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Back in the 80s it was Jim Henson’s dream to develop more adult focused projects using Muppets. The Dark Crystal, for example, was one of his better attempts to make that happen. The movie is rich and artistic, but it never really caught on. Though Jim is gone, under the leadership of his son Brian the Jim Henson Company has continued to pursue that goal. In fact back in 2004 the Henson Company sold the rights to Kermit, Miss Piggy, and all their most iconic characters to Disney, in part so they could focus more on achieving that goal. So far it hasn’t really worked.
Their best adult-focused achievement so far has been, without question, the Sci-Fi Channel series Farscape. If you haven’t seen it, pick it up and watch 5 episodes on DVD. You’ll be hooked. It’s not just a great show, it’s maybe the greatest science fiction program ever created. A lot of the credit for how well it worked has to go to Henson’s brilliant special effects. There’s never been anything quite like it on television.
They’ve been less successful in the realm of movies though. Back in 2004 they released Mirrormask, which almost no one saw and even fewer loved. They may have a better shot with their next film project though, The Happytime Murders. The story’s a mystery set in an alternate reality where puppets and humans co-exist, but puppets are considered lower class. It sounds a little like a darker, more serious spin on Roger Rabbit, which seems like a good thing from where I’m sitting. The best news is that they may be gaining enough traction that major, Hollywood talent is interested in being involved. In particular NY Mag says Cameron Diaz may end up starring in it.
Word is that Cameron has been offered the movie’s lead role, and while she hasn’t taken it yet, is excited about the project. It sounds like from their report that whether she signs will depend on the script, which she hasn’t ready yet. With or without Diaz though, the movie is supposed to start shooting in January. It’s described as extremely PG-13 and includes some pretty disturbing, adult stuff. How disturbing? Here's how NY Mag describes one scene from the script: "One scene has a character opening the wrong door at the "Puppet Pleasureland," and finding a cow puppet on a massage table having all of its teats milked by an octopus puppet."
It’s taken decades, but maybe this will be the movie that achieves the final stage of Jim Henson’s long-gestating dream. We’ll be following it closely.