January 17, 2021

Ep #39 Dinosaurs Month - Week Two

Jane Gootnick

With college degrees in both acting and set design Jane first moved to Europe working in Belgium and London. In the mid-70’s she moved to NYC working with alternative theatre groups (LaMama, Joe Papp’s Public Theatre). Jane became head sculptor at Brooks Van Horn Costume Co. making props, masks and creatures for a large variety of venues: Broadway shows (Sweeney Todd, Dracula, Peter Pan), feature films (The Wiz, Hair), Warner Bros walkarounds, commercials, Ringling Bros Circus, and the first four seasons of Saturday Night Live.

In 1978, the costume designer for SNL mentioned that the Jim Henson Company was looking for sculptors for a film called The Dark Crystal and suggested she interview. Jane was offered three weeks work to build a prototype support harness for the Skeksis they were developing. So, she left her three-year full-time job for three weeks of work at Henson’s and stayed 40 years!

Jane has worked in both the New York puppet shop and the London Creature Shop throughout the years. Designing/building puppets and creatures, supervising builds, and running workshops on location for Muppet/Henson films and TV series, (Dark Crystal, Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth, The Storyteller, The Witches, Ninja Turtles, Dinosaurs, Muppets Tonight, The Muppets, etc.). She has also worked on a variety of talk shows, game shows, and awards shows (Oscars, Grammys, Hollywood Bowl and many more).

Jane is an art director for print and media photoshoots, film posters and endless fashion shoots with Miss Piggy with Louis Vuitton, Prada and other diva designers.

Steve Whitmire

Jim Henson invited Steve Whitmire to join his team in 1978 during the height of the popularity of The Muppet Show, and Whitmire had a hand in virtually every Muppet project for nearly four decades.

He originated such characters as Rizzo the Rat, Lips the Trumpet Man, Miss Piggy’s dog Foo-Foo, and Bean Bunny, and also sustained Richard Hunt’s characters, the hapless lab assistant Beaker and codger Statler after Hunt’s death in 1992.

Upon Henson’s death in 1990, Whitmire accepted the duty for the continuation of several of Jim’s characters and is best known for his 24-years as Ernie and his 27-years as Kermit the Frog.

Projects include Sesame Street and non-Muppet films such as The Dark Crystal, The Witches, Dreamchild and Labyrinth, as well as the popular sitcom Dinosaurs and the classic 1980’s television series Fraggle Rock in which Whitmire originated Wembley Fraggle and Sprocket the Dog.

After 19 films, 8 television series, numerous specials, multiple sound recordings, and volumes of unique live appearances, Whitmire carries forth the essential principles of the lineage as the foundation for a progressive approach to the art of puppetry in today’s world and looks forward to sharing that spirit in his future endeavors.


Leif Tilden

Leif Tilden watched his mother drink herself into a deep depression while living with her in Berkeley California during the late 60’s free love movement.   After her suicide he moved to Boston Massachusetts where he grew up in a segregated environment where the Irish, Italian and black neighborhoods beat each other up daily.

Eventually he would find himself studying experimental theatre in New York City where he discovered his vulnerability through movement and the incredible falafel sandwich.

Soon after that, which to him seems like a dream, he found himself inside the soul of a Teenage mutant ninja turtle.  Life was good.

Soon after that he drove across country for a minimum wage job on a tv show entitled, Dinosaurs for Disney.  Life was not good and Leif will explain the details as to why on the show.

Day Murch

Day worked in the theatre for many years, as a performer in Liquid Theatre, with Stomu Yamashtas Red Buddha Theatre, and the Young Vic, with appearances in provincial rep and the West End, gradually commuting a hobby of designing and making clothes into a career. An early introduction on Time Bandits to the Monty Python team led to a specialist interest in the care and presentation of difficult costumes, with work on The Meaning Of Life, Greystoke, Legend and Fifth Element and several projects for Jim Hensons London Creature Shop. This led in time to making this type of costume and he headed the Fabrication Unit for Nick Dudmans Department of Magical Creatures for the initial Harry Potter Movies, building Hagrid and other fantasticals. In children’s television he helped create characters for In The Night Garden , BoohBahs and Zingzillas. He enjoyed a longterm association with the Batman franchise as Batsuit Wrangler with all the Caped Crusaders except Adam West! Now happily retired with his life partner in Wales, he doesn’t miss show business.

