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Generation of kids grew up watching toothy TV sidekick

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Adam Rickner with his puppet, the Beave, which was a staple on Manitoba's MTN during the '80s and '90s.

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Adam Rickner with his puppet, the Beave, which was a staple on Manitoba's MTN during the '80s and '90s.

Manitoba's television community is mourning the loss of one of its brightest and most creative talents.

Adam Rickner, a longtime CBC graphic artist and designer, died suddenly on March 30 at the age of 51. He is probably best remembered for his early career work at the fledgling TV station MTN (now Citytv), where he was the hands and voice behind the popular puppet creation the Beave, who played sidekick to Kevin (Bundy) Dunn on Bundy's Late Night Revue from 1987 to '92 and then, for 10 years, co-anchored The MTN Kids Club with Beave and Buckley (a long-eared hound puppet controlled by Dunn).

"He had a charm that engaged everybody he met, and he had a talent that inspired and entertained in everything he worked on through all of his career," says Dunn, now a Toronto-based TV producer. "He had an incredible capability to make people laugh, and often laugh hysterically. He had an incredible personality that made people feel comfortable and made them laugh. That was his real gift."

Dunn and Rickner worked together for nearly 15 years from the mid-'80s to the late '90s, relying mostly on wit and creativity because there were few financial resources available to make the shows look polished.

"We were always operating on a shoestring budget in those days," Dunn recalls. "It was live TV, it was mostly ad-libbed, and we just made the most of Adam's quick wit and humour and creativity with the Beave. It was a very personable puppet character that people fell in love with right away, wherever we went.

"He always had a quick response; that's why I loved working with him. When you're doing live television, you need that spontaneity, and that was Adam's charm, and it flowed right into those shows."

After leaving MTN for CBC, Rickner worked as a graphic artist and designer whose credits included the Peter Jordan-hosted It's a Living, CBC's ongoing standup-comedy showcase The Winnipeg Comedy Festival, the music documentary The Guess Who: Running Back Through Canada and the Doc Zone feature Crackberry'd: The Truth About Information Overload.

He also contributed regularly to such CBC series as The Fifth Estate, Marketplace and Disclosure.

"He was a genius," said documentary filmmaker Andy Blicq. "He always took a good idea and made it better. He would always surprise you with the things he came back with. He and (designer) Jamie Hopkins changed the way we make documentaries, by bringing in graphic elements and creating a look that took them to another level.

"But beyond that, he was a fun, funny, creative guy. TV looks glamorous, but most of the time it's grinding hard work, and Adam always made it fun. He didn't suffer fools, and he'd tell you if you were wrong, but he was an incredibly smart, funny guy to work with. With Adam, there was always laughter.

"I think the industry is really feeling this loss."

A native of Thunder Bay who grew up in Winnipeg, Rickner is survived by his wife Cathy and daughter Skye. A memorial service and wake were held last week in Winnipeg.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2014 D3

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