Henson Creature Shop Puppet Snarls at NHM

He's a very large saber-tooth cat. Meow.

That cute sock puppet you wrapped for your niece? The one sitting under the tree right now, with its button eyes and silly grin. What does it weigh? Five ounces? Six?

You have to be relieved it doesn't come in at 73 pounds. But puppets can tip the scale at that, at least massive creations that come together at the Jim Henson Creature Shop. One such puppet is a very realistic saber-toothed cat, a massive facsimile that is now entertaining Natural History Museum visitors in the Ice Age Encounters exhibit.

Paleontologists from the museum worked with the Hensonians on putting together a very true-to-life animal. Believe it. He doesn't sit on a human's hand, note; rather, the human puppeteer sits inside of him.

"Smilodon fatalis" isn't on constant display in the Ice Age area. He's appearing over several upcoming days and into the first part of January, and only at specific times; the next date listed on the NHM calendar is Sunday, Dec. 26. (Other just-added dates include Dec. 27-31 and Jan 2; the museum is closed on New Year's Day). We also want to note that NHM calls the Smilodon fatalis "family friendly and interactive," so definitely show with younger Ice Age scholars if you feel they're up to a meeting a very realistic saber-toothed cat.

Two more things: What would a real saber-toothed cat think of the puppet? Wondering. Also, we in no way meant to malign or call into question, that sock puppet under the tree. Surely the Henson people started out with sock puppets, too, at one point. There's a lesson there: One day you're playing with a simple toy, the next you're building a 73-pound creature so realistic it is featured in a museum. Goals.

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