Jim Henson ‘Fixed’ E.T. For Steven Spielberg

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Written By Sedoso Feb

Lucas famously executive produced the Henson-directed cult 1986 fantasy musical “Labyrinth,” though that “was not their first collaboration,” Gilchrist noted. If anything, Lucas (and, as it turns out, Spielberg) owed Henson after the puppet extraordinaire saved his keister during production on the original “Star Wars” trilogy:

“Their first collaboration was […] they were across the street from each other. Jim was filming The Muppets and George was doing ‘Star Wars’ across the street. Yoda didn’t work, so Jim, [Yoda puppeteer] Frank [Oz], and [longtime Henson puppet performer] Kathy Mullen fixed Yoda. Then, Steven Spielberg was also a very dear friend of Jim’s, and Jim fixed E.T. because E.T. didn’t work.”

The E.T. animatronic was fairly sophisticated, so it’s little wonder it required some tinkering from an expert in that field like Henson. One need look no further than “E.T.” itself for concrete proof that Spielberg thought highly of Henson, between the scene where Gertie (Drew Barrymore) is watching an episode of “Sesame Street” on television (see the above image) and the Muppet dolls that can be spotted in her family’s toy closet. “Muppet Babies” would eventually return the favor, incorporating a clip from “E.T.” into its eighth episode, “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?”

“Back in those days, everyone loved us. They loved Jim — would do anything for us,” said Gilchrist, explaining how “Muppet Babies” was able to get around using material from properties owned by different corporations during its run. Unfortunately, as he observed, this has created massive complications in the present day, which is the reason the show isn’t currently streaming on Disey+ or anywhere else (legally, that is). Be that as it may, Henson’s influence on television as a medium continues to make itself felt to this day.


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