|Written by||Brian Jay Jones|
|Published||September 24, 2013|
|Publisher||Random House / Ballantine Books|
|ISBN||0345526112 (hardcover book)|
0804128642 (audiobook CD)
0804128650 (audio download)
Jim Henson: The Biography is a biographical account of Jim Henson's life and career written by Brian Jay Jones. The 672-page hardcover was released on September 24, 2013 (Henson's 77th birthday) by Random House / Ballantine Books. A digital e-book edition, and an audiobook, narrated by Kirby Heyborne, were released on the same day.
It was first reported in July 2010 that Brian Jay Jones had sold a biography of Jim Henson to Ballantine Books. Jones worked on the project with the blessing of the Henson family and the Jim Henson Legacy. From 2010 to 2012, he spent time combing through the Henson Archives with the assistance of Karen Falk. Jones also spent time interviewing many of Henson's colleagues for the book — including Jane Henson, Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, and Jerry Nelson, among others. Jones delivered the first draft of the manuscript to his editor in June 2012; the draft was 700-pages long. After being typeset and laid out, the final book will be 592-pages.
“He was a gentle dreamer whose genial bearded visage was recognized around the world, but most people got to know him only through the iconic characters he created: Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, Miss Piggy, Big Bird. The Muppets made Jim Henson a household name, but they were just part of his remarkable story.
This extraordinary biography—written with the generous cooperation of the Henson family—covers the full arc of Henson's all-too-brief life: from his childhood in Leland, Mississippi; through the years of burgeoning fame in Washington D.C., New York, and London; to the decade of international celebrity that preceded his untimely death at age fifty-three. Drawing on hundreds of hours of new interviews with Henson's family, friends, and closest collaborators, as well as unprecedented access to private family and company archives (including never-before-seen interviews, business documents, and Henson’s private letters), Brian Jay Jones explores the creation of the Muppets, Henson’' contributions to Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live, and his nearly ten-year campaign to bring The Muppet Show to television. Jones provides the imaginative context for Henson's non-Muppet projects, including the richly imagined worlds of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth—as well as fascinating misfires like Henson's dream of opening an inflatable psychedelic nightclub or staging an elaborate all-puppet Broadway show.
An uncommonly intimate portrait, Jim Henson captures all the facets of this American original: the master craftsman who revolutionized the presentation of puppets on television, the savvy businessman whose dealmaking prowess won him a reputation as "the new Walt Disney," and the creative team leader whose collaborative ethos earned him the undying loyalty of everyone who worked for him. Here also is insight into Henson's intensely private personal life: his Christian Science upbringing; his love of fast cars, high-stakes gambling, and expensive art; and his weakness for women. Though an optimist by nature, Henson was haunted by the notion that he would not have time to do all the things he wanted to do in life—a fear that his heartbreaking final hours would prove all too well founded.
An up-close look at the charmed life of a legend, Jim Henson gives the full measure to a man whose joyful genius transcended age, language, geography, and culture—and continues to beguile audiences worldwide.”
An unabridged audio book was released on September 24, 2013 by Random House Audio. Narrated by Kirby Heyborne, it runs 15 hours long. The audio book was released on both audio CD and as a digital download.
Events & Publicity
- Brian Jay Jones and Dave Goelz appeared on The Diane Rehm Show on September 25, 2013 to discuss the book. (audio)
- The Museum of the Moving Image hosted a special panel, moderated by Craig Shemin, on October 1, 2013 about the book. The panel featured Brian Jay Jones, Karen Falk, Bonnie Erickson, Fran Brill, Museum of the Moving Image curator Barbara Miller, and Smithsonian entertainment exhibits curator Dwight Bowers.
- New York Comic Con hosted "Jim Henson: The Biography: The Panel," moderated by Joe Hennes and Ryan Roe of toughpigs.com, on October 11, 2013. The panel featured Brian Jay Jones, Karen Falk, Michael K. Frith, Bonnie Erickson, and Fran Brill. A full video of the panel was posted to YouTube by the Nerdist Channel in November 2013.
- Jones appeared on the October 18, 2013 episode of the A Bit of a Chat with Ken Plume podcast to discuss the book. (audio)
- Jones appeared on The Tavis Smiley Show to discuss the book on October 18, 2013.
- Jones sat down for an interview at the local PBS station in Albuquerque, NM for a 15-minute segment on New Mexico In Focus. Larry Ahrens interviewed Jones on the air about Henson and creating the book. An additional 8-minute segment with Jones was posted as a "web extra" to the stations YouTube channel as well.
- Jones was interviewed by Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch on New Zealand radio on November 5, 2013. (audio)
- Jones was interviewed by Oline Eaton for New Books In Biography. The hour-long interview was posted on December 6, 2013. (audio)
“I worked with Jim for over thirty years. He was one of my closest friends. And yet I found out things about him in Jim Henson that were new to me. Brian Jay Jones has captured the layers of Jim’s genius and humanity as well as the flaws that made Jim, like all of us, so delightfully imperfect. Jim needed this book to be written. I thank Brian for giving Jim life again. This book has captured the spirit of Jim Henson.”
“I loved it. Brian Jay Jones vividly portrays Jim’s journey, and also the intersecting journeys of his colleagues and friends. In spite of the fact that Jim and I worked together closely for many years, there were compartments of his life that I hadn’t known before. I was completely involved and couldn’t put the book down. A tremendous job.”
“...Jones is masterful at explaining how Henson grew up to become a daring puppeteer and scriptwriter, [and] how he managed to attract so much remarkable talent to his side ... Jones does not ignore Henson's separation from his wife/creative partner, nor his extramarital affair with a much younger woman, but the downside of Henson’s personality is not Jones' primary focus. In an era of pathography, this biography stands out as positive ... Jones continually shows that Henson left the world a better place, which serves as the book's theme. A solid biography that can be enjoyed by readers of more than one generation.”
“Every Muppet fan has wondered who was behind the wide-mouthed, bug-eyed, furry creatures. Before now all we had was a credit line: Jim Henson. Now, with Brian Jay Jones's riveting Jim Henson, we have a nuanced portrait of the puppeteer—part genius inspired by his Mississippi Delta roots and his Christian Science faith, part flawed human with tastes too rich in everything from his art and cars to his women—that brings new understanding of and empathy for an icon of American popular culture.”
—Larry Tye, author of Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend and Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero
- Page 138 incorrectly states that a Cinderella series was pitched to CBS. It was actually a series based on Snow White that was pitched to CBS. The fairy tale was changed from Snow White to Cinderella after it was pitched to ABC.
- Page 177 incorrectly lists Featherstone among a group of characters who first appeared in Tales of the Tinkerdee, which the character did not appear in.
- Page 429 incorrectly says that two episodes of The Jim Henson Hour didn't air during the show's original NBC run. Actually, it was three episodes - Episode 110: Secrets of the Muppets, Episode 111: Living with Dinosaurs, and Episode 112: Food.
- Page 429 also refers to Episode 105: First Show as "The Ratings Game". "The Ratings Game" was one of many episode titles made up for an episode guide in MuppetZine that found its way to various websites and were the titles listed on Muppet Wiki until early 2013 when the official titles for the MuppeTelevision segments were found.
- Author's blog October 8, 2010
- Author's blog April 3, 2013
- Author's blog August 23, 2011
- Author's blog August 24, 2012
- Author's blog January 19, 2012
- Author's blog May 7, 2013
- Jim Henson: The Biography (Audiobook, Unabridged)
- Good as Goelz
- Brill, Booklist, and “Buzzworthy Bios”
- A Blurb That's Legen...wait for it...
- Kirkus Reviews
- Advance praise for Jim Henson
- See Category talk: Jim Henson Hour Episodes