Jim Henson brought joy to the entertainment world with his world famous Muppets there was Jim Henson the ad man. We all got bills to pay and sometimes those checks come from advertisers. Jim Henson’s early works of the 60’s and 70’s included commercials and short sales films for the likes of Wilkins Coffee, IBM, AT&T, La Choy and PakNit Fabrics to name but a few. The revenue gathered during the time helped Jim and his future wife, Jane, grow their own vision, kick-starting a prolific career and leading to several puppet proto-types that would one day be some of the most recognizable characters in pop culture. Henson didn’t necessarily express a personal preference for any of these companies but used the time to develop and perfect his artistic vision, often throwing in some light hearted cynicism as a wink to the adult audience. For this week’s Throwback Thursday we share some of those early ads and instructional videos that I personally first enjoyed at the Museum of Moving Image’s recent retrospective of Henson’s work. For those that couldn’t make the trip out to NY at the time let this be your window. Oh yeah and Fuck Chick-fil-A.
“The Paperwork Explosion,” Jim Henson’s weirdly sinister IBM ad from 1967
In the 1960s, IBM tapped Jim Henson and composer Raymond Scott to create "The Paperwork Explosion," a four-minute advertisement for the MT/ST word-processing machine. The commercial was jarring brew of jargon and flashing images seemingly custom-made for an office-drone dystopia.
Cookie Monster’s debut -IBM Training Video from 1967. At the time, the greenish monster's name was actually Arnold the Munching Monster.
A Set of Wilkins Coffee Commercials Made by Jim Henson back in the 1950's when setting explosions and hitting Muppets was acceptable.
AT&T’s crappy service won’t put a smile on your face but maybe this video from 1963 will. According to AT&T, Henson made the video for a seminar being given to business owners on what was then a groundbreaking topic — data communications.
Delbert the La Choy Dragon appeared in television commercials for La Choy chow mein from 1965 to 1967. In some commercials he was teamed with Mert, a meek, bespectacled Muppet spokesman.