Saturday, October 29, 2011


It was a packed house at the Museum of the Moving Image for a live interview with legendary film director and Muppeteer Frank Oz.

The interview, part of the Jim Henson's Fantastic World exhibit, was conducted by Craig Shemin, President of the Jim Henson Legacy.

Here's some stuff I learned about Frank:

* Frank first met Jim Henson when Frank was 17 and Jim was 24. Two years later, Jim asked Frank to move to New York to work with him.

* Frank has known the late Muppets writer Jerry Juhl since he was 12 years old, and describes Jerry as a "dear friend."

* Frank is open about having experienced low self-esteem and shyness in the earlier days of his life, and let audience members know that it's possible to overcome that.

* He did lots of bits with Jim Henson for the Ed Sullivan Show

* He was drafted to the army but released when they discovered he had a heart condition

* Soon after, he went to work on the newly-formed Sesame Street, a t.v. show Frank says was "never planned to be a huge success"

* On Sesame Street, Frank played the roles of Grover, Cookie Monster, Burt, Prince Charming, and more.

* On The Muppet Show and in Muppet movies, Frank played Animal, Miss Piggy, Sam the Eagle, and more. Here's a hilarious clip that MOMI played of Sam the Eagle (Frank) singing Tick Willow with Rowlf the Dog.

* One character observation Frank made of Miss Piggy is that she is funny because of the way she holds down all her pain (she loves a frog who doesn't love her back, she can't carry a tune, etc.) and yet demonstrates "extraordinary bravado"

* Says Frank of Jim Henson: "He was always doing the impossible." Frank gave, as an example, the way that Jim took 10 days at a pool to shoot an underwater synchronized swimming routine that involved both Muppets and humans.

* At one point, when Jim and Frank were on a plane together, Jim turned and ask Frank to direct The Dark Crystal with him. When Frank asked Jim why he was asking him, Jim replied: "I think it would be better [with you]."

* Frank directed other films such as The Stepford Wives and The Little Shop of Horrors

* The character Frank played that he most relates to is Grover

* Frank comes to play a role on Sesame Street about once a year

* He was not part of the process of choosing performers that took over the characters that he and Jim used to play

* Frank was the voice of Yoda for Star Wars. He explained how it took multiple folks to operate Yoda's body movements and facial expressions in conjunction with the voice."

Frank explains: "When you are a Muppeteer, doing the voice is 5 per cent of the work.
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