blog » May 13, 2021 by 30Seconds Mom

Out of This World: A Live Interview With Executive Producer Brian Henson of The Jim Henson Company About "Earth to Ned" On Disney+ by 30Seconds Mom

2 years ago
Out of This World: A Live Interview With Executive Producer Brian Henson of The Jim Henson Company About "Earth to Ned" On Disney+

Fraggle Rock. Farscape. Labyrinth. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. So many of us know and love the characters from these iconic shows that The Jim Henson Company brought to life as innovative creators. Now there’s a cool blue alien named Ned that’s creating quite a stir here on Earth in the Disney+ series Earth to Ned. The hilarious series from The Jim Henson Company was created by Brian Henson, son of the late Jim Henson – and Brian joined us at #30Seconds Twitter chat to tell us all about it!

Brian is Chairman of The Jim Henson Company, and an award-winning director, puppeteer, technological innovator, producer and writer for film and television. Brian was often on the set with his dad, and by the time he was 17, he was working on his own projects. After his dad’s death in 1990, he became CEO of The Jim Henson Company, then became Chairman in 2009. 

We interviewed Brian LIVE at #30Seconds Twitter chat, and we've captured the full experience right here. Read on to learn more about Earth to Ned and Brian Henson!

Q. Welcome, Brian! We absolutely LOVE Earth to Ned. Tell us all about it, please!

I am so excited about Earth to Ned. We made a late-night talk show, starring hilarious and outrageous puppets! Our alien host, Ned, was sent by his father to destroy Earth, but instead he falls in love with everything about our planet. Especially our celebrities! So he decides to make his own talk show.

Ned’s spaceship is deep under the Earth’s crust, so he beams in a bunch of celebrities – like  RuPaulRaven SymoneBen Schwartz, Molly Ringwald and a bunch more – to ask them about how humans live.

Ned’s crew helps him make his show. His sidekick, Cornelius, goes to the Earth’s surface to report back about life on Earth. And the ship is run by a very knowledgeable and opinionated A.I. named BETI. Also on the ship are these ridiculous little lifeforms called CLODS. They have become a fan favorite and we loved making them do ridiculous things like play in a rock band and dress like Cher.

Q. Out of this world! Tell us, where did the inspiration for the show come from?

We wanted to make a talk show that was unlike other late-night shows that can sometimes feel a little snarky or a little judge-y. So we thought, “what if our host loved everything about us?” Our company likes to make shows that celebrate our differences and recognize that our differences are what make us wonderful. So Ned gets excited about everything from award shows to pets to fashion.

We also like to challenge ourselves, so Ned is the most complicated creature to ever come from our Creature Shop. And BETI is a CG character that we performed live on the set using digital puppetry.

Our human celebrities would come on the set and all these amazing creatures were being performed live and they just had conversations and played together. That was very exciting for us to try to do.

Q. Very creative and inspiring. We love that! So, spill the beans, does Ned have any favorite celebs – who he’s already interviewed or can’t wait to interview?

We are so happy about the great celebrities who came on the show. We had some really incredible comedians who improvised with our characters so naturally it was hilarious, and hard to pick a favorite!

I really liked Oliver Hudson. He was so comfortable with Ned being really annoying. And Jenny Slate had the whole crew cracking up. Everyone was so game to have fun.

I think Ned’s ultimate interview would be his favorite celebrity – Rula Lenska. Some of her Alberto VO5 commercials found their way to him in outer space and he has been obsessed ever since.

Q. So awesome! People are going through challenges right now and Earth to Ned offers comic relief. How can families bond over it, kind of like we have for other The Jim Henson Company shows?

Earth to Ned sits alongside all the other great family shows our company is known for. Kids enjoy the world we have made and want to visit it. And so do their parents. And maybe some of our jokes go over the heads of young kids (like Ned’s love of Rula Lenska), but it doesn’t matter because the characters are real and the whole family wants to get to know them.

And especially now, it feels really fun to watch a show about all the wonderful things that are a part of being human and living on Earth.

Q: We heard that the Ned puppet is huge and takes a bunch of people to operate it. Please give us details and other behind-the-scenes info!

Ned is a very complicated puppet. His lead puppeteer is the very funny  Paul Rugg, who is remotely operating Ned’s mouth while doing the voice of the character. One of our very experienced puppeteers, the talented Allan Trautman, is working remotely with Paul to operate Ned’s many facial expressions.

Ned is also a really huge puppet. One performer,  Morgana Ignis is inside the puppet operating the body. And two more puppeteers operate Ned’s four hands. All these performers work together to anticipate each other’s movements, and improvise the interviews with the guests so it happens in real time, and has a very natural, convincing performance.

Q. That is fascinating! Truly amazing work you do. What was it like growing up in the entertainment industry? Did you always want to follow in your dad’s footsteps? 

We were a big family and while we were not always playing with puppets at home, it was a creative environment. We would build and create things together.

My dad worked very hard and was working most of the time. So he often took us with him to whatever project he was doing. We’d watch from under the set looking up at the puppets being performed. As I got older, I did my own projects. I performed in Return to OzLittle Shop of Horrors and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And I was always glad to work on my dad’s projects too, like Labyrinth and The Storyteller.

Q. Such a wonderful personal and professional story, thank you for sharing! What tips or advice do you have for those wanting to do what you do?

Now is a great time to learn how to make shows or be a puppeteer, because you can do it yourself. If you want to be a puppeteer, practice making a puppet or two and set up your cell phone to make your own puppet videos.

If you want to build puppets, there are endless videos out there that will show you how to do everything from design, to sculpting, to assembling the mechanics.

And if you want to write, produce, or direct, there is technology available now that makes it so easy to try it yourself and see what goes into telling a story on the screen.

Q. Great advice, thanks! What’s next at The Jim Henson Company, and how can we stay in touch with all the happenings?

We’re grateful we’ve been busy over this last year. We finished producing Earth to Ned and went straight into production on Duff’s Happy Fun Bake Time, which just premiered last week on Discovery+. We are currently in production on a reboot of everyone’s favorite Fraggle Rock for Apple TV+, which is already looking amazing. We’re also making an animated series based on the book Harriet the Spy for Apple TV+ as well. The best way to keep up on what we have going on is to follow us on social media.

You can follow Ned and the crew on Disney+ Facebook, Disney+ Twitter and Disney+ Instagram; and The Jim Henson Company on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Stream Earth to Ned on Disney+ now and enjoy this critically acclaimed series tonight with your family.

Photos: Courtesy of Jim Henson Company.

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Donna John
I am so excited for this chat!! I grew up with Jim Henson, and love that his son is walking in his footsteps. RSVP!
Gwen Johnson
How fun!!! Can't wait.
So exciting! Thank you for bringing this fun experience to us. I love Earth to Ned, hilarious!
Elisa Schmitz
As an entrepreneur and a "maker," I am BEYOND excited for this live interview at #30Seconds chat with the amazing Brian Henson! I'm with you, Donna John - growing up with Jim Henson productions was incredibly special! Mike Prochaska Teacher Karen Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead Renee Herren Rae Pica Toni B Dieter Schmitz Gigi Gaggero Holly Budde Meredith Schneider
Meredith Schneider
Wow! How exciting! I grew up with the muppets, miss piggy & of course Kermit!
OMG how fun is this. I'll be there!
Really looking forward to this chat. It’s this Wednesday already, yay! 🙌🏼
sherry bracy
How awesome is this??.. we sure miss you all! will for sure be there! :)
Toni B
LOVE IT! I'm so happy that the family of Jim Henson are carrying on the tradition of providing entertainment to us all.
Elisa Schmitz
So awesome and can't wait to see you tonight at 7 p.m. CT, sherry bracy and Toni B !
I’ll be there. 🔥
Chef Gigi
Whooooot! Wow! This is going to be EPIC tonight! Cant wait! Im even gonna dress up in my best feetie pajamas and Im bringing the kids! Who cares if they’re 26 and 27 y/o Ha!
Nicole DeAvilla
Haha! Ok, that means I have to dress up in my best yoga pants if you are going all out Gigi Gaggero - and I will try to get my 23 year old kid at home to come wrapped up in her fav burrito blanket! xoxo
Nicole DeAvilla
It's been awhile and am looking forward to this fun and interesting chat with Brian Henson!
Michael Kennedy
RSVP :) Great chat! Thank you all for hosting! Love that I got a shout out from BH and we both worked at Sesame Place! Cheers all!
Dieter Schmitz
The chat with Brian Henson was fun and engaging. Great stories of growing up in such a creative family!

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