On September 24, Muppets creator Jim Henson would have been 75. And in his honor Google has rolled out its latest amazing Doodle a little early.
The Jim Henson Doodle features six original Muppet characters whose shapes suggest the Google logo. But as you mouse over them, you’ll find that they respond just as if you were a puppeteer.
As the video above explains, it’s the result of a collaboration between Google and The Jim Henson Company, to let Google viewers experience Henson Digital Puppet Studio, the software that is used in such shows as Sid the Science Kid. Here’s what the Jim Henson Company says about the software:
Digital Puppetry provides immediate real-time performance of 3-D generated characters by a puppeteering system, allowing an unprecedented level of spontaneity, quality and interactivity. Through a combination of proprietary hardware and software, the technology allows a puppeteer (or one primary puppeteer plus assistants) to perform live 3-dimensional computer graphics.
The system consists of three major components: mechanical hand controls, a control computer, and a digital puppet workstation which renders the live on-screen image of the character. The final product allows animation to be composited into computer-generated environments in real-time. The system’s animated characters are therefore also “directable,” like actors, and the animation can thus be used as a pre-visualization tool as well as a final product. The animation can be broadcast, or streamed, taking advantage of either local digital networks or the global internet infrastructure. The animation can also be applied to many mediums, including web-broadcasting, computer games, television and film.
Henson, of course, was the man behind some of the smartest and funniest puppet entertainment ever designed. From Sesame Street to The Muppet Show to the many movies that featured Muppet personalities , he created characters that live on long after his death in 1990. Along with Miss Piggy, Elmo, Big Bird, and other members of his troupe, Henson himself was the voice and acting behind Kermit the Frog, perhaps the most understated comic on TV or the big screen. But above all, he was a person with a great spirit. Henson’s son and successor Brian wrote a remembrance for Google that says:
Every day for him was joyously filled with the surprises of other people’s ideas. I often think that if we all lived like that, not only would life be more interesting, we’d all be a lot happier.
Happy Birthday, Jim Henson!