Jim Henson exhibit coming to Seattle

The career of Jim Henson begins long before "The Muppet Show."

"He did hundreds of television commercials in the 1960s," says Karen Falk, Director of Archives for the Jim Henson Company. "Many of them could stand alone as comic strips. They were very charming."

After commercials, Jim Henson took a leap into childrens' television, and that medium hasn't been the same since.

From Sesame Street to Fraggle Rock to the variety show starring Muppets, Henson fans have enjoyed his unique kind of entertainment for nearly five decades.

Falk, who says she was a big fan of The Muppet Show, is one of the few who have been able to pull back the curtain, if you will, and see everything Jim Henson had his hands on.

"When I started going through these files, I realized 'Oh my gosh, we really need to get this stuff out there,'" Falk recalls from her early days on the job. "People will really want to see this."

The exhibit, "Jim Henson's Fantastic World," first opened a couple of years back at the Smithsonian, but a new traveling version of the show opens May 23 at Experience Music Project in Seattle.

"You'll see things like Jim's original sketch of Big Bird, and the original artwork of Oscar the Grouch," Falk says.

But there are other surprises, like thank-you letters from stars who appeared on The Muppet Show. A letter from George Burns reads, in part "at my age, Miss Piggy is starting to look good."

There are pictures, props, puppets, and plenty of room for imagination, all from a man who was a lot more than just a frog.

To find out more about the Seattle premiere of Jim Henson's Fantastic World, visit the EMP web site.