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Puppet Makers Rise Up Against the Puppet Masters


Destroyer of Propaganda
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Oct 13, 2016
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Eugene, Oregon
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Puppet Makers Rise Up Against the Puppet Masters
As they push for unionization, craftspeople at the The Jim Henson Company say they are treated as an underclass, subject to abuse and unsafe conditions: "The job of the wrangler is eating sh** and taking blame."

On his first day on set in November 2019, a puppet wrangler on Disney+’s Earth to Ned — a talk show spoof starring an alien puppet and produced by The Jim Henson Company — was told by another, more senior wrangler not to address one of the show’s star puppeteers, Kevin Clash, directly.
“Amongst other puppeteers, he’s known to be very bubbly and kind,” he recalls being warned of Clash. “But when it came to wranglers, I was told he tends to be condescending and nasty.”

Puppet wrangling is an on-set position unique to Henson and Henson-adjacent companies like Sesame Workshop and the Muppets. It is a highly specific subspecialty that requires a varied set of skills, not the least of which is knowing how to build and repair puppets. There are only about 25 people in the world who work as full-time wranglers — and they are currently seeking union representation, something that has eluded them since the job first emerged with the rise of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show in the late 1970s.

This is a dark little pocket in the world that I didn't know about until today.
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