You probably already know that there’s talks of a Jim Henson biopic being made at Disney. We really don’t know a lot about it other than it’s called Muppet Man, and it focuses on Jim in the early 70’s as he tries to convince Hollywood that The Muppets are a great idea. We also know it’s not that garbage script from 2009 with the same title – you know, the one with fat Kermit who coughs up blood?
There’s been a lot of differing opinions from Muppet fans on whether or not we actually need a Jim biopic. Brian Jay Jones did a wonderful job capturing Jim’s life in his biography, and that should probably suffice. But then there’s multiple documentaries which will scratch that itch too.
There’s also the issue of how to show Jim doing his job. Whoever plays Jim and the fellow Muppet performers would have to become fully trained puppeteers, and then there’s the question of if they lip sync to existing audio, or do their own versions, or have the current performers record new diologue. It’s a mess. And I’ve seen no way around it. Until two week ago.
If you follow our social media, you may have seen me post some filtered photos of Jim, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt which I made in that Voila app everyone was really into for a week. This turned them into animated characters, and what started as a quick gag actually got me thinking – maybe Disney SHOULD make a Jim Henson biopic, and have it be totally animated!
(Side note: Don’t read in to these example images – they were made in Snapchat and then the beards and glasses were quickly added in Procreate. Obviously I’m imagining something a little more stylized)
Imagine this – a full length animated Jim Henson biopic! It could be cartoony but real, a place where Jim excelled. And think of the issues it would resolve.
For a start, whoever plays Jim is going to have to do that gentle Jim voice, and it’s already going to be startling seeing that come out of Ryan Gosling or whoever they get to play him. Where that actor is really going to need to step up their game is when they play Rowlf, or The Swedish Chef, or Dr Teeth. Can Gosling (or whoever) do those voices to? In my idea, they don’t need to. The beauty of an animated version is that the filmmakers could use the exisiting audio of any of this old footage, and it wouldn’t be anywhere near as jarring.
Secondly, us Muppet fans are already going to be slightly put off by seeing some Hollywood A-lister playing these performers we all know and love. I’m not sure I’ll be able to see Nicholas Hoult as Richard Hunt, or Chris Pratt as Dave Goelz (lol). But I wouldn’t be anywhere near as put off hearing Nick Offerman as Frank Oz or Finn Wolfhard as Steve Whitmire. The characters could actually look more like themselves, and could age and grow as needed.
Then there’s the issue of puppetry. Unless they use old clips, we’re all going to feel weird seeing someone else perform Kermit the Frog, because it just won’t look right. You can train Tom Holland all you like, but unless he puppeteers every day for 20 years, he isn’t going to make a great Kermit. Disney’s animation team are second to none, so if the biopic was animated, they would be able to make these characters come alive through the computer! You just have to watch the new Muppet Babies to see how real these characters can look. Alternatively, use the existing video and intercut it, giving the movie a cool mixture of animation and live action. It would give audiences a chance to see cool old Muppet stuff as it was!
I’m not saying don’t make a Jim Henson biopic. I’m saying if you’re going to do it, make it different, and interesting, and make it in a way that isn’t going to confuse the hell out of everyone.
Click here to poorly cast the Muppet performers on the ToughPigs forum!
By Jarrod Fairclough – Jarrod@ToughPigs.com