Veteran puppeteer brings fantasy creature to life

Among the Henson Creature Shop gang behind Lady Gaga’s massive Fame Monster is a man well-familiar to movie buffs, even if they’ve never seen his face.

Tim Rose is a veteran puppeteer and mechanical character designer who donned a full-body suit to play Admiral Ackbar (“It’s a trap!”) in “Star Wars: Episode VI — The Return of the Jedi.”

Rose was already working with puppetry during his college years at SUNY Albany, and within a few years had a thriving trans-Atlantic career, eventually settling in England. He played the eponymous mallard in “Howard the Duck.” He also built the motion-control rig that let Tim Burton silhouette Batman’s “Bat-wing” against the moon in “Batman.”

“It was pre-computers, you know,” he says. “We had to do it for real.”

Rose describes the Fame Monster as “a cross between a deep-sea angler fish and an octopus.” The designers asked for eight tentacles, but Rose and the Henson people talked them down to six.

“It’s insane really,” says Rose. “You’re given four weeks to build this thing. The creature itself probably weighed in at two-thirds of a ton. That had to be counterbalanced so it would float in the air, so it had a ton and a half of stage weights behind it.

Rose notes the creature is the size of a truck, and potentially just as dangerous. “You’re flying by the seat of your pants but you have to be aware that it’s got to be right the first time,” Rose says. “In the age of (government safety regulators) I’m amazed we get to work at all.”

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