Rediscovered Jim Henson Film from 1961: Drums West

YouTube / Henson Company
YouTube / Henson Company / YouTube / Henson Company

Jim Henson would have celebrated his 77th birthday on Tuesday this week. To mark the occasion, the Henson Company donated 21 Henson puppets to the Smithsonian. But there was another big reveal on Tuesday—"Drums West," a hand-animated film Henson made around 1961 using cut paper and a stop motion technique. The film is set to "Drums West" by Chico Hamilton.

The Henson Company describes the film:

This newly rediscovered short was created in Jim's home studio in Bethesda, MD around 1961. It is one of several experimental shorts inspired by the music of jazz great Chico Hamilton. At the end, in footage probably shot by Jerry Juhl, Jim demonstrates his working method.

Those moments right at the end are powerful—not only do we see the labor involved in making this film, syncing it to sound and constructing each frame by arranging paper on a board—but we also see Jim Henson in his mid twenties. At that time he was working on early puppets but had not yet made his famous TV ads or created the Muppets. We miss you, Jim.