When walking into Bo’s workshop, it feels like stepping onto a film set; props hanging from the ceiling, music blaring from the speakers, retired sets leaning against the wall, and pianos hanging by a threaded rope.
Lee "Bo" Henry is the Art Director for Stanislaus State's theater department. He has also helped create many classic childhood films, from "The Nightmare Before Christmas", to "James and the Giant Peach", and "Coraline". He has lived an extraordinary life, and has many stories to offer.
Born in San Francisco and raised in Washington, Bo always knew he wanted to work in some aspect of theater production.
“So, I started working in theater as an actor,” said Bo, “We always needed help. The sets didn’t get built, and when you take a theater workshop class you realize this stuff just doesn’t appear. It takes a lot of people and a lot of time.”
While in school, Bo established many connections that would eventually lead to major projects in his career. His first project was for the 1979 film “Escape from Alcatraz”, where he spent three months living on the island and recreating the main cell block for the film.
Bo would later go on to work for FM Productions, constructing the concert stages for musicians such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, and David Bowie.
“We’d go into a 100,000 square foot convention space and turn it into a custom presentation space. Light it, direct it, design it, those are the kind of thing we did,” Bo explained.
On occasion, Bo would meet with the performers to discuss the construction of their stage. One client was Mick Jagger, who was Bo's favorite to meet with. Their meetings were some of the most memorable.
His work at FM Productions did not only involve musicians, Bo also worked for major companies, like Universal Studios. He helped design numerous attractions for Universal theme parks, such as a Miami Vice stunt show that was unfortunately replaced with the Waterworld stunt show in 2010.
After FM Productions, Bo moved onto bigger jobs within the entertainment industry. In 1991, he was hired on to the production of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" as a set construction supervisor. Bo helped with the stop motion animation and built some of the most recognizable scenes in the film, including Oogie Boogie’s roulette wheel.
“We were doing frame by frame. In film, there are twenty-four frames in one second. The average shot was two and a half seconds and the film was about seventy-five minutes. So, when we were really good, we were finishing about fifty seconds each week.”
Bo was not the only member of his family to work on these films. His dog, Marble, also received a credit. She was credited as “shop dog” for two of Bo’s films. The dog was allowed to freely roam around the set of the film, and raise morale for all the hard-working animators.
Lee “Bo” Henry has lived an extraordinary life compared to many people. He's traveled across the country. Constructing theme park attractions, film sets, casinos, and much more.
Bo offered advice to those interested in production, “You better really love your work. If you don’t choose something you really love, you’ll have a hard time with success.”