About this gig

  • We had a great time with Li’l Penny. We did over a dozen spots with this cable-run animatronic puppet. Li’l Penny got to be something of an icon for awhile (he even had his own fan club, and wrote a book), so in addition to the regular Nike spots, we did the pregame intro for the t.v. coverage of the NBA Championships, were on Oprah three times, and did some ESPN spots with the super tall Gheorghe Muresan.
  • The coolest spot we did was a Superbowl all-star extravaganza, with Tiger Woods, Stevie Wonder, George Gervin, and about 30 other amazing celebrities and sports legends. I have to say, though, that the best part of that was having Stevie Wonder check out Li’l Penny by putting his hands on our hands as we moved the controls, then run his fingers along the cables up to the puppet, which we moved so he could tell how it worked.
  • I did some of the sculpting for this spot, including, often, each new line of Air Penny sneakers, but mostly I was in charge of designing and making Li’l Penny’s extensive wardrobe, and painting his face and hands. So many people worked on the Li’l Penny spots over the years that I know I’ll forget someone if I start a list; suffice it to say that all of the M5 brightest and best did beautiful work on this project.
  • I was the head puppeteer, operating LP’s head, which both turned left and right and pivoted on a gimbel, and eyes, which both blinked and looked sided to side. I used to say running the two gimbels was like learning to drive a car with two stick shifts… but I got to the point where I could control his reactions and expression. Other puppeteers included Bob Cooper (mouth), Eric Jensen (arms), Jamie Hyneman (butt rod), Jonathan Searles (feet), and Mark Walas (hands). Other puppeteers helped out too once in awhile. We used to get free sneakers.
  • This was one of the best gigs I ever had. I was so sorry when Big Penny (Anfernee Hardaway, the good twin brother of the Penny duo) got injured. Not that I follow basketball, but that was the end of the Li’l Penny commercial streak.
  • Most of the LP spots can still be found on Youtube. Look them up!
  • Model shop: M5 Industries, Inc. Client: Weiden & Kennedy/Nike