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: During your time with The Jim Henson Company you did refurbishing as well as building from scratch. What sort of damage did the puppets have, and how did you go about refurbishing them?
JW: It varied a lot from just worn out fur spots, to complete and total foam break down. The really old puppets would naturally have turned to "toast". We would pull them out of a box, take off the plastic bag, and be showered with bits of decayed foam rubber.
Sometimes it was just glue giving out, so you would have to re-glue a mouth plate, or replace some feathers. Often the challenge was trying to find enough material in the boxes to do the repairs, since a lot of the puppets were from dye lots, and fabric stock that may not exist anymore.