When we were kids, we were devotees of anything that had to do with the Muppets. We loved Kermit and his gang and the Fraggles. Emmet Otter's Jug band Christmas plays in our home every Christmas Eve (much to my Dad's dismay). Heck, our last two dogs were named Merlin (after the wizard AND the dog in Labyrinth) and Fozzie. Henson productions that delved into the realm of fantasy and fairytale were even more compelling: the Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, the Storyteller series filled our brains with thoughts of art, magic, and monsters. When Jim Henson passed away in 1990, when I was thirteen, the world felt like a less happy place. Luckily his work has been continued by his children, and this weekend, my siblings and I had the great fortune to see a screening of the movie Labyrinth with Brian Henson sitting right in front of us. Henson, who is now chairperson of the company, introduced the film, and, together with the Froud Family (Brian, who conceptualized the monsters, goblins and faeries of the movie, Wendy, who sculpted them, and Toby, who was the baby in the film but is now an amazing puppeteer and sculptor in his own right), discussed the making of the film afterwards. What a magical evening!
I own several of the books by Brian Froud. I remember getting Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book as a Christmas gift when I was in high school, and now own the Goblins of Labyrinth, too. It was awesome to hear them talk of the rather mundane way such a fantastical work took shape. Little did they know that we had recreated a goblin/David Bowie scene from the movie using a Cabbage Patch Preemie in place of their son. It's recorded for posterity. It's a tribute to the imagination that took root in us in Germany, when we were undistracted by American television. Brian Henson also voiced Hoggle, one of the main characters in the movie, who we've imitated for the last twenty-five years.
But I was excited to meet them mostly because of their work on the Storyteller series. As a kid, that series was like turning on a light switch inside of my imagination. Or maybe setting off fireworks in there. Brian Froud also helped conceptualize the series, while Henson was the voice of the Dog, the storyteller's companion who also helped to spin those delightful yarns.
Afterwards, we were lucky that Brian Henson came out into the audience and was willing to stand there for photos with fans. I had wanted to give him a notecard with the Hans-My-Hedgehog illustration on it, but didn't want him to think that I was hitting him up for a job, which was not the point. A few people had tried it in advance. So we told him how happy my mom would be to see the photo, and then I thanked him for helping to give us all an imagination as children. He smiled and thanked me and added, "We were just having some fun." Thank you Jim, thank you Brian, thank you to the Froud family...your fun changed our lives and gave us verdant, luscious imaginations. It made creativity and art sit at the forefront of our imaginations. For that, we will be forever grateful.