Sunday, March 9, 2003

Prize Possessions

Former Muppet maker noses around for Pinocchio

By Marsie Hall Newbold
Enquirer contributor

Robin Hartmann fell in love with Pinocchio when she was 5.
(Gary Landers photo)
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Who: Robin Hartmann, 46, a freelance artist and part-time teacher at the New School in North Avondale who has a penchant for Pinocchio.

On display: Her collection of 30 depictions of the puppet who became a "real live boy."

Where: Throughout the Deer Park home she shares with her husband, Rainer; their son, Rory, 9; and the family's Jack Russell terrier, Flex.

Lifetime friends: Hartmann fell in love with the character of Pinocchio when she was around 5 years old.

"It was first Disney movie I ever saw," she explains. "There was something about him being a puppet and becoming real. The total fantasy about something becoming something else really appealed to me."

First love: Her interest in puppets didn't end there.

When she was a student at the Pratt Institute in New York, she took a course in puppetry with Kermit Love, creator of Big Bird.

Never tell a lie: "He really liked me," Hartmann explains. "So he got me a job with the Muppets. I worked with Jim Henson for five years before he died, making pigs and bears and dogs and all kinds of animals.

"It was amazing. I worked with a group of about 20 people. We were very close and it was a lot of fun.

"As big as the company seems, it was very family-oriented. We worked in a mansion in the Upper East Side of New York City."

Gepetto's son: Even though she discovered Pinocchio as a child, she didn't start collecting him until she was an adult.

"Someone happened to give me one that was not a Disney one," she recalls. "That's when it occurred to me that there were other Pinocchios."

By Jiminy! Her collection includes Pinocchios from many countries, including Italy and her husband's native Germany.

She owns a wind-up Pinocchio, a clay one that her father made, and her favorite, a 2-foot Pinocchio sitting on a bench reading a book.

The little marionette/boy continues to inspire Hartmann, who keeps a hutch full of collectibles in her workshop.

A Blue Fairy tale: "I like having him around," she says. "Just the childlikeness of him. He's a little kid and he wishes upon a star and his dream comes true. I remember looking out the window and wishing. That's why I work with children."

Share your prize possessions with Marsie Hall Newbold by mail: c/o The Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202: e-mail: Please include a daytime telephone number.

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