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After something of a slow start, it looks like the much loved Jim Henson Company is finally going full steam ahead with brand new, original projects. They have The Dark Crystal 2 and a Fraggle Rock movie already in varying stages of production, but those are just rehashes of old Henson staples. Now they’re getting back to the business of coming up with big, fresh, new ideas. Variety says they’ve bought the rights to three different book properties with the intention of turning them into movies.

The books are: “The Boggart” by Susan Cooper, “The Doubtful Guest” by Edward Gorey, and a fantasy trilogy called “Monster-Blood Tatoo” by D.M. Cornish. Even the titles alone sound like perfect Henson material, but it gets even better when you hear what they’re about.

“The Doubtful Guest” is about an unannounced, unwelcome guest who shows up in a Victorian mansion and makes miserable the lives of its inhabitants. Who or what is the doubtful guest? It’s not exactly clear what the creature is. The book is often compared to the work of Dr. Seuss, only perhaps a little less whimsical. I guess the guest is a whatsit, or maybe a whoozel. This is supposed to be the one project of the three that’s furthest along, so it’s also probably the one that will be first to theaters. Matthew Huffman has already been hired to write and direct it. Huffman doesn’t have much of a resume, but he’s recently been hired to write and direct a whole slew of studio projects. Expect to hear a lot more about him soon.

“The Boggart” is a kids book about two normal kids whose father inherits a castle. They sell the castle, but Boggart, the gleeful, trickster spirit who has been inhabiting it gets shipped back to their home in Canada along with some of what’s left of their ancestral home. Boggart soon gets homesick, and they’ll have to get him there. They’re planning to develop this one as a live action family film, and Jim Henson’s son Brian (who directed Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island) is directing.

“Monster-Blood Tattoo” is a series of books about an orphan boy named Rossamund who becomes an apprentice monster hunter.The whole thing takes place in a Victorian world full of magic, ancient science, alchemy, and deadly monsters. I’m sure Henson Co. would love to turn this into a big splashy trilogy, since the books are already a series. But since they usually work with smaller budgets than big blockbusters, it’s a little tougher for them to make that happen. They haven’t really decided what they’re doing with this one yet. There aren’t any writer or director attachments yet.

All three movies are being done with a mix of CGI and animatronics. I really hope they don’t fall too in love with computers. The magic of Henson’s movies has always been what they’re able to accomplish without them. Muppetry is an incredible artform all its own, and they’re the only ones keeping it alive. So keep an eye out for what the Henson Company is up to. Mirrormask was a bit of a flop, but it’s nice to know they aren’t letting that keep them away from taking a few risks on new projects. I’m always up for anything Henson is doing.
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