Did you know that Jim Kroupa and John Orberg, while working at Kermit Loves Great Jones Studio, built three different Gary Gnus over The Great Space Coaster five season run, but only two were ever used on the show?
The producers original concept for Gary was for him to just sit behind his gnews desk and read the gnews in a Walter Cronkite type fashion. However this view of Gary would evolve over the first season until an insane outburst from frustrated puppeteer Jim Martin would define Gary’s personality into the one we all know and love today.
The original prototype gave Gary a much older and more distinguished look.
- His black hair with grey highlights.
- He has light blue eyelids
- He has a black mustache
- How small his mouth is
- The charcoal sports coat and light blue turtle neck
The second Gary was built when the producers decided that the original prototype wasn’t the look they wanted and ordered changes made. It is likely that the puppet was not rebuilt from scratch, but that pieces were removed, replaced or added. Although the over all look of Gary would remain, there are some noticeable differences.
- The black hair with grey highlights has been replaced with Gary’s trademark sandy blonde hair
- The black mustache was removed and Gary’s trademark sandy blonde goat-tee was added
- The eyelids were changed from a light blue to a dark green
- The mouth would remain the same
- The charcoal sports coat and light blue turtle neck were replaced with a maroon sports coat and purple turtle neck.
This version of Gary resembles the Gary we all know and love with the exception of the size of his mouth and would be used only in the first season.
The third version of Gary was built because of an insane outburst from a frustrated puppeteer.
- Gary’s trademark sandy blonde hair and goat-tee would remain
- This version the mouth would be made bigger to allow puppeteer Jim Martin to express all of Gary’s personality
- The maroon sports coat and purple turtle neck were replaced with Gary’s trademark Burgundy sports coat and pink turtle neck
Jim Martin tells the story of how Gary changed from a distinguished Gnu, into
the wild and crazy Gnu we all know and love today
“When I first performed Gary, I looked at him, and he seemed rather distinguished and had a rather small mouth, and the producers really just wanted him to sit behind the desk and read the gnews report. Based on that, I saw the character as having a Walter Cronkite demeanor and personality. This meant he was quite reserved and spoke without opening his mouth too far (because he physically could not open it too far!).
One particular shoot, they kept asking for Gary to be crazier and louder. Out of frustration, I channeled Howard Beale from the 1976 movie “Network”(played by Peter Finch and most famous for saying “So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'”) and just had Gary start ranting like crazy.
The Gnew Gary Gnu
Unfortunately when The Great Space Coaster ended, all the puppets were packed up and put into storage never to be seen again. A sad fact, puppeteers like Jim Martin who bring the characters to life, don’t own the characters and therefore don’t get to keep them at the end of a shows run.
When Tanslin Media acquired the rights to The Great Space Coaster all of the original puppets used on the show were no where to be found, sadly all that remains of the puppets are memories and pictures.
In early 2012 Tanslin Media aproached Jim Kroupa and John Orberg of 3 Design with the idea of rebuilding Gary. Both men had worked for Kermit Love’s Great Jones Studio when all of the original Great Space Coaster puppets were built. In May of 2012 puppeteer Jim Martin would pick up the new Gary Gnu and a few weeks later Gary would make his debut at Anthrocon 2012 in Pittsburgh.