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I Disney+ I May 31, 2024 I 111 mins. I

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* As of 5/17/24

Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Frank Oz, Brian Henson, Dave Goelz, Rita Moreno, Fran Brill, Karen Prell

Directed By: Ron Howard

"Jim Henson Idea Man" takes us into the mind of this singular creative visionary, from his early years puppeteering on local television to the worldwide success of Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and beyond. Featuring unprecedented access to Jim's personal archives, Howard brings us a fascinating and insightful look at a complex man whose boundless imagination inspired the world.

REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus - 5/18/24

RATING 4 out of 5

Jim Henson: Idea Man is a beautiful portrait of one of the most imaginative and boundary pushing entertainers in the business that captured the minds and hearts of audiences worldwide, and continues to today, making for a must watch documentary for fans of any of his beloved projects. 


The Muppets. Sesame Street. Labyrinth. The Dark Crystal. Fragile Rock. These are just some of the unforgettable titles that came from the mind of Jim Henson, whose genre bending projects continue to capture the wonder and amazement of audiences globally to this day with his memorable characters, magical puppetry and charming humour. But who was the man behind all these titles? That is the aim of Ron Howard’s latest documentary, which had its world premiere this weekend at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival. Told through archival footage and interviews with Henson’s family, colleagues and friends, Howard paints an intimate image of a beloved creative force that is destined to connect with fans of his works on a meaningful level. 


While Henson is best known for The Muppets and Sesame Street, Howard ensures that his documentary is more than just how Henson created these two beloved cultural phenomena. Starting with his early days out of high school working as a puppeteer for a local television station, Howard manages to summarize Henson’s life in a just under two hour runtime. We learn how he met his wife Jane, how they created Muppets, Inc., their family, and Henson’s uncontrollable imagination and desire to tell unique stories with some of his more experimental short films he made prior to becoming a household name. From there, the documentary spends a lot of time on the development and overnight success of The Muppets Show and Sesame Street, Henson’s two biggest hits that are still staples of popular culture, and his endeavours after these two projects as he continued to push the boundaries of what could be done with filmmaking. His home life is touched upon, especially his relationship with his wife Jane and their unbreakable connection over the course of his life as she championed his creative vision at all costs, but with the utmost respect for their privacy. It all paints the portrait of a visionary thinker with an overflowing amount of creativity that knew no bounds, but sadly of a life lost far too soon.


Howard tells the life of Henson largely through archival footage and clips from many of Henson’s productions, with full access to The Jim Henson Company Archives to show previously publicly unseen footage, home videos, and sketches of Henson. The narration is largely provided by Henson’s children, along with long time friend Frank Oz. Each of them speak with the utmost respect for Henson, his imagination and his works, echoing how audiences feel about the creative talents of this visionary man who has shaped so many childhoods with his many works. There are some interviews with individuals who worked with Henson on his shows as puppeteers or within the Jim Henson Creature Shop, including celebrities such as Rita Moreno and Jennifer Connelly who worked with Henson during their career, giving insight into who he worked on his projects and was on set compared to the man his children knew him to be. While I wish there were more voices to speak to Henson as a creative on set outside of his children who were very young for the majority of Henson’s career, never for a second do you feel like you never got a glimpse into Henson’s extraordinary life. Also, the design of the interview stage is a wonderful nod to Henson’s experimental documentary The Cube, showing that there is not a single aspect of this documentary that is not paying tribute to Henson’s creativity.


Documentaries about beloved Hollywood icons who have passed always find a way into viewers' hearts by creating a nostalgic trip down memory lane while giving unprecedented insight into the life and creative geniuses of the person being honoured, and Jim Henson: Idea Man is no exception. Jim Henson truly lived a full life where to stop creating was never an option, and the world is a brighter place because of it. Whether it be the millions of viewers who tuned into The Muppets or Sesame Street whose childhoods were molded for the better by these unforgettable characters, or those who fell in love with his now considered classics The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, you will be hard pressed to find someone who is not a fan of Henson’s work. Ron Howard beautifully pays tribute to Jim Henson’s creative genius, his imagination that knew no bounds, and those he left behind in his latest documentary, that when combined with previously unseen footage and heartfelt interviews from Henson’s family and those who worked with him, makes Jim Henson: Idea Man a beautiful and must see documentary for the lovers, the dreamers, and me!

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