Interview: The founder of the Muppet Show as seen by Ron Howard


From his years as a puppeteer on local American TV to the global success of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, Jim Henson Idea Man takes a look at the life of Jim Henson (1936-1990), he visionary inventor of the most famous puppets in history: Kermit, Elmo and Miss Piggy. The film is the fifth documentary directed by the illustrious Ron Howard, screened at Cannes Classics in his presence. Interview with the director.

When did you decide to dedicate a documentary to Jim Henson?
I was so excited about this opportunity. I knew Jim (Henson) fairly well before embarking on this documentary, but once I started reading more about him, I realised that I hadn’t fully grasped the extent of his creative process. His creativity knew no bounds. The iconic characters he gave us, and the entertainment value of his characters combined with their insightful educational side, are truly a remarkable achievement. As for the documentary, I immediately felt a sense of responsibility to enrich the viewer’s experience with as much creative flavour, originality, energy, fun, and inventiveness as possible. So, it was an exciting challenge, for both myself and the team.


What made this man so extraordinary?
Besides his creative genius and artistic sensibility, which were extraordinary, Jim embodied an important principle: that no form of art, no artistic aspect should ever be underestimated. No one really thought that puppets could become so important, meaningful, and hold such widespread appeal, yet he proved it. I think all members of the creative community, including myself, were inspired by Jim and admired him. His spirit and innovative energy were everywhere.


The company was founded with his wife: was it really a team effort and a family affair in the beginning?
Yes, the art that he pursued and that his family practised with him was constant, burning and restless. Jane, his wife, played an important role in this story. As she puts it, she “discovered” Jim Henson!


Were you/are you a “muppets” fan? And if so, who is your favourite puppet?
Yes, I guess I have to say… Kermit!