Playing Pinocchio! - Week Nine

Do puppets dream?

Suzie uses gaffer tape and cardboard to find out...

Puppet Making: Movement

Today we were given the task of making some simple puppets - I say 'simple'... Although the puppets were made from simple materials (cardboard and gaffer tape) they were actually rather complex in the way that they moved. We made them specifically with movement in mind; how would the joints - the knees, the elbows, the shoulders - be constructed so as to move in a natural and realistic way?!

Oli (Oliver Smart, our instructor) