When you are a Walt Disney World fan living 1,200 miles away from the parks, it takes some creativity to get a Disney fix.
But this summer, I got a big dose of Muppet magic right in my own backyard when The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited made a stop at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Imagination Unlimited is a traveling version of The Jim Henson Exhibition on permanent display at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York.
As a person who would absolutely love to see MORE MUPPETS at Disney, being close to so many historical artifacts from the entertainment industry gave me a total Hollywood Studios vibe. In fact, the walk-through setup reminded me of the Walt Disney Presents attraction in the Studios’ Animation Courtyard.
Imagination Unlimited takes about 20 to 30 minutes to see if you are a casual stroller, but if you want a deep dive, you could easily spend 90 minutes taking it all in. Highlights include:
Early photos of Jim Henson. Henson was born in 1936 in Greenville, Mississippi, and was raised in Leland, Mississippi and Hyattsville, Maryland.
Original sketches and storyboards. Henson started out as a visual artist before becoming a puppeteer in high school.
A Kermit the Frog puppet from 1978. Did you know the first Kermit was created in 1955? The same year that Disneyland opened.
Dozens of other nostalgic puppets from Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, and Dark Crystal. There is even a Jim Henson puppet!
Costumes worn by David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly in the movie Labyrinth.
Photos from the opening of Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D. It was a project he worked on about a year or more before he died.
If you are a person who knows Disney history, you may find some parallels between the lives of Jim Henson and Walt Disney. For example:
- Henson and Walt started out as cartoonists and possessed wonderful storytelling abilities.
- Both men felt a special affection for their signature characters. Henson said of Kermit, “Kermit is closest to me. The character is literally my hand.” Walt once commented that “The life and ventures of Mickey Mouse have been closely bound up with my own personal and professional life.”
- Jim Henson and Walt Disney both built companies with the help of talented people and were not afraid to experiment in the field of entertainment.
- And sadly, both suffered untimely deaths.
Perhaps you’ve seen The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited as it has moved about the country since premiering at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture in 2017. But if you have not, The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited will remain in Dearborn until September 6, when it then moves to San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum (10/13/21 to 1/19/22). In 2022, it returns to Michigan where it will be at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (9/17/22 to 1/02/23). Other venues will be announced soon. Personally, I would love to see it come to Walt Disney World.
If you are someone who knows how to find Disney Magic outside of Central Florida, I’d love to hear about it, so please share!
I'm a writer living in East Lansing, Michigan. I have loved Disney ever since my first visit in 1977, and I always keep my Annual Pass in my wallet just in case the opportunity to visit WDW comes up (you never know). I publish a weekly e-newsletter called MAIN STREET POP IN and can be found anytime at www.mainstreetpopin.com.