Ron Howard, Brian Grazer Team For Documentary On Jim Henson, With Full Participation Of Muppet Creator’s Family

EXCLUSIVE: Oscar winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are teaming up with Disney Original Documentary for what is promised as the “definitive portrait” of Jim Henson, the legendary creator of the Muppets.

The nonfiction project from Howard and Grazer’s Imagine Documentaries is being produced “with the full participation and cooperation of the Henson family,” according to a release, “and will present a fascinating and intimate look at Jim’s illustrious career creating treasured characters and revolutionizing television and film. With never-before-seen personal archives, the film will give audiences an exciting first-person view into the life of one of the world’s most inspiring and iconoclastic creators through exclusive home movies, photographs, sketches and Henson’s personal diaries.”

Brian Grazer, Ron Howard Courtesy of Sage Grazer; Jeff Lipsky

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Howard will direct and produce the untitled film. Grazer and Imagine Documentaries’ Sara Bernstein and Justin Wilkes will produce, along with Emmy winner Margaret Bodde (George Harrison: Living in the Material World).

“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.”

In a statement, Henson’s family commented, “The Jim Henson Company’s archive is a treasure reflecting our father’s work, personal life and inspirations, and 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.”

Also on board for the project as executive producers are Imagine Entertainment’s Michael Rosenberg and Disney Original Documentary’s Marjon Javadi. Mark Monroe will serve as writer-producer on the film and Paul Crowder will serve as editor-executive producer. Monroe and Crowder collaborated with Howard previously on the documentaries Pavarotti, and The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years.

Jim Henson after winning an Emmy award in Pasadena, Calif., Sept. 17, 1989 AP Photo

Henson died in 1990 at age 53. Among his Muppet creations were Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and Sesame Street characters including Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and Bert and Ernie. He also directed the innovative fantasy films The Dark Crystal (1982) and Labyrinth (1986).

“Tracing his life and work,” a statement noted, “the documentary will follow how the brilliant innovator came to shape the childhoods of generations to come.”

The Henson documentary is produced by Imagine Documentaries for Disney Branded Television under the Disney Original Documentary banner. “The Disney Original Documentary banner will largely produce and acquire content for Disney+, as well as the suite of Disney Channels, with more announcements coming soon,” the release noted.

“Jim Henson has impacted our culture for generations, and his creative legacy continues to live on,” said Javadi, VP of Disney Original Documentary. “As iconic storytellers in their own right, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Sara Bernstein and Justin Wilkes are the best auteurs to share Jim Henson’s story with the world. We’re thrilled to be partnering with the team at Imagine Documentaries and the Henson family on this undoubtedly inspirational film.”

No release date nor distribution plan for the film has been announced.