Henson Co. Busy With Wide-Ranging Slate of Film, TV and Theater Projects

Henson Co. Busy With Wide-Ranging Slate
Michael Lewis

The Jim Henson Co. sits in the old Charlie Chaplin lot on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood, with a giant Kermit the Frog perched at its entrance, even though the Muppets were sold to Disney in 2004. The corporation, run by the late Henson’s grown children, Lisa and Brian, with a staff of about 80 employees, focuses on an array of programming targeted to adults and children. “It’s a lot of different businesses,” says company CEO Lisa Henson, who served as president of Columbia Pictures during the 1990s.

“We’re coming up on the 10th anniversary of Disney having the Muppets,” Lisa adds. “It’s a good time to be taking stock. We’ve been really busy.”

Recent projects include a live-action movie of the popular 1972 children’s story “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”; pre-school TV programming (including “Dinosaur Train” and “Sid the Science Kid” on PBS and “Pajanimals” on Sprout); a “Fraggle Rock” movie in development at New Regency with Ivan Reitman producing; and an adult-themed puppets stage show, “Puppet Up! Uncensored,” meant for grown ups.

“It’s R-rated in terms of content and language,” company chair Brian Henson says of “Puppet Up!” “It’s a celebration of my childhood, watching my dad work and watching other ‘Muppets’ workers. They used to develop the characters by messing with each other before the director yelled, ‘Action!’ ” Henson is shopping another adult-targeted puppet comedy, “Happy Time Murders,” a movie with noir elements, Brian says.

Later this month, the Hensons will debut Syfy’s “Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge,” a puppet-building reality competition show a la “Project Runway.” Ten designers compete for a prize worth up to $100,000, which includes a job as a creature builder at the Henson Co. Brian, who directed two “Muppets” movies in the ’90s, appears in every episode as the head judge.

“This has been a great idea we’ve been knocking around for years,” he says. Is he a mean judge? “Well, I’m very nice about it,” he says. “I’m honest and critical.”

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  1. jean m crosby says:

    I wish Henson Co. would release the remaining two seasons of The Muppet Show.

    I have the first three seasons on DVD. Looking forward to the Fraggle Rock movie.

  2. In The Creature shop opening Brian says “Welcome to the Creature Shop challenge” throws his hands in the air and gives a Kermit the Frog “Wahhhhhhhhhhh” cheer

  3. Grainne Gillespie says:

    Any news about the proposed Farscape movie?

  4. Mark Waltz says:

    I wish the Henson Company would release The Storyteller series onto Blu-ray, it was recorded on film and an awesome show that has been out-of-print on dvd for years! Brian, Lisa are you listening?

  5. Kenny says:

    Love Henson and the Hensons, but compared to today’s Muppet article, this is practically a little blurb. Fitting actually. This is Henson saying, “Hey look, we still exist!”

    Which is why I never understood Henson selling the Muppets to Disney, at least in one respect. Their rationale for the deal (which I was for) was that Disney could give “The Muppets” the distribution and marketing muscle (in full force now) that a small company like Henson couldn’t provide. Well, that’s fine, but that somehow didn’t apply to the larger “Jim Henson” brand itself? Seems like a contradiction, but whatever, more power to ’em. I just hate to see this amazing company slide towards irrelevance.

  6. Timmyrocks says:

    Whatever happened to “The Dark Crystal” sequel?

    • bfrou says:

      Unfortunately this project is long dead. They have however released various comics over the last few years to continue the franchise much to Arachia Press (NOT HENSONS) credit. A role playing game was also in the works but there hasn’t been any update to this project in many months.

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