It’s only inevitable that all great things go the way of CGI, and nothing proves that more heartbreakingly than the Jim Henson Company.
Founded as Muppets Inc. in 1958, it was the birthplace of all things Muppets. It spawned Jim Henson’s Creature Shop in 1979 where glorious works of animatronics and visual effects were created. The Creature Shop’s work is still being used today, notably for the suits and animatronics for 2009’s Where The Wild Things Are.
But it’s in the kids programming where the tragedy really unfolds. A lot of the shows that are being churned out are mostly CGI. One that particularly caught my attention was a show called Sid the Science Kid.
What makes Sid the Science Kid so odd for me is not the fact that it’s CG, It’s the way they approach it. The characters on the show are designed to look like Henson puppets. They have the same odd mouth movements as if a hand is inside operating them. They have somewhat glassy blank eyes as well. Basically, they are CG puppets.
Now, why would they go through all this? Everything on the show is motion captured as well. They have a set with PVC piping indicating where the CG furniture will be rendered. Actors are motion captured and it’s basically filmed live with multiple cameras. Then each frame is painstakingly rendered. They can complete about 2 hours of show in one year.
It seems like a hell of a lot to accomplish when puppets would be a million times easier. I know it’s an aesthetic choice, but why give them realistic puppet features? It’s all so very disturbing.
I guess I should just chalk this one up to: “Get with the times, old man! Kids don’t like puppets anymore. They like CG interpretations of puppets!” I wonder what Jim Henson would have said about all this?
God, I miss him.