Time Piece, an Academy Award-nominated short film from director Jim Henson, is heading to Kanopy as part of a month-long celebration of Henson timed to his 85th birthday today. Kanopy is an on-demand streaming video platform for public libraries and universities that offers films (usually of historical or scholarly value) and documentaries, as well as a wide range of kids' programming. The film, an experimental and often zany rumination on mortality, was released in 1965 and upscaled to 4k a few years ago, meaning that even if you've seen it before, it will probably look even better on Kanopy.
Henson was best known for the creation of The Muppets, a revolutionary new kind of puppet that became so beloved in his lifetime that they are still in use -- now owned by the Walt Disney Company -- today. But beyond his work with puppetry, Henson always liked to experiment with film editing and technology, pushing creative boundaries with each new project he was a part of.
"It all took so much planning, and [Henson] really meticulously planned out that film," said Karen Falk, archivist for The Jim Henson Company. "He did a storyboard, and he really planned out every shot before they did anything, so it could come together relatively fast. He loved using the new technology, and he saw everything as another tool in his artistic toolkit, as it were, giving him a bigger range of opportunity."
In his book Jim Henson: A Biography, author Brian Jay Jones cited Time Piece as an early precursor to some of the more experimental work Henson would eventually do with editing, multimedia, and later computer animation. The short film, edited together in rhythmic pentameter and using various real-world devices to sync their beats up like a clock, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 1966.
"If you think about The Muppets and The Muppet Movie and The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, anything he worked on...you had to be so careful, and have such attention to every bit of detail, or else it would take you ten years to make anything," said XXX. "With something as simple as a puppet who has to pick up a telephone, you have to know you're going to stop the camera, you're going to glue the phone, and that takes so much planning. So whether it's for a film like Time Piece or The Muppet Movie, that's just part of how he worked."
U.S. readers with a library card can get access to Kanopy on the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store.