Muppets Creator Jim Henson Getting 'Definitive' Documentary From Ron Howard

The late Jim Henson was a true innovator who helped to develop the beloved puppet characters for the ground-breaking children's educational TV show "Sesame Street," on top of creating the equally-cherished Muppets, "The Muppet Show," and "Fraggle Rock" (a musical fantasy series which, as legend tells it, was the result of Henson saying out loud, "I'd like to make a TV show that brings about world peace"). In other words, he very much deserves a feature-length documentary detailing his life's work and personal goals in greater depth, which is exactly what director Ron Howard, his longtime producer Brian Grazer, and the Disney Original Documentary banner are putting together.

According to its press release, the untitled non-fiction project will be directed and produced by Howard and aims to be the "definitive portrait" of Henson's life. The film is being made with "the full participation and cooperation" of the Henson family and will draw from "exclusive home movies, photographs, sketches, and Henson's personal diaries" to create what Howard (who refers to himself as a "lifelong fan" of Henson's work) describes as "a deeper look into his life and story."

In a statement, Henson's family added that Howard will have access to The Jim Henson Company's archive, "a treasure reflecting our father's work, personal life and inspirations [that] has been carefully maintained for the last 30 years under the leadership of archivist Karen Falk. It will be thrilling to see the story that emerges from these materials in the hands of a truly great filmmaker like Ron Howard, who has the perfect spirit and personality to tell Jim Henson's story."

Henson's legacy goes beyond the Muppets and Sesame Street

Beyond his work on "Sesame Street" and The Muppets, Henson also directed the 1980s fantasy movies "The Dark Crystal" and "Labyrinth," both of which similarly use puppetry (that and, in the latter's case, David Bowie) to bring their creepiest and most bizarre characters to life. In the decades since they came out, the two films have overcome their initial lackluster receptions to attain cult classic status, with "The Dark Crystal" even giving rise to the short-lived but critically-acclaimed Netflix prequel series "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance." What's more, a second movie based in the "Labyrinth" universe has been in the works for years, with "Sinister" and "Doctor Strange" filmmaker Scott Derrickson currently attached to direct.

Among the other non-Muppet projects that Howard's documentary will no doubt touch on is "The Storyteller," a show that Henson developed with Anthony Minghella in the late '80s prior to Minghella's rise to fame (in the eyes of Hollywood, that is) as the director of "The English Patient" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley." The series blends live actors and puppets to recount lesser-known European folk tales and won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program in 1987, later giving rise to a mini-series spinoff about Greek myths. The Jim Henson Company, Fremantle, and Neil Gaiman announced they were developing a "Storyteller" reboot show in 2019, although it has yet to come.

While release plans have yet to be announced, it's possible Howard's documentary will debut as a Disney+ exclusive, given that the Disney Original Documentary banner will (per the film's press release) "largely produce and acquire content for Disney+, as well as the suite of Disney Channels." In the meantime, if you want to get a head-start, you can learn all about Henson's life and career by watching DefunctTV's six-part Jim Henson series for free on YouTube.