Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Michael McCormick * Puppeteer Known for Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Return of the Jedi

We recently sat down with Master Puppeteer Michael McCormick to learn more about his work on Jim Henson’s films and more.

Michael McCormick has broad experience with design and fabrication in FX makeup, creatures, puppets and special props. Since 1960, he has been a professional sculptor and puppeteer and a member of both SAG and IATSE.

McCormick was performing his Punch and Judy puppet show on the Santa Fe Plaza in 1980 when Roger Miller (country music legend) stopped to chat. “He told me, ‘You ever shown your stuff to Jim Henson?’ ” McCormick said. “I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘You want to?’ The New Mexico native packed his puppets and flew to London. “Jim Henson hired me, because I loved my own work,” he said. Henson hired him to work on a new project called The Dark Crystal. Though it wasn’t a huge hit at the time, it has become one of the biggest hits of children’s cinema from the 1980s. McCormick was the head of the unit that created the puppets that were the bad guys, the evil Skeksis. From there, he went on to work on classics such as Labyrinth, created puppets for Return of the Jed and did special effects for other TV shows and movies. “But it was “Return of the Jedi” that stands out, he said. He created Salacious Crumb, Jabba The Hutt’s jester, for the film.

Though he retired in Ireland – or tried to – he returned to the States, taught at New Mexico State University and gives an occasional lecture. McCormick has always been a studio artist and shows his work in the United States and Europe. McCormick credits his parents for his love of the absurd and puppetry. His father came to Los Alamos in the 1940s to work on the Manhattan Project, and he encouraged McCormick to experiment and build things.

Interview by Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic


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