The Red Book

Photo courtesy of The Jim Henson Company via The Jim Henson Foundation

Two years ago I saw an exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry: Jim Henson’s Fantastic World. I didn’t write a blog post on it because, to be honest, I cried through a lot of it. 
I can’t tell you how strangely moving it was to see so many Muppets in person. These were my childhood friends – and there they were in real life standing motionless inside glass boxes. It was like paying money to see a taxidermy of a kid I knew in pre-school. It was weird. It made me sad. And I sort of hated it.
They killed the magic. 

…while seeing my old friends gutted and trapped in boxes might have been creepy, I came away with a whole new appreciation for the art, science and industry behind the creation of each one of the Muppet characters. Through Henson’s sketches and story boards, you couldn’t help but see that these were not just felt puppets with fun voices – they were characters and sculptures that had been workshoped by dozens of people for ages before the Muppet saw the light of day. Fascinating stuff.

If you are half as much of a Muppet fan as myself, you see need to check out The Red Book; a series of excerpts taken from Henson’s journal over the course of decades. You can read about what was like when Liza Minelli hosted the show, then watch the show for yourself.  You can see an American Express commercialfrom 1979 featuring Jim Henson, then read what it took to make it happen. I cannot understate how much I am enjoying this website.
See, and this is the thing, the problem with prolific journal keepers is that they always up and die. Always. And then people, people such as moi, spend the rest of the years that they might have lived pouring over what remains of what they left behind (case in point).

For memory hoarders like me, reading entries in other people’s journals is sort of like eating potato chips — one is never enough. I have to keep going, keep eating, keep crunching each entry until the whole bag of chips is empty. And this bag is far from empty. I just found this site last week and I can’t stop reading it! I find myself getting irritated when I come to an entry that is not yet curated. DON’T THEY KNOW I AM WAITING TO HEAR WHAT HAPPENED?

Le Sigh.

Apparently, there are some problems La Choy Chow Mein cannot solve.


  1. DeeAnna says

    My late FIL used to get Chow Mein on a Bun at Nathan’s Hot Dog Stand on Brighton Beach. When we were sitting shiva for him we all went over and ate one in his honor. Not kosher, but memorable.

  2. Rebecca C says

    Beautiful post and I am so happy to know of the Red Book. I vividly remember the day Jim Henson died, it greatly saddened me as he helped shape my childhood memories and his creative genius still motivates me today.

  3. PeachesFreund says

    That was a very sad day indeed. I hope somehow he knows what a positive impact he made on all our lives.

  4. Candace Jedrowicz says

    Thanks for the memories! My daughter and I went to an exhibit of Henson’s life, and it WAS sad, and a little bit creepy, but what a wonderful legacy! I don’t know if he could fathom just how sad his passing would be to the world.

  5. PeachesFreund says

    I like muppets because they are like colorful, felted versions of real people. Flawed and eccentric, warts and all. There is never a hero in Henson productions — at least not in the traditional sense. No prince charmings, no beauty queens…even Miss Piggy (who is obviously beyond gorgeous) is essentially swine with a man’s voice. No cookie cutter archetypes here. Whereas Disney characters are so pristine….so pretty….so superficial. There is nothing wrong with them, and they are easy to understand, but they lack any sort of substance. I was always discouraged from watching Disney movies as a kid (long story)….but I always liked the short 5 -30 min educational movies — Mickey and Donald and Goofy were good for those. I was just talking about Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land…I use those lessons Allllllllllll The Time. That Walt Disney was no fool!

  6. says

    I went to see Jim Henson at a Museum of Broadcating thing many years ago. There was just a chair on the stage and he walked out holding a duffle bag. You could hear all the murmurring “that’s Kermit in the bag.” His hands were so expressive when he spoke and then he took Kermit out. It was so exciting!!! Looking forward to checking this site out, thank you so much for sharing it!

  7. PeachesFreund says

    You saw him in person? Oh man, you are so lucky!

