display is heartwarming to anyone who grew up watching Jim Henson productions on TV; there’s even those memorable “Mah Na Mah Na” guys in a case.

Many people may not know that Henson, who is now survived by his three daughters, Lisa, Cheryl, and Heather, and son Brian, purchased a house in Orange County, Florida, in the 1980s.

“He loved what was going on in the [theme] parks and Walt Disney World,” Heather Henson told reporters. “He wanted to find a home to have his Muppet characters to continue to grow and flourish. He wanted his family of characters to go into the Walt Disney Co.”

Unfortunately, before those plans could be finalized, Henson died of Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome in 1990, not long after developing Muppet Vision 3D at Hollywood Studios. In 2004, however, Henson’s wish was finally realized as his sons and daughters sold the Muppets to Disney, along with the Big Bear in the Blue House properties. The Henson family still possesses all Jim’s other creations, including the world famous Jim Henson Creature Shop, which continues to supply Hollywood with creative and technologically advanced film creatures.

Jim Henson’s Fantastic World will make tour stops across the country. And on Saturdays and Sundays from March 7 through April 5, the exhibit will also host screenings of Henson’s rare and popular films, TV footage, and experimental work, along with documentaries and guest speakers like Heather Henson.

For a truly fascinating look into the mind behind some of TV and films most beloved creatures and characters, don’t miss Jim Henson’s Fantastic World exhibit at the Orange County Regional History Center. It’ll give you a whole new appreciation for Henson’s legacy, not to mention one of the most entertaining attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
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