My love for Jim Henson’s creations isn’t a secret. As most children of the 70’s and 80’s, I grew up watching Sesame Street, The Muppets and Fraggle Rock. I love the Muppet Movies new and old, I cried buckets when I watched the documentary ‘Being Elmo’ and my greatest ambition is to sing on Sesame Street some day.
My love affair with puppets began when I was nine years old and bought Snoopy and Charlie Brown marionettes with my Christmas money. I joined the Pelham puppets club, who would send me magazines with short play scripts in them. My granddad made me a wooden puppet theatre with a hand painted back drop and curtains you could open and close. I would perform the plays with my friends and remember making costumes for my puppets and performing a show about a witch for my Brownie pack.
Being an early years teacher, gives me the perfect excuse to continue buying puppets as an adult. I love the way young children respond to puppets and they are invaluable props for my parent and toddler music groups. My girls have inherited most of my collection and added some of their own.
I have been looking forward to the Jim Henson exhibition at MoPop since the summer. We decided to save our visit until the winter when the wet weather often drives us indoors. The Jim Henson Imagination Unlimited exhibition continues until 25th February, so there is still chance to visit.
The first part of the exhibition explains Jim Henson’s early career. Jim Henson started out by manipulating his puppets to sing along to music tracks. At the exhibition, you can choose a puppet, and a track and record the puppets miming along to the music. The girls were totally captivated and loved watching themselves on the screen. It was difficult to drag them away.
The other sections feature Jim Henson most famous creations. The journey begins with Sesame Street. I was very exited to see Ernie and Bert, Grover and the Count.
The girls learned about the generic blue puppet used in Sesame Street to create multiple characters. The puppet is blank and features are stuck onto the face to change its appearance, according to the requirements of the script. The girls played at creating different characters. We have a similar puppet at home, made by playskool. The girls have made additional features from felt with Velcro attached.
My favourite part of the Muppets section, was a fascinating video explaining how Miss Piggy and Kermit were able to ride bicycles in one of the muppet movies.
The girls loved showing off their theatrical poses and seeing their favourite character, Beaker.
The final section showed exhibits from The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Fraggle Rock.
Outside of the exhibition was a muppet stage set up with miniature instruments. You choose your puppet, a piece of muppet music and create your own puppet show. The girls thought this was wonderful and they were surprisingly good at it.
This inspired them to make a puppet show at home. They often make puppet shows on the stairs, peeking over the bannister. This time, we made a screen from our photo backdrop. The girls went to town customising it and spent the next few days writing a muppet show, full of jokes, magic, music and dancing.
My favourite was four puppets singing along to the Pentatonix sugar plum fairy.
The song features Kermit, the wotnot, and one of our favourite puppets, a Melissa and Doug ballerina named Peh .The girls called her Peh because when she dances her hair falls in her face, so to get it out of her eyes, she tosses her head, saying, ‘peh’.
We have a few recent additions to our collection.
Melissa and Doug cowboy and his cow.
And a cute cat.
We’re now adding even more to our collection, as I’ve discovered Goodwill online is great place to find unusual puppets at great prices. I’m a little bit hooked. I recently won an amazing Jim Henson puppet ( more on that to come soon).
I love how the puppets have inspired them to create stories, costumes and props. They have also become interested in how puppets are made, what makes a particularly good puppet and how to be a ventriloquist. I’ll share some of their home made puppets in a future post.
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