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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 11: Master of Muppets

Oscar and Grover!

Oscar the Grouch and Grover in all their innocent glory.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

DAY THREE: Tuesday, August 27th.

When we first began vacation brainstorming months ago, the Center for Puppetry Arts was among the top choices on my half of our list for a number of reasons. It’s a modest museum packed with puppets from around the world and across centuries, many of which you’d recognize from beloved movies and TV shows of your youth and mine. Of all the creators and craftsmen celebrated within their halls, none is represented in greater depth than the one and only Jim Henson.

If you were a fan of Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, or such films as The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth, chances are I don’t have to explain who Jim Henson was or his impact on the advancement of puppetry as a storytelling and entertainment medium. To the rest of you, there’s your explanation. Henson’s significance is so integral to the museum and to puppetry itself that he had the honor of cutting the ribbon when the Center opened in 1978.


Henson doorway!

The entryway to the wonderful world of Henson and your friends.

If you’ve been following MCC for a bit, you may recall I previously posted a batch of Puppetry Arts photos from our Atlanta hotel. Assembling full-size photo galleries is unwieldy and time-consuming whenever we’re out of town and still on location, but I couldn’t resist sharing imagery from the Center’s special exhibit, a collection of original puppets and props used in the making of The Dark Crystal. As it happened, we were in Atlanta the same week as the world premiere of the Netflix prequel series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. First I tested the online waters by sharing one (1) photo with a film critic who’s a massive puppetry fan and who’d given the series a glowing review. Emboldened by a positive response from other people besides the voices in my own head for once, I rushed my phone pics of the exhibit into a new MCC entry that Tuesday evening.

The works of Henson as well as Jim Henson Studios, during his lifetime and after, compose half the Center’s exhibits. The following is a sampling of the myriad personalities, histories, and warm childhood memories we wandered among.

Big Bird and Little Bird!

Big Bird and Little Bird, among the many residents of Sesame Street. Anne and I had the pleasure of meeting Caroll Spinney, the man behind Big Bird, at Wizard World Indianapolis 2015.

Bert and Ernie!

Bert and Ernie from the same ZIP code.

Kermit!

Kermit the Frog, among the few characters to make the leap (no pun intended) from Sesame Street to The Muppet Show.

Miss Piggy!

His sometimes girlfriend Miss Piggy, seen here in one of her costumes from Muppet Treasure Island.

Rowlf!

The piano-playing Rowlf, one of my faves from back in the day.

Dr. Teeth!

Dr. Teeth, leader of the Electric Mayhem.

Fazoobs!

The Fazoobs from the planet Koozebane recurred in a few episodes, sometimes in the background.

Pigs in Space!

Dr. Julius Strangepork and Captain Link Hogthrob from…PIIIIIGS IIIIIN SPAAAAACE!

Robin and Miss Kitty!

Kermit’s nephew Robin and the obscure Miss Kitty.

camel!

Did they ever have a camel on the show? Let’s assume.

Rainbow Connection stained glass!

Decorative flourishes around the Center include a stained glass tribute to Kermit’s Academy Award-nominated musical number from The Muppet Movie, “The Rainbow Connection”, my all-time favorite banjo song.

Mayor Fox and Gretchen!

Other works from Henson and his talented crew include the 1977 Canadian TV special Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, represented here by Mayor Fox and his wife Gretchen.

Garthim!

In addition to the dedicated temporary exhibit, 1982’s The Dark Crystal is also part of the main collection via this Garthim and a few other creatures.

Fraggle Rock!

Fraggle Rock (1983-1987) originally aired on HBO, which made it too expensive for my family at the time, but it had its fan base.

Sir Didymus!

Sir Didymus, antagonist turned ally in 1987’s Labyrinth.

Storyteller Dog!

This dog (and his controls) come from the short-lived 1987 British series Jim Henson’s Storyteller, portions of which later aired in America as part of NBC’s The Jim Henson Hour.

Dog City!

After Henson’s death in 1990, one of his Jim Henson Hour movies, Dog City, was turned into a Fox Kids series for two seasons.

Krystals sandwich!

In recent years Jim Henson Productions has given us a fantastic comeback film in 2011, its pretty okay 2014 sequel, the ABC revival I skipped, and a 2016 ad campaign for Krystals starring this living chicken sandwich.

1969 Sesame Street!

Though I always preferred The Muppet Show , Sesame Street remains the colossus of Jim Henson legacies, an integral part of many childhoods since its 1969 inception up until 2016 when it relocated to HBO, which I still don’t have to this day.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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