id-icon id-icon
Cartoon CultureComics

Jim Henson’s “Wizard of Id” Pilot Uncovered

Who knew that Jim Henson created a TV pilot in 1969 based on Johnny Hart and Brant Parker’s Wizard of Id? Watch rare excerpts above and then read more background about the project on the superbly curated Henson Company blog.

The company is posting other rare historical materials on their YouTube account as well, such as this Aurora toilet paper ad from the mid-Sixties with a delightful pantomime hand by Frank Oz:

(via Mike Lynch Cartoons)

  • Martin Juneau

    That pilot project inspired me to learn more about Wizard of Id. Where i live, it’s much obscure than in the US. Great pilot anyway.

  • I’d never heard of this pilot! The Muppets and the Wizard of Id would make a good match.

  • David Breneman

    Wow, I remember that toilet paper commercial, although I admit I hadn’t thought about it since it was originally aired. Like much 60s advertising, it didn’t make much sense, but the fact that it got lodged somewhere in my brain for over 40 years counts for something.

  • Sir Richard

    Fantastic. The travelling Smithsonian Henson exhibit came through Massachusetts and blew me away with the variety of artifacts and artwork. Looks like the Henson company is making a nice push to put their history in front of the public, and with such amazing stuff in the archives I’m glad they’re doing it!

  • Nik

    The Wizard of Id pilot was extremely faithful to the comic strip, right down to the static backgrounds and lame jokes (blame that on Johnny Hart). Loved the Wizard of Id muppets — they looked exactly like the original comics characters.

  • Blik

    As faithful as hand puppets could get with the source material. Why didn’t it sell? It was as good as anything that did sell at that time. Jim Henson’s early stuff needs to be in front of the public. He was the true creative genius that made that company. And Frank Oz’s hand was no slouch, either.

  • I saw that Id clip about a week ago and said to the person showing it to me, “That has the look of a contractual obligation being fulfilled.”

    I’m not surprised that didn’t sell in an environment where “Laugh-In” would have been the competition in the quick, snappy gags genre.

  • ooo those were some bad jokes. just like the comic strip!
    really cool to watch though!

  • Katella Gate

    The Aurora ad was quite good. I also remember it from the mid 60, and although most 5 year olds are not too fussy about “Bath Tissue”, the glove was captivating.

    I’m now 10 times older, but still watched the clip several times. Clever camerawork and excellent pantomime put this this character’s acting miles ahead of the better-known “thing” from The Addams Family.

  • This reminds of “TV Puppet Pals” from “Dexter’s Lab”, ragtime music at the end, corny jokes, etc.

  • TomNomad

    Jim Henson’s the man! I love the low budget puppet stuff, its a real art. There’s a group of art school grads my son hangs out with here in Chicago that have gotten together trying to start out the same way Jim did. I’m trying to support them by telling as many people as possible, which you can do the same, unless you have money to give. Here’s there site or check them out on vimeo its called “The Magic Boat”. Great blog, read it everyday.

  • James mason

    Reading the blog post on this, it looks like ABC was interested and requested Mr. Henson to create a full-length theatrical version (!), though by that time he was focusing on Sesame Street and other projects and decided to move on.

    Liked the clip. Those Muppet movements and voices actually got me to laugh at some of those jokes. Makes sense he would prefer to focus on his more personal projects though.

  • Paul Mular

    The Wizard of Id pilot is jokes without substance. It would only work as black-out gags for a variety show, bridging sketches together. At less than 5 minutes, it felt too long.

    And yet I can remember every one of those gags from the comic strip!

    Maybe an actual script should have been worked out to give reason for the bad puns.

  • I agree with Katella Gate – the puppetry in the Aurora ad is fantastic. If you ever see a master puppeteer working sans-puppet, it’s almost magical what they can achieve with simple hand gestures.

  • Steven M.

    Nice. Both clips are great.

  • Ariel

    Was that Kermits voice playing the WIzard? (*meaning, Henson’s voice)

    Loved that toilet Roll commercial. Beautifully staged and played out.

  • Arf Trondolio

    As I recall, Henson decided to leave the Wizard of Id project and instead concentrate the company’s assets on the creation of the wildly successful Andy Capp and Fred Bassett properties. Eventually, this decision killed him.

  • I’ve always been fond of Jim Henson’s shows! It’s a pity this one didn’t see the light of day… It looks funny enough, though I guess the characters are too ordinary already? Kings, princesses, wizards with sharp hats, elves, dwarfes, vampires, etc could be found in every fantasy show? I guess authors, screen-writers, etc must strive to create new creatures, characters (like mine weightless korks, glowing, living balls, Brown faces, fiery men, one-eyeds, night fruit, rock pieces, fish-keepers, etc from some of my works – Tale Of the Rock Pieces, The Opposite Of Magic)? They would look more interesting?

  • Bugsmer

    Ha ha! This reminds me of the Wilkins and Won’tkins advertisements. They’re very short gags, but well executed.