Puppetry in the age of technology: Brian Henson on creatures, CGI and spontaneity

TED Blog

Brian Henson demos how to make a puppet lip sync perfectly, and turn to camera to create a personal connection with the viewer. Photo: James Duncan Davidson Brian Henson demos how to make a puppet lip sync perfectly, and turn to camera to create a personal connection with the viewer. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

“Spontaneity is the most delicious part,” says Brian Henson in a master class at TED2014, hosted by Syfy. “There’s something about letting a moment happen. Your best-laid plans cannot exceed what happens spontaneously.”

Henson, a master puppeteer and the chair of The Jim Henson Company, says that a love of spontaneity deeply infused his father’s work, and still guides what the company does today. In a fascinating lecture before a small group of TEDsters, Henson demonstrates how the company has kept spontaneity alive as technology has advanced.

Henson begins by showing a puppet, an adorable armadillo, revealing how the classic form allows a puppeteer to speak and react in a way that makes a character feel real. Puppets form the core of…

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