That Time I Worked With The Muppets ...

Some say that you haven't made it until you've worked with the Muppets. 

Well, I guess I've made it!

This month Muppet performers and fans from across the globe descended on our on capital city for the JIM HENSON RETROSPECTACLE - a three week festival celebrating the life and work of the world-famous Muppet creator. 

It's very rare that Jim's three 'worlds' come together like this, but Sesame Street (Sesame Workshop), the Muppets (Disney), and Fraggle Rock and the Dark Crystal (Jim Henson Legacy) appeared at events together in a rare display of remembrance for Jim.

Thanks to Nic Marshall from the Square Eyes Film Foundation, what began as talks for a Henson-themed film showcase turned into a glorious buffet of celebrity talks, workshops, screenings, and five live shows with the Muppet performers and the NZSO! 

I was fortunate to be the cultural and creative representative for Te Papa Museum who were hosting some of the events. That meant I got to interview and introduce many of Jim's colleagues that I had idolised as a child. It also meant I was able to meet a few of the Muppets themselves!

Definitely a career highlight!

Photo descriptions in order of appearance (L-R)

1. My new muppet suit! Thanks to Rebecca McMillan Photography for snapping this pic.

2. Close up of the my suit fabric. I had this fabric custom printed especially for these events.

3. Meeting Bonnie Erickson, Jim Henson's head puppet designer in the Muppet workshop. (She designed Miss Piggy!)

4. On stage with designers, Bonnie Erickson, Jonny Fraser Allen (Weta Workshop), and Ben Hawker (Weta Workshop). We talked about character design and how Jim's work influenced what they do today.

5. Bonnie was kind enough to sign my LP copy of THE FROG PRINCE. This was the first project she worked on for Jim as his muppet costume designer.

6. Jonny Fraser Allen's incredible LABYRINTH sculptures for the Labyrinth board game. He actually built some of these for fun!

7. Meeting Arthur Novell, Jim Henson's close friend and publicist from New York.

8. Introducing Dave Goelz at the first ticketed event at Te Papa.

9. Meeting Dave Goelz! Performer of The Great Gonzo, Zoot, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Boober Fraggle and more!

10. Meeting Karen Prell! Performer of Red Fraggle! I was fortunate to sit next to Dave and Karen at dinner one night and hear their stories of working with Jim. 

11. Meeting Ernie from Sesame Street!

12. Hanging out with Ernie and Muppet performer, Peter Linz.

13. Meeting Big Bird! Yes, this really happened, and yes he gave me one of his feathers!

14. Meeting Craig Shemin, current President of the Jim Henson Legacy, Muppet writer and historian. 

15. Meeting the Sesame Street crew! They were a bit impressed with the suit! This is also the only photo I had with Matt Vogel, performer of Kermit the Frog, The Count, and Big Bird. He has his back to the camera.

16. Meeting Carmen Osbahr, the last Muppet performer hired by Jim before his passing, and current performer of Rosita on Sesame Street.

17. Karen Prell and Dave Goelz kindly signed my Fraggle Rock LP as Red and Boober. Swoon!

18. That's a wrap! Note the little Java Muppet I wore on my lapel. One of Frank Oz's greatest Muppet sketches in my humble opinion!