Bruce Lanoil

Bruce ”B” Lanoil, spawned in Brooklyn N.Y., raised on steady diet of Saturday morning Cartoons, Sugary cereals, Mad Magazines, Jerry Lewis and Classic Star Trek, is today, a proud and grateful 30 year veteran Muppeteer,.. Oh, the beaten path was never in the mix!

As a Theater major at Cal State Northridge, a vaudevillian improvisational clown at heart, fate truly lent a “hand” when Master Puppeteer Tony Urbano chose Bruce from hundreds, for Sid and Marty Krofft’s exclusive 1980 workshop. Many Commercials and videos followed, furthering his performance skills with Master teachers, Paul Sills, Avery Schreiber, (Spollin Theater Games), and Harvey Kalmanson (V.O.).

Destiny and Jim Henson came knocking when Brian Henson cast Bruce as “Charlene Sinclair”, in TV’s DINOSAURS for five glorious seasons on ABC/Disney (1990-93). Animatronics and Facial Puppeteering was a specialty as Bruce traveled the world complements of the incomparable Jim Henson Creature Shop, both in Films, Dr. Doolittle (1998), Adventures of Pinocchio (1996), Jack Frost (1998), Cats and Dogs 1 & 2, (2001 2010) and Television, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss as The Cat in the Hat, Nickelodeon Season one (1996). Bruce helped pioneer Real-time CG animation with Henson’s HDPS-Digital Puppetry System, Are We There Yet (2005), Francis (2008), Sid the Science Kid Movie (2012) and partnered with Dave Barclay Studios Where the Wild Thing Are (2009), and Ice King (2017).

Muppet madness included MuppetVision 3D (1991),The Muppets Live at the Hollywood Bowl (2016),The O2 (2018), recent FEATURE FILM/TV reboots, The Muppets (2011) and Muppets Most Wanted (2014), and Muppets Tonight (1996), Muppets (2017). Live-action Reference Puppetry, Mon- keyBone (2001) Henry Selick Dir.,and Looney Tunes-Back in Action (2003) Joe Dante Dir., and nu- merous V.O. gigs, including voicing Lion King’s TIMON (SAFTY SMART! video series) for Disney.

Bruce is extremely grateful for lifetime of collaborative joy and laughter, and believes, that Everyone deserves to give themselves the Inner Permission to pursue their truth and passion freely, with an open heart. As a Teaching Artist, his quest is to release fear and doubt, allowing each learner and Artist the opportunity to connect, to share, to Soar! We stand upon the shoulders of all creative souls before us, that enables every single voice to tell Their story, their version, of life’s unpredictable magnificent journey, while illuminating all our lives with the Magical Gift of Play 🙂

Michelan Sisti

Michelan began his performing journey as a musician, then an actor with multiple Broadway roles, which directly led to him becoming a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in the original live action movies (Michelangelo).  Being Mikey, evolved into our ultimate animatronics show, “Dinosaurs”.  The coolest suit show EVER!  Since then, Mich has enjoyed 26 more years of Muppets and other neat things with puppets and motion capture.  He has loved every minute of the trip.

Jill Thraves

After growing up in the countryside of Yorkshire and Derbyshire I moved to London to attend University. Got my degree in French and went straight into making clothes and cotumes for dancers, musicians, strippers, and royalty. Bill Wyman, David Bowie, Freddy Mercury, Jimmy Page, Princess Margaret, were some of the people I dressed. Through friends I started working in films and tv., Time Bandits, The Meaning of Life and Labyrinth were early jobs. Labyrinth led to Mother Goose Stories and an Emmy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and then Dinosaurs! So after 20 years I in London I came to Los Angeles.
Since then I have worked on a lot of Superhero films, from Batman to Avengers and Guardians. I seem to have made a lot of capes! Batman to Thor and many in between.

