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Faz Fazakas

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Jim Henson and Fazakas

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Faz Fazakas demonstrating the Architect Doozer

Franz "Faz" Fazakas (1918-2013) was a special effects designer and puppeteer who contributed to many Muppet productions. Fazakas began his puppetry career in the 1950s with Bil Baird and his marionettes, performing in the Broadway show Flahooley (with Barbara Cook, playing a lion) as well as 1960s off-Broadway puppet productions (often alongside Jerry Nelson), including versions The Wizard of Oz (as the Tin Woodsman) and Winnie the Pooh (as the title character).

Fazakas first worked with Jim Henson as a puppeteer in the early 1970s on the Tales from Muppetland specials. However, his primary talents lay in devising mechanical devices to increase the range of movement and expression of the puppets, and for many years he was head of the electro mechanical department of the Muppet Workshop. The eye mechanisms on characters such as Big Bird and Sweetums were his contribution, as were the rods and cable control systems used to control tiny characters such as Rizzo the Rat and the Doozers. The latter, however, benefited most directly from Fazakas' radio controlled mechanisms, variations of which were also used for the faces of full-bodied characters such as the Gorgs. The rowing scene in Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas and the rat cooking scenes in The Muppets Take Manhattan are perhaps the most direct showcases of Fazakas' work.

In 1992, Fazakas, along with Brian Henson, Dave Housman, Peter Miller, and John Stephenson, shared the Academy Awards' Scientific and Engineering Award for developing the Henson Performance Control System. This system, an advancement from the earlier radio controls, was used to create complex facial expressions as well as detailed body movements, such as finger joints, for Dinosaurs and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, amongst others. According to coverage of the event by the Hollywood Reporter, Fazakas drew laughs and applause during the group's acceptance, quipping, "The Turtles are like many of our politicians. They're all human except for the heads." Fazakas left the company a few years later.

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