  8. nutbirds says

    What’s really sad is that Jim Henson Did Not Have to Die at 54. I lived in New York City at the time. He had the flu. His doctor screwed up,. the ER at New York Hospital screwed up, and if he was admitted, the residents screwed up. I think he died of sepsis a few days later. His case was part of the continuing saga of unnecessary deaths in New York City bases on doctors’ errors, like Libby Zion. What a loss. I wonder if he left unfinished characters or ideas, etc. Can anyone watch the mana mana video without getting in a good mood? I have a Muppetabilia board on Pinterest to keep all things muppet. Just search for it. Mana mana.

  9. PeachesFreund says

    54? That is shameful. Think of all the things he could have done these last 20 years…how many lives he could have touched. Lucky though, it sure looks like the folks at the Henson company know what they are doing. Some great stuff comes out of there! I can’t tell you what I would give to hear Kermit again with his original voice, but gosh, they do a great job with what they have got. I’m so happy the Muppets have come around again in popularity.

  10. Joan says

    Every once in a while a true blue person appears and provides good, clean fun and enjoyment. Kids & parents both enjoyed Jim Henson. Wish we could step back in time….

    Remember Mr. Rogers? I loved that guy too. A soft spoken gentlemen that appealed to kids with a more laid back type of format.

  11. PeachesFreund says

    Saw it months ago! My niece is obsessed Elmo — I felt it was my duty.

    And yes — Balled my eyes out. You too? You can find other clips from the funeral on youtube too. I knew someone who had one of the butterflies from the service in his office — it was utterly beautiful.

  12. Wonderguesstry says

    I just watched “Being Elmo,” last week. If you’re a Muppet/Jim Henson fan, it’s a must. Good luck getting through the footage of Jim Henson’s funeral with a dry eye.

  13. Kara DeCarlo says

    Thank you for this.
    When I was younger, I wanted to work for Jim Henson.

  14. PeachesFreund says

    Me too! “Younger” meaning yesterday. And tomorrow. And…..(you get the picture)

  15. says

    the muppets are my favorite! when i was little, i joined the muppet fan club and they sent me an “autographed” picture of jim henson with the cast. i had that thing framed and hanging on my bedroom wall til i was a teenager. i wish i knew where it went… sniff,sniff…

  16. PeachesFreund says

    You have to find it. You just have to. How can something like that be hiding in a box? You must take it out and hang it above the mantel!

  17. says

    La Choy Chow Mein! Humom remembers that from her childhood! Her mom worked and she and her sisters would come home from school and make that! They loved it!! She’s going to try and find those noodles for me to try.

  18. PeachesFreund says

    I wonder if LaChoy is still on the market? Hmmm….

  19. says

    Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you for this. I’d never heard of The Red Book, and the Muppets are my FAVOURITE things. It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside to remember on long car journeys as a kid, when my mum, my brother and I would “dance like a Muppet” to whatever we could find on the radio. You know the textbook right to left swaying? Makes me instantly happy.

  20. PeachesFreund says

    Shhhh….I have Muppet danced more times than I am willing to admit in public. Don’t tell anyone!

  21. Kara DeCarlo says

    Muppets ARE definitely better. They encourage people to use their imagination, find the silly in the mundane, and lead a more colorful life.
    Disney characters encourage people to be wary of old ladies with apples, put a great deal of faith in shoes, and wait for the “right man” so your life can begin.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love shoes, but I also like to laugh more than I like to make kissy-face spoony-eyes at my husband. I married him BECAUSE he can make me laugh harder than anyone else I’ve ever known.

  22. nutbirds says

    What’s funny to me is that I was referring to Micky and Minnie, Donald Duck, Goofy, etc. It seems that Muppets have more personality, are more nuanced, and of course have multi-dimensional personalities.

  23. nutbirds says

    Can’t read the whole thing, I am watching the ladies USA volleyball match. Don’t you think the Muppets are so much better and have given more joy to the world than all of the Disney characters? Discuss.

  24. ajp2020 says

    I still have my kermit the frog tucked safely away… 🙂 but I never heard of the Red book either.

  25. Rita Cagle says

    Loved Jim Henson but alas it was my children who watched the Muppets

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