This is an important and incredibly RARE pair of Original Antique Vintage Bob Baker Disney Blackamoor Marionette Puppets (2), found in the crawl space of an old home in Los Angeles, California. The previous owner of the home was said to be involved with the world-famous Bob Baker Marionette Theatre, and based on the level of detail, construction, and artistry involved with these pieces, that is undoubtedly accurate. These marionettes are roughly 3 feet tall when standing, and depict traditional Blackamoors, with turbans, exotic Middle Eastern inspired costumes, and jewelry. The historical depiction of Blackamoors in decorative art is nearly always in a set of pairs, and so it is incredible to have two nearly identical pieces.These Marionettes have some condition issues, most noticeable is some scuffing and missing paint along the faces of them. There is also some loose, missing jewelry and some light soiling to the original costumes please see photos. These artworks approximately date to the 1960's and are likely some of Baker's earliest pieces still in existence today.
Baker was famously a puppeteer for Walt Disney and collaborated with Disney on several films. He was even standing shoulder to shoulder with Walt when the park opened, and his puppet displays are still prominently visible on Main Street. He is famously known for his rendering of Pinocchio, which is coveted by Disney collectors to this day.This is a rare opportunity to own a piece of Los Angeles history and artwork by a prominent and beloved Disney artisan. Please check out my other listings for more wonderful and unique artworks! Remembering Bob Baker and the history of the Marionette Theater in new'Enchanted Strings.
Author Randal Metz talks about Baker, the book and the history of puppetry in Los Angeles. Not long after he's started working at Bob Baker Marionette Theatre. In the mid-'80s, Randal J.
Literally dropping an assignment into his lap: The puppetry legend and Metz's boss wanted his new employee to string a Burmese puppet of a horse and rider. Oh, and there was more. "He said,'It has to be strung authentically, you have to use the proper materials, and I need it in two days,'" Metz says. So he left it on my lap. "It was my first job working in the theater, and it ended up being for the opening of Eddie Murphy's movie,'The Golden Child,'" Metz says of the puppet.
He tossed me in there. To help me get growing up as a puppeteer, but also to show his other puppeteers, who weren't all professionals, what you can do. I got done, and he said,'Great, this is exactly what I wanted. Metz says he hopes his new book, "Enchanted Strings: Bob Baker Marionette Theater, " which arrives in stores Feb.8 and features a foreword by filmmaker Jordan Peele, might have the same effect on readers that Baker had on aspiring puppeteers: To inspire, inform, and ultimately, like the man and the theater at the heart of the story, entertain. "Everything comes full circle, " says Metz, 62, who fell in love with puppetry when as a 10-year-old boy he saw a production of "Treasure Island" at the Storybook Puppet Theater at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. "What we forget about, we're going to remember, and it's going to influence us later on, " he says. So I'm very glad the book is out there. Metz had seen Baker at puppetry conventions as far back as 1970, and then later on he'd watch Baker's occasional visits to Children's Fairyland, where Metz had talked its longtime director Lewis Mahlmann into letting him work while still a schoolboy.
But around the time Metz graduated from San Francisco State University in the early'80s, he got to know Baker when both ended up doing puppet shows at the Humboldt County Fair one summer. At the end of the fair, Baker offered Metz a job. He worked for Baker for four years in the late'80s, while keeping his job at Children's Fairyland, where he's been director of Storybook Puppet Theater since 1991. But the Bob Baker Marionette Theater continues. A few years ago as plans for a book began to develop, Metz was contacted as a possibility to write the history of the theater, which opened in 1963."They started thinking about a book, and they started looking at what I had done, " says Metz, whose previous books include A Century of California Puppetry: How the West was Strung. Alex Evans, executive director and head puppeteer at the Bob Baker theater, approached Metz to write the book with the idea that in addition to Baker's life, it should tell the story of the theater and many of the unsung puppeteers and artists who'd worked with Baker. They asked me,'Can you recreate in the book, telling the history of the theater as though you're with Bob, in the early morning hours, listening to him? So we tried really hard to do that. "Enchanted Strings" turns back time to 1924, when Baker was born, and then follows him and the world of puppetry in Los Angeles to the present day.
Baker was 5 when he saw his first puppet show at a furniture and housewares store. Department stores in Los Angeles often hosted puppet shows for shoppers' children and decorated their window displays with puppets too.
When he was 8, Baker wrote Walt Disney to ask if he could "look around" his Hyperion Avenue studio. The book includes a sweet letter written by Disney's secretary in response, as well as an entire chapter of Baker's later work for Disney and Disneyland, which included animated Disney movie character puppets in window displays at the theme park and for many years a line of limited-editon Disney character puppets. By 10, he had taken over a garage at his family's Echo Park home and was producing his own puppet shows. Any time one of the big puppetry companies such as the Yale Puppeteers came through town, Baker was there.As an adolescent, he was helping backstage in local puppet theaters, including the Teatro Torito on Olvera Street. Scores of photographs, artist sketches, and other documents fill the pages of "Enchanted Strings, " many of them from the collection Baker gave the Los Angeles Public Library. Other material published in the book or used for research came from the theater's archives, which, required a lot of digging to make sense of, Metz says. Baker, Metz says, was very good at organizing his workspace, and much less so when it came to documentation. "One of the things he taught me was to be highly organized, " he says. I remember one of the first jobs I had there was redoing a costume on a puppet from the'30s. I said,'How are ever going to find this material? He goes,'Oh, no problem. He went to a cabinet, opened it up, and he had a whole bolt of the original fabric.
