Meet Our Neighbors: Frank Cesario


Tell us about yourself and how your career led you to work in children’s television. 

As a child, I was always fascinated with characters and the worlds they lived in. This stemmed from TV and movies (Pokémon and Studio Ghibli) as well as computer games I played when I was elementary school age. That quickly evolved into an interest for the voices behind some of my favorite characters in video games — generally Japanese influenced. One voice actor in particular who I highly respected was Charles Martinet (Super Mario). You could say he is an early catalyst for my interest in performing as he brought so much life to a beloved character to so many. Naturally being so drawn to characters and needing an outlet as I was left to my own devices after school, I reconnected with the Muppets again as a middle schooler. I eventually branched out and taught myself how to build and perform with puppets. I started to post YouTube videos of my own puppet content (2011-2015), which were seen by my current friend and colleague, Tau Bennett. Over the years he and I, among several other friends, became a close-knit troupe that would work together. Due to this link, when we were much older (2019) David Rudman [Co-Founder, Spiffy Pictures and Co-Creator/Executive Producer, Donkey Hodie] asked Tau if he knew of any Chicago puppeteers, and I was one of the first names to come to mind. 

Describe your role(s) on Donkey Hodie. 

 My roles on Donkey Hodie include: puppet wrangling (dressing, styling, and rigging all the puppet characters), puppeteering (usually assist puppeteering, right hands, puppeteering musical instruments, or doubling as characters), costume building (build costumes for the characters), puppet building (build smaller scale, background and one-off puppets), and just recently I’ve made a few simple props. 

Do you have a favorite Donkey Hodie episode? 

My favorite episode of Donkey Hodie (so far) is the "Return of the Golden Crunchdoodles." It was our last shoot day of Season 1 and such an amazing shoot day at that. The sound effects, music, visuals, the 360° table rotation effect… it’s all so amazing. And the characters finally get what they have been looking for!   

What was your favorite TV show when you were growing up? 

One of my favorite films growing up (I didn’t have access to much TV) was My Neighbor Totoro. This movie opened up my mind to anime and the rest of the fabulous Studio Ghibli films. I owe a lot of my own personal puppet designs to the Ghibli look. 

What do you like to do when you’re not working? 

When I am not working, I love to work on my own puppetry projects, cosplay, and enjoy indie video games.