This week marks a Jim Henson-related 50th anniversary that has nothing to do with Sesame Street. It’s been fifty years since the original network broadcast of The Cube! The Cube was an NBC TV special written by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl, and directed by Jim Henson. You can watch it on Fandor or Fandor on Amazon Prime Video. It has no puppets in it, and it’s decidedly from the experimental corner of Jim’s creative brain, focusing on a man who inexplicably finds himself trapped in the titular Cube with no clue how to get out, and no way to stop the constant madness that surrounds him. The man in the cube is listed in the credits as “The Man in the Cube.”
It’s one of the weirdest things Jim ever made, but in honor of the 50th anniversary, I re-watched the special, and I figured out exactly what it means. It’s quite simple. Here’s how it goes:
“The Man in the Cube” represents each of us. He’s the average person. And the Cube represents… well, it’s like, the world. Or society maybe. Yeah, it’s definitely society. See, the man is trapped in the Cube, just like –
Actually, hold on. The Cube is probably our own minds. We’re trapped in our own minds and we can’t figure out how to see beyond our own thoughts to escape! Yeah, that’s it.
Oh, but wait. All these people keep coming in. Like scientists and kids on tricycles and stuff. What does the kid on the tricycle represent if the Cube is our mind? I don’t think I have a tricycle in my mind. Hmmm.
Okay, maybe the Cube is religion. Or gender roles? Or it’s a statement on race and class. Or… something about math? You know what, I’ll get back to you on exactly what The Cube means.
Anyway. The Cube is not as well-known as some of Jim Henson’s other works, like The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth – yet! But I think the 50th anniversary is the perfect opportunity to create more awareness of it. Here are my suggestions for some things the Jim Henson Company could do to commemorate 50 years of six-sided metaphorical television weirdness:
–Cube action figures. Characters could include: The Man in the Cube (with identity crisis action!), Arnie the handyman (with a stool!), the Scientist (with a hammer – it’s up to you to decide whether or not it really exists!), Liza (with swappable head so you can reenact the scene where she changes from a friendly young woman to an sneering old crone!), and Party Guest Jerry Juhl (with a tiny reproduction of the script!).
–A replica of the Ramadar. In the special, this religious artifact is given to the Man by the Monk, played by Jerry Nelson. The Man smashes when it drives him nuts by producing a cacophonous buzzing sound. The electronic replica Ramadar would be compatible with Amazon Echo, so you could ask the Ramadar to play folk-rock music, read you philosophical texts, or wake you up in time for work by producing a cacophonous buzzing sound.
–A special edition Cube Rubik’s Cube. This will be a great collector’s item for Henson fans – and a real challenge for puzzle-lovers, considering all the squares will be the same color!
–A special edition Cube Nintendo GameCube. Sure, the GameCube is a long-discontinued video game console, but the white-paneled model would look so sleek. And just think how your game-playing experience would be enhanced by constantly recalling The Cube‘s themes of futility and the impossibility of asserting one’s individualism in a world that suppresses it. It’s a whole new way of looking at Super Mario Sunshine!
–A Cube-themed escape room. Escape rooms are always fun, and so far there’s never been one themed to a creation of Jim Henson. The Cube would be a great place to start. Unfortunately, in the interest of being true to the source material, there is no solution. Fans who enter the Cube escape room can never exit. At least you don’t have to worry about getting your parking validated.
–A Cube-themed hotel room. How cool would it be to stay a night in a completely white, perfectly square room? Unfortunately, in the interest of being true to the source material, the furniture disappears and reappears at random, the room is accessible to an assortment of obnoxious comedians and opinionated interior decorators and deceitful seductresses, the telephone is only capable of calling Arnie the handyman, and there is no bathroom. Enjoy your stay!
–A crossover with the 1997 sci-fi horror movie Cube. Google’s summary of the non-Henson film Cube begins “Without remembering how they got there, several strangers awaken in a prison of cubic cells, some of them booby-trapped.” That sounds a lot like The Cube, just with more protagonists! But what if the Man in the Cube met our old pals Quentin, Holloway, Leaven, Rennes, Kazan, and Worth? Wouldn’t that be something? Just imagine the excitement, thrills – and maybe a few laughs? – as they all team up to make their way out of the ULTRA-CUBE.
–A tie-in with Smuckers®. Early in the special, Arnie the handyman complains that there’s strawberry jam on the stool he brings in. At the end of the special, the Man cuts himself and bleeds strawberry jam. Put a picture of Richard Schaal as the Man on jars of Smuckers® strawberry jam and watch them fly off the shelves! For maximum effectiveness, every grocery store should have two guys in gorilla suits wearing tutus handing out free samples.
So those are my great ideas for the Jim Henson’s The Cube 50th Anniversary Celebration. If the Jim Henson Company is reading this, they can have all of these for free! And yet… like the Man in the Cube, are any of us ever… truly… free?
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by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com