Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Puppets and Marionettes and More!

"P" is for Puppets in the A to Z Challenge

"Puppetry" has long been an interest of mine. Jim Henson was one of my heroes, and I cried when I heard he had died.

The 80's were a fascinating time in the evolution of "puppetry". I use the term loosely, as muppets, marionettes, and sophisticated radio control costumes all fall under the umbrella of this post.

From 1983 to 1987, Fraggles, Doozers, and Gorgs graced our tv screens. The Gorgs were among the most complex, with radio controlled faces:

Gorg from Fraggle Rock

1991 to 1994 presented us with Dinosaurs, a technological offspring of the Gorgs:

Ralph Kramden pre-incarnated as a dinosaur

In 1995 we were treated to the magic of Babe:

I think the Sheep were the most impressive characters

Unfortunately for the advancement of puppetry arts in cinema, 1993 introduced us to the first CGI dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, heralding the decline of puppetry in cinema.

Paleontologist Dr. Alan  Grant: "I think I'm out of a job"     Me: "Me too!"

Other Honorable "Puppetry" Screen Mentions:

1983's Pumpkinhead

1982's The Dark Crystal

1984's Gremlins

1990's Robocop 2

1990's Total Recall

1982's E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

1980's The Empire Strike's Back

My own projects have ranged from Halloween props to a rooster for a Passion Play:

Sea Dog Cemetery: Bush Gardens Howl-O-Scream 2002.
The fellow on top sits up when a bicycle brake lever is pressed, and turns his head.

Corpse sitting up in coffin in 2003's Grimmwood Manor

His head turns, and mouth opens

I've also done the mechanics for a Ventriloquist Head:

I've written a couple of shows including "Reindeer Pause", featuring a grown up and married Rudolph and Clarice, and I've built puppets for Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC, and I made a full body costume of "The Deficit Monster" that was a cross between Audrey II and a Fangtooth:

Fangtooth Fish
I don't have photos of the actual costume, but he was very toothy!
I was up in Maryland visiting my friends at Goatman Hollow (whom I collectively call "The Goatmen", even though there are some lovely ladies among them), when I found some cool puppets in a local gift shop. I decided to purchase one to augment my Santa act. Meet "Pesci". (Note, I never said I was a ventriloquist):

I did the Shrek and Jimmy Neutron heads for a local Regal Cinemas for a Christmas parade:

Shrek Head

Jimmy Neutron Head
And this was for Carowinds theme park in North Carolina:

Patch the Pumpkin
And when I was managing the prop shop at the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, WV, we made a tap dancing Vagina costume. But you'll have to wait for that. That post will appear on "V" day!

I've put up three posts on puppetry already:

I just discovered this amazing video:

Finally, I have to mention the Bear in the Big Blue House, if for no other reason than that he overcame Big Bird's gimp arm. But really, he is much more than that, with a camera in his nose and a viewing screen inside his chest for the performer. The fluidity of this guy kills me.

"P" is for Puppets, and April is Parkinson's Awareness Month


  1. Some very cool stuff.

    Places I Remember
    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  2. It is cool to learn about puppets. Technology has come a long way, but some of the old puppets were the best. Thanks for posting.

  3. Hello Arthur,

    What a great post! I like some puppets, but some other ones creep me out. I really like the photos you have here. I think this is my new favorite blog! I will definitely be back to see what you dream up for the other letters, and to read more of your lovely writing. I am following now.

    I am doing the A to Z Challenge as well. Take a peek at my blog too if you get a chance! I write humor, and everyone says I am the funniest person on the planet (well, maybe it is just the voices in my head saying that—that’s the doctor’s latest explanation, he’s working on adjusting my meds right now—but I will take what I can get).


    1. hi again Arthur! thanks for visiting my blog. The "MOV" moniker stands for different things depending on my mood. I actually wrote a post about what it stands for:

      I have to admit, originally it was bit of an inside joke and stood for "Mistress Of Vodka" because I like to think I am a martini aficionado. ha!


  4. All these pics bring back memories.

    Hope you’re enjoying the challenge so far!
    --Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  5. I must find Fraggle Rock and watch. Wonder if it will be as good as I remember?!

    Came by from A to Z, think I'll stick around awhile!

  6. I was never a big fan of Fraggle Rock. But The Storyteller, featuring John Hurt, was amazing. They have the episodes on Netflix streaming.