Finger puppets start
with a tube that fits over your finger. Decorated in different ways, a small
cast of characters can appear on every finger of both hands. Another version
has two fingers poke through the puppet's torso to become the legs. Stages
for finger puppets can be as simple as a shoebox.
This puppet is often
found in a toy store. It has a cone and a rod through it. By attaching the
puppet to the top of the rod and pushing the rod through the cone, the character
appears and disappears.
Puppet (Marionette a la Planchette)
Street performers in
the late 18th century manipulated paddle puppets by tapping a plank with their
foot. The puppets, suspended by string or a rod, bounced on the plank, giving
the illusion of dancing. The puppeteer used hands for playing a musical instrument
Another favorite toy
puppet,, jumping jacks have a simple movement accomplished by running four
strings from the four limbs of the character. The strings are joined at the
base of the puppet and, when pulled and released, bring the arms and the legs
of the puppet up and down.
Puppet (Glove Puppet)
There are many variations
to a hand puppet. If the puppet does not have a movable mouth, three fingers
on one hand become the neck and two arms. This type of puppet is often called
a glove puppet. If the puppet has a movable mouth, traditionally the thumb
serves as the lower jaw; the four fingers form the upper mouth.
Sticks or wire rod manipulate
rod puppets attached to the neck and hands. In most cases, these controls
come from below.Rod puppets mayalso be worked with rods from above, or any
direction necessary for good movement and performance.
Article - Sicilain Rod Puppets in Performance
Mostly rod puppets, they
are made flat and cast a shadow when the puppeteer manipulates them between
a light source and a screen (often a piece of muslin stretched like a canvas).
A shadow puppeteer learns to move the puppet in and out of the light so its
shadow grows and shrinks and goes in and out of sharp focus. Traditionally,
these are made from animal hides that are painted and punched with decorative
designs. Colored acetates are often used to create colors in the puppet's
and Rod Puppet
This is the style made
famous by the Muppets. The puppeteer uses his hand to move the puppet's mouth
while rods attached to the puppet's hands animate the arms.
and Glove Puppet
Also used frequently
by the Muppets, this puppet is like the hand and rod puppet except human hands
become the puppet's hands. This type of puppet may manipulate, pick up and
put down, objects. For both hands to work, two puppeteers are needed: one
on the mouth and one hand, an additional puppeteer on the second hand.
One of the most difficult
forms of puppetry to manipulate effectively, marionettes hang on strings.
Usually there are eight basic strings to a well-designed marionette. However,
some marionettes can have thirty or more. A good marionette performer learns
how to use gravity to give the puppet life and weight. To work a marionette
well, one must practice.
Just don't call it a
dummy. Only Paul Winchell may do that. He's one of the great ventriloquists
in show business. Ventriloquism is lots of fun, but it too takes a great deal
of practice. The puppet has a slotted mouth that works on a trigger. A good
vent figure will also have multiple eye movement and eyebrows.
More on Ventriloquism
Puppet (Found Object)
The simple paper bag
puppet typifies what a junk puppet is. Everyday objects become incorporated
into a puppet that may be moved by hand, string or rod. This includes boxes,
socks, egg cartons and paper plates. More rarefied artitically, the type of
puppet becomes "found object" and, in the hands of a talented puppeteer, can
be truly magical.
A puppet-proportioned body hangs from the puppeteer's neck. If the performer
dresses in black and performs against black, the illusion is that the human
head appears on a small, comic body. The puppeteer, wearing black gloves,
manipulates the limbs with rods attached to the hands and heels. The performer's
hands might also fit into small shoes to operate the feet with a second puppeteer
manipulating the arms. The "triplets" number from the classic Fred Asatire
movie "Bandwagon" is a perfect example of a humanette.
One of the most expensive
forms of puppet, a cable puppet uses bicycle cables to control its motions.
Whereas a rod puppet or marionette needs only one or two strings or rods to
move an arm, a cable-controlled puppet requires as many as a dozen cables.
These are popular puppets in the world of special effects. A puppet like Chucky
in Child's Play requires as many as eight puppeteers. The cables are all bundled
out the back where they then branch out to the different controls for the
head, left arm, right arm, and fingers.
Also popularized by movie
special effects, this puppet uses model airplane controls that send radio
signals to servos inside the puppet. These control the puppet's action. Movie
producers like radio-controls as the puppeteers can manipulate the puppet
from behind the cameras with no external controls visible. Most movie puppets
combine cable, radio controls and traditional puppetry.
Another theme park staple, More info
Also called walkabouts,
these are the costume characters that stroll through amusement parks. When
facial animation is added, the character suit becomes a puppet. Animation
can be done with string, cable or radio control. Often the controls are in
the pad of the character's hand so that performer in the suit may work the
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Air pressure through
tubes makes these puppets move. These are often seen on fair grounds and displays
moving automatically, though simply, with no puppeteers necessary. In this
case, when no human is near, the puppet designer and builder is considered
Example: Funhouse figures during the mid-20th century, relied on air pressure
for movement. Today air-control is mostly used to animate figures for car
dealerships or convention displays.
Sometimes a puppet is
so big and heavy that the only way to manipulate it is through water or oil
pressure. You'll see these creatures in big theme parks.
Example: Walt Disney's Jungle Cruise ride shows hydraulic puppetry at its
finest. Large dinaosaurs in most amusment parks use oil pressure for movement.
Articulated dolls with
movable and posable joints, stop-action puppets are as old as filmmaking.
Still very popular today, stop motion puppets are everywhere. Willis O'Brien,
George Pal, Ray Harryhausen and many others made them an important part of
motion picture history. Today, animators like Wil Vinton and Nick Parks continue
making magic by moving puppets frame by frame. The animation only can be seen
when the sequence is run. This form of puppetry takes a lot of patience and
a willingness to redo. Stop-motion artists prefer the title"animator"
When computer animation
became a new form of media production, the terminology often associated with
moving CGI characters came from puppetry. A basic knowledge of sculpting,
puppet articulation, joints and movement transfers well into CGI. Key-frame
animation is the simplest form of computer animation and corresponds to stop
motion. The computer puppet is posed in its main (key) positions and the computer
generates the in-between positions. These cycles may be saved and used over
and over again in different scenes with different camera angles. The animator
is the puppeteer.
The performer sits at
controls or keyboard, or may have them attached to an actor's face. The controls
are connected to the computer. The puppeteer moves the control as if manipulating
a puppet. The movement is mapped on an X,Y,Z grid and sent to the computer
where the CGI figure moves correspondingly. The name "waldo" comes from a
science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein, "Waldo: Genius in Orbit.".
Example: Though many effects companies have the technology, the waldo puppet
is not used that frequently. Jim Henson's character "Waldo" as seen
in the theme park movie "Muppets in 3-D" is the most familiar waldo-input
Capture Puppet/Digital Monkey
Devices that emit light
or radio signals are attached to strategic points on the actor's body. The
performer's movements are matched correspondingly to body parts on the computer
puppet. An intricate style of manipulation, any exaggerated movement makes
the computer puppet move in unrealistic ways. Arms may pass through the body.
As with a marionette, this is a very exacting way to perform a puppet.
When a bunraku-syle puppet
is similarly recorded, the puppet is referred to as a"digital monkey."
Example: A real push
for motion capture use was made in the late 1990's. Although it is helpful
on some special effects, especially dangerous stunts, motion-capture technology
has not yet transferred well to character animation. Columbia Picture's mega-budget
"Final Fantasy" used motion capture in sequences.