Citing the U.S. dollar’s poor exchange rate and the flagging U.K. production environment, The Jim Henson Co. is effectively closing the London location of its visual effects and animatronics division known as Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. The facility’s 20 permanent staff members have been let go and freelance crews will be hired on a project-by-project basis for productions based in London.
The Jim Henson Co. says its own television and film projects will not be affected by the shutdown and the Creature Shop will continue to service third party clients out of its Los Angeles and New York locations.
Company president and COO Peter Schube comments, "Jim Henson’s Creature Shop in London was founded on the highest standards of innovation and creativity, launching our worldwide facilities with those principles in mind. We are grateful to the U.K. film industry for its important place in our company’s history and we are confident that it will remain a significant production center for us."
The Creature Shop most recently created visual effects for the holiday comedy Are We There Yet? and Capitol Films’ kid-lit based feature Five Children and It, as well as the critically acclaimed television miniseries Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. Previous credits include Disney’s Around the World in 80 Days and 101 Dalmatians; Universal’s Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pact des Loups) and Babe; Miramax’s The English Patient; New Line Cinema’s Lost in Space; and Warner Bros.’ Cats and Dogs.
The Creature Shop received a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award for the Henson Performance Control System, a custom-based interface for puppeteers, and won a second Academy Award for its visual effects work on Babe. The Shop has also received awards for developing the Henson Digital Performance System (HDPS), a patented control technology that enables puppeteers to animate computer-generated characters in real time. The technology was recently employed in the production of Frances, a preschool project produced in partnership with HIT Ent. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop can be found online at www.creatureshop.com.