St. Martin - That Yoda Guy

| Friday, 08 Jun. 2012
 Nick Maley, "That Yoda Guy"


Front Street in Saint Martin is visited by thousands, possibly millions of cruise visitors each year. The street has shopping for rum, electronics, jewelry, linens and all kinds of kitschy souvenirs from the Caribbean.

But the last time I was there I ran into a shop I never expected, a small museum created by Nick Maley, a former Hollywood-based special effects master who worked on dozens of successful science fiction movies. He calls himself "The Yoda Guy," because he not only envisioned the look of Yoda, the Jedi Master from Star Wars, but he also made the working models used in the movies.

Nick specialized in working puppets and other practical pieces you see in Hollywood movies, but I don't mean puppets as in the sense of the Muppets. I mean the kind of physical items that appear to be real flesh on camera, and that come to life because of the intricate methods he creates to manipulate them.

Are you interested in visiting the exhibit? Discuss it in the Caribbean forum.

While the shop appears to be tiny from the outside, on the inside it's a museum containing fascinating exhibits of his own actual special effects and other artifacts he collected during his years of work in Hollywood. I highly recommend it – especially for the people who love science fiction movies, the kind of people who go to "Comic-Con." But even casual tourists will enjoy the experience as long as they like Hollywood history.

I took a tour on my last visit to St. Martin, and I could have easily stayed much longer than the hour I spent. Who would expect to find Darth Vader, Pinhead from HELLRAISER and Ridley Scott's ALIEN in St Martin? Even better, Nick is the proprietor of the shop, and he is there to talk about his work and other Hollywood special effects creators all day long, as long as you are nice enough to repay him by paying the admission for the museum and perhaps buying one of his hand-made souvenirs, not of the Caribbean, but of Hollywood movie-making by a real special effects master.

That Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit is located at 19a Front Street, one of the first shops you encounter if you walk from the pier or get off a shuttle bus at the end of Front Street.

The exhibits spans six decades of movie making, with items from The Terminator, Men in Black and even The Maltese Falcon from 1941. What impressed me personally was the incredible collection of life casts, the actual faces of Hollywood stars taken from molds of their actual faces. Believe me, you have never really seen Jack Nicholson until you see that expansive smile in its real proportion. Proportion is exactly what gives these life masks their true magic, the fact that you see the people as if they are standing right in front of you, not on a movie screen where real proportion gets lost. Jack Nicholson's smile, Angelina Jolie's eyes and Jack Kennedy's dimples look completely different in real perspective, and these people come alive to you as human beings for the very first time.

There is also Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp, Sean Connery, Humphrey Bogart & Marlon Brando. There are historical personalities too; real life casts of Abraham Lincoln, (cast 3 months before his assassination 1865), Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, (cast in 1778 and 1783 respectively by french sculptor Jean Antoine Houden), and death masks of both Ludwig Von Beethoven (1808) and Oliver Cromwell, (1658).

 

About Nick Maley

The museum is the brainchild of "Hollywood creature" effects wizard Nick Maley and his wife Gloria. Nick is known as "that Yoda Guy" for his contribution to the creation of Yoda for the STAR WARS saga. If you don't know who Nick is, just google his name. He worked in over 50 movies, including Superman, Highlander, Krull and Lifeforce. He has worked with Hollywood legends like Sean Connery, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Harrison Ford, (you see them all in the exhibit). Nick has even been featured in CINEMAX and HBO specials, won a place in The Guinness Book of World Records and was nominated for an Emmy.

"Through the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit I'm trying to tell the INSIDE story about making famous movies," Nick explains, "things that the general public knows little about. When I was a kid they told me to give up art and drama as they thought I would work in a factory. I worked harder to prove they were wrong and 53 movies later I hope to inspire kids to work and persevere long enough to make their dreams come true. I believe that the people who fail are the ones who give up. And that many personalities, like me, had to go through poor and difficult years to achieve success."

While Nick is still known in Hollywood as "The Yoda Guy,", he chose to retire in St. Martin and opened the museum simply because he had so many wonderful items that people still want to see. Nick explains, "Many people ask me why Gloria and I chose to do this in St. Maarten, that I would be so much more successful in Orlando or London or other prime locations. But the sun always shines here and the sailing is great. I discovered that personal relationships are the most valuable things in life and simple living allows more time for me to share my life with real people."

It also gives him much more time to talk to the fans of this movie genre who come by. Nick will be there when you arrive, sitting at his drawing table and working on a new idea.

Find Out More about the Yoda Guy

Nick is well known internationally for his memoirs about the making of many movies. His first website http://Cinesecrets.com was named Best of the Web by the BBC and attracted as many as half a million hits a week. He wrote about colleagues who contributed to bringing Yoda to life on http://thoseYodaGuys.com. Now he adds http://YodaGuyMovieExhibit.com to his domains.

PHOTOS: http://web.me.com/maeztro/planetp/photos.html

REVIEWS: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g147347-d2299951-Reviews-Yoda_Guy_Movie_Exhibit_at_Planet_Paradise-Philipsburg_St_Maarten_St_Martin.html

Are you interested in visiting the exhibit? Discuss it in the Caribbean forum.

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