FRANK OZ HAD no intention of playing with puppets for
a living. In fact, though his parents performed shows as a hobby
and he picked up the skills, he was determined to become
a serious journalist. Fortunately, for him and the world at large,
destiny had other ideas. When he was 19, Jim Henson called and
Oz arrived in New York, for the beginning of what would be the
wildest of rides. The Age Of The Muppets had dawned.
Over the following decades, Oz found himself in all manner
of non-serious-journalist-like situations. He pogo-sticked
around New York in a gorilla costume for Henson’s Time Piece
shots. He was stuffed into a claustrophobia-inducing elevator,
along with several other Muppeteers, for an ingenious
drainpipe-climb sequence in The Great Muppet Caper. And he
created iconic characters like Cookie Monster creates crumbs:
Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Animal, Bert, Grover and Cookie
himself were all voiced and operated by Oz. And in the case of
Yoda, who made a surprise cameo in Star Wars: The Last Jedi,
continue to be.
New documentary Muppet Guys Talking re-unites Oz with
four fellow felt-wizards (Dave Goelz, Fran Brill, Bill Barretta
and Jerry Nelson) to share warm and fuzzy memories of their
time making entertainment history. We rang him up, to probe
him further about the ins and outs of Muppetry, and his second
career as a director of classic comedies.
Director and puppeteerFrank
Ozon life as a Muppet man
You and Jim Henson had an incredibly
successful partnership. What’s your
memory of irst meeting him?
It was at a puppet festival in Asilomar,
California, about an hour’s drive from my
home. I was 17 and had made a little bit
of money on my own doing birthday-
party shows and such, and there was a
contest for anybody who could do a show
on the theme of the three wishes. So I did
a show. The irst time I saw Jim, he was
walking with [wife] Jane, pushing a baby
buggy with [daughter] Lisa inside. He had
no beard at that point. In any case, I did
the show and won the prize. That’s when
Jim saw me for the irst time and talked
Two years later, you ended up working
with him in New York. Were you excited?
Oh, it was so exciting. I had been all over
Western Europe with my backpack,
a year before, so it wasn’t the travelling.
It was more seeing the kind of New York
by a bunch