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The Storyteller: Neil Gaiman To Develop Reimagining Of Jim Henson's Anthology Series

Neil Gaiman has secured his next small-screen project. 

Per Deadline, Gaiman is set to develop a new adaptation of The Storyteller, the anthology series from the 1980s created by the late Jim Henson — filmmaker, puppeteer, cartoonist, and artist extraordinaire also known for creating The Muppets and Fraggle Rock.

No stranger to television ventures, currently sitting behind the wheel of American Gods and Good Omens, Gaiman will craft a "reimagined version" of The Storyteller, which is set up Fremantle and has The Jim Henson Company attached as well. Additionally, Gaiman will serve as the new series' writer and executive producer. 

Where the original anthology series, inspired by the mythology and folklore classes Henson's daughter Lisa enrolled in during university, spun modern versions of European folk tales told by the storyteller (portrayed by John Hurt), Gaiman's iteration will "create a mystical world combining various fairy tales and folklore" and feature updated elements that appeal to "the binging kind" of viewer. Expect aspects of the original to stick around: creatures like "heartless giants, enchanted beggars, white lions, and human hedgehogs," and heavier themes of life and death, good and evil, desire and fear. 

Gaiman said of his plans for the new Storyteller series, "Part of what fascinates me about The Storyteller is the stuff that we don't know. Who was the Storyteller, why was he telling these stories, was he a goblin, what kind of creature? What I'd love to do is an inside story that's as long as the outside story. We're going to find out a lot about who the storyteller is, we're going to find out things we don't even know that we don't know. We're going to begin in a Northern kingdom where stories are forbidden and where the act of telling a story is liable and can get you imprisoned or executed. If you put a storyteller into that situation, things would need to start getting interactive."

He added that he feels incredibly lucky to get the chance to update The Storyteller for a new audience of TV-lovers, and is honored that The Jim Henson Company selected him to create the reimagining: "The original Storyteller was a brilliantly written, directed and told set of stories. It's a terrifying and inspiring task to reinvent what Jim Henson did for the golden age of television we are in right now, and I'm honored that The Jim Henson Company would entrust me with the task of bringing back the storyteller and his magical stories, and sending him out into the world for a whole new round of tales."

Though Gaiman kept a tight lip on the tales he plans to include in The Storyteller, he did tease that there are a ton of options he and Lisa Henson, who serves as the CEO of The Jim Henson Company and is on board to executive produce the new series, are considering. 

"We have our eye on lots of them and one of the things that was brilliant was, they would take little known versions of well-known fairytales because every story comes in various different versions, and I think that's definitely something that I would love to keep going," Gaiman noted, to which Henson added, "It gives the story the feeling of familiarity, but it's also very different."

Henson said in her own statement accompanying the news, "The Storyteller has always been a special project for me, having worked so closely with my dad on the original concept. Neil Gaiman is an expert in traditional folklore and mythology, in addition to himself being the modern 'storyteller' for our times. I feel like if Neil were an actor, he'd have to play [the Storyteller] because he embodies what the storyteller is, a skillful wordsmith who can entertain people with the power of the story itself, and not to mention he also memorizes it all in his head."

Speaking of who might portray the Storyteller in the reimagined version of the series, original actor Hurt is out of the question, as he sadly passed away in 2017. Gaiman noted that he hopes to feature actors from the '80s series in his take on The Storyteller

"We would love to have John Hurt as our Storyteller, but alas, he's no longer with us. But absolutely the actors from the original Storyteller series, bringing them back would be a marvelous thing to do, and we really did have the cream of the crop," he shared.

Henson mentioned that she feels the same way, that she's aiming to incorporate in the revival some of the same the creative touches seen in her father's series — specifically the unique, "non-linear" directing style that Steve Barron brought to The Storyteller back in the day. 

He was shooting in a very non-linear way like music videos with impactful imagery as opposed to conventional shooting. I think that we're looking to do the same thing here, work with the directors who can do the most innovative work with puppetry technologies to marry it up in that truly innovative modern way with word crafting," she said. 

Gaiman's The Storyteller doesn't yet have a cable network or streaming platform, but its distributer Fremantle is aiming to get the series out to as many people as it can. Fremantle's North American president of scripted entertainment Dante Di Loreto noted, "What we're interested in doing is making sure it reaches the broadest audience possible, that's really the key for us."

That comment coupled with Gaiman's mention of creating a new version of The Storyteller that catches the attention of those with binge-watching tendencies suggests that perhaps the reimagining will fare better on a streamer like Netflix or Hulu than it would on a traditional television network. A Gaiman-backed anthology series filled with whimsy, magic, and myth — similar to Gaiman's own American Gods and the forthcoming Good Omens — and one that refreshes a beloved property created by a man as renowned as Jim Henson should do well whether it launches on actual televisions or is a streaming exclusive. Still, we have a feeling The Storyteller will fit right in alongside the likes of Hulu's anthology series Into the Dark and Netflix's Black Mirror. Both streamers have been ramping up their original content as of late, so we wouldn't be surprised if the two end up in a heated bidding war over The Storyteller.