Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day #3: Mouse Prototype

I am building a new show right now, so I have a need to work out lots of new puppet designs. The new show, Little by Little, features lots of animal puppets. I want to make sure my proportions are right for all of the puppets and get all the mechanics worked out, before I invest a lot of energy in building the finished piece. There is nothing worse than a beautiful puppet that just doesn't move well.

For rod puppets, you have to pay attention to the placement of the rod, the length of the rod, and the angle of the rod while the puppet is in motion. If you are adding any special mechanisms (nodding head, head movement side-to-side, eye movement, etc...), then that adds another layer of complexity. Prototypes are my solution to working out the kinks.

Mouse prototype for Little by Little
in its upright position.

Today, I worked on a simple mouse proto-puppet. I have some paper plates and cups at the studio (leftover from one of my girls' birthday parties). I used one cup, part of a plate that I folded, some duct tape, and a chopstick to work out the design specs for the little mouse in our story.

Mouse in scamper position.
To know what you want a particular puppet to do requires consulting the script. (You really, really need a script before you build anything.) We actually need two mice for the show (a rod puppet mouse and a shadow puppet version of the same character). The rod puppet version needs to be able to scamper about with its body horizontal and it needs to be able to sit up and look around. The purpose of the prototype is to work out the placement of the rod on the puppet, the size of the rod insertion point, and the puppet proportions.
Figuring out the rod insertion point/size

I have no idea if any other puppeteers do this, but I love to build prototypes from inexpensive -- or just leftover scrap -- materials. I build all kinds of puppets (hand, shadow, rod, etc...), but my favorite type of puppets are rod puppets. Building a prototype helps to work out design kinks/mechanics, improve movement, work on proportions, and develop your character in a fearless fashion. Paper plates, duct tape, cardboard boxes, string, rope, and staples are all you need to get started.

Working in this way, I don't worry about messing up, which is very freeing. Then when I get ready to make the "real" puppet, I also know exactly what I am doing. (Or I can come pretty darn close!)

Hmmm...looking at this reminds me that
I will need a tail in the finished piece!

1 comment:

  1. The puppets and the site look fabulous, Heidi! You are off to a great start!