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The King of Eight

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Written by Keith Vernon Textor
Jim Henson
Date 1970
Publisher Scott-Textor Music Publishing Inc. (ASCAP)
Sesame Street King Of 801:11

Sesame Street King Of 8

"The King of Eight."

Kingofeight

The King of Eight

Kingofeightcastle

The King of 8's castle.

8 daughters

The King of 8's daughters.

Kingofeightnews

The jester brings important news.

Kingofeightjester

The jester.

Henson-kingof8

Henson, working on "The King of Eight".

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. Speaking in jazzy rhyme, the King presents an inventory of his domain - 8 flags, 8 guards, 8 windows on the castle, and 8 princesses (each with 8 jewels on their crowns). An interruption by the court jester (also voiced by Jim 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!

Production

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."[1]

"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.[2] 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.[3]

Rhythmic jazz percussion underlines the dialogue in the film, similar to the styles utilized in other early Henson films, such as Time Piece and 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.[3]

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.[1]

Two alternate endings were written for the film; original storyboards for the short, featuring alternate news to the King, are currently on display 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, the first 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 second 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.

Releases

Audio
Home Video
Online
Specials
Publications

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 Jim Henson's Fantastic World Audio Tour -- Chapter 19: The King of Eight
  2. Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street page 246
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jim Henson's Red Book Entry

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