August Grab Bag

#5 The website Bookriot has excited muppet arms for both books and Muppets!

#5 The website Bookriot has excited muppet arms for both books and Muppets!

A roundup of articles, links and videos that we highlighted on Twitter this month. 

1. The first book on puppetry I ever bought was by John Wright of The Little Angel Theatre in Islington, London. His wife Lyndie still carves puppets for them and this article about her is just lovely. If you go to London, try to see a show there.

2. As we continue to work on Malevolent Creatures, this website looks intriguing and will hopefully help out our research.

3. At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, the show The Pure, the Dead and the Brilliant took a look at the upcoming Scottish independence referendum through the eyes of four Scottish fairies, including Selkie. Read a review here.

4. Yet another amazing interview with one of the giants of contemporary illustration and a special hero of ours, Shaun Tan.

5. And because really, most things should end with the Muppets, here is Bookriot with a roundup of literary-related Muppet antics. Enjoy!

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Persuasive Puppets

While this outspoken puppet might try to sell us on things, I don't think he would do too well in a commercial.

While this outspoken puppet might try to sell us on things, I don’t think he’s that convincing!

Where do you think the average person has seen puppets most recently? At the movie theater, courtesy of the film Muppets Most Wanted? On television, as their kid watches Sesame Street? Or how about in passing, as part of a commercial?

Puppets have been used for commercials for nearly as long as television has been around. Back in the 1950’s, Jim Henson got his start in commercials creating short segments promoting Wilkins Coffee. You can see his two puppets Wilkins and Wontkins here in this set of spots on YouTube:

The two characters were so good at persuading the public to buy coffee, Henson put them to work promoting a whole bunch of different products:

Doing a Google search on puppets in commercials today, however, brings up somewhat less madcap and instead, more creepy clips, such as this DirecTV commercial:

While the punch line about ‘no wires’ makes sense in comparison to the marionette, it’s still pretty weird and not that clever. This article in The Guardian highlights other puppets in creepy commercials while this one from Mental Floss rounds up more successful examples, including this more recent Muppets spot:

Henson’s ads for Wilkins were wildly successful, as well as groundbreaking for the time period. Do you think puppets can still persuade us to buy things? Or are we too cynical about having our strings pulled to go along with it?

April Grab Bag

A round-up of articles and events we’ve highlighted on Twitter this month. 

Sleeping Beauty in performance. Photo by Gene Carl Feldman.

Sleeping Beauty in performance. Photo by Gene Carl Feldman.

1. Pointless Theatre’s production of Sleeping Beauty: a puppet ballet has only one more weekend to run! You’ll be sorry if you miss it.

2. Elizabeth Hyde Stevens wrote this article for Salon about the Muppets and how they created Generation X.

3. A group of Argentine puppeteers is seeking participants for a convention of women puppeteers from around the world, to be held in Argentina this coming November. Stated goals for the convention include discussion about the messages of shows, the space we occupy, who we reach with our art and how we can help each other. If you are interested in participating or simply learning more, you can email convenciondetitiriteras@gmail.com

4. Poncili Creacion was in town for one night this month. Find out more about the work of this Puerto Rican theater company that creates surreal puppetry on their tumblr.

5. We were fortunate enough to see Ronnie Burkett’s amazing marionette show Penny Plain at the Kennedy Center (more of our thoughts here). For those interested in learning more about Burkett’s work, here’s an old interview from The Guardian.

6. Our favorite illustrator and key inspiration Shaun Tan has a new book out! It’s called Rules of Summer, read more about it on his website here.