Ripples, Wheels, Etc.

In 1967, Jim Henson made a one-minute short film for “Expo67,” which was a World’s Fair, in Montreal, Quebec. Called Ripples, it is reminiscent of Time Piece in its use of a stream-of-consciousness series of images that flow emotionally rather than logically, however in a much more compressed format, as well as the Bufferin ad in the previous post in its exploration of the human mind. Over the course of the minute, an architect played by Jon Stone–a producer who collaborated with Jim on a Cinderella pilot in 1965, and would later bring Jim on board to Sesame Street, and even later write The Monster at the End of This Book–drops a lump of sugar into his coffee, causing ripples in the glass, which fades to a shot of him by a lake, tossing pebbles into the water, each ripple bringing up images in his mind of architecture and art, moments of great progress throughout history and the then-modern day/future (illustrated via shots of NASA rockets and mission control centers), his home life, and his family. In a few short moments, it establishes ripples of connection between humanity, human progress and achievement, nature, and us.



And speaking of connection, the second short film is called Wheels That Go, and features a young Brian Henson playing with a wooden toy car, which is then superimposed with images of his mom and him watching real cars and trucks driving on the highway, and then them driving in a city bus, watching a passing train, and crossing a city crosswalk, surrounded by cars. Much like Run, Run, it foreshadows similar short films of children playing on Sesame Street, although this one definitely has an artsier, more hypnotic quality, largely due to the surreal soundtrack.



And finally, we have footage that Jim shot for one of his more outlandish ideas, a psychedelic nightclub he envisioned called Cyclia. For a number of years, he worked on the idea, imagining the “entertainment experience of the future,” with weird crystal shapes on the walls, floors, and ceiling, and films being projected kaleidoscopically onto them, as well as onto the bodies of dancers and more. At one point, he nearly even bought a building, but he ultimately had to abandon the idea due to lack of interest on potential investors’ parts.


Interestingly, although evidence such as this might suggest Jim was a drug user, he actually wasn’t. He was simply fascinated by the idea of expanding one’s mind and pushing it past its usual limits. In fact, the one and only time he ever tried LSD, he deliberately surrounded himself with friends–Frank Oz, Jerry Juhl, Jerry Nelson, and Don Sahlin–as a safety net, and according to him, “I waited…and nothing happened.” One is almost tempted to attribute it to his own mind being so creatively advanced that taking acid was redundant. But anyway, here are two of the pieces he shot for Cyclia, one of swirling paint and the other a POV kaleidoscope shot, which anyone would assume to be the work of someone who habitually partook of LSD at the time:




And speaking of mind expansion, come back next week for a look at a recent graphic novel adaptation of a surrealist, absurdist screenplay Jim and Jerry Juhl collaborated on in the late 60s but which was ultimately never produced.

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