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One of the most innovative and influential pop culture figures of the 20th century is getting the documentary treatment from an Oscar-winning filmmaker. Deadline reports that Ron Howard and Brian Grazer have paired the documentary wing of their company, Imagine Entertainment, with Disney Original Documentary to produce a new film about the life and career of Muppets creator Jim Henson.
The untitled project, which Howard will direct, is being billed as the "definitive portrait" of Henson, and will be made with the full cooperation of the Jim Henson family and the Jim Henson Company. That cooperation will include what sounds like unprecedented access to the company's archives for an inside look at Henson creative process over years of work on everything from The Muppet Show to Labyrinth, as well as rare home movies from Henson's family.
“Jim Henson transcends generations through his iconic characters, and it’s one of the many reasons why I have been a lifelong fan,” Howard said in a statement. “I can’t wait to share a side of him and his career that people have never seen before. Henson’s limitless imagination and restless creativity is like few others and has influenced so much of our world as we know it. I’m humbled to be able to share a deeper look into his life and story.”
The Henson archive has, according to the Jim Henson Company, been "carefully maintained for the last 30 years under the leadership of archivist Karen Falk," and as such the film will be granted access to everything from sketches to diaries to photographs reflecting on Henson's nearly 40-year career.
After beginning his career with short form comedy and commercial work, Henson's breakthrough came in 1969 when he began working on Sesame Street, designing Muppets for the series. Then came The Muppet Show, and he pretty much never looked back. Over the course of two decades, Henson's Muppets were absolutely everywhere in American pop culture, fostering Henson's dream of all-ages entertainment that could capture children as much as adults. He died in 1990 at the age of 53, and remains a tremendously influential voice in children's and family entertainment.
Though Howard and his producing partner Grazer are best known for their scripted feature films like Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and many more, Howard has also proven himself an accomplished documentarian. His recent documentary work includes the films The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, Pavarotti, and the upcoming We Feed People, about chef Jose Andres and his World Central Kitchen project. Now, he'll turn his lens on Henson for what's sure to be a must-see film.
The Henson documentary does not yet have a release date.