Kermit, is Not Alone How the Jim Henson Creature Shop could save the movie | Teen Ink

Kermit, is Not Alone How the Jim Henson Creature Shop could save the movie

October 18, 2013
By Maryk PLATINUM, Waterford, Michigan
Maryk PLATINUM, Waterford, Michigan
22 articles 1 photo 66 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The ability to learn is greater than the ability to teach." - Arnold Jacobs
"He who slays monsters will become a monster himself"-Nietzsche
"UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot nothing is going to get better its not"-Dr.Suess
“They are poor, especially for the player, I think it is very difficult to have auditions and find a suitable way to judge, because we have a great many talented players to choose from. This means a lot of heartbreak for the people who are very capable.”-Arnold Jacobs, Teacher and Tuba Player

In the famous fantasy, film The Dark Crystal the main character Jen, a Glefling, thinks he is the only one of his kind left because the Giant Garthum Beatles and the Skeksis (the ghastly and very reptilian villains) killed many of his own kind off. That is until he meets another Gelfling named Kira who also thought she was the only Gelflings left too. Like Jen, it made me wonder if Sesame Street and the Muppets where the only ones left because of CGI taking over the movie and special effects business, at first I thought the Jim Henson creature shops would be the next Dinosaurs on Dinosaur Train, like Jen however, I found out I was wrong. Type the creature shop into Google and you will find out that they are still doing their job, making animals and other creations come to life though puppetry, design and engineering. Despite creature shops across the nation and the globe, many companies are becoming too reliant on motion capture and CGI for their special effects because it is easier for a computer to do the job instead of people, but guess who runs the computers. Yes, People run computers and sometimes they are under paid for the hard work they do no matter how much effort they put into it, and when the job is done, these people never get the credit and then they are fired even after the work is done. Such is the sad and terrible fate of the workers of the Rhythm and Hues special effects Company that after they did the effects for The Life of Pi sucked their money up like vampires, while their workers got nothing in return for the beautiful effects in the film including the Tiger! In addition, the animators that were outsourced to India also suffered from overworking and tiny wages. These events caused uproar for many artist and workers in the movie business and made people wonder who would be next victim for the guillotine of outsourcing and money draining by studios and effects companies. If Jim Henson heard that this is still going on in the special effects industry, he would turn in his grave, and, Miss. Piggy would give Rhythm, and Hues a karate kick in the pants until they cried Uncle. However, Kermit and his friends are not alone in this fight for equality and management for the special effects industry.

Many months ago, I saw the new Disney Blockbuster Oz the Great and Powerful at the movie theater in 3D. Sure, there were changes with the characters, but what worried me was the amount of money wasted to focus on the effects (like the flying baboons and many others) rather than understanding the vastness of the lands in Oz and the connection to the original story, and using that as the bias for the characters and style of the film. The original Oz is very much like the Grimm's fairy tales with a very American idiom and some origins of the characters can be at times very gruesome. Take the story of the Tin-Man for example, in the book he was a normal human named Nick Chopper who was a woodcutter with a future wife, until the Wicked Witch of the East kills his wife and forces his ax to lop his body parts. Therefore, the Tin-Man is a human with tin body parts, which makes him the first Cyborg in a children’s story. However, the source of design for the movie was based on the MGM version of the story with the art deco Emerald City, the transition from black and white to color, and a flying monkey and a china doll as hero guides. In the original Oz, the flying monkeys were stereotypical connotations for Native Americans, which are now deemed offensive to some moviegoers. However, because they relied heavily on the movie and added many changes that for some movie going readers did not make sense they, in the words of Tom Servo, “Just didn't care…” Oz the Great and Powerful can be a movie effects fable about the over-management and the over-reliance of computer graphics in the movie industry but Oz is not just the only one.

The Polar Express was yet another example of a over-reliance of a another form of CG I known a Motion Capture which obtained popularity with the advent of Andy Serkis’s role as Golem in Lord of the Rings. The idea of the Polar Express however was to make every actor including Tom Hanks Motion capture so they could attempt realism instead of animating in the style of Chris Van Allsburg. which is illustrated with detail to make use of the calming sense of light and color, and to calm down children when it is read very genteelly to children who just cannot sleep on Christmas Eve night. This is why it became a Caldecott Winner in the first place. Yet despite the book’s, calming and reassuring message of faith and enduring hope the moguls of the animation business thought it would be a good idea to introduce motion capture to the business. In addition, they made it with 3D technology to make it a Holiday Dairy Farm with millions of cash cows that can squirt millions of dollars, eggnog, and hot chocolate out of their utters. However, many people saw the film as not going to the North Pole but to the Uncanny Valley, but because the film got so much money they wanted…more. That is where we run into problems like the utter failure of the movie Mars Needs Moms which lost its money because the stepped way too far in the Uncanny Valley for audiences. Therefore, when the cash cows get hungry and no one seems to care or manage them, and want them just for the money, they leave in a heard to another farm that is better managed and acutely cares about the heard and works hard to keep them there, and that farm is the Jim Henson Creature Shop. However, it’s not only the film industry that needs help with their cash cows; the theater industry is also waiting for a miracle too.

Ever since Disney and the Met hired Judy Talmore to do puppetry for the Lion King and The Magic Flute, it made many theater companies jealous of the companies she worked for to make these puppets for their shows. Since then, theater groups are now using puppets for there shows but sometimes they are very costly because private artist and builders from other countries are the one making the puppets. For example, the play Warhorse had to hire a British team to do the puppetry for the horse, and a vast majority of high quality puppet companies are in Japan, which is famous for the Bunraku style of puppetry. A very ancient and complex form of puppetry that involves three people to control one puppet, with the largest and most modern Bunraku example that comes close to this today is the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal. Which had to have not just three people that worked on the arms, legs, and mouth but three more that did the facial expressions, eyebrows, and beak; which really means that six people are controlling one Skeksis! In addition, this was the eighties, when computers and the Sonny Walkman were a huge innovation in technology. Yet despite all these innovations, audience members were confused about The Dark Crystal being a kid friendly movie, or a fantasy film for older children because the trailer made it seem as if it was a family movie. However, if you’re a little kid in 1982 and you first saw the Garthum and the Skeksis lunge towards you, you would have every right to be scared and want to wet yourself! This is why in my opinion they should re-release it on Halloween because then not only would audiences today be scared of the Skeksis, but be amazed on how much detail and physicality was put into this film to make it come to life.

Now that we have a vast array of digital technology that can now control a devise from a mile away. It seems as if the Creature Shop could play a show-stopping role in theater puppetry, which even Jim Henson could not imagine. For a long time Jim Henson wanted to do a Broadway show to prove way before Judy Talmore that puppetry was not just for Television or Movies. Sadly, the plan had to be put to the side because of the Muppet Show. In my opinion puppets in theater especially for Circuses, could solve the problem of animal cruelty in such venues; with realistic animal puppets, they could educate the public on the conservation and plight of these animals due to many factors of destruction on their environment and survival. With more puppets, we cannot only save the lives of many animals but also bring in workers and artist who are also having trouble gaining a good, creative and well-managed job environment. With puppets, we can turn a theater into a swamp, rainforest, a place on Sesame Street, or even a world beyond real life. Forget Judy Talmore and Disney Kermit, because you are not alone in the fight for equality, creativity, and proper management of the special effects industry. Keep it going Creature Shop! Save the movie and theater industry, so that one day there will be puppet lovers and dreamers for many years to come.

The author's comments:
"When single shines the triple sun
What was sundered and undone shall be
Whole, The two made one
By Gelfling hand, or else by none."

The Prophecy from The Dark Crystal

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