Monday Morning Inspiration: Jim Henson’s <em>Time Piece</em> Monday Morning Inspiration: Jim Henson’s <em>Time Piece</em>

Monday Morning Inspiration: Jim Henson’s Time Piece

A 1965 Oscar-nominated experimental short written, directed and starring Muppets creator Jim Henson. The film is live-action with brief bits of abstract animation throughout. Read more about it here. (via MetaFilter)

  • Christopher Olson

    It’s too bad any appreciation for Jim Henson’s work has to be preceded with an acknowledgement of his untimely passing.

    It’s nice to know there’s still more of his work out there to appreciate.

  • Kevin Martinez

    Cool Amid,

    Jim Henson’s (BRILLIANT, I might add) and similarly abstract The Cube has been online for some time, but I think this is the first time Time Piece has been posted on the WWW.

    BTW, There is supposedly a cameo appearance by Frank Oz in this thing.

  • Frank Oz is the office worker that speed walks by holding paperworkd

  • I saw this along with some rad Jim Henson commercials last week at the Silent Movie Theatre. I’m glad you pointed this out.

  • Josh

    Interesting that Rudy Van Gelder has a “recorded by” credit – he’s the recording engineer on all those classic Blue Note jazz records from the 50s and 60s – all the percussion sounds just like it’s off a Blue Note side! I wish I could ID the drummer who appears on-screen…

  • amid

    Brigette: I would have definitely plugged that screening but I found out about it right after it happened. Glad to hear it was fun.

    Josh: The Wiki page linked above offers this music info: “Percussion was supplied by George Devens, referred to in All Music Guide as the most prolific vibraphone player in the recording industry, and Ed Shaughnessy, long time drummer on The Tonight Show.”

  • Wow, nice find. I am such a huge fan of Henson’s work. And, actually, pretty much anyone that worked with him.

    What they do is so pure, acting through movement, some characters having no moving facial features except for their mouths, sometimes it makes me feel like being able to draw expression changes is cheating.

    Puppetry is something I’d love to try.

  • Emile Cohl

    The name Don Sebesky is credited for music. Sebesky was a prolific jazz arranger, who wrote the charts and produced the forgotten LP “Doc Severinsen’s Closet.”

  • Andrew Leal

    Josh, the on-screen drummer is played by Dave Bailey (who doesn’t perform on the soundtrack; as noted, it was Shaunessy and Devens there). He was a noted jazz drummer in NY at the time.

    I did all the research and most of the writing on the Muppet Wiki article, since “Time Piece” fascinates me. In general, the cast and crew is an interesting blend of Muppet people (Oz, writer Jerry Juhl as the bartender, puppet builder and former George Pal animator Don Sahlin getting pied in the face) and East Coast bohemian/artistic types (the wife is portrait artist Enid Cafritz, stripper April March, and cinematography by Ted Nemeth, veteran animation cameraman and spouse of Mary Ellen Bute). Sahlin worked on the stop-motion bits, like the sprouting flowers. It’s a fascinating piece. Also amusing is a very odd and hard to find academic booklet on the short from the 1970s. I stumbled upon it while finishing my English Lit MA at Syracuse University:

    Favorite quote:
    “The use of a toilet bowl is a cliche. Is it humorous? Is man really ‘flushed away’? Do you consider the appearance of a toilet bowl crude? Why? Does it fit the surrealistic approach?”

  • As a new student years ago this was in the college’s animation video library. It’s funny. I couldn’t understand why it was in the animation videos back then, not even recognizing the abstract animation as animation. Shows you how much I knew and the lack of understanding and appreciation I had for synchronizing and timing. However I always remembered it as a cool abstract live action film. Thanks for showing it again.

  • Included in the Smithsonian touring exhibit “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World” is “Cat and Mouse”, a short (approximately 1 minute) film animated by Henson. Really neat, as is the whole exhibit!

  • Since there’s been some postings of Raymond Scott and now Jim Henson. I thought I’d share this collaboration the two worked on (Raymond Scott’s name is spelled incorrectly). I believe they did a few short films together, but this was the only one I could find on youtube.

  • Bugsmer

    That was great, Amid. Thanks for sharing. It was a terrific way to spend 8 minutes.

  • Charlie

    It was interesting to see a new side of Jim Henson (but he still uses his old style, too)

    It’s cool to hear “Kermit” everytime he said “Help.”

  • Graham

    THanks! That was great!

  • I actually liked this more than the puppet stuff. This is a quirky and somewhat neurotic film. Reminds me of people like Ken Nordine, Mike Jittlov, Ward Kimball and Art Clokey all rolled into one. It’s also weird seeing the into hospital bed, stethoscope, rhythmic coughing, because of Henson’s death from pneumonia.

  • Matt Sullivan

    The one dream I had was to work with Jim Henson. I’ll never get to experience that, and it still kills me to this day. He’s dead, and hacks like Roland Emmerich are still making “movies”. That is proof enough, that there IS NO GOD.

    I miss you Jim. :(

    And Bitter, if you want to see some awesome examples of amazing mouth shapes in a puppet, watch any episode of Fraggle Rock. inparticular, look for Karen Prell’s performance as Red Fraggle. She did amazing things with that puppet. And, she’s a great animator as well :D

  • One of my favorite films! Amazing to see it with much better color than the faded version I have in my collection.

  • Josh

    Thanks Amid and Andrew! I had a feeling that the drummer on screen wasn’t the drummer we hear on the soundtrack. Dave Bailey seems to have played with a lot of legends, Clark Terry, Kenny Dorham, Lee Konitz, and Bob Brookmeyer, to name a few – I’ll have to check him out. It speaks volumes that Henson would go to such lengths to have the real deal on film. He must have been highly respected in the artistic community in order to assemble such a diverse cast and crew.

  • Great film. Very interesting material. Somewhat more mature than the short abstract films I use to see in Sesame Street when I was just a kid. I totally see and understand where they came from now.


  • When I was working at a small Philadelphia studio called Animation Arts Associates in 1966 during the summer after my first (and only) year in art school, Jim Henson came in and showed this film. He was unknown then, and we were not exactly sure why he was bringing it to this tiny studio, but we all loved it! Years later, at a Muppets Christmas party at their NYC studio, I was able to talk to him about it. He was just shopping it around to anyone who would take the time to look at it, apparently. It was impressive and memorable, and it’s a life experience to have been around, if for only the time it took to view a short film, at the beginning of the career of a genius.