Jim was in the middle of negotiating with Disney in 1990 while we were shooting “Muppet Vision 3D”. We all saw the toll the dealmaking process was taking on him, but as always he pushed on excited about the 3D technology and his new project. He expressed his concern that he hoped he wasn’t making a mistake because of how difficult the negotiations had become. He was entrusting something to Disney that he cared about, and the trust was being eroded by the business process.
It was Jim’s desire that Disney use his chosen performers to continue with the characters, and I was witness to a comment from an executive who chided Jim to his face, saying ‘That’s not how we do business. If Mickey-1 won’t do it for what we offer, then we move on to Mickey-2, and keep going down the line until somebody will do it for our price…’. Jim looked horrified.
During the negotiation of the deal on “MuppetVision 3-D”, our first deal with Disney, two of us, did not close our deals before the shooting began. On the first day of production with Jim directing his first Disney project, a group of three studio attorneys marched into the sound stage, interrupted production, and demanded that the two of us sign our contracts immediately.
Imagine standing in a line, three “suits”, Jim Henson, and behind him me and the other performer who didn’t sign. What do you think Jim did next?
A) Tell me that my “business conduct was unacceptable”?
B) Accuse me of “brinkmanship”?
C) Fire me without an ultimatum for holding up his production?
The answer is none of the above. With two of us standing in his shadow, gentle, soft spoken Jim Henson looked the attorneys square in the eyes and slowly, quietly told them to get off his set and never come back.
As we watched them go I said to him, “Jim, I’m so sorry to have caused a problem, especially on your first day shooting with Disney…”. Jim put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I would NEVER want you to sign a deal you’re not comfortable with”.
I miss him so much….