For Your Reconsideration: Jim Henson’s Youth ’68


In the ’60s, before Sesame Street and The Muppet Show made Jim Henson a household name, the lanky puppeteer directed several short films. One of them, the hour-long documentary Youth ’68, made its debut on the “NBC Experiment in Television” program on April 21, 1968. In this first installment of “For Your Reconsideration,” a new Esopus series which will present forgotten works by well-known figures, we feature an excerpt from Henson’s script for the film. Part screenplay, part collage, it offers a fascinating glimpse into Henson’s hands-on working method and conveys his unique perspective on a tumultuous period in U.S. history.

While a freshman at the University of Maryland, Jim Henson (1936–1990) was given his own puppet show, Sam and Friends, on a local NBC affiliate. Its success led to guest appearances on national talk shows and hundreds of commercials for sponsors nationwide. In the late 1960s, Henson and his team produced more than two dozen live-action and animated shorts for the children’s show Sesame Street. In 1975, the “Muppets” characters he had been developing and refining over the past decade made their television debut on The Muppet Show. The program’s remarkable success led to feature films, including The Muppet MovieThe Muppets Take Manhattan, and Muppets From Space. During the 1980s, Henson brought two fantasy films to the big screen, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, and also created a number of other TV series and specials, including Fraggle RockJim Henson’s The Storyteller, and Jim Henson’s Greek Myths. He posthumously received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1991 and was named a Disney Legend in 2011.