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The Muppet Workshop

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Life-puppet-drawers

The Muppet Workshop is the facility where Muppets are made by a group of designers and builders.

History

Around 1955, Jim Henson built the very first Kermit out of his mother's old, green, spring coat. He built the puppet in the kitchen of his parents home in Maryland. It wasn't until a few years later, after Jim and Jane Henson were married, that the first "official" Muppet Workshop was created. It was housed in the basement of the Hensons' home during the remaining years of Sam and Friends.[1]

New York

TownhouseWorkshop-1980

A 1980 photograph of the workshop, as it operated in the Henson Townhouse, from The Art of the Muppets.

Nyc-workshop1989

201 East 67th Street.

In 1963, the Hensons moved into offices on 53rd Street in New York City. Although the space was small, Don Sahlin found the time to create a complex system of lines and pulleys for seven mice who lived in the workshop. In the book Jim Henson: The Works, Dave Goelz recalls that Bonnie Erickson's boyfriend had saved the mice from laboratory experiments, and that eventually Sahlin's efforts grew to include an entire aerial highway for the critters that wove itself around the workshop: up and over chandeliers, through cupboards and desks, all made of clear plastic spheres and Slinky toys.

In 1977, the Workshop found a home in the newly acquired townhouse on East 69th Street. An article from the February 1980 issue of Interior Design described some changes made to the rear of the building to facilitate a two-story puppet assembly area. By 1981, the department was being led by Caroly Wilcox, and also employed Faz Fazakas, Lyle Conway, Marianne Harms, Ed Christie and Nomi Frederick.[2]

In December 1985, the Workshop was relocated to a space consisting of three floors at 201 East 67th Street (on the corner of 3rd Ave). This location was featured during a live-by-satellite interview with Jim Henson on CBS This Morning in 1989. The same year, Henson gave a tour of the Workshop in "Secrets of the Muppets," which was filmed for The Jim Henson Hour.

From 1997 to 2004, Ed Christie served as the Muppet Workshop supervisor. In early 2002, the Workshop moved from the three-level space on East 67th Street back to the basement of the Townhouse on East 69th Street. This was the final location of "the Muppet Workshop" until Henson sold the Muppets to The Walt Disney Company and the shop became "Jim Henson's New York Workshop."

Elstree Studios

Elstreeworkshop

The Muppet Workshop at Elstree.

Muppet Workshop Amy Van Gi copy

Amy van Gilder in Elstree

Elstree Workshop BTS copy

Elstree workshop

Gawkybird

A Gawky Bird is inspected.

During production on The Muppet Show, a workshop was set up in London. It was located in an L-shaped room adjacent to Studio D at ATV's Elstree Television Studios in Borehamwood. This shop was principally staffed by Muppet designers and builders from New York,[3] and early on, almost everything needed for the show was built and maintained at this location. However, the work was eventually split up between the London and New York workshops, even with an increase in staff at Elstree.[4]

While the Muppet Workshop in New York had it's mice, the London shop was home to it's own "infestation". Amy Van Gilder, who was in charge of the London workshop for four seasons,[5] recalled:

When I first got there, there were just four of us working till four in the morning every day. We were using a lot of live animals on the show at that time, and they always seemed to find their way into the shop, so you'd come in in the morning, after not much sleep, and find a piglet running round the floor, or a huge frog blinking at you from a workbench.[6]

The London shop can be seen in the documentary Of Muppets and Men in a behind the scenes look of The Muppet Show’s creation. Supervisors during this time were Robert McCormack and Sara Paul.[7]

Jim Henson's New York Workshop

Since Disney's purchase of the Muppets in 2004, the Muppet Workshop has become a division of Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Still located in New York City, the workshop has moved to Broadway, where it is headed by Connie Peterson as Workshop Manager, and Jason Weber as Creative Supervisor.

Though the workshop is no longer responsible for the creation of Muppet characters, they continue to build the puppets required for Jim Henson Company productions as well as Sesame Street.[8] The new, sans-"Muppet" name has also been alternatively credited as Jim Henson's Puppet Workshop and Jim Henson's New York Puppet Workshop.

Merchandise

The Muppet Workshop has collaborated on three books: The Muppets Make Puppets (1994), The Muppets Big Book of Crafts (1999) and Quilting with the Muppets (2000). Several toy kits were also released in conjunction with the Workshop as well as a collection of McDonald's Happy Meal toys. See: Muppet Workshop Merchandise.

Gallery

External links

Sources

  1. The Muppets Big Book of Crafts, Foreword by Cheryl Henson
  2. Of Muppets and Men, p. 50-53
  3. Of Muppets and Men, p. 13-22
  4. Jim Henson: The Works, p. 114-117
  5. Of Muppets and Men, p. 54
  6. Jim Henson: The Works, p. 114
  7. The Very Best of the Muppet Show: Volume 1
  8. www.creatureshop.com

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