The Centre for Puppetry Arts is the Best Stop on your Georgia Itinerary
I adore puppets. There I said it. A puppet nerd to the core. You should see my face when Fraggle Rock, The Muppets, Sesame Street, or anyone else Jim Henson brilliantly created crosses my path. Heck, I even love the Dracula musical in Forgetting Sarah Marshall – a favourite movie I just cannot stop laughing at. With this deep passion for an art form that few appreciate nowadays, it should be no surprise that I paid a visit to the Centre for Puppetry Arts located in the heart of Atlanta on my Georgia itinerary to see all my legless BFFs.
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The Centre for Puppetry Arts Belongs on Your Georgia Itinerary
- The Centre for Puppetry Arts opened to the world in 1978
- Jim Henson and Kermit (my heroes) cut the ribbon to open it to the public!
- It is the largest facility in the world dedicated to the art of puppetry
- Jim Henson’s Muppets, Fraggles, Sesame Street characters, and other program puppets can be seen here!
- Rare Jim Henson artifacts, materials, and scripts are housed here
- Original Punch and Judy Puppets can be found here
- Marionettes from across the globe are featured here
- Love Gumby and Pokey? original puppets are found here!
- Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride marionettes can be seen here as well as the characters from Coraline
- Puppet-making workshops are run here
- Yearly exhibits featuring some favourite shows and characters have brought visitors from near and far
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So the main reason I wanted to visit the Centre for Puppetry Arts and added it to my Atalanta Georgia itinerary was to see the puppets that make my heart happy. Always a kid, I just love seeing the Muppets on television, in memes, and in the news (except lately with what happened to Kermit). So I developed an adoration for Jim Henson – a visionary who put his dreams and imagination into textiles, creating characters whose personalities were developed through decades of scenes, films, shows, adaptions, and more. It is only through seamless puppeteering, honing the personalities of these dreamed-up characters, that they come to life for us- the impressionable audience. Needless to say May 16 every year is a day of mourning for me and my puppety-soul. Just think of me as Big Bird the day that Mr. Looper died on Sesame Street. (If you have not seen this scene, here it is on YouTube.)
I always admired Jim’s creation; his direction; his appeal to everyone and not just children. The puppets symbolize a hero, a mentor, a fear, a joy. They are the epitome of imagination and bring forward innocence, awareness, and playfulness in our tough world. As we arrived at this haven of thoughts and ideas, I actually fell weepy to the fact I was surrounded by Jim’s legacy and thoughts put into material. His vision of a happy world with lessons learned and jokes uttered just made being here all the more special.
We headed inside to have a look at some of the (gasp!) original puppets used by the talented cast of his famous shows. Not all the puppets were here as some are found at the famed Smithsonian Institute and other museums around the country, but the handful seen on display definitely pleased my puppet-touched soul.
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First the Muppets
When I first entered the area, I had to keep from fainting in awe. I was surrounded by my childhood heroes – the Muppets. In the Centre for Puppetry Arts, you will find rare scripts, drawings, sketches of characters, collectibles, and interactive videos from the show. Needless to say I could not snap photos fast enough of this priceless memorabilia.
Although I am showcasing some of my childhood dreams coming true through this post, the collections do rotate to keep things interesting. So in other words, just because I had the privilege to see Fozzie, Dr. Teeth, and Rowlf, if you head to the museum, you may see characters as Floyd Pepper, Miss Piggy, etc. who were not on display when I was there. It makes for keeping things fresh and interesting, not to mention, encouraging return visits.
My closest friends and family sometimes wonder if I was a Fraggle in my past life. My adoration for these creatures towers above the rest and I am not embarrassed to admit it! Judge away. Heck, I get tagged in photographs by friends all over when they see something to do with Fraggle Rock as they just know it will make my day.
