Michael Kingsbury Frith (born July 8, 1941) is the former Executive Vice President and Creative Director for Jim Henson Productions. His contributions to Muppet projects have been extensive and varied.
Frith began his career at Random House in 1963 as a children's book illustrator and editor. He was Editor-in-Chief of the Beginner Books series, the line of books created by Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss).
In 1971, when Random House began publishing Sesame Street books, Frith was named editor and art director of the Sesame series. He produced a series of five annual large-format Sesame Street Storybooks, and contributed artwork for four of them: The Sesame Street Storybook (1971), The Sesame Street 1, 2, 3 Storybook (1973), The Sesame Street ABC Storybook (1974), and Big Bird's Busy Book (1975).
During that time, Frith worked as a freelance designer for several Muppet projects; he supplied character sketches for The Muppet Musicians of Bremen and also helped redesign Mr. Snuffleupagus for Sesame Street. Appreciating Frith's talents as a designer, Jim Henson brought him on board his creative team. One of Frith's first major assignments was designing the cast of The Land of Gorch sketches for Saturday Night Live.
Frith recalled his beginnings with the Muppets in The Saturday Evening Post (December 1980): "The first drawings I ever worked on were characters for Saturday Night Live. The Muppets did regular segments for a season featuring characters about as far removed from Sesame Street as you could get. Jim asked me to come over one day to talk about creating Muppet personalities -- specifically, strange, mossy, warty creatures. Instead of traditional ones with cartoon eyes -- round, white and black -- he had become fascinated with taxidermist eyes: cow, camel and tiger eyes. Around this simple concept of a different eye evolved a whole new concept which led to the creation of the crazy-eyed loonies we enjoy today."
Frith also described his collaboration with the builders: "All I do is doodle something on an envelope on the subway while coming to work. It's the puppet builders who are true geniuses in coming up with personalities. Working with them is an experience you can't begin to describe. Every artist is fascinated by the Pygmalion dream -- to carve Galateas and get living, breathing creatures."
Frith joined Henson Associates full-time as Art Director in December of 1975. He was named Vice President in 1978, and Executive Vice President and Director of Creative Services in 1985.
Frith's projects and credits include:
- The Muppet Show, Creative and Design Consultant; Designed Dr. Teeth, Floyd Pepper, Janice, The Swedish Chef, Fozzie Bear, Uncle Deadly, Angus McGonagle, and more (1976-1981)
- Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, Creative Consultant, designed Doc Bullfrog and others (1977)
- The Muppet Movie, Design Consultant (1979)
- Miss Piggy Calendars, Art Director (1980-1984)
- The Great Muppet Caper, Design Consultant (1981)
- Miss Piggy's Guide to Life, Art Directeur (1981)
- Fraggle Rock, Conceptual Designer (1983-1987)
- The Muppets Take Manhattan, Design Consultant; Designed the Muppet Babies (1984)
- Muppet Babies, Creative Consultant and Executive Producer (1984-1991)
- Follow That Bird, New Character Designer (1985)
- Little Muppet Monsters, Creative Producer (1985)
- The Jim Henson Hour, Design Consultant (1989)
- Muppet*Vision 3D, Creative Consultant (1991)
- The Muppet Christmas Carol, Design Consultant (1992)
- Jim Henson's Dog City, Executive Producer (1992-1995)
- Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree, Executive Producer (1995)
- Muppet Treasure Island, Design Consultant (1996)
- The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, Executive Producer (1996-1998)
In 1996, Frith left Henson Productions to start a new company, Sirius Thinking Ltd., with John Sculley, Christopher Cerf and Norman Stiles. Sirius is the multi-media children's education company that created Between the Lions, an award-winning educational puppet show on PBS, in 2000. Frith served as the Executive Producer, Creative Director, Conceptual Designer and Co-Creator of the show. Additionally, with wife Kathryn Mullen, Frith is a co-founder of No Strings International, an organization which makes educational and preparedness puppet films for children around the world.
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