Yeah, I know…you read the title and said “Orlando has a History Center?” Yes, indeed it does. The Orlando History Center is nestled downtown in a historic old courthouse building and is a gem of a find for a local sick of roller coasters and dacing hippos.
Natasha and I went there this weekend to see the Jim Henson’s Fantastic World exhibit that’s showing until May 3. I had hoped to post some pics from the exhibit, but the Muppets asked for a little peace from cameras. Besides, if you learned how to count in Spanish or your alphabet from Sesame Street, then you really want to go see this exhibit. On the one hand, it’s a trip down memory lane to see all of the Muppet wisdom and comedy that were the building blocks of my education. Seeing things like The King of 8 really took me back to the very beginnings of the formation of my education.
You know, call me dumb, but I never really got the “Sesame Street was brought to you today by, the number 7, and the letter K” at the end of every episode. I mean, I got it was a spin on the whole sponsor thing, but in the exhibit, they point out that it was a creative TV person who looked at the children of that day and realized they were learning more from commercials on TV than from their busy parents. She set out to take the commercial format and harness it to teach kids things they needed to know. Like how to count. And she enlisted Jim Henson because up to that point he was best-known for making engaging commercials with puppets. So subtly, all those short films in Sesame Street were commercials for education.
Soaking up the concentrated career of Jim Henson, it’s amazing to see all he did and to realize he was just one of those people, those leaders who was always out there trying to push the next big thing, like Walt Disney and George Lucas. I was especially taken by looking at the concept art on display for Dark Crystal, with how many of the artistic memes there have become a staple of the fantasy movie and video game genre. I looked at some of them and felt like I was looking at World of Warcraft concept art. Henson’s work really was great inspiration for the artists of today.
The History Center is well worth a spin for the other exhibits there, too. I mean how much do you know about John Young, or Dr. Phillips, or all those other place names you pass by every day? Take an afternoon and realize that there’s more to Central Florida history than Walt setting up stakes here.
One other note on the Henson exhibit, there’s a link on the history center web site to an MP3 tour of the exhbit that you can pop on your iPod and use to guide you through. It’s a bit hard to follow, because there are some numbers missing from the exhibit that are mentioned in the audio tour, but it’s well worth listening to for the interviews and commentary.