I mentioned Brian Jay Jones’s excellent Henson biography a while back, and a succinct overview put together by Defunctland is almost complete on YouTube. Part 5 of 6 was just published, and although I feel some of the subtleties of Jim’s life and relationships are a bit glossed over or made too simple, it’s well worth a watch.
There’s a point in Brian Jay Jones’s Jim Henson biography I knew was coming: Jim’s huge disappointment over The Dark Crystal’s reception, after spending years conceptualizing, developing, producing, and finally co-directing and performing in it. It might have seemed like years of wasted effort, even though the movie made its costs back and then some.
But it wasn’t what he wanted. The artist had a vision of how his work might be received, and that vision didn’t match reality. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have expectations, or that it’s even possible not to. It’s akin to asking us not to dream. But when we are disappointed with how our work is received, we can mitigate it. Or, sometimes, we can accept it with grace, knowing one thing:
The work still exists and it is ours.
Even when sold, the thing we made is attached to us. Jim, crushed by his disappointment, still had the thing he’d made, and it is forever his, for all its flaws and triumphs. Even though he isn’t here, his work lives on. There’s much wonder in it. I have a wonderful volume of Brian Froud’s conceptual drawings on my bedroom shelf. I marvel at the breadth of what The Henson Company was able to create out of mere ideas. I read that there’s an upcoming 4K screening of the film in February 2018 in selected theaters.
What you’ve made is yours, no matter what people think of it. Sometimes, if you believe in the vision you made it out of, it gets another chance, or two, or ten. Opinions change, and art can always be seen by new eyes.
I’m reading Brian Jay Jones’s Jim Henson biography. A lot has been said about Jim’s ambitions, his genius, and his work ethic. It’s true, he worked a lot. And, as he said in at least one interview, what he liked was to work. Lots. But he (are you ready for the cliché?) played hard and even familied hard. He did everything with the same intensity. He took regular vacations, brought along Jane and the kids, and packed them with everything he wanted to see and do, including just lounging around soaking up another country’s essence.
The lesson I’m starting to see take shape is that Jim lived with intention. He was ready to change his plan and even his vision if something else seemed stronger and more true. It’s less important to champion hard work in everything, and more so to live intentionally, work steadily, be forthright. Putting things into the world is its own reward, maybe.