Jim Henson’s Family Hub Series Summit 2018
On Tuesday, March 6, 2018, I attended the second Jim Henson’s Family Hub Series Summit. It took place at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, which mainly houses puppets, structures, props for Jim Henson as well as third party-projects. It was a really fun day where we listened to a panel of guest speakers, saw digital and non-digital puppetry demonstrations, learned about puppet-making, and more.
Panel and Speakers
Halle Stanford leads the Company’s development and production of all television, home entertainment, and digital media in animated and live-action formats.
Dorien Davies is an actress and puppeteer. She did puppet demos at the Summit, including her role of “Lulu” on Word Party, and told us about how she broke into the puppet business.
Misty Rosas is an actress, dancer, motion capture artist, stunt woman, and singer-songwriter. She talked to us about her start with the Jim Henson Company.
Julie Zobel is a lead fabricator on puppet and animatronic projects for television, film, stage show and commercial clients. She talked to us about puppet making and an amazing project she and her team worked on for Lady Gaga.
“Word Party” Digital Puppetry Demo
We watched the Fast Company “behind the scenes” video about the Jim Henson digital puppetry studio, similar to the one below:
Then we got an up-close look from Dorien Davies
What the producers are looking for when casting for shows
Halle Stanford on casting voice and body performers:
Puppet making with Julie Zobel
We weren’t allowed to take pictures or video in the section where Senior puppet builder Julie Zobel spoke to us, but here is a video from Syfy where she describes techniques:
She showed us some soft puppets, and how they are constructed, and how easily they can change the puppet to suit different personalities and genders.
Cool facts we learned from Julie:
- Kermit’s head shape was molded after Jim Henson’s hand, and when you look at pictures of Kermit, you can see knuckles, etc. that belong to Jim
- When they build puppets, they start with a sketch or a small sculpture
- For big or realistic puppets (such as a ridable unicorn/horse they created for Lady Gaga), they start with a toy with realistic proportions and cover it with layers of masking tape as a starting point to creating the pattern (type “Lady Gaga puppet horse” or “Lady Gaga black unicorn” in any search engine and you’ll see it)
- When creating puppets, they always start with the mouth, and customize the size of it based on the puppeteer’s hand
- The original fleece used for the older Sesame Street characters is no longer in production, so the material change and HD tv is making it a challenge
- Fake fur lasts a really long time
- Interior foam is the first to go, and it turns into dust
Other interesting facts from the summit
- The budget for shows targeted to the preschool-aged audience is very small – it’s a fraction of what other targeted age groups receive. It’s a big challenge, but The Jim Henson Company is in it because it’s for the content and for the kids
- “Farscape” took 10 years to set up
- “Word Party” was shopped around years before Netflix was an option
- The original titles for “Word Party” were “Chatter Zoo” and “Zoo Babies”. “Word Party” was named by the Netflix
Sock Puppetry for the screen
Dorien Davies did a demo of sock puppetry, showing how the puppeteer has to do reverse their actions for the camera. They gave us an opportunity to try it for ourselves, and it was quite a challenge! It definitely takes a lot of practice, talent, and endurance.
The Jim Henson Company
The Jim Henson Company has remained an established leader in family entertainment for over 50 years and is recognized worldwide as an innovator in puppetry, animatronics and digital animation.
Jim Henson’s Family Hub
Jim Henson’s Family Hub is the official social home to The Jim Henson Company‘s Family Entertainment and a virtual community celebrating, supporting and connecting all iterations of today’s families.
Our preschool shows can be found on PBS KIDS, Hulu, and Netflix, and include: “Sid the Science Kid,” “Dinosaur Train,” “Doozers,” “Pajanimals,” and the upcoming “Splash and Bubbles,” “Dot,” and “Word Party.”
Disclaimer: Westside Mommy was invited as a member of the media to attend Jim Henson’s Family Hub Series Summit. No monetary compensation was exchanged for this post. All opinions are honest and 100% my own.