Norman Back to Normal

We all have our own favorite special effects creations. But what happens to them after they’ve finished their performance for the last time?


Norman spent a life-span with no cellmate. His creators simply looked the other way. (@norman_is_evil)

Madeline Phelps, Reporter

    Animatronic puppets are a marvel of the visual effects world. They are neither as advanced as standard animatronics nor are they as simplistic as basic puppets. Instead, they are a unique combination of both and have the capacity to bring imaginative looking characters to life in a way that simply wouldn’t be possible using any other medium. However, what happens to these creations when they have served their purpose? Surely they are preserved. Perhaps they are kept by those who created them as mementos of past projects or displayed lovingly by enthusiastic collectors. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. As our friend Norman would emphatically tell you, the life of an animatronic puppet after all the fame and glory is gone can be very difficult. Few things are worse than being forgotten. 

Norman as he appears in the Evil music video. (Interpol, VEVO)

    Well, who exactly is Norman? Originally, he was the star of a 2004 Interpol music video for the song Evil. His name was given to him by fans of the song and it is speculated that he, along with the contents of the song itself, is based on Fred and Rosemary West. The murderous couple has become infamous for their crimes and the song Evil makes plenty of references to their eventual imprisonment. However, John Kolbek, who is currently in possession of Norman, does not see his friend that way. 

    “…[I]n my eyes, he’s sort of become a family member. Haha, so it’s kind of a strange set up. He watches movies with us, and sometimes sits at the table while we eat. It’s all very strange. I’m aware of it.” 

    Kolbek works a standard factory job, but has many different hobbies on the side. Occasionally, he makes extremely detailed and complex art. He also has a YouTube channel that hosts a surreal, horror-themed web-series called “Odd Stories for Odd Children” which is based upon a video game developed by Kolbek called “123 Slaughter Me Street.” It, of course, stars puppets and animatronic characters. The series gained a cult following and gained even more popularity after being covered by internet horror extraordinaire, Nexpo. The entire series is comparable to watching late night Adult Swim while having fever induced hallucinations of Teddy Ruxpin and friends. While it appears as though the series has wrapped up for the time being, Kolbek does have future plans for more creative endeavors. 

Photos of Norman once featured on prop auction website

    The story of how John Kolbek met Norman is an endearing one. John originally discovered Norman on a prop auction website where he was labeled as a “Creepy Ghoul puppet from some music video.” He started to recognize some of the unique features of the character. 

Norman’s handsome auction photo close-up.

“…I fell back. It actually was Norman! … So I reached out, and to my horror…He had been sold, literally given away. I have a YouTube channel with a small cult following, and the fans helped me do a search…And low and behold, we found him. A prop collector on Facebook had him…And after some fundraising, we got him!” 

    Kolbek was understandably overjoyed to have procured such a gem. Unfortunately, only when Norman arrived did he fully realize the extent of how immensely neglected the poor puppet had been. 

    “Many of the fans requested [that he be restored]. But not just that, he really needs to be. It’s just a terrible shame how horribly he’s been neglected. Many of these old puppets have been…They found Hoggle from [the movie] Labyrinth abandoned in a suitcase! No joke, look it up! The photos are nightmare fuel.” 

Hoggle, the famous Labyrinth animatronic shortly after being discovered in an abandoned luggage. (
Hoggle restored at last! (

    And nightmare fuel they are indeed. The years were very unkind to Hoggle, leading his foam flesh  to rot away and expose his mechanical skeleton. Thankfully, Hoggle has been restored and is currently on display in the Lost Luggage Hall of Fame in the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. Being restored in a similar fashion would be a dream come true for Norman. While he may not have suffered as much wear and tear as Hoggle, he still is in pretty poor shape. The foam on his face has cracked and no longer fits snugly. His expressive little eyes that were once a vibrant white have now yellowed, his body is loose and delicate, and his mechanical parts and wiring are in need of refurbishment. But, the process of restoration is an expensive one. To make something so neglected and delicate appear brand new again is a difficult undertaking, but not an impossible one. 

    Kolbek, upon realizing that Norman desperately needed fixing, decided to begin raising money on GoFundMe. He recounts how he felt when receiving his first donation.

    “I was extremely grateful! But in all honesty, I wasn’t shocked because these fans have been generous in the past and have never let me down. This fanbase is amazing! They all genuinely care for Norman, like he is a friend. And he always takes the time to show off their fan art, and talk to them when they are down or just need to vent.” 

    (If you would like to keep up with Norman and check out his fan art and videos, be sure to check out his Instagram account@norman_is_evil.) 

    When the research for this story began, the GoFundMe campaign for Norman had reached slightly over $1500, half of the $3000 goal. Donations were trickling in slowly and time was beginning to run out. However, on May 22nd, John Kolbek got a fantastic surprise when the goal was quickly reached and with plenty of extra days to spare. The current donation count stands at $3100. 

    Now that the proper funds have been raised, fans of Norman are now waiting excitedly for the day when he can finally be restored to his former glory. But, what’s going to happen when Norman is finally “back to normal”? John Kolbek has two goals in mind. 

“[I want to] give him a YouTube channel where he either reviews music OR he interviews people. After that, [I want to] have him preserved in a place that’s secure and safe for him and for others to go to see him.” 

    This journey of telling Norman’s story and bringing people together over his restoration has inspired Kolbek to look into other restoration endeavors. Of course, for now, “first things first!” 

    Norman’s story is an undeniably inspiring one. Once appreciated by Interpol fans for his presence in a thought-provoking music video, Norman was forgotten and left to rot like so many other animatronic puppets. However, thanks to John Kolbek, Norman got a second chance. With fans old and new on his side, he can now be restored and remembered which is exactly what he deserves. Few things are greater than being loved and remembered. 

Norman, before and after. He can’t wait to see where his restoration will bring him. (@norman_is_evil)