The gist: Jim Henson's Fantastic World at MSI
is terrific for all ages - sentimental and interesting for adults,
and engaging and funny for little kids. To walk through the exhibit
was to walk through my childhood and best of all, I could share
those memories in a very concrete way with my three sons.
Runs through: Jan. 23, 2011
I don't know who was more excited about the new exhibit at
Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, me or my kids. I grew up
with Jim Henson's fabulous creations, from Sesame Street, to The
Muppet Show, and even five years of Fraggle Rock. To walk through
the exhibit was to walk through my childhood. Best of all, I could
share those memories in a very concrete way with my three sons.
The exhibit begins with Henson's sketches and personal history.
His fantastic world included a close-knit family who encouraged his
love of arts and television. My sons loved the blown up pictures of
Henson's early years, especially one of him playing snake-charmer.
I was surprised to find he got his start in commercial advertising,
but the power of his creative genius came through even then. Kids
and adults chuckled as early Muppets sold fabric softener.
The exhibit is not all watching and reading. Several interactive
stations engage children (of all ages). We all enjoyed creating
storyboards on magnetic erase boards. After viewing Henson's
sketches of potential puppets, kids can create their own characters
on felt walls. MSI wisely includes Chicago-centered sports jerseys
into the mix, a popular option for ages 8 and up.
Right next door, visitors can create their own shows with a
wealth of puppets, props and backdrops. A constant video feed
displays the "shows" to the audience as well as the performers
behind the scene. Every half-hour a docent organizes a barely
scripted show with child volunteers and audience participation. My
sons liked it so much, we participated twice.
Don't miss the Jim Henson Soundstage. This short film gives a
great overview of Henson's career with key songs and scenes that
many generations will find familiar. I found myself getting
emotional listening to Henson discuss the joys of Sesame Street
while clips are shown.
Jim Henson's Fantastic World is on exhibit through January 23,
2011. This exhibit is not included in Museum general admission and
requires an additional timed-entry ticket, which is $5 for adults
and seniors and $2 for children 3-11.
Alena Murguia lives in Berwyn, Illinois along with her husband and three growing sons.
See more of Alena's stories here.
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