Jeremy Dillon’s CV encompasses acting, directing, animation and creating children’s shows. But Dillon is happy to be anonymous; it suits him fine that creations like loveable monster Moe and Terry the Bi Bipolar Polar Bear look absolutely nothing like him, despite benefitting from his voice and dialogue.
As a child in the eastern suburbs of Auckland, many creatures jostled in Jeremy's head. Aside from ET and the inhabitants of Sesame Street, he was also a fan of Danger Mouse, Badjelly the Witch, and has fond memories of the moment Thingee hatched on After School. Dillon was in good company — his mother woke him up so he wouldn’t miss the hotel inspector episode of Brit classic Fawlty Towers.
After studying film at South Seas Film and Television School, Dillon got small acting roles in historical epic Greenstone and bogan movie Savage Honeymoon. In 1999 he got his break when producer Tony Palmer picked him to co-host Wired, the first of a run of shows on Dillon's CV aimed at younger viewers. "If you messed up Tony'd tell you off,” says Dillon, “but if you did something great he'd pat you on the back. Most of the time he just left everyone alone to be creative. It was the best possible first job.”
Wired was made at Avalon Studios on the edge of Wellington, and Dillon's task was to write and present news stories for the show's young audience. Occasionally the team donned hats to recreate historical events. “We worked all sorts of crazy hours, but I loved it. I’d also appear on What Now? in various skits, as did pretty much everyone in the office.”
At the point Wired was unplugged after its second season, TVNZ was casting around for a children's quiz show. Dillon and his fellow Wired host James Brownlee stayed late at the office to write a one page pitch for a show that combined elements of The Krypton Factor, and oddball British quiz Shooting Stars.
The result: two seasons of The Machine. The teen quiz show combined elements of quiz, theatresports and confidence course. Though “a blast to make” - he compares the atmosphere to a big summer camp — Dillon questions whether he ever found the right performance level to be larger than life quiz show host.
When The Machine ended, Dillon returned to Auckland and largely disappeared behind the camera, writing and directing on various children’s and music shows. "It was a lot of fun, but ultimately I found myself wanting to create something of my own."
In late 2005 he discovered the work of Auckland company Mukpuddy Animation. Early the following year he pitched the idea of teaming up with them to make Sparkle Friends, a cartoon for What Now?. Soon Dillon had joined the company full time, working in a variety of roles on various cartoons, including a personal favourite he thought up one morning in the shower, Terry the Bi Bipolar Polar Bear.
After four years with Mukpuddy — plus shifts directing on afternoon television slot Studio 2 Live — it felt time to steer his own ship. In mid 2010 Dillon came up with the idea for pre-school series Pop-Up. The 10 episodes starred Rufus, an enthusiastic creature with enormous mouth and eyes, who had semi-improvised conversations with real-life children. Dillon set up Pop-Up Workshop and called in favours from friends to finish the show, including his old film school collaborator Zane Holmes. When cable channel TVNZ6 (and later TVNZ7) asked for a further 32 episodes, Dillon invited Holmes on board as an equal partner in the company.
After the demise of the TVNZ cable channels, the pair next won enthusiasm from FOUR to create a character who might anchor the new channel's children's slot. The result was Moe, a friendly monster with furry ears, whose isolated life in a Coromandel treehouse means he has much to learn about the world. Said Dillon: “The basic idea of the show is Moe has a problem to solve and he goes exploring, experiences life and talks to people to solve it”.
Shortly before Moe debuted in August 2013, Dillon attended a puppet workshop in Texas. The instructors were both puppeteers on Sesame Street. After showing them episodes of his shows, they invited him to visit the Sesame Street set in New York.
In 2014 Moe returned on the retooled Moe Show, which saw him joined by new friends, both human and otherwise.
Pop-Up Workshop website. Accessed 24 November 2014
Clayton Barnett, 'Meet Moe – and the Kiwi puppeteer impressing the creators of Sesame Street' – Te Waha Nui website. Loaded 26 August 2013. Accessed 24 November 2014