Also included are assorted Muppet marginalia (Mike Douglas appearances, the infamous "Sex and Violence" Muppet Show pilot, some fantastic behind-the-scenes footage), forays into less kid-friendly puppetry (a betighted David Bowie in the Terry Jonespenned Labyrinth, the gloriously strange Dark Crystal), early commercial and experimental work, and later TV work like Fraggle Rock, the corny yet inspired (the Muppet modus operandi) '30s gangster-movie send-up Dog City, and episodes of the gothic fairy-tale theater The Storyteller.
The Muppets aren't lowering the stage curtain anytime soon. In addition to a planned Dark Crystal sequel, a Fraggle Rock movie is in the works. Disney bought the rights to the Muppets in 2004 (something, believe it or not, Henson was trying to make happen shortly before his death, recognizing that the juggernaut could give his franchise the protection it deserves). And the Jim Henson Co. continues to produce work in part inspired by Henson, like the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's MirrorMask. Still, no one has the gall to suggest it's like it used to be. "Sammy Davis Jr. died on the same day," Oz notes. "There's no other Sammy Davis Jr., and there's no other Jim Henson."
Why exactly have the Muppets managed to endure? The answer, according to Goelz, is simple. "They are us," he says. "They describe a world that's filled with conflict, but nonetheless they're motivated by charity. It all came out of Jim's philosophy. He believed that people are basically good, and he operated that way."
So it turns out I am a Muppet after all. The really good news, it seems, is that we all are. Corny? Maybe. But also pretty damn inspired.*
MUPPETS, MUSIC, AND MAGIC
June 21July 1; $6$8
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Screening Room
701 Mission, SF