Ron Howard's 'Jim Henson Idea Man' Review

Jim Henson Idea Man documentary still

The visionary man behind The Muppets and Sesame Street took up puppetry as a way to break into television in his early 20s. That’s just one of the fun facts about Jim Henson’s extraordinary career in Ron Howard’s Disney+ documentary, JIM HENSON IDEA MAN but his legacy came at the expense of his personal life and health.

Henson created the most iconic and beloved characters, including classic Muppets like Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, and all of Sesame Street’s iconic residents, including Big Bird, Grover, Cookie Monster, and Bert and Ernie. The father of five also directed fantasy films like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth which initially bombed but are now considered movie classics.

Jim Henson Idea Man explores Henson’s 36-year career as well as his personal life as a father and husband through never-before-seen personal archival home movies, photographs, sketches, and Henson’s diaries. Henson’s adult children provide further insight into their father’s work ethic.

The Disney+ documentary reveals interesting facts about the puppetry genius. Henson began his career alongside his future wife, Jane Henson. As a team, they produced a puppet show for a local television station, and eventually, Hansen was approached about producing an educational show that would become Sesame Street.

Howard doesn’t shy away from Henson’s negative qualities. Once Jane and Jim started having children, Jim wanted the traditional marriage with Jane as a full-time mother. Their children speak to their mother’s frustrations at not having a creative outlet like she once did. However, she was still supportive of his career and helped find the talent that would help Hansen’s career flourish. It's yet another example of the woman behind the man’s success.

Henson was fully committed to his craft, and he didn't let rejection get in his way. After a year of producing Sesame Street, Henson felt artistically stifled with the G-rated educational programming and yearned to do something less wholesome. He created The Muppet Show but all the American networks turned down the pilot. After a failed puppet segment on Saturday Night Live, a British producer brought Henson and company to London where an opera house inspired the look of The Muppet Show.

The interviews with his family and the archival footage give you a sense of the man, the artist, and the dedicated father. Partners like Frank Oz who puppeteered Yoda in the STAR WARS saga, and his coworkers from Jim Henson and Company add to who he was as a creative.

By the time the Jim Henson portrait ends at the young age of 53, you feel the pain of losing a creative genius too soon. Sadly, his hard-working ethic cost him his marriage and his health. Howard doesn’t delve into the details of his death, but upon further investigation, Henson ignored a strep throat infection which led to a spread of the bacteria.

Jim Henson left quite a legacy and Ron Howard gives us an endearing glimpse of his life with this intimate portrait of Jim Henson. 

JIM HENSON IDEA MAN is now streaming on Disney+, and in select movie theaters. 



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