June 14, 2010 / 3:04 AM / 9 years ago

Children of Muppets creator eye 3D, digital future

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Kermit who? Miss Piggy what? Muppets creator Jim Henson might be shocked if he looked as his company 20 years after his death. Then again, it might be exactly what he expected and wanted with his children in control.

Kermit the Frog is seen in this photograph taken September 26, 2005. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Henson, the creator of the lovable Muppets characters, died in 1990 and in 2004, rights to older characters like Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy were sold to the Walt Disney Co.

But the entertainment industry legend would likely be very happy to know his five children have picked up where he left off with The Jim Henson Company.

They are creating original characters in shows such as “Sid, the Science Kid,” which has a musical special airing on June 21, and even venturing into 3D with a remake of Henson’s 1982 movie, “The Dark Crystal.”

Lisa Henson, daughter of the Muppets creator and CEO of The Jim Henson Co. while her brother Brian is chairman, sees making a 3D movie as a natural progression for the company.

She told Reuters her father’s primary interests before he died were 3D films, computer animation and digital imagery. “The direction that filmmaking has taken over the past 20 years is very compatible with my father’s views,” Henson told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“He was pretty far ahead of his time, and I like to think that we have taken the company in the direction he would have chosen. I really believe that 3D will only get better.”

The film “The Power of the Dark Crystal” will be made in Australia with Lisa and Brian Henson among the executive producers and modern techniques like 3D and CGI taking puppets into the modern age.

The movie is set hundreds of years after the events of the first film, when the world has fallen into darkness, and it follows the adventures of a mysterious girl made of fire who steals a shard of the legendary Crystal to try to reignite a dying sun.

Henson the company was looking at a 2013 release for the movie, being directed by brothers Peter and Michael Spierig.


“Power of the Dark Crystal” is just one project underway at The Jim Henson Co. which is run by Henson’s five children, although Lisa and Brian have the most hands-on roles.

“My father made an effort to train all of us to do various aspects of the business. We were all very well schooled in the techniques used to achieve effects my father did,” she said.

“He probably had the dream that all his children would work with the company one day but doesn’t every parent have a dream like that?”

Henson, 50, was not always with the family company.

After graduating from Harvard University in 1983 with a degree in folklore and mythology she worked for the Warner Bros. film studio then became president of Columbia Pictures.

At The Jim Henson Com. she has served as producer of animated series “Frances” and “The Skrumps,” and was the executive producer on “Sid, the Science Kid.”

“Sid” is one of the company’s two main new franchises for pre-schoolers. The other is “Dinosaur Train.” Both are science-based educational programs shown on PBS Kids.

Sid, a funny kid, looks at simple scientific principles and, with the help of his animated friends, answers basic questions or solves problems that regular children might be seeing in their own classrooms.

Henson said the company would continue to produce shows for pre-schoolers as well as series for older children and comedies for adults with no plans to focus on one particular niche to the exclusion of others.

“We feel there is something we can produce for any age but we have a certain style in character creation and world creation and irreverent comedy,” she said.

Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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