|Written by|| Keith Vernon Textor|
|Publisher||Scott-Textor Music Publishing Inc. (ASCAP)|
The King of Eight is a 1970 short film produced for Sesame Street by Jim Henson, using stop-motion animation. The 70-second short film focuses on the title character, the jovial king (voiced by Jim Henson) of a land where everything exists in denominations of the number eight. After the opening narration lines spoken by William "Rosko" Mercer, the King, speaking in jazzy rhyme, presents an inventory of his domain - eight flags, eight guards, eight windows on the castle, and eight princesses (each with eight jewels on their crowns). An interruption by the court jester (also voiced by Henson), informing his majesty of an unexpected addition to his family, serves as the punchline:
Jester: Wait! Important news comes from the Queen, a new baby! And I have seen, that she is well, and doing fine. King: Good grief, it's princess number nine!
Sesame Street provided Jim Henson with an opportunity to utilize all the different techniques and film-making styles he had been developing up to that point, beyond puppetry. Henson produced several counting films in the early years of Sesame Street. As Henson historian Craig Shemin explained, "Some of them were really out there and used electronic animation, and others were stop-motion, and others were animated, and some were live action."
"The King of Eight" was produced and directed by Henson during the formative years of Sesame Street and premiered during the second season. The film utilized stop-motion animation, along with some live puppetry, to bring the King and his kingdom to life. Don Sahlin and Kermit Love also contributed to the production. Henson designed characters which Sahlin transformed into three-dimensions using a variety of materials (the eight princesses were made from small toy bowling pins and balls). Henson also hand-painted the sets, including the large castle with windows that opened to reveal the princesses.
Rhythmic jazz percussion underlines the dialogue in the film, similar to the styles utilized in other early Henson films, such as Time Piece, and in the song "Tick Tock Sick." In addition to directing the piece, Henson wrote the film's jazzy tune along with music arranger Keith Vernon Textor and also provided the voices for both the king and the court jester.
The film was shot on October 14-15, 1970.
Craig Shemin shared his feelings on the piece while explaining how it showcased Henson’s characteristic creative style in the audio tour for the Smithsonian's traveling exhibit Jim Henson's Fantastic World:
|“||Basically it's a way to count to eight repeatedly. It's just a beautifully made film. There are a lot of things that had to be built for this, the set is very detailed. The princesses are actually toy bowling pins with little round heads added. There's a lot of detail, and as is the case in many of the early pieces Jim did, Jim created this detail.||”|
Two alternate endings were written for the film; original storyboards for the short, featuring alternate news to the King, were displayed as part of the Jim Henson's Fantastic World exhibit. While the film's actual ending increases the King's family by one new daughter, one proposed ending would have reduced it by one:
Jester: Wait! Important news has happened since: Your eldest daughter eloped with a prince. She left to marry the handsome Kevin. King: Good grief, I now have only seven!
The other proposed ending would have increased the number of daughters by two, giving the kingdom ten princesses:
Jester: Wait! Important news your queen sends: She's given birth to a set of twins. That's two new daughters you have, then. King: Good grief, it's Princess Nine and Ten!
- Henson produced a similar short, "The Queen of Six", focusing on the matriarchal ruler of a kingdom wherein everything totals six.
- In season 43's "Prince Elmo the Musical" segment, elements in the design of Prince Elmo's castle are reminiscent of the King of Eight's castle.
- In the first issue of the Sesame Street comic book, Prairie Dawn is seen playing with dolls of the King and the Jester, as well as playing with a fake castle adorned with an 8 flag.