I looked around and noticed that all of the boxes were very finely labeled with what was in them. Paperwork, such as the press releases, show notes, design sketches, and other material, was a different story. "We were trying to write the definitive history of Bob's theater while trying to clean up the archives and understanding it for a brand-new group of puppeteers that never experienced Bob, " Metz says. "Enchanted Strings" also makes clear the influences that shaped Baker and his work, and the techniques he created that in turn influenced others."I really do believe Bob's theater is successful because it gives children their first look at a Broadway production, " Metz says of the shows Baker and his partner Alton Wood created, many of which are part of the company's repertory to this day. "You're actually giving kids their first pizzazz, their first Las Vegas revue-style show, you know, with the lights and the puppets that come up to them, the costumes, " he says. I think that's kind of a lost art form, so I'm glad the theater is successfully still here. Vaudeville puppeteers were an early influence, using marionettes, many of them with special effects built into them, but performing in the traditional style from behind the stage, Metz says.
In the'30s, Baker's mentors, Frank Paris and Bob Bromley, decided to step out from behind the scenes to accompany their puppets on stage. "But they performed only on stage, and they won't let anybody touch their puppets, or get close to them, " Metz says. Bob said,'Let's do the same thing, but let's do it on floor level with kids sitting all around us and the families in the chairs. "'Furthermore, we're going to let the kids touch the puppets,'" he says. Not very many puppeteers let the kids touch the puppets.
Bob's big thing was if you tell a child you can't touch the puppet it's almost like turning them off to what they might become. But let them touch it, it'll inspire them."So Bob actually brought the puppet theater into the audience, " Metz says. I think that's probably Bob's greatest thing, that the Bob Baker Marionette Theater is an interactive Broadway experience for kids. Puppetry is a much different field today than it was in Baker's heyday. Kids these days are focused on digital screens more than marionette strings, and stores long ago ended their puppetry shows. Hollywood, which once employed Baker to make puppets on everything from "Bewitched" and "Star Trek" to "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind, " uses computer effects today. But the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, despite some financial hard times. And a move from its original home near downtown Los Angeles to its current Highland Park location, is doing well these days, Metz says.
"Live puppet theater can be found at Bob's, can be found at Fairyland, and there's another puppet theater at Happy Hollow in San Jose which does a nice job, " he says. But not many permanent puppet theaters much anymore. "Most puppeteers are now are taking their shows to the libraries or to birthday parties, to make an income, " Metz says. The Bob Baker Marionette Theater, which still uses many puppets made decades ago by Baker and his team of artisans, has done an excellent job making connections with the community, which in turn continues to support its work."It's just amazing, " Metz says of the theater that is Baker's legacy. So kudos to Bob for leaving them with all of this stuff, but kudos to the talented theater people who are going to carry this legacy into the future. Bob Baker, legendary Los Angeles puppeteer, dies at 90. Bob Baker was a boy at heart until the end. There were few things the Angeleno loved as much as putting on shows with his hand-crafted puppets at Bob Baker Marionette Theater, the oldest and longest-running children's theater company in Los Angeles.
"It's really one of a kind, " said Gregory Williams, a puppeteer who worked alongside Baker at the Echo Park theater for more than 30 years. It's a very precious thing. Bob Baker's theater has always run on ticket sales and his love of puppets and puppetry.Baker, 90, died Friday of kidney failure at his Los Angeles home. On Friday, friends remembered Baker as "outgoing, " "a talker" and a man who never lost his zest for life whether it was poring over local history or throwing a party. "The theater also did a large birthday party business because Bob loved celebrating other people's birthdays, " Williams said.
Every employee, when it was your birthday, you would get cake and a party and presents. Recently, Baker's health declined and he was unable to manage the theater.
To keep Baker's spirits up, Williams began stopping by his bedside to read him Old Hollywood biographies. Williams is also working on a biography about Baker. Baker was 5 when his father took him to a puppet show at the Barker Brothers department store in downtown L. He honed his skills with a small theater behind the garage of his family's home.
And in his youth, he trained with several local companies and took top prize at the Orpheum Theatre talent contest in both 1939 and 1940. After graduating from Hollywood High School, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and worked on the camouflage of Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank.
A medical discharge led him to his first career in animation at the George Pal Studios, where he became a top animator of Puppetoons. Later he turned to manufacturing toy marionettes for which he created eye-grabbing window displays for the major L. Stores that carried his line. His most famous windows can still be seen on Main Street at Disneyland.
By 1947, Baker had already turned to the exciting new medium of television with KFI's Adventures of Bobo. He also served as an animation adviser to many film studios, which launched his long film career. Baker's puppetry was featured in several films, including Disney's "Bedknobs and Broomsticks, " "Close Encounters of The Third Kind" and the 1954 version of "A Star is Born" with Judy Garland, as well as many television shows and commercials. In fact, it was during a performance at the home of then-actor Ronald Reagan that Baker convinced Reagan, then president of the Screen Actors Guild, that puppets belonged in the performers union.In 1963, Baker and partner Alton Wood opened up the marionette theater that has survived and persisted. More recently it's become a popular destination for Atlas Obscura, a guidebook and tour company that has hosted tours and special events at the theater. "It's a place where kids and adults can be amazed and delighted and laugh together, " says Matt Blitz, who runs Atlas Obscura. His marionettes have the ability to bridge generations because laughter and delight have no age boundaries. I can only hope it survives. The theater was designated a historic cultural landmark by the Los Angeles City Council in 2009. That designation protects the building's facade as the city around it changes. But it doesn't protect what happens inside. "Bob had signed some papers and ended up having a mortgage company own both the theater and his family home, and I know at that point he was telling me he couldn't afford the mortgages because they went up astronomically, " Williams said, adding the lease is up in March and then goes month to month. This item is in the category "Collectibles\Disneyana\Vintage (Pre-1968)\Other Vintage Disneyana".
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