A biopic highlighting the life of Jim Henson titled, Muppet Man, is in the works at Disney and The Jim Henson Company. While studying at the University of Maryland, Henson created Sam and Friends, a five-minute puppet comedy television show featuring the initial version of the beloved character, Kermit the Frog. More than two decades after Sam and Friends began, Henson’s The Muppet Show premiered in 1976, which won four Primetime Emmys throughout its five-year run. Although The Muppet Show only lasted five years, the Muppets have remained prominent characters in pop culture, even after Henson’s death, due to various spinoff shows and movies, including Muppets Now, which premiered on Disney+ last year.
Disney is now partnering with The Jim Henson Company to create Muppet Man, which will be a biopic mainly focusing on the challenges Henson faced as he strove to bring the Muppets to mainstream television, according to Deadline. Henson’s daughter, Lisa Henson, will be a producer for Muppet Man; she is also producing Netflix’s upcoming Pinocchio film. Michael Mitnick is signed on to write Muppet Man’s screenplay, which will be based on Aaron and Jordan Kandell’s earlier script that never made it to the big screen. Mitnick’s most recognizable writing credit is for 2014’s The Giver, which starred Brenton Thwaites, Meryl Streep, and Jeff Bridges.
There’s no word yet regarding who will play Henson in Muppet Man, but it’s likely safe to assume that Muppets, such as Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, and Miss Piggy will all be able to clear their schedules to play younger versions of themselves. However, their looks have evolved over the years, so they might require some CGI help like Will Smith in Gemini Man.
The Muppet Movie is known for its innovative use of puppetry, but one of its most iconic images is the impressive shot of Kermit the Frog riding a bicycle. It was the first Muppet project to receive a theatrical release and reflects years of character set up and development. The Muppet Show became a surprising hit in first-run syndication in the US, and studios' confidence in the wacky characters grew considerably as a result. As a result, creator Jim Henson ended The Muppet Show after season 5 so he could shift his creative ambitions to a new medium: feature films.
Never one to hold back from an opportunity to make art, Henson used his newly acquired clout to produce The Muppet Movie. Though the Muppets had only been seen in short-form sketches and TV segments so far, the film would elevate the characters and raise the stakes of their stories. It took Kermit and friends beyond their home theater and into the real world, telling a story within a story about how the Muppets got their in-universe start. It took Kermit and the gang on a cross-country trip to Hollywood, with plenty of celebrity cameos, surreal humor, and original Muppet music along the way.
Story-wise, The Muppet Movie pushed the boundaries of what could be done with the Muppets on-screen, and this innovative spirit was applied to its technical aspects. Using their higher budget allowance, Jim Henson and director James Frawley experimented with how the art of puppetry itself could manifest on film, leading to some impressive cinematic illusions. The full-body shots of Kermit riding a bicycle remain particularly stunning to this day, despite the film being over 40 years old. The practical effect proved so popular that similar shots were repeated in later Muppet titles.
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