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Nov 28, 2014 4:59 PM

Bob Baker, legendary puppeteer, dead at 90

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) Bob Baker, the founder of one of America's oldest puppet theaters, died Friday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 90.

The cause of death was kidney failure, his biographer, Gregory Williams, said.

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater captivated children and adults with its ornate wooden puppets and props. The theater was a vestige of the days when marionettes were widely used on stage and television and playhouses dotted the streets of downtown Los Angeles.

"He really contributed to the continuation of puppetry as an art," Williams told The Associated Press on Friday. "With the digital age, it's going in a different direction. But people still come to it because it's an introduction to theater for young people. It's real-life 3D."

Baker discovered puppetry as a child and described being immediately transformed. "He couldn't talk about anything else when he came home to his mother and he knew what he wanted to do," Williams said.

At an early age, he began constructing his own puppets and performed. He worked in animation for Walt Disney and others before starting his own theater company with his partner, Alton Wood.

Baker's credits included orchestrating marionette work on more than 250 films, such as "GI Blues" and "Escape from Witch Mountain."

In an interview with The Associated Press in 1997, Baker said it was important to teach people to use their imagination and believe in fantasy.

He performed until he was 86 and began having physical difficulties.

Williams said Baker lost both his family home and his theater to a mortgage lending company and that there were ongoing issues to be settled with his estate. The company has a lease on the theater house until March, at which point it will be extended month to month.

"At this point we are continuing," Williams said.


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