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Mike Quinn

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Mike Quinn and Jim Henson, behind the scenes on Mother Goose Stories
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Mike Quinn and Jim Henson, behind the scenes on Mother Goose Stories, Humpty Dumpty.
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The puppet crew from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, 1988. Top row: Ian Tregonning, Toby Philpott, Christopher Leith. Bottom row: Geoff Felix, David Barclay, Mike Quinn
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Mike Quinn assisting Gobo Fraggle

Mike Quinn (b. July 28, 1964) is perhaps best known in the film world for performing the Star Wars character Nien Nunb in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. Quinn has also performed on numerous Jim Henson and Muppets productions.

Career

Mike Quinn first began performing at the age of eight with a magic act for his family and friends and performed his first puppet show at the age of nine. He first became involved with the Muppets when he first met Jim Henson and his puppeteers as a fan in 1977; he later became a regular visitor to the set of The Muppet Show, bringing along homemade Muppet-style puppets and learning and receiving much encouragement from Jim Henson and his co-workers.

Upon leaving school, he directly landed his first job as a Muppeteer in 1980 after being personally chosen by Jim Henson to work on The Great Muppet Caper, filling in on crowd scenes and doubling up for main characters. This directly led to building Podlings and Slaves for The Dark Crystal and then actually performing the Skeksis Slave Master for the film.

Many Muppet and Creature Shop film and television projects followed, including the alien Millennium Falcon co-pilot Nien Nunb in Return of the Jedi and assisting Frank Oz with the character Yoda. Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, whilst continuing with his puppeteering career, he joined forces with fellow puppeteer David Barclay to create Ultimate Animates, a production company created to experiment and develop new building and performing techniques for many of their own internal, as well as external, puppet productions. This led to Quinn directing and producing many productions.

A natural progression for Quinn was to explore the use of computer graphic technologies to assist and to open up the performing and acting possibilities of his characters. By early 1997, he moved to San Francisco to become a character animator for Pixar after being impressed by their character work in Toy Story. Although he animated on A Bug's Life, his finest moment at Pixar was developing and animating on the 1950s-style TV puppet show "Woody's Round Up" in Toy Story 2.

His desire to go full circle took him next to George Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic, first animating the famed dinosaurs in Jurassic Park 3, then moving on to animate on Yoda, along with many other creatures, in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.

Fresh from his time as an animator, he is busy acting on stage and screen and also once more puppeteering with the Muppets. He is also pursuing character voice-over work, and developing many of his own independent productions for future film and television projects. [1]

Quinn performed at Jim Henson's Memorial, playing one of the Penguins.

Credits

Mike Quinn recalls ...

Part of the genius of Fraggle Rock was to allow other countries to create their own co-production, which meant the human and Sprocket " wraparounds" and localised Traveling Matt segments. Now Fraggles was a very expensive show to produce and most countries could not afford to create something like this from scratch and most likely would not have all the resources that the Henson company had. However, some could at least afford the Sprocket and Matt parts and in foreign language countries dub or loop the rest of the puppets in the show quite easily. This way, most foreign viewers had no idea it was not entirely created in their respective country. So it made the broadcasters look really good for one thing without the expense of making an entire show. Another important element was that more revenue could be generated from "outer space" sales of the show that otherwise would not be sold there. This could then be put back into the show and other Henson productions. Originally there were to be coproductions in Saudi Arabia and Japan! Sadly these never quite happened for one reason and another.

At some point, I will try to chronicle the events of Fraggle coproductions more thoroughly on my web site as I have many pictures and videos documenting much of this. I think it would be of interest to fans. We did a lot of good hard work that was rarely acknowledged, so this might help to set the record straight.

Now.... as far as I can tell, the UK was the only coproduction to take the series through to the end. France and Germany seemed to "peter out" before episode 96 or so. The first season of UK Fraggles had Fulton MacKay as the lighthouse keeper, Dave Barclay as Sprocket and Uncle Matt, myself as his assistant for those and Louise Gold as Gobo. The second season changed slightly. I think Louise was busy on stage and I took over doing Gobo and puppet rigging and repairs. Kaefan Shaw took over assisting Dave with Sprocket. This may have been when I began doing Uncle Matt. We also had Director number 2 with a different director and writer again for the Uncle Matt spots. Series 3 I recall had replaced Fulton MacKay with John Gordon Sinclair as the new lighthouse keeper. We also had Director number 3. I think by this time, Geoff Felix was assisting me on the Uncle Matt shoots. Series 4 had actor number 3 as yet another new lighthouse keeper. I was working on Mother Goose or something and just came in to do the last few episodes, along with some extra puppeteers for all the Fraggles entering into the outside world in the lighthouse. I believe Geoff Felix became Gobo and Sprocket assistant but I would have to double check that.

Whenever I did Gobo, I would put down a voice as a guide track for Jerry to overdub later. The same for Uncle Matt with Dave Goelz. For Matt I began to exaggerate the speech patterns and musicality of his voice in his postcard readings. There is a possibility that Dave Goelz started to take some of that on board in his later Matts but he would need to confirm that. It was a great learning experience and a lot of fun doing those.

Actually, Dave Goelz did go to Australia and New Zealand for Uncle Matt and it was there he discovered Ron Mueck, who assisted him and even did some Matts when Dave broke his arm or wrist or something like that. Ron then came over to England to perform Ludo on Labyrinth and numerous other successes.

Meanwhile, Dave Barclay was busy dubbing Sprocket (I'm assuming the Canadian versions) for Spain and many other countries.

Now let's look at Germany....

Steve Whitmire did Sprocket for the first 12 shows in Munich, Germany. The German wraparounds actually copied Doc's set and script word for word (except in German of course) whereas the UK and French parts were totally different. The German puppeteers were Ziggy and Eva (spellings may be wrong), a husband and wife team. He did some Gobo and Matt's whilst she assisted with Sprocket. After then, Dave Barclay took over doing Sprocket there. At some point during the second season, Dave had to fly to London to appear as Sprocket with Fulton MacKay at the Royal Command Variety Performance, an annual televised variety show performed in front of the Queen. So I stepped in and took over doing Sprocket for some shows, maybe 6 or more? Dave Barclay later returned for a spell I believe. Somewhere towards the end, Louise Gold actually did a handful of Sprockets there too, due to me pulling out of France and Dave Barclay being put back in there (more on that next).

And finally.... France....

I believe Richard Hunt went over to help audition and train local puppeteers. They ended up hiring a couple with Nancy (an American living in France as Sprocket's assistant) and a guy whose name escapes me at this hour doing Gobo and Matt. Dave Barclay was Sprocket (or Croquette, as he was actually called). After a very short time I was brought in to replace the French Gobo and Matt puppeteer. Geoff Felix would assist me on the Matt shoots and help rig the puppets. I must have done a couple of seasons there as Sprocket with Geoff doing Gobo and Nancy assisting me on Sprocket. Well, the director Patrick Villechaise (the brother of Hervé Villechaize who played Tattoo on Fantasy Island and was also Oscar the Grouch's legs whenever he would pick up his can and go running off), er.. took a disliking to myself, Geoff and all things British. Well problems just escalated and after being threatened with violence whilst shooting some Uncle Matts in France with him, I quit and left them without a Sprocket puppeteer for the upcoming studio shoot (well I was young and had no British producer to defend me.. he heee.. it would be a very different story had it happened now). Dave was shooting Sprocket in Germany at the time. My suggestion was rather than disrupt the German shoot, keep Dave there and use someone else for the French Sprocket. Well I guess the UK production felt it safer to put someone in there who already knew the situation, so they pulled Dave out of Germany and put Louise in there instead. I don't think they were too pleased about being changed up like that and it's not something I wanted to happen. Now, they could have put me back into Germany but.... go figure eh?

So that's how it was. Lots of coproductions happening at the same time. Often it meant doing the same episode three times in three different languages. We had about three sets of puppets and I used to refurbish them in between shoots.

They were a great experience and got me traveling to Europe as a teenager. The per diem was great.... wonderful food and many fun memories, such as haunting the writer/producer's hotel room on location and getting it all on tape and many many more....

--Muppet Central post, 7/18/05

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