Creature Shop faces closure over taxes
is considering options for the London Creature Shop not the LA and
New York branches
of The London Times
uncertainties and the falling dollar are threatening the closure
of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, the fabled special effects
company that created characters for films including The Flintstones,
Babe the recent Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and episodes
of The Muppets.
Jim Henson Company, which owns Creature Shop, told The Times yesterday
that it was considering shutting the iconic studio because the falling
dollar and uncertainty over tax breaks for films shot in the UK
allowed rivals to undercut the company.
All staff at
the Creature Shop were told this week that they faced being made
redundant. The company has 23 permanent staff and dozens more freelance
much more about the tax incentives and lack thereof for doing work
in London, as well as the miserable dollar right now,” said
Peter Schuber, president of the Jim Henson Co. “Because of
those two external elements, which are out of our control, we are
going to look at a whole range of alternatives including possibly
shutting the Creature Shop.”
Mr Schuber said
that it was “premature to say everything is closing”
but admitted that “everything is under review”.
Shop, housed in unremarkable offices along London’s Regent’s
Canal, opened in London 26 years ago when Jim Henson arrived in
London to make The Dark Crystal, set in an all-puppet fantasy world.
characters for the film Labyrinth, starring David Bowie and Jennifer
Connelly, were made there. The shop has also made characters such
as the animatronic pig in Babe and Marvin the Paranoid Android in
Mr Schuber said
that regardless of the future of the Creature Shop the Henson Company,
which is based in Los Angeles, would continue to carry out work
in the UK. “But it is cheaper for others to do it elsewhere,
therefore they don’t come to the UK to get the kind of work
which the Creature Shop provides,” he said.
future of Britain’s entire film industry was triggered by
a revision of Section 48 tax benefits for films with budgets of
more than £15 million, which the Government found was being
abused by some producers.
has been worsened by the weakness of the dollar against the pound,
which has meant that American film producers are finding it as much
as 30 per cent more expensive to make movies at studios such as
Pinewood than it was 18 months ago.
expect a huge drop in film production because of the uncertainty.
Pinewood suffered a hit this year when Paramount indefinitely postponed
shooting its $120 million (£66 million) feature The Watchmen.
over whether the forthcoming Bond film, Casino Royale, and Harry
Potter and The Order of the Phoenix will be shot in the studios.
The producers of both are considering going to cheaper Eastern European
cities, such as Prague and Budapest.
The Film Council,
which represents the industry, is in talks with the Treasury to
work out a framework for tax relief. It is expected within weeks
to set down a timetable for rolling out a new tax regime that will
allow for a fresh round of investment from Hollywood studios.
Nelson tribute at The Moving Image Museum October 27
Henson's Pajanimals debuts on NBC Kids Saturday July 7
New York Pops play The Muppets at Carnegie Hall April 14
announces "Sid the Science Kid: The Movie" in 3-D
• The Jim Henson Company Puppets to perform at the 2011 Grammys
• "Pioneers of Television" special
to honor Jim Henson
• Classic "Henson's Place" special
arrives on DVD August 3
Oz unveils tribute to the "Henson Pipes" at NBC Studios