Jim Henson is deservedly regarded as one of the towering creative talents of the 20th century, a man who, gifted with a limitless imagination, an almost magical ability for imbuing each and every one of his creations with poignant humanity, and a delightful sense of the whimsical and the absurd, gave us an impressive number of enduringly appealing characters, including Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, Ernie and Cookie Monster, who are all still standing tall in the pop culture firmament today.
So magically pronounced was his talent and so great his penchant for conjuring up characters that forever captured the public’s love and affection, that the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta rightly titled their now ongoing exhibition – it was originally intended to only run from September 2008 to September 2009 – Jim Henson: Wonders From His Workshop.
It neatly encapsulated the sense of joyous, childlike rapture that universally greeted creations as diverse as the Muppets, who have recently enjoyed a return to the zeitgeist via two very well received movies, the non-human inhabitants of the long-running Sesame Street, which celebrated 45 years on air last year, films like The Labyrinth, and of course, Fraggle Rock (1983-1987), which is about to receive the big screen treatment courtesy of the prodigiously and eclectically talented Joseph Gordon Levitt.
In news sure to gladden the heart of anyone who found themselves instantly and utterly forever drawn into the enchanting cave-dwelling world of the carefree, colourfully-attired Fraggles (principally Gobo, Mokey, Red, Wembley, and Boober), who only work a thirty minute week leaving time free for music , musing and fun, the hardworking diminutive Doozers who’s tasty constructions provide food to the Fraggles, and the intellectually-challenged Gorgs who believed themselves, by sheer dint of their gigantic size, the lords and masters of their universe, and the vortex-inhabiting Silly Creatures of Outer Space, it’s been announced that Levitt will produce and star in a Fraggle Rock movie.
A long time fan of the much-loved show, Levitt’s involvement with the project, which has been kicking around Hollywood for the better part of a decade, according to Variety which broke the news, is sure to give it the boost it needs to become a delightful, much-anticipated reality.
And there’s no doubting Levitt’s love for the Fraggles, Doozers and Gorgs, and indeed all of Henson’s canon of wonder.
“The first screen personas I ever loved were Henson creations, first on Sesame Street, and then on Fraggle Rock. Jim Henson’s characters make you laugh and sing, but they’re also layered, surprising, and wise. From Oscar the Grouch, to Yoda, to the Fraggles. I’ve never stopped loving his work, even as a young frisky man, and on into adulthood. Collaborating with Lisa Henson makes me confident we can do something that Jim would have loved. I’m grateful and excited to be working with New Regency on this project.”
As the LA Times notes though the actor, who is making a name for himself as a serious actor in upcoming films like The Walk and Snowden, will have his work cut out for him.
“For one, Fraggle Rock doesn’t have nearly the name recognition of Henson’s Muppets or Sesame Street characters. All but the most die-hard fans, for example, may need a reminder that the series ran from 1983 to 1987 and told the story of colorful creatures known as Fraggles, Doozers and Gorgs co-existing in and around a series of caves.
“Will moviegoers turn out to catch up with characters they have only a foggy recollection of, or none at all? Perhaps, but if not, it somewhat defeats the purpose of dusting off existing intellectual property rather than starting from scratch.”
While that may well be true, there’s a lot to be said for sheer lifelong enthusiasm and appreciation for a neglected but loved franchise in not only getting films like this made but in getting the word out so that more people will come to better appreciate the appeal of a less well-recognised part of Jim Henson’s everlastingly wonderful world.
No word yet on production dates much less release dates but there is now impetus to finally get the film made, and as Jason Segel, another Muppets devotee of long standing, showed when he revived the Muppets in 2011, the attachment of an enthusiastic major star to a would-be project is a big step forward in actually getting it made in the often fickle world of Hollywood.
The film’s now more than likely creation is proof that, as Gobo’s Uncle Travelling Matt always said, “The magic is always there, as long as we keep looking for it…”