Thursday, August 13, 2009

How Does Your Muppet Walk?

On Tuesday, as I promised, I attended Brian Henson’s talk. It was sold out…well, members didn’t have to pay and got first dibs so I guess it wasn’t sold out…just there were no tickets left for the general public. There was a queue of hopefuls waiting outside on the off chance a member didn’t show, but I understand only 2 of them got in. I found a spot down in front…second row behind a taped off portion of the first row where his demonstration camera and floor monitor was. It turned out to be a really excellent seat.
The show was a little late in beginning, but I had a book so I didn’t worry. The first thing I thought when I saw him was he looks a lot more like his father than when I saw him last…on the Labyrinth DVD special features. But then, he was 17 years old during the making of that movie.
He took us through the journey the Henson family has taken television puppetry. The star of the show, however, was his father. The audience responded the best when he shared a story of his father or showed a clip of him. He is a very funny and entertaining fellow and the audience was absolutely delighted by his Muppet armadillo demonstration. It was a cute puppet too, which it was obsessed with its left ear which was improperly folded in the carrying case and looked a little crushed. At one point he told us all that they, the company, could tell who was running a Muppet by how the puppet walked. He demonstrated several walks and labeled them: “This is how Frank Oz walks a puppet.” It was a very funny segment and also a big hit.
He talked about mechanical developments and digital developments and showed many clips of the journey from “Sam and Friends” to “Sid the Science Kid”. These kind of things make me think…why am I not doing that too? I’m an engineer…I’m a puppeteer…I’m really good and really fast at computer software. In college, I aced all the mechanical engineering classes and the Fortran class. Why in the world didn’t I read the writing on the wall back then? It’s because I’m no quitter even when things should be quit. It’s a flaw of mine. But he had some advice for me too. He said when someone asked the question of how to break into his business, “Just do it.” Anyone can get a puppet and a camera and make something to post somewhere like YouTube. He’s right about that. He also said ‘doing’ was the best way to learn. If you are good, you’ll come to the attention of the right people.
Juicy news: they’re working on “Where the Wild Things Are” but it’s a big secret. He wanted to tell us all about the new techniques they’d developed for that movie but he couldn’t. Bummer. Also, they’re making a sequel to The Dark Crystal! I can’t wait!

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