Puppets rubbed out in Henson film noir

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The Jim Henson Co. has picked up a spec that might signal a daring turn into adult territory for the company behind Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear.

"The Happytime Murders" is a comedic film noir murder mystery that will fall under the company's Henson Alternative banner, a division that develops projects not intended for children. Brian Henson is on board to direct.

Written by Todd Berger from a story by Dee Austin Robertson and Berger, the story takes place in a world where humans and puppets co-exist, with the puppets viewed as second-class citizens. When the puppet cast of an '80s children's TV show called "The Happytime Gang" begins to get murdered one by one, a disgraced LAPD detective-turned-private eye puppet — with a drinking problem, no less — takes on the case.

Brian Henson, Lisa Henson and Jason Lust are producing.

Robertson will executive produce.

This would not be the first time that Henson is delving into more adult fare. In 1982, the company made "The Dark Crystal," which featured a dark tone and, in one scene, nudity. But "Happytime" also will have an absurdist and comedic quality to it, comparable to Broadway's "Avenue Q," and will take cues from such movies as "L.A. Confidential" and "Pulp Fiction."

Berger, repped by the Kohner Agency and Kaplan/Perrone, wrote "Epic Proportions" for End Game Entertainment with John Landis directing and is writing the DVD project "Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five" for DreamWorks Animation. (partialdiff)
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