If you were a kid in the late 80s and were tuning into Nick Jr to watch the live action puppet series Eureeka’s Castle you’re in luck! This was a very influential movement for Nickelodeon as it was the very first Nick Jr show to be aimed at small children aged 3-6. Nick Jr is still riding high today and is still invested teaching educational values among young children. Noel MacNeal, who famously voiced and managed the puppets of Magellan and Webster, had a certainly good time on the show and had lots of fun times at Nickelodeon Studios. You can read our excerpt of our interview below. Thanks to Noel for his participation and please see his website to find out additional info on him! http://noelmacneal.com/
- How did you become involved with Eureeka’s Castle?
Nickelodeon approached the puppet company, 3 Design Studio (Jim Kroupa, John Orberg, & Matt Stoddart), to create the characters, back in 1988. During the late summer/early fall of that year, I was working with 3 Design on the motion picture LITTLE MONSTERS (starring Fred Savage and Howie Mandel). They told me about the show and the pilot to be shot that January, and would I want to be the dragon character. I said, “sure.”
- What was your first impression of the Nickelodeon Studios when you got there?
I thought they were wonderful. They were set up to be working sound stages for TV, movies, commercials; anything that Hollywood could do.
- What was a typical day like being there?
We would get the scripts in advance so we knew what was being shot that day and who was needed. We’d shoot from 9:00am til 1:00pm, break for lunch, and then come back and work til 6:00pm.
- Were there any differences between shooting in NYC versus Orlando?
Well, I live in NY so it was just a matter of going home, usually bus or subway. But in Orlando, you need a car. That expense plus individual housing was factored into the budget. We stayed in these furnished apartments that reeked of The Golden Girls interior design; rattan and wicker and pastel colors.
- Do you remember other shows taping there at the same time you were?
At the time we were the only one (that I remember).
- Do you still own the Magellan puppet?
I never owned Magellan (or my other character, Webbster, Batly’s pet spider). They are all still in storage (and no doubt the foam used in their construction, rotting away inside).
- Did you ever get to keep any type of props at the studio?
No, I didn’t. But I wrote a script for the second season called “Magellan’s Circus” and bought a felt top hat for him. I still have that.
- One of the highlights was the studio tour where the guests can see you all film or rehearse or have hair/make up done from a glass monitor up above. How often was it that you got to interact with the fans?
They had these fake “PAs” (aka Production Assistants) who wore mikes and could relay up to the visitors what was going on on set. One time, we had just broken for lunch when a group was walking through, up above. I couldn’t resist and used the mike to tell everyone that we were about to do a complicated set up called “lunch,” involving the entire cast and crew. But come back in an hour to see us tape something. In the meantime, ride Jaws…. Oh no that’s broken…… Or ride Kong……. No, he’s down…. Well…. See ya in an hour, folks!
- What was one of the good things about living and working in Orlando?
We were really close to Disney World! I bought a season pass cause I always liked going there. (And still do.)
- Have you ever been slimed?
- Did you have a favorite ride at Universal Studios Florida?
Back to the Future (now The Simpsons Ride) was our fave. We wrap as the park closed so we would call over and ask if there was still time to ride, then race over and get on.
- How great was all the staff who worked at Nick? I always hear positive stories.
- Favorite behind the scenes memory.
Part of the tour would go by the control room that had a clear glass wall and the visitors could see inside. The backs of the chairs were labeled “director,” “assistant director,” and two were labeled “producer.” One day, me and Jim Kroupa (who performed Batly) snuck upstairs and sat in the producer chairs, holding wads of money and fanning ourselves just as a group walked by.
Hee, hee, hee.
- You may not be aware but how do you feel knowing that Eureeka’s Castle and the rest of 80s & 90s Nickelodeon shows made such a positive impact on fans and is still loved today?
I am humbled and flattered how many people still think of this show fondly.
- What do you think made Nick Studios so great and special?
It was of its time. A direct rival to Disney’s studios, it was part of the “golden age” (as some have described) when Nick was just starting out. The fact that there was an actual location for that brand of fun, made it a must do for all families.
- Would you like to see it be re-opened?
Sure. But as I said it was a product of its time and at that time they had the game shows. Visitors could even be part of that. But there was also the financial drain of the situation. It was just too expensive to keep going (as Disney has found out too).
However, the castle does live on. They use the studios for their Halloween nights, with each one “themed.” A friend went down and was about to enter one with zombies when he saw a plaque next to the door. It was brass and stated that this studio was used for the taping of the Nick Jr series, Eureeka’s Castle. He said so many people stopped and took photos of it (and with it).