Book: No Strings Attached: The Inside Story of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop
This book was lame. I kept reading it, hoping that it would get less lame, but it just kept being lame. The only reason I finished it was that I really love the Muppets and the book was short enough that I figured I’d plug through it just for the information. And even then, there wasn’t really that much information supplied.
It doesn’t help that I own another book about Jim Henson and the Muppets called Jim Henson: The Works (by Christopher Finch) which is absolutely fantastic. I’m not sure if it’s just written better, or if it’s easier to write a book about a person than about a studio. In truth, No Strings Attached does seem to suffer from a lack of focus on any one theme. People in the studio come and go (and die) and projects come and go and even technology comes and goes, as the studio handles everything from animatronics and CGI to human prosthetics.
Many of the movies aren’t very good or aren’t very successful. This has to be a bit of a drawback for someone working on special effects – you can put a lot of time and energy into some really fantastic work, but if the writing is poor, then the movie won’t be very good, for all that you’ve designed the first life-sized animatronic baby gorilla. Still, most of the architectural projects in Rem Koolhaas’ S, M, L, XL don’t ever get built, and it almost doesn’t matter, because the ideas are so cool. In fact, that’s one of the fun things about that book, that at the end of all the sketches and ideas and models for every project, you turn the page and either see the finished building (because it actually got built) or you don’t (because the client picked someone else’s design or because the funding fell through). So the fact that some ideas don’t pan out doesn’t mean that you can’t write a great book about those ideas.
Back on the topic of Jim Henson, I wonder if it’s easier to write a book about someone who died young. If you’re trying to write a biography about someone who’s still alive, you have to bring the story of their life to an artificial conclusion, even though their life is still going on. If you wait until they get old and die, nobody remembers what they were famous for, or you have to end your book by putting a rosy spin on how they were old and feeble and alone for their last twenty years.
Anyway, if you’re looking for a good read on Jim Henson, find Jim Henson: The Works. Don’t waste your time on No Strings Attached.