Friday, August 12, 2011

"If He Can Do It, I Can Do It"

Lately, I've noticed more and more friends and just people in general with a lack of faith. OK, wait! I am NOT talking specific religion. No deities, no Hail Marys, no atoning of guilt. I'm talking about a lack of faith within us about.... us.

A friend of mine, one of several actually in the puppet community, is feeling quite down about his chosen profession: puppet builder and performer. He like so many of us, started back in the 80's and 90's when TV and the occasional movie puppets. I remember the 80's (Ah the decade of money and no CGI) were great for puppets in TV ads. I worked on the original Snuggle commercials as well as Crispy Critters, and the short lived Swedish Chef cereal Croonchy Stars. And Henson had a full staff here in NYC, Los Angeles, and in London. That's where my friend started his career.

But then, when the clock chimed midnight and rung in the 1990's everything changed. The man who so many of us got the inspiration to pursue a life long love of puppets as a career, died. Certain projects did appear but then never lasted or had a specific cast/crew/staff/workshop with no room for newbies. And now well into the 21st Century, cheap CGI rules and puppetry, which I now call the "original 3D animation," is scarce. So my friend is depressed and wondering what to do next with his life since this career, he believes, is over.

This is the lack of faith I'm talking about. The lack of faith to believe in oneself and the resources and strength to keep it going. And its hard people! Staying positive. Holding onto the dream. Being optimistic during these times, it's hard! But then it's always been hard. There's never been a golden easy era where everything was perfect for everyone. My wife says that puppetry runs in cycles and that people are sick of cheap CGI that is not on a cinematic level. Something "old school" like puppets will come back.

One good sign is the new movie from Kermit and the gang coming out this Thanksgiving. "The Muppets" is basically about how the characters' careers in show biz get resurrected. Pretty much the behind the scenes story of the Muppets themselves, with this big screen return hoping to bring the gang back into mainstream minds the way they were over twenty years ago.
May it break box office records. Cause if it does, puppets will be seen as money makers. Yes, that's crass. But that is a reason why this is called "show BUSINESS."

I myself "sold" a show to a PBS station who will off-set the costs of studio and crew. I just have to get the rest of the funding. And that has been quite the homework assignment. Going online and seeking companies, any corporation, that would like to sponsor a kids show. Now I know I will get the money, somehow. I don't know exactly how, or when, but I will. In fact, I see the money getting as the easy part; selling a show and having someone say "yes,' THAT is hard. Plus, when I get my show, I can maybe hire my friend to work on it. Lots of my talented friends to work on it. (Because I have now reached the age where I want to work with people I WANT to work with NOT HAVE TO work with.) And just like in the song the Muppets sang, Just One Person, "If he can do it/ I can do it." For me the "he" was Jim (Henson).

But I will make this happen.

I have faith.

My mother always told me "Don't get a job; get a career." My wife believes in me with all heart. Coming up on twelve years of marriage, I mean, hey, the woman married a puppeteer! Specifically, a guy who used to dress in a bear suit!

Now that's faith!


  1. I know that the legendary "easy money" glory days of the `80s and `90s are gone (I'm a little too young and missed out on a chance at most of that!), but on the whole I think puppetry is much stronger now than it was then. There is more variety of work, being done in more places, by more people than ever before.

    I started writing about puppetry online in 2004, it was hard to find enough to write about to keep a daily blog. Now I could do five or six posts a day and even then I would have no hope of keeping up with everything that's going on.

    Have you read Kevin Kelly's "1,000 True Fans" article? It goes a long way towards describing what the future is for artists -

  2. Ralph Bakshi on surviving as a filmmaker in tough times...

  3. Well said, my friend. Next time I see my older brother, I will inquire again about gov't sponsorship. His wife should be ready to deliver their daughter in the next week or so, so he's been a bit... distracted! Always keep the faith, because if you don't, who will? Be strong. Be patient, but not too patient. And be ready. It could happen sooner than you think!

  4. Well said, Noel. It's nice to know that there are still people out there who believe in the dream. Like the Frog said "It's about singing, and dancing, and making people happy. That's the kinda dream that gets better the more people you share it with!" I have no doubt you'll succeed.

  5. Noel - for funding why not try crowd-funding sites such as, or all of whom have a leaning towards creative projects.

  6. If more and more of us keep reaching for the brass ring with their community in mind, one of us is bound to grab it and help improve the lot for many.

  7. I have a 3 year old autistic boy.....his excitement is far greater when he is around/meets/plays with puppets. He loves the Bear in the Big Blue House....I wish Bear could walk into our house!! Great work and keep up the puppeteering.

    Jane.....a Canadian fan

    1. Jane, since this blog I am going to be pursuing an online series that autistic kids and those with special needs could watch and benefit from. Just as gentle and sincere as Bear was. It will be a kickstarter/indigogo type project funded by folks (who still believe in puppets and quality kids TV)

  8. Hey Noel .. yes its been some time ..
    A very good piece here and it really hits the point for those that just expect it all to be grand. Yes we have passed through a golden era and maybe now back to normal but so many just expect it all to be GRAND. I remember when the art was doing well and then came the crash .. 'maybe never gonna be that good again' but hey deal with whats in front of you. Life is more than just a job.. build your skills and they are transportable. We all can re-invent ourselves. I think I love what I do now even more than the 'art' world.
    Say hi to Sue and Matty...