The Time Douglas Adams Met Jim Henson

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"Kermit and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew in the digitally created world of the Muppet Institute of Technology, 1985." -Image © The Jim Henson Company

On September 13, 1983, Jim Henson and author Douglas Adams had dinner for the first time. Henson noted the event in his "Red Book" journal, in characteristic short-form style: 'Dinner with Douglas Adams – 1st met.' Over the next few years the men discussed how they might work together -- they shared interests in technology, entertainment, and education, and ended up collaborating on several projects (including a Labyrinth video game). Most interesting to me is the "Muppet Institute of Technology" project, a computer literacy TV special that was never produced. Henson historians describe the project (emphasis added):

Adams had been working with the Henson team that year [1985] on the Muppet Institute of Technology project. Collaborating with Digital Productions (the computer animation people), Chris Cerf, Jon Stone, Joe Bailey, Mark Salzman and Douglas Adams, Jim’s goal was to raise awareness about the potential for personal computer use and dispel fears about their complexity. In a one-hour television special, the familiar Muppets would (according to the pitch material), “spark the public’s interest in computing,” in an entertaining fashion, highlighting all sorts of hardware and software being used in special effects, digital animation, and robotics. Viewers would get a tour of the fictional institute – a series of computer-generated rooms manipulated by the dean, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and stumble on various characters taking advantage of computers’ capabilities. Fozzie, for example, would be hard at work in the “Department of Artificial Stupidity,” proving that computers are only as funny as the bears that program them. Hinting at what would come in The Jim Henson Hour, viewers, “...might even see Jim Henson himself using an input device called a ‘Waldo’ to manipulate a digitally-controlled puppet.”

Read the rest for a look into the collaboration between two of my heroes. You can also read a bit more from Muppet Wiki, largely based on the same article. Incidentally -- did you know that Jim Henson's Creature Shop created animatronics for the Hitchhiker's Guide movie in 2005? Yup.

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September 16, 2012 - 6:11am
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