James Wojtal is a talented puppet designer and builder. During his career he has worked on projects like Avenue Q, Bear in the Big Blue House, Crank Yankers, Saturday Night Live, Sesame Street (the American and various internationl versions), Mop-a-Top's Shop, Kermit's Swamp Years, Animal Jam, and more. In this interview I asked him to share his thoughts about puppet building.
SJ: Some Muppet fans may be familiar with Tim Miller from the credits of The Muppet Show and many other Muppet movies and television shows. You worked with him on various projects including the British show Mop-a-Top's Shop. What did you learn from working with such an accomplished and experienced puppet builder.
JW: I was very fortunate very early on in my life. I first met, Ed Christie, Fred Buchholz, and Larry Jameson when I was just a kid in High School. They really encouraged me to continue working on my puppets. Fred even gave me a tour of the workshop a couple of times.
When I started working there, Tim really took me under his wing so to speak. He was puppet building supervisor, and I sat right across from him. I got to learn a lot just from watching. I was also surrounded by the most amazing puppet designers and mechanical/prop designers I could imagine, Rollie Krewson, Ann Marie Holdgruen, Paul Hartis, Mark Zeszotek, Tom Newby, Ed Christie, Fred Buchholz, Larry Jameson, and those were just people on my Floor. They all put any puppet I build to shame. I was, and continue to be in awe of the work they do, and I am forever grateful for what I learned from them (as well as everyone else, the list of builders goes on and on - not to mention the costumers, and textile designers). It truly was a warehouse of amazingly talented people, and I am happy I was allowed to play and learn with them for four years.