Frank Oz

Born Frank Oznowicz, in Hereford, England in 1944, young Frank Oz's parents were both puppeteers. They moved from England to Belgium, then Montana, before settling in Oakland, California. Oz began puppeteering at age 12. When he was 17 he met Jim Henson at a Puppeteers of America festival, and went to join him in New York the next year, after graduating from high school. His first on screen puppeteering came in 1963, when he was the right hand of Henson's Rowlf the Dog on "The Jimmy Dean Show" (ABC, 1963-1966). When "Sesame Street" (NET, 1969; PBS, 1970- ; HBO, 2016-) premiered, Oz became part of the fabric of children's lives around the country. He created and performed some of the best-loved characters on the show, including Bert, Grover, and Cookie Monster. The trend continued with "The Muppet Show" (ITV/ABC, 1976-1981), with Oz performing Miss Piggie, Fozzy Bear, Animal, and more. The shows was nominated for Emmys for Outstanding Comedy-Variety and/or Music Series three times and won the award in 1978. Oz created and performed the role of Yoda in "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), his first major success without Henson. His first directing credit came when he paired with Henson to direct the fantasy "The Dark Crystal" (1982). Oz managed to completely escape Henson's muppet empire when he directed "Little Shop of Horrors" (1986). The success of that film helped propel a directing career that included "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (1988), "Bowfinger" (1999), and "The Stepford Wives" (2004) among others. Oz continued to lend his voice to the occasional animated film, like "Inside Out" (2015) while still voicing characters on "Sesame Street," "The Muppets," and Yoda in the evolving "Star Wars" universe.