Limbo is an abstract Muppet character consisting of two eyes and a mouth made of string, controlled by invisible wires attached to gloves worn by two puppeteers. The puppet is performed live in front of a prerecorded film that is projected, layered or composited.
The character has been referred to as "Nobody" (for his appearance: he has no body, and for one sketch in which he appeared), "Line Face" (in the Mad Mad World pilot), and "Floating Face" (twice by Jim Henson when introducing his act on The Mike Douglas Show in 1966).
Limbo was used most often in variety show appearances. Speaking in a deep, pensive voice, the character would deliver thoughtful, even apprehensive monologues. The film and soundtrack combined to explore the character's inner thoughts, fears, sense of self, and general mental state, as various projected film objects would appear behind Limbo's face.
Later, in appearances on Sesame Street (where he taught counting), the character was generated by the Scanimate system (identified in scripts simply as "Face"). For these appearances, William "Rosko" Mercer supplied the voice.
- Sam and Friends, Esskay commercial in "C'est Si Bon" (date unknown)
- Mad Mad World pilot (1962)
- The Organized Mind, short film (1966)
- The Idea Man, short film (1966)
- I'm Nobody, short film (1966)
- I Know Who I Am, short film (1966)
- The Muppets on Puppets, demonstration (1968)
- Sesame Street Scanimate Films (1970)
Limbo's name comes from a term used in video production to indicate a neutral or nondescript background. Many Muppet segments are developed with the purpose of being performed in such a setting, and scripts often use "limbo" to note this intention specifically. Scripts for a number of sketches for the Sesame Street Muppets indicate "limbo" as the scenic environment; for example: Anything Muppet sketches, select Ernie and Bert sketches, and some of Kermit's lectures, to name a few instances.
- Henson Redbook - Scan of a Scanimate Sesame Street script.
- The Art of Video Production by Leonard Shyles. Published by SAGE Publications, 2007 — "Limbo lighting presents the talent in a setting consisting of a single uniform color, giving the illusion of infinite distance."
- Video Production: Disciplines and Techniques by Jim Foust, Edward J Fink, and Lynne Gross. Published by Taylor & Francis, 2017 — "limbo lighting, where the subject is placed in limbo against a softly lit, nondescript, neutral background."
- g-wlearning.com "A lighting technique in which the background of the set is lit to create the illusion of a solid-color, indistinct background."
- basecamppro.com "In a studio, to shoot a subject against a black backdrop."
- mheducation.com "A type of lighting where the performer is seen clearly, but the background appears to be vague or nondescriptive."
- Jim Henson's Red Book July 11-15, 1966 – ‘Co-host Mike Douglas Show in Philadelphia (finished TV “Organized Brain” for this)’ by The Jim Henson Company Archives, July 11, 2012