Frank Oz is the puppet performer and voice of several beloved characters from The Muppets and Sesame Street. Some of the Muppet characters he’s performed include Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Sam the Eagle. His popular Sesame Street characters include Bert, Cookie Monster, and Grover.
Frank is also an accomplished director. The first feature film he directed was Dark Crystal, which he co-directed with Jim Henson. He then went on to direct films like The Muppets Take Manhattan, Little Shop of Horrors, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, What About Bob, and Bowfinger. To many though, myself included, Frank is best known as the performer who brings Yoda to life in the Star Wars films.
Recently he directed a documentary about what it was like for him and his colleagues to work with Jim Henson on the Muppets. The documentary is called Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched and will be available online for viewing on the film’s site on March 16.
The Muppets and the Star Wars films have meant a lot to me throughout the years, so I was eager to do the interview, one I’ve been pursuing ever since I met Frank at SXSW 2017. The interview finally happened recently, but it didn’t go as expected.
Instead of editing out the complications, I decided to include them and offer some commentary about what happened. It felt like doing so could offer a more honest look at what a creative collaboration can involve.
In this episode we discuss
- What it was like collaborating with Jim Henson
- Whether there is a place for films to convey a moral outlook
- How Frank gained the confidence to do voices along with his puppetry
- How the character of Yoda developed and what if anything inspired the character
- What kind of influence a good creative leader can have on others
Want to hear another puppet-related episode? You might appreciate this interview with Clay Achee. His Dark Crystal fan film got featured on the Jim Henson YouTube page, which led to him getting an exclusive tour of The Jim Henson Company’s studio space. Show notes for that episode are over here.
Sponsor for this Episode
- Muppet Guys Talking, where the film will be available to screen on March 16
- Frank on IMDb
- Leonard Maltin’s SXSW 2017 interview with Frank Oz
- Rian Johnson on recreating Yoda for The Last Jedi
- My blog post about what happened on my 1st visit to SXSW in 2013
- My podcast about what happened on my 2nd visit to SXSW in 2017, which comes at the end of Part II of my SXSW podcast coverage
- Part I includes my interview with Leonard Maltin, and one of the things we discussed was his conversation with Frank.
Music for the show provided by Rob Costlow
Films & Shows Mentioned
- Boiler Room
- The Dark Crystal
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
- Empire Strikes Back
- Fraggle Rock
- In Their Own Words: Jim Henson
- Little Shop of Horrors
- Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched
- The Muppet Show
- The Muppets Take Manhattan
- The Producers
- Star Wars
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- What About Bob
- Walk With Me
- Jim Henson: The Biography
- The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery
- Sesame Street: A Celebration—40 Years of Life on the Street
- Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World
If You Liked the Show
- Say hello on Twitter: @nsavidesPRO
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