September 24: Happy Birthday Brad Bird and Jim Henson
Brad Bird celebrates his 59th birthday today. He worked briefly as an animator for Disney in the 1980s, and later was a creative consultant on The Simpsons. In the late 1990s, he wrote and directed his first animated feature, The Iron Giant, which wasa box office failure in the US but a critical success, enough of one that Pixar was willing to produce Bird’s second feature, an animated film about a family of superheroes—in which Bird also had a voice cameo:
Bird won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature for The Incredibles, and then won the honor a second time for 2008’s Ratatouille. His first live-action directing job was on Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, one of the most successful in the franchise, and his second was Tomorrowland. He is currently working on The Incredibles 2.
Jim Henson (1936-1990) first started working with puppets for a show he did for WRC-TV in Washington, DC. He went on to involvement with Sesame Street and a series of sketches for Saturday Night Live, before he got funding from British producer Lew Grade for a television series—which, of course, was The Muppet Show. In addition to begin the creative force behind the Muppets as a whole, Henson created, performed and voiced many of the characters, including Ernie , Rowlf the Dog, Waldorf, Swedish Chef, but most of all a lovable little green amphibian:
In the 1980s, Henson (with some help from Kermit) made two additional Muppets feature films, produced the new series Fraggle Rock, and also made the non-Muppets features The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. In late 1989 he began negotiations to sell his company, and the Muppets, to Disney, but his unexpected death in 1990 of a severe strain of pneumonia delayed that acquisition.
It is probably just an amazing coincidence that Steve Whitmire, who is 57 today, shared a birthday with Jim Henson. Whitmire began working on The Muppet Show and other Henson productions in 1978. In the 1980s, he performed characters including Rizzo the Rat, Miss Piggy’s dog Foo-Foo, and a number of Fraggle Rock characters. When Henson died in 1990, his son Brian Henson asked Whitmire to take over the roles of Kermit and Ernie; he eventually added Statler to his repertoire as well.
Nia Vardalos turns 54 today. She had a moment in the sun when she adapted a one-woman play she had written into the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the surprise hit of 2002, which brought Vardalos Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, but not lasting stardom. David Anspaugh, who is 70 today, seems to be Hollywood’s go-to man for directing inspirational, feel-good sports movies—his directing credits include Hoosiers, Rudy and The Game of Their Lives. It’s worth noting, given the recent Molly Ringwald coverage here, that he also directed Fresh Horses. B-movie horror director Bert I. Gordon, the creator of films such as The Amazing Colossal Man, Village of the Giants, and Empire of the Ants, turns 94 today.
Kevin Sorbo, who turns 58, was the star of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Jessica Lucas celebrates her 31st today; she is something a scream queen, having starred in Cloverfield and Evil Dead. Ben Platt turns 22; he played Benji in the Pitch Perfect movies and will appear on Broadway as the title character in the new musical Dear Evan Hansen. Spanish actress Goya Toledo, who turns 47, appeared in the Oscar-nominated Amores Perros and is, appropriately, a 3-time Goya award nominee. Gordon Clapp, who is 68 today, was an Emmy winner as Det. Greg Medavoy on NYPD Blue.
In sports, football great Charles Edward Greene, better known as Mean Joe Greene, turns 70. He was one of the stars of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ legendary “Steel Curtain” defense of the 1970s, which brought them four Super Bowl championships. He also starred in a legendary Coca-Cola ad:
Phil Hartman (1948-1998) got his start with The Groundlings in the late 1970s, where met Paul Reubens and helped the latter develop his Pee-wee Herman character and subsequent film and TV show. Hartman moved on to Saturday Night Live, winning an Emmy during his eight years on SNL. He was a voice actor on The Simpsons, and appeared in a variety of film and TV roles. And then came the tragic morning when his wife Brynn shot him in the head, before committing suicide.
Fats Navarro (1923-1950) was a very talented jazz trumpeter, who played at times with Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, before dying young. Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893-1929) was one of the pioneering blues singers of the early 20th century. Voice actor Billy Bletcher (1894-1979) worked at Disney, where he voiced Mickey Mouse’s rival Pete and the Big Bad Wolf, and at Warner Brothers, where he was Papa Bear in Chuck Jones’ Three Bears cartoons. Audra Lindley (1918-1997) was most famous for her role as Helen Roper, the landlady on Three’s Company. Jim McKay (1921-2008) was a longtime sports broadcaster for ABC, who received two Emmys for his central role in covering the hostage crisis at the 1972 Munich Olympics. English singer-songwriter Anthony Newley (1931-1999) was Oscar-nominated for the score of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Howard Hughes (1905-1976) was a pioneer in both the film and aviation industries. As an independent producer he made early classics like Hell’s Angels and Scarface; later he purchased RKO Pictures and ran the studio for several years. In later life he was known for his extremely eccentric and reclusive behavior.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was one of America’s greatest writers, the author of classics like This Side of Paradise and The Great Gatsby (filmed several times, most recently Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 version). His unfinished fifth novel, The Last Tycoon, was about the film industry.
If today is your birthday, congratulations on sharing your big day with these notable names. Birthday wishes to everyone celebrating a big day today. Come back tomorrow for more celebrity birthdays.
Posted on September 24, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Brad Bird, David Anspaugh, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Goya Toledo, Howard Hughes, Jim Henson, Nia Vardalos, Phil Hartman, Steve Whitmire. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.