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Jim Henson's Lost Project Found in the New Year

Taleofsand-finalcoverLost for over forty years, the late Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand is “the only feature-length screenplay written by Henson that he was never able to produce during his lifetime,” according to the back cover copy. Thanks to publisher Archaia Entertainment and artist Ramón K. Pérez, Henson’s generations of fans can finally experience what may be one of his most singular projects.

A few pages into Tale of Sand, it’s easy to understand why the script never made it to screen: this is a frenetic, crazed, and of course imaginative story that would be troublesome to film with any sort of audience comprehension. Its chase scenes are strung together by phantasmagoric logic; the narrative is so visually focused that whatever thin dialogue exists does so only to move protagonist Mac from one spectacle to another; and characters are mostly unnamed and shift haphazardly in motivation and identity. Thank goodness for artist Ramón K. Pérez, who does more than just adapt and illustrate the lost screenplay, he brings it to vibrant life in this new graphic novel.

Tale-of-Sand_dance

Protagonist Mac awakens as a tabula rasa, free of identity and memories: a new man in the new year. He is unwitteningly ushered into some sort of a contest where he is the hunted; there is a blonde fatale, naturally, who slinks in and out of Mac’s lap and grasp at various points in the story, but that’s about as familiar as the story gets. The real players are the inventive visuals (how about that shark in the middle of a desert?) and set-pieces, especially where Mac struggles to blow a whistle in order to stop a man-eating meat-grinder. None of this would be anywhere near as believable without Pérez, who blends cartoonish expressions with sophisticated design and structure to the panels and double-page layouts.

Grown-up fans of Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock may not recognize much in Tale of Sand’s adult, muppet-free caper, but Henson’s never-exhausted sense of wide-eyed, hallucinatory adventure is on full display. It's a perfect read so early in this new year, exemplifying the spirit of a fresh start to any story.

Tale_of_sand_wander

--Alex

P.S. Archaia Entertainment has several other Henson projects in the new year: Dark Crystal: Creation Myths, the first of several prequels to the cultish film, and a reprint project involving everyone's favorite (self included) underground-dwelling muppets in Fraggle Rock Classics Volume 1

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It's a perfect read so early in this new year, exemplifying the spirit of a fresh start to any story.

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