A roundup of articles, videos and more that we highlighted on Twitter this month.
A new book from Ashley Bryan. See #2.
1. Paul McCartney. And a robot puppet. Dancing together in this video. Need I say more?
2. Children’s author Ashley Bryan makes puppets from found objects washed up on the beach near his home on Little Cranberry Island, Maine. Read this interview from Publisher’s Weekly about his new book of puppets coming out this summer.
3. ADORABLE tabletop puppetry is featured in the production Moominsummer Madnessfrom Polka Theatre in London. Based on the stories of legendary author Tove Jansson, you should definitely check this out if you are in the UK.
4. A gallery of Drabbitsfrom the fabulous Imaginarium Galleries in Pennsylvania.
5. I think it’s safe to say that Julie Taymor’s work on Disney’s The Lion King was the first glimpse many people had of non-Sesame Street puppets. It’s coming back to the Kennedy Center this summer.
Since the film Muppets Most Wantedis opening this week, it seems like a good moment to talk about some favorite films that include puppets.
Genna remembers seeing Jim Henson’s Labyrinthfor the first time in elementary school, at a friend’s house. What made the biggest impression on her at the time was the variety of the puppets and how they ranged in dimension. from the giant Ludo to the much smaller Sir Didymus and Hoggle. Genna also liked the way that the human actors (Jennifer Connolly and David Bowie) got to interact with the puppet characters. Today of course she is more interested in trying to understand how each puppet was made and manipulated, and given a choice, she would like to try performing either Ludo or one of the Fire Gang.
The other film series that Genna has been inspired by is Underworld, a trilogy of movies about vampires and werewolves. Like Labyrinth, many of the characters wear full body costumes with animatronic puppet heads that are manipulated with radio controls by multiple puppeteers. The mechanics of the legs, which have extensions inside the foam latex skin, and the details in the features and hair are all amazing. You can see some of the work it took to produce this in videos here and here.
Cecilia on the other hand, was first introduced to puppets on film with the ‘Lonely Goatherd’ marionettes in the classic musical The Sound of Music. The sequence was performed by Bil Baird and Cora Eisenberg, and the catchy tune, with puppets similar to a set from Mexico that she had, made a big impression on her as a kid. Labyrinth also became a favorite later in college, but the film that was an inspiration as she first started creating and performing puppets in high school was Fool’s Fire, an adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe short story Hoptoad which was created by Julie Taymor and shown on PBS in 1992. Cecilia came across it as part of a retrospective of Taymor’s work that was shown at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 2000. The story of a jester who takes revenge on the cruel king and court that enslaves him, it uses full body puppets to establish the difference between Hoptoad and his captors.
Hopefully some kids will see Muppets Most Wanted this weekend and be inspired to pick up puppets! What other puppet films do YOU love?