Sunday, June 19, 2011

Not Just a Puppet on a String

When I was a teen, the art room under Miss Smith was a haven from the general hell of my junior high school years.  Miss Smith was a practical, supportive woman with a wry sense of humor, and she let us dabble in everything from op art lettering to ceramic ash trays.  One of my favorite projects, though, was constructing a marionette with a wooden body and papier mache head.  My puppet looked pretty good when I was done with her, but I was never able to make her do much more than a clumsy walk.

Knowing how hard even simple puppeteering can be, I was blown away when one of my friends sent me this link to a YouTube video of an amazing marionette performance:

The video focuses on the marionette rather than the guy manipulating the strings, but either the puppeteer is amazingly dexterous or he has some extremely sophisticated controls.  This marionette has facial expressions, and he's grimacing and rolling his eyes at the same time he's playing the piano, waving to the audience, and backhanding his handler for perceived incompetence.  The puppet actually reminded me a little of Fats, the ventriloquist's dummy who takes over Anthony Hopkins' life in Magic.  Let's hope he's less vindictive, for the puppeteer's sake.

"If you're doing a large, complicated character with radio controls, it might take a number of people several months to make it and if you're talking about a quick little hand puppet, it could be made in 2 days, so there's enormous range there, and no real easy generalities." ~Jim Henson

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