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Donald Austen is an English puppeteer who worked on Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
He began his puppeteering at Cannon Hill Children's theatre in Birmingham in 1981. He then began working for the Jim Henson Creature Shop in 1986 on movies like Labyrinth and the Little Shop of Horrors. He was a valuable puppeteer for other blockbuster movies including Santa Claus: The Movie (1985), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), The Bear (L'ours) (1988), and The Witches (1990)
Austen's British TV puppeteering debut was on the irreverent cult ITV series Spitting Image. (1989)
He would enjoy two Muppet movies: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) performing inside both the Ghost of Christmas Present (dancing with Michael Caine) and The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Four years later it was The Muppet Treasure Island (1996) appearing briefly as Pirate Crew & Cannibals due to TV commitments.
Austen voiced and puppeteered Sky One's DJ Kat for 2000-plus award-winning DJ Kat Shows (1989-95) and 200 Breakfast Shows as Earl E Bird on Channel 4's Early Bird (1991) EB's skiing and ballooning in Colorado a spectacular series finale.
It was on the weekly live ITV Saturday morning show What's Up Doc? (1992-94) that Austen teamed up with Puppeteer John Eccleston to create a winning partnership writing and performing a run of British TV puppet favorites. Firstly, The Wolves, a.k.a. Bro & Bro, who within weeks earn their own spin-off comedy drama series Wolf It! (1993-96) Written by Austen and Eccleston, it ran for five series.
Austen and Eccleston switch channels to BBC1's live Saturday morning 3hr flagship Live and Kicking (1995-2000) offering cantankerous Leprechauns Sage & Onion - built by Darryl Worbey Studios. As Mr. Sage, sporting the rather dodgy hairpiece, Austen wrote and puppeteered comedy sketches year round for five years. Outliving three sets of in vision presenters he became the longest surviving presenter (Eccleston taking time out to perform Rygel in the sci-fi series Farscape)
To cover Eccleston's brief sojourn an overbearing long lost sister was introduced. 'Shamrock' was performed by puppeteer Rebecca Nagan. This series, hosted by Zoe Ball and Jamie Theakston, received a BAFTA in 1999. The Leps, as they were affectionately known, guest-starred on a wide range of British TV Shows, including; The French & Saunders Christmas Special; The Making Of Titanic (1998), Jim Davidson's Generation Game[ (1998), The National Lottery (1998), and GMTV for St. Patrick's Day Celebrations (1998 & 99)
During 1999, Austen was hand-picked by master puppeteer Frank Oz to help him portray Yoda in Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace. For this complex puppet, Oz would need three helpers, including Austen, David Greenaway and Kathy Smee.
Next a return to the Henson fold and all 250 episodes of BAFTA winning TV series The Hoobs (2000-02) Here he voiced and puppeteered the excitable, vulnerable, 'Iver.' The series was the largest ever pre-school commission by an independent. Canadian Gemini Award nominations for three consecutive years, "Best Performance In A Pre-School Series."
Austen's long association with live TV could be seen again year round in the Saturday morning ITV series, Ministry of Mayhem (2005) voicing and puppeteering Scratch - one half of riotous duo The Hyenas. Scratch & Sniff were the third Austen-Eccleston collaboration.
MOM changes its format and is renamed Holly & Stephen's Saturday Showdown (2006) retaining presenters Holly Willoughby and Stephen Mulhern from the previous outing. It plays through to July with Scratch featuring large in the slimmed down line up. Austen was also called upon to write and voice the game commentary to 'Supermarket Sneak' and, further to his portrayal of Ozzy Osborne on MOM, gave us Igor - the larger than life dancing Russian Cossack both in vision!
Austen has notched up 5 series as voice and puppeteer on the BBC's Basil Brush Show playing evil Cousin Mortimer and naughty Nephews Bingo and Bungo. The show was nominated for a BAFTA in 2006. Basil & Bingo performed at Buckingham Palace for Children's Party At The Palace (2006)
Austen puppeteers 'Wooly The Sheep' in the Woolworths TV/radio commercials (2003-06) with Eccleston as side kick 'Worth The Dog.' The nationwide ad campaigns shot in London and Prague.
The Hyenas record 15 gameshows for Granada Kids – CITV (2006) Scratch & Sniff's Den Of Doom.
Austen and Eccleston work on pilot for MTV. (2006)