Remo Saraceni, Creator of the 'Big' Walking Piano, Is Dead at 89

Remo Saraceni, the sculptor, toy inventor, and technological fantasist responsible for the iconic Walking Piano in the beloved 1988 movie Big, has passed away at the age of 89. Although heart failure was the official cause of his death, Saraceni was reportedly in fragile health for several years.

Despite being an accomplished sculptor with works displayed in museums throughout the world, Saraceni considered his creation of the Walking Piano to be his greatest achievement. The invention delighted audiences worldwide when Tom Hanks danced on it as a child's toy that had grown to human size in the hit movie.

Benjamin Fox, a close friend of Saraceni and his family, spoke highly of the inventor's professional accomplishments, personal character, and the heartwarming story behind the creation of the iconic movie prop:

"He was a consummate inventor, but also a sculptor, and the Walking Piano was this wonderful intersection of his abilities. It was a technical achievement, yes, but it was also a work of art. He was a lovely man and they were all very close-knit Italian families. He had a keen sense of humor and was a bit of a prankster. He was always cheerful, always had a positive outlook."

Fox recalled that Saraceni, a resident of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, at the time of his death, retained the same enthusiasm and passion for creativity and innovation that defined his successful career. The Walking Piano was just one of over 100 successful toy inventions by Saraceni, who had also created interactive installations for the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia and the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia.

Although Saraceni's work on the Walking Piano helped bring him acclaim, Fox highlighted that he was most accomplished as an artist and innovator who refused to focus his efforts on a single line of creativity:

"He was a successful sculptor who was supported by corporate America and had a commission for a piece that was installed at the Houston Airport, and he had these installations at museums. Then he became interested in toys. He never professed to be an expert in child development, but he had a keen sense of how kids would respond to toys. He was willing to try anything. He was endlessly curious."

According to Fox, Saraceni was a quintessential immigrant who arrived in the United States as a young boy fleeing Italy during World War II. Fortunately, his father, who was a chef, was able to settle in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, where Saraceni would spend his entire life. Being a gifted child who loved to make things, he eventually attended the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts) to study sculpture and metalworking.

It was during this period that Saraceni began to exhibit his artistic talents, mainly through sculptures made from scraps of metal, which he often welded together to create whimsical animals and imaginative creatures. These works garnered increasing recognition, and several of his sculptures were exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

However, it was his creation of the Walking Piano that brought Saraceni international acclaim and transformed him into a pop culture icon. Fox described the fascinating story behind the invention and how it ended up in the hands of Tom Hanks and the movie's producers:

"Remo had developed this toy called the Touch Sensitive Keyboard. It was a normal-sized piano, but the keys would light up when you touched them. It was kind of ahead of its time. It wasn't a huge commercial success, but he sold enough to get into the Toys R Us, which was a big deal back then. He sold the idea to They company, and as they were shooting the movie Big, the prop master for the movie saw it in a store and bought it for the set. Remo didn't make any money from the movie, but it was great exposure. He was always amused that his toy found its way into such a prominent movie."

Despite his accomplishments, Saraceni never lost his childlike sense of wonder and imagination. He remained a keen observer of the world around him and was constantly inspired by the simplicity and innocence of children's games, which helped him create inventions that could capture a child's imagination.

In remembrance of Saraceni's legacy, his family has requested that any donations in his memory be made to the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, a bastion of interactive science and art that was a major inspiration for his work.

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