This is the second (long lost!) film that Jim Henson made for the Bell Data Communications Seminar in 1963. (More on the Seminar and the first film, Robot, here). Charlie Magnetico stars Henson's first robot puppet, as well as his collaborator and first employee, Jerry Juhl. Henson had found Juhl working with Frank Oz in the early '60s, but Oz was still in high school, so Juhl was Henson's first hire.
Juhl stars as not only "Charlie Magnetico: of Magnetico Electronics Incorporated," but also as Charlie's mother. In the film, Magnetico makes a small — but important — electronics part, used universally. When communications problems begin to plague Charlie's small shop, they create catastrophes of supply and demand that wreak a particular Henson-y (and explode-y) kind of havoc on, especially, the rocket industry. Those problems, in this film, are solved by Data Communications — and by the machines.
Juhl’s collaborations with Henson, especially in the late 1960s, with their commercial work for IBM and American Oil, return to the theme of the interactions of man and machine (and their subsequent difficulties!). Juhl's interest turned to writing late in the decade, and besides penning some science fiction, he contributed greatly to the crafting of the Sesame Street and Muppets characters' personalities. He later became the head writer for The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock.
Early in the 1970s, he moved to California. And he was able to work with his peers, who were located in New York, via Data Communications! Juhl was an early adopter of modem technology, and it allowed him to continue to do his work with Henson for decades.
This film was found in the AT&T Archives. Thanks go to Karen Falk of the Henson Archives for providing help and supporting documentation to prove that it was, indeed, a Henson production.
Footage courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