Jim Henson Idea Man explores legendary puppeteers life and career

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Ron Howard wants to take you inside the mind of Jim Henson with the new documentary Jim Henson Idea Man. It’s out Friday on Disney+ and looks at the life of the Muppets creator, from his early days making experimental films to the origins of the Muppets, Sesame Street and more.

Howard tells ABC Audio that although there’s a lot about Muppets, “Underneath it was a family story and a journey. A life’s journey … that was tremendously influenced by his wife, Jane.”

“You know, the Muppets wouldn’t have happened without her,” he continues.

The doc also aims to show that Henson was a workaholic, but work was always fun for him.

“It’s not only fun, but you’re also making something that might really mean something to people,” Howard says. “When you look at Jim’s work, even some of the things that were initially viewed as disappointments or underachieving, you know, have got real lasting value.”

Howard says one of the things he admired about Henson was that he took every opportunity that came his way, noting that Jim “didn’t want to be a puppeteer, but he wanted to be on TV. And when he saw that there was an opening, if he could learn how to make a puppet and be funny on TV, that he could maybe get a job on local television. And he did it.”

Howard credits Henson’s “sense of anarchy, his wit, his creative sensibilities” for elevating something like Sesame Street from a kid’s show to something parents also enjoyed.

“I think [it] attracted adults to sit down and participate with their kids and actually enjoy those Sesame Street [episodes]. It was kind of like, I was surprised to sort of say, ‘Oh, Sesame Street’s on. I’ll watch."”

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