Kevin Clash

Kevin Clash is best known for Elmo (Sesame Street) 1979-2012. He also was part of Labyrinth (1986), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1 (1990) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 (1991), Happy Time Murders (SFX) 2018, and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (Netflix) 2019. In addition to Elmo, Clash is also known for performing Splinter (TMNT) Baby Sinclair (Dinosaurs), and Clifford (Muppets Tonight).

Kevin Clash has won 29 daytime Emmys, over one hundred fifty -six performing title credits, thirty- one producing title credits and twenty- seven directing title credits. In 2011, his documentary, Being Elmo, was awarded the Special Jury Prize at Sundance. He has appeared in numerous television specials, commercials, feature films and direct-to-video products.

During his career, he has worked with great innovators who founded the classic puppet television industry including Kermit Love, Frank Oz, and Jim Henson.

Clash has recruited, auditioned, and trained puppeteers from all over the world. He was the senior puppet coordinator, and was also a director, co-producer and senior creative adviser on Sesame Street.  Kevin was essential to the success of Elmo’s World and the creative branding powerhouse of Elmo. Business Insider states that in 1996 the toy company Tyco saw their sales grow from $70 million to an astounding $350 million thanks to the Tickle Me Elmo Doll.

Clash’s most recent project, Earth to Ned, will be airing on Disney+ this Fall and he currently has several projects in development. 

Terri Hardin

Terri has been performing and creative all her life.  She started earning a living doing art and acting at age 8. 

Known as Walt Disney’s Legendary Imagineer, she has designed and created attractions for Disney Theme Parks all over the world and is best known for creating the Dragon’s Lair in Paris Disneyland where you can see a 35’ dragon come to life before your very eyes.

She is also an accomplished actress, Puppeteer and Voice Talent. Her work can be seen in over 45 different films and television including GHOSTBUSTERS, MEN IN BLACK I & II, THE COUNTRY BEARS and CAPTAIN EO w/ Michael Jackson, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola.

She became a MUPPETEER with the Jim Henson Company in 1989 after meeting Jim in New York.  Terri Hardin has worked on MUPPET 3D THEATRE, MUPPET MINI CLASSICS and DINOSAURS where she played BABY SINCLAIR’S arms.

Other projects include the FOSTER FARMS CHICKENS where she designed the Original concept and has played the PASSENGER CHICKEN since 1993.

Her career has given her many opportunities to work with a multitude of celebrities like Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Whoopie Goldberg and Guillermo Del Toro.

A fully TRADEMARKED artist and sculptor Terri’s work can be seen Internationally. Fine collectables, commissions and prototypes of all kinds she creates for clients DISNEY, MATTEL, G DEL TORO and MORE.

She has even had her sculpture featured in LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.










John Kennedy

John E. Kennedy is a lifelong puppeteer who began performing at age three and met and worked with Jim Henson at the age of 22.  He has been a member of Sesame Street since 1994, and currently performs The Amazing Mumford, a character originated by Jerry Nelson. John has also been a Muppet™ performer on projects such as Muppets From SpaceThe Muppets Wizard of OzThe Muppets Take the Bowl, and The Muppets Take the O2. He has authored two puppet-making books (Puppet Mania and Puppet Planet)and has been a puppet captain, a choreographer, and a musician.  

As a puppet builder, Kennedy has represented Jim Henson’s exhibits around the world with his puppet kits; he has also instructed young puppeteers on cruises, camps, and festivals.  He lives in Ocoee, Florida with his wife, Julie, and creates custom puppet characters for theme parks and performs music with his band, Johnny K Band

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