As we continued through the Jim Henson collection past my Muppet friends, I stopped in my tracks when I saw the original Fraggles in front of me. Like a kid in a candy shoppe, I stared at them in excitement and couldn’t believe I was really there. The day I went I was able to see Mokey, Red, and Boober. Wembley (who is in many a wedding picture), Gobo, Sprocket, and Travelling Matt were off display and would head back in the showcase later in the year.
Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street!? This New York street became famous thanks to Jim’s unduplicated imagination. Here people learned the alphabet, how to count, life lessons, and more. In this section of the exhibit, enjoy seeing your friends from the happiest street around including Carol Spinney’s original Big Bird costume, Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, and Elmo.
After exploring and enjoying the Jim Henson Collection, head through to the puppet exhibit on the other side of the gallery. Here, you will see puppets, marionettes, props, and more from various centuries. The art of puppetry certainly has pleased audiences for generations evolving dramatically through time.
Punch and Judy
Check out this famed arguing duo from 16th century Italy. This was a traditional one-person show that involved Punch with Judy falling victim with his club. Audiences for generations have enjoyed the humour and banter between these two characters that it has lived on through the years shaping the puppetry arts through talent and story.
Some of the other Pop Culture favourites to check out while here include Gumby and Pokey, Coraline, and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride:
I loved this movie. It was different from many of Jim’s other shows, but I still thought it was a classic and brought out the talent and ingenious of Jim’s imagination. Couple this vision with the talents of David Bowie and Jennifer Connolly and you look no further for an epic cult classic. I was so sad last year that David had passed away from cancer. His latest album truly illustrated his pain and darkness leading up to his death. It was a year to remember when it came to musical tragedies and I never quite understood the universe’s decision to allow such artists to bid us farewell.
When arriving at the Puppetry Museum, we had learned of an exclusive exhibit for a limited time that was being featured. It was of course, of the The Labyrinth! Not only was it a commemorative display to honour the late David Bowie, but it happened to be the movie’s 30th anniversary.
The Labyrinth is my husband’s favourite Jim Henson production. He loves the story, the puppets, the effects, the works. So you can only imagine how excited he was that our visit was timed in such a way that we would get the opportunity to see this special event. Here amidst the puppetry walls were the original costumes, puppets, props, and visual effects used in the movie! If you enjoyed the film even a smidgen, you would go crazy over all the artifacts in one space. Sadly the Labyrinth exhibit was here for a limited time, but the museum has events all the time showcasing various programs, characters and movies. Rumour has it that perhaps a Dark Crystal Spectacle is in the near future….;)
While exploring the museum the ultimate happened. We bumped into a staff member who restores the original puppets! Chuffed as hell to speak with someone who has touched the original masterpieces, met veteran puppeteers, and has just as strong a fascination with the art as I do, I just had to pick his brain slightly while within my presence. He happily obliged.
He explained the way the museum operates and how it came to be. He described his job and told me of the efforts put into place to preserve the original puppets used in the original television productions. I seriously felt as excited as Walter listening to him talk of my childhood posse. I mean did you know that the faces of the characters were made of foam? It blew my mind! It did work for the company for quite some time, but sadly had its drawbacks. For example, poor old Gonzo has retired from the business. You won’t find any original Gonzo puppets in any Muppet display thanks to the foam disintegration. The puppets you see on newer programs are not the ones from back in the day, but instead new replicas thanks to the originals’ falling apart to an unfixable state.
To say this excursion in the Centre for Puppetry Arts was a dream come true for me is indeed an understatement. It would definitely be the perfect experience for anyone who loves Jim Henson’s work or other forms of puppetry in even the slightest way.
It is an educational facility that hopes to keep this art alive with workshops, classes, interactive events, and more. They do offer yearly memberships especially if you live in the area and care to learn more about this wonderful form of expression that brought laughter and joy to millions over the centuries. While in Atlanta block a couple hours on your Georgia itinerary and check out this nifty piece of nostalgia. I highly recommend it and you will be glad you did.
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