Disney Developing Jim Henson Biopic 'The Muppet Man'
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Who Is The Muppet Man? Disney Is Developing A Long-Awaited Biopic About Jim Henson

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BY April 23, 2021

How do you make a biopic about a famous figure like Muppet creator Jim Henson? He was a fairly private person in life, who didn’t have a ton of drama in his own personal history. So how do filmmakers mine a life for entertainment value when approaching a biopic of someone as beloved as Jim Henson? This is a question that has arisen before, notably in relation to the several documentaries and films about another beloved figure in children’s entertainment – Mr. Rogers. The nature of biopics tend to focus on the controversy and drama of an individual’s life. But like Fred Rogers, Jim Henson tends to be a historical figure that is relatively free from personal controversy.

How To Make A Biopic About Beloved Famous Figures?

Jim Henson The Muppet Man Jim Henson Muppet biopic Image via The Jim Henson Company

This tricky question may be why the upcoming Jim Henson biopic – titled The Muppet Man – has been stuck in production for over a decade. The Jim Henson Company and Disney have been trying to get this film off the ground for years. And now it looks like they are finally moving ahead with the project.

According to Deadline, the movie will follow an early period of time in Henson’s life when he was struggling to bring his vision to life onscreen. They say that “the movie will hone in on Henson’s journey to convince broadcasters that The Muppets was a great idea. And how he worked to get the characters on air where they became a comedy staple.”

Michael Mitnick has been tapped to write The Muppet Man. Interestingly, Mitnick actually has a connection to Fred Rogers as well. Mitnick is a Pittsburgh native whose first job was at Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood on local station WQED. A relatively unknown writer: Mitnick’s credentials are somewhat limited. His major screenwriting credits including The Current WarThe Giver, and the 2016 HBO series Vinyl. But given his experience with Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, we know that he at least can handle some puppets.

The Muppet Man Biopic Will Focus On Jim Henson’s Work

Jim Henson The Muppet Man Jim Henson Muppet biopic Image via The Jim Henson Company

The Muppet Man is set to be a live-action biopic focusing in on a small slice of the life of Jim Henson. But it absolutely must have some puppets in it as well. Jim Henson may have done more to keep the art of puppetry alive in modern-day cinema than anyone else. And that is largely thanks to the enduring legacy of both The Muppet Show (now on Disney+) and Sesame Street.

It will also be interesting to see other famous figures pop up in The Muppet Man. Notably we should see a young Frank Oz portrayed in the film. Oz was a close friend to Jim Henson, and a lifelong collaborator on virtually every Henson project. I would also personally love to see the film address Henson’s major directorial works like The Dark Crystal and of course the 1986 David Bowie vehicle – Labyrinth.

After all how do you make a biopic about a famous beloved figure who hasn’t had a dramatic or controversial life? You focus on their work. No need to sensationalize or dramatize, or create artificial conflict. Jim Henson was a deeply imaginative and creative trailblazer. Here’s hoping that the upcoming biopic will reflect that in ways that honor the man behind the muppets.

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Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.

BiopicDisneyFrank OzJim HensonPuppetsTelevisionThe Muppets

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