Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Sesame Street Gang

This year will mark the 40th anniversary of everyone's favourite kids' TV show, Sesame Street. In lead up, Mark Medley of the National Post is doing a series of stories on all things Sesame (which is also where the above image comes from), including an interview with the author of a new book exploring the history of the series, Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis. The interview (and likely the book as well), is full of gems such as:
National Post: Why is the death of Jim Henson still a cultural watershed moment?

Michael Davis: I think it was the shock factor. It came on a day when it was just so unexpected. Here was a man who was in the prime of his life, the peak of his creative powers, and he had this wonderful pied piper aspect to him. He seemed so wizardly and so approachable. People really felt like they knew him. Which is kind of funny because the man, when you look at him in total, was sort of enigmatic. But his persona was so vivid that people thought they knew him, and they felt close to him. They felt like he was in a way an extension of Kermit and vice-versa. I’ve spoken to people over the last five years..who break down in tears talking about him, and how much they miss him, and what the effect has been from his absence....When you look at the videotape of the memorial service, I think what’s most striking, beyond the star-watching, which is kind of fun, but just the folks who showed up with their children and plopped down on the floor of the cathedral and filled its every corner. That is what’s most moving about watching that tape, and I’ve watched it many, many, many times, and everytime I saw something different.

Medley has also written a wonderful article about the anniversary itself, Look who's 40!, which includes some great stories and recollections from longtime Sesame puppeteer Stephanie D'Abruzzo. You can also link back to the paper's previous post listing The Top 8 Most Underrated Muppets, part of an ongoing series called "Puppet Watch" that Medley also contributes to.

In other Muppet (related) news....(courtesy of Gamasutra)

Last month, Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto and EA's Spore were each recognized with Jim Henson Honors, a program "founded to recognize people and products that represent the values of the acclaimed Muppets creator." The highest honor, the Jim Henson Celebration Honor, was awarded to Miyamoto, for both his previous creations and his more recent innovations such as Wii Fit. As the Jim Henson Company press release describes:
As the creator of some of the world’s best-known video games such as Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. and the Zelda series (which have collectively sold more than 350 million copies), and the person who ultimately oversees every Nintendo game, Shigeru Miyamoto has reignited America’s love for gaming with the creation of Nintendo’s hugely popular Wii console. Taking the application of video games a giant step forward, Miyamoto recently developed the Wii Fit, dedicated to improving people’s physical health and well being. The game not only serves to entertain and give players a workout, it is also being used as a rehabilitation tool – known as “Wii-hab” - by physical and occupational therapists to help patients with balance, endurance and core strengthening.

The other big winner was EA's Spore, which was awarded The Jim Henson Technology Honor for demonstrating ground-breaking technology in a creative way. Here's the description from the press release:
Spore, the popular video game created in 2008 by celebrated game designer Will Wright and EA gives gamers their own personal universe in a box where players build their own galaxy from scratch. The game is meticulously conceived and executed with infinite detail, allowing a gamer to design and create his own character – a digital alter ego - providing for an unprecedented level of user creativity as his being evolves from a single-cell organism to a galactic god over hundreds of millions of years.

Awards were also given to The Center for Puppetry Arts Distance Learning Center, and guerilla street artist Shepard Fairey (the guy who did that famous portrait of Barack Obama). Included in the press release (and in most of the surrounding news coverage) are statements from Jim Henson's children -- and co-CEOs of the newly reconstituted Jim Henson Company, Brian and Lisa Henson -- who had this to say about this year's recipients.
“The recipients of this year’s Jim Henson Honors demonstrate true creativity and commitment to innovation. They have raised the bar in their respective fields, from Shigeru Miyamoto’s ground-breaking work fusing entertainment and technology at Nintendo, to the Center for Puppetry Arts’ dedication to enriching lives through arts education, this year’s honorees, who so strongly reflect the traditions of The Jim Henson Company.” - Brian Henson

“Each of this year’s recipients inspired us in different ways. In addition to Shigeru Miyamoto and the Center for Puppetry Arts, we also honor the visual brilliance and topicality of street artist Shepard Fairey, who tapped into a generation’s profound desire for change, and the incredibly imaginative and provocative world of Spore. Varied and vast in terms of their impact, this year’s four honorees are true models of originality, innovation and ingenuity. It is a privilege to honor their outstanding work.” - Lisa Henson

Talk about building a lasting legacy!! I just love seeing all my favourite things/people/media forms come together like this :)

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