It’s no surprise that the number of influential people from the early days of Jim Henson’s career is getting smaller and smaller. There are fewer puppeteers, puppet builders, writers, and others than we’d hoped, and we’re extremely saddened to learn that we’ve lost one more. Caroly Wilcox, who had a hand in many different aspects of the Muppet world, has passed away.
Primarily known for her puppet designing and building talents, Caroly Wilcox was mainly responsible for designing and building puppets and costumes for Sesame Street from 1969 until her retirement. Among her many accomplishments, she designed a small red monster, who would eventually go on to become Elmo. She designed an early version of a young Snuffleupagus (who walked on two legs!), and she built many familiar characters such as the Two-Headed Monster, the Yip-Yip Martians, and various monsters, horses, cows, and camels.
In addition to her Sesame Street work, Wilcox served as a key designer and builder on The Muppet Show, building characters such as Mildred Huxtetter, Sopwith the Camel, Doglion, and Betsy Bird. She developed a new kind of fabric that could be used well underwater for Miss Piggy’s big scene in The Great Muppet Caper, as well as the coordination for the parachute finale. Very often, her job entailed converting Jim Henson’s sketches and ideas into practical puppets, which must have been an incredible honor.
Beyond Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, she built dozens of other memorable characters. In Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas: Will Possum and Harvey Beaver. She build Scred for Saturday Night Live‘s Land of Gorch, Miss Finch for Follow That Bird, and Gobo Fraggle (with Tim Miller) for Fraggle Rock.
Those character lists barely scratch the surface of the amount of work she provided for the Henson Workshop. But that’s not all she did. Caroly also had a passion for performing. She was one of the earliest puppeteers on Sesame Street, occasionally appearing as background monsters and assisting Jim Henson with Ernie. She also performed in The Great Santa Claus Switch, Julie on Sesame Street, and The Muppet Show pilot “Sex and Violence”.
Even beyond her many duties in the Workshop, Wilcox trained and mentored a long, long list of employees in the Muppet world.
The training Wilcox provided for a very long list of people Henson employees was a huge part of her contribution to the even wider world of puppetry. She was an innovative designer, an expert builder, a skilled puppeteer and an inspiring mentor. It’s apparent that the Muppet world wouldn’t be what it is today without the influence and talent of Caroly Wilcox.
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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com