The original screenplay was written (and re-written) between 1967 and 1974 and just never became a film because the two were too busy with the production and success of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. Tale of Sand is unlike anything most people have seen from Henson and Juhl as it is a fantasy about a man Mac who is thrust into a world filled with luxury, excess, and – sand. At the height of Mac’s enjoyment of the party atmosphere of an unnamed town in the middle of nowhere Mac is forced by the Benevolent Sheriff to compete in a race for his own life as he is chased across the desert by the mysterious character simply known as Patch (who as you could guess has a patch over one of his eyes). This would seem like a typical chase story but through the minds of Henson and Juhl Mac meets every type of character under the sand from desert terrorists to misplaced football players to soldiers and a tank to lions and the equally mysterious female character simply called The Blond.
If all this sounds kind of weird it’s because it is as Mac is stuck in a waking dream as the landscape will change from a vast desert one minute to a jazz bar the next. There is no sense of time or space as Mac seems to come across them all all the while being pursued by Patch and various other factions. There is very little dialogue spoken as the majority of the story is a visual wonderland and indeed owes a great deal to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. For those wanting a clear cut explanation of everything that is going on, this is definitely the wrong book for them as this story is all about stepping feet first into the unknown and just enjoying the ride.
There is little wonder why this story never went produced as Henson and Juhl could have never made this film with the technology of then unless it was animated but it would be very interesting to see what could be done with the material in this day and age but it would be hard for any studio to produce an almost all visual film with lots of fantasy action. This being said, I loved the fact that The Jim Henson Company finally let this story see the light of day as fans of Henson’s fans fail to realize just how creative he truly was.
Archaia’s book is beautifully handled and designed and despite the fact that it is an extremely fast read there is a book mark included. There are also several of Perez’ sketches of the characters included as well as a Foreword by Karen Falk (Archives Director and historian for The Jim Henson Company) and an Afterword by Henson’s daughter Lisa (who is Chief Executive Officer of The Jim Henson Company) so you know great care was taken with presenting the material in the best possible way.