Philadelphia Zoo Goes Wild for The Jim Henson Company

J.D. Hansel – On May 7th, I had the privilege of going to the Philadelphia Zoo. Living in Delaware, I am no more than an hour away. While I’ve been to this zoo before, I’ve never quite gotten the same experience as I did this time. I wanted to go now more than ever before because of X·tink·shun, which, if you don’t know, is the new program that the zoo partnered with the Jim Henson Company to make. And who wouldn’t want to go to a zoo taken over by Henson puppets?

In addition to the short film featuring the characters, and the pavilion decorated with their posters, the zoo had set up five small stages for the puppets. Each stage was built with a curtain, but nothing to hide the puppeteer. The puppeteer was simply ignored by the kids when the puppet talked to them, or to the assistant. The short film featured all seven characters, performed by some of The Jim Henson Company puppeteers. There were only five of the stages, so two of the puppets from the film always had the day off.

The puppets on the stages were all around the lake at the zoo and were puppeteered by the zoo’s employees. The puppeteers were actually pretty good and really got into character. To a degree, they treated the puppets like real people, and this enhanced the shows a great deal. Each puppeteer had an assistant, not really for assisting the puppeteer, but for having a conversation with each character. The performers and assistants had memorized scripts, though it seemed they were allowed to diverge from these scripts a lot as long as they still got the main points across. Out of all of the characters, I thought Iggle, the baby eagle, had the funniest relationship with his assistant.

A few of the performers noticed the shirt I was wearing with Animal on it, and one of the puppets asked how the filming was going, another denied that he was a puppet and said that he had no relation to Animal. These puppeteers seemed to know the Muppets, and seemed to know how to perform these puppets well. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Henson Company had sent someone to train the puppeteers since this will be ongoing for a few months.

While sometimes the repetitive insistence on “hailing the creatures” was a little annoying, since it was X·tink·shun’s theme song, I thought, overall, the program was pretty cool. I learned that “Extinction stinks,” which was their motto, and I learned that X·tink·shun does not stink, but is really a fun experience.

To learn more about X-tink-shun by The Jim Henson Company, be sure to check out their website at

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier,

6 thoughts on “Philadelphia Zoo Goes Wild for The Jim Henson Company

  1. They did indeed have someone (audition and then) train the puppeteers…… Me! My cardinal rule for them was to always have fun. So far so good. Glad you had fun with the X-perience.


    Noel MacNeal

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