You too can have your say - at the bottom of this page is an e-mail address to write to.
Jim Boulden (director of Animal Makers, the original designers) actually gave the net community a brief run down of his side of the story very soon after the event with a post sent to USENET, which I have quoted below:
Don is right! AMI spent an exhausting week at NATPE (the big trade show where television shows sell to stations all over the world) in New Orleans, promoting "Sabrina the Teenage Witch". Salem was showing in fine form, and was the center of attention in Paramount's booth. Can you imagine talking to a cat who talks back in real time? Attendees were blown away! But There was an undercurrent of discontent between Salem's creators and the aging management at Viacom. The Salem budget was .00208% of the show's total budget and management wanted to trim it to less. Yes, that is less than 2/1000th's of the show's budget! AMI wanted .005% of the budget to cover special rigs, maintenance, and a small profit. The thought of one of their artists making a profit blew the lid on the whole deal. Oh well...we are glad to have served the show, regardless of this situation. We couldn't afford to serve it any longer.
Jim Boulden has since told me that he would like the above updated to:
AMI's budget had been cut each of the three seasons we participated on the show. We could no longer afford to serve the production.
In response to this, I received a message from Paula Hart (executive producer for STTW), giving her reason for firing Animal Makers:
How disappointed I am that you would allow the propaganda spread by a disgruntled employee to cloud your judgement and therefore, your web page. I hired and subsequently fired Jim Bouldon not due to money but lack of profesionalism regarding fellow actors and producers. We offered to purchase Salem from Bouldon and he refused. He tried to use Salem for his own gain and lost. Chiodo brothers have been around for a long time and have done a terific job. Bouldon was resistant to any comments or suggestions. The puppeteers didn't remain with Bouldon but have chosen to stay with the production. That has to say something for us.
In other e-mails, Jim explained:
I was called in for a meeting where they low balled me with an offer to buy my rigs, and then told to hit the street. They hired Kioto Brothers to make them two new rigs (very similar to mine in design).
Nick Bakay told me in a private message that he quite likes the new puppet:
Regarding the new cat, I know that Viacom, ABC, as well as our puppeteers seem very happy with it. I like it too. The fact is, the original "Salem" looked nothing like a cat, more like a badger, and was revised on one level or another at least four times before the change in companies. The current one is excellent, particularly when you consider it is a first draft.
Donald Lancon Jr said simply:
I just saw the new Salem. Ew. I don't like it.
Susan Bennett quickly noted Jim Boulden's misspelling of Chiodo Brothers (he spelt it "Kioto Brothers") and wrote:
It is interesting to me that Jim B. is apparently so unfamilar with the Chiodo Brothers. They are neither new nor small so it is surprizing that an alleged puppeteer in Los Angeles could be so clueless.
I have seen the new Salem in action (the Band Show) and I thought the puppet looked very good. Certainly, this version is cosmetically more cat-like and attractive than the one we enjoyed in episodes #1-#13!
And... I think the puppeteering just keeps getting better and better!
Lars Helstrom observed:
I hope the folks at Hartbreak/Finishing the Hat are satisfied with their new mechanical marvel... or perhaps we should say monstrosity. We can readily see the truth in the old adage "You get what you pay for!"
They must have chosen the cat budget as the one to reduce so that they would have more money to pay for special guest stars like the ones on tonight's episode.
Isengrim quoted many of the responses shown above and gave me inspiration for this site:
Then with such facts in mind one must go to:
To suggest to ABC what your views on Viaclowns actions to bring this so called mechanical cat on STTW are. I mean the present so called cat is too round - looks dull and dumb - can't even move its lip in relation to what is being said. And detracts interest from the show!! So bring back Animal Makers should be the cry!!! I don't see how such can or will help the ratings - und therefore the money from advertizers!
PS - Yes this calls for a new web page of protest!!!
He also spoke of the "
shocking behavior shown by this preposterous imposter".
Lance Nelson wanted to add:
I whole-heartedly like the old Salem. He had more facial expressions, and more "personalitty" The new one looks as if his fur is extra greasy and he by no means is an improvement on the old version.
D.K. Russo disagrees:
Well, I think the new puppet is more 'realistic' and Salem seems to be more animated (no pun intended)! Fits Nick's personality as the character better!
Let's face it, sometimes during this season's early shows, the puppet looked bad-looking. Over the episodes since the 'new' Salem, it looks better - real!
But one must remember what Joseph Manfredi, Tom Heald, Red Froggy, Shawn McKnight and Anne Andert informed us:
Jospeh: The original Salem is a TRIP to watch!
Tom: I miss the realism of the old puppet.
Red: Personally, I think the new puppet looks kind of fat! To make Salem more realistic, they should have stuck with the old one.
Shawn: The new Salem looks like a fake stuffed animal of some cat-like shape. It sucks!
Anne: I like the original. The new one makes his neck look fat!
Beverly K said:
I prefer the new Salem for pretty much one reason: he has a much bigger role in seasons 2 and 3 than he did in the first season! I actually don't care what he looks like - it's his personality that makes my day! Long live Salem!!
Maarse quickly pointed out that:
Personnaly I think the original cat the best but shame on those who say that the new salem looks fat because I don't know what dream would they live in, but not everyone in the world in thin I mean haven't they ever seen a fat cat before and besides by the way salem eats on the show it's no wonder he's looking a bit chubby! (tee-hee-hee) :)
George Keeney replied:
I can not understand how anyone could not see the new Salem as a marked improvement. The old Salem was great but at no time was it possible to not think "mechanical cat" when watching him. The new Salem, while far from perfect, is so much better. He fairly exudes catness. Since the debut of the new Salem, the show also seems to give him more "talktime". Anything that does that is great by me.
Chad Chittick explained:
I like the original Salem the cat.
He's badly done but that is the funny thing about it. If it looked better or more slick it wouldn't have the kamp value that I enjoy the show for.
Finally, Wvframeguy came to the rescue of the Chiodo Cat:
Greetings Salem fans!
I like the new Salem! Much more cat like and a much better face match to the live cat on the show. I have just watched my taping of his first performance, and I was quite impressed. I look forward to seeing more of him and watching the evolution of this new and improved Salem. So lets all keep an open mind and not shun something just because it is "new".
Lets just enjoy our Salem!
To join the debate, simply e-mail one of these three addresses:
IF YOU LIKE THE ORIGINAL, E-MAIL:
IF YOU LIKE THE NEW ONE, E-MAIL:
IF YOU LIKE THE REAL CATS, E-MAIL:
Don't forget to include your name, e-mail address, and any comments you want added to the mail page.
If you want to congratulate the producers, give suggestions, or complain about anything Sabrina The Teenage Witch, the addresses to write to are:Sabrina, The Teenage Witch
Alternatively, you could visit ABC's Viewer's Voice page, and give them your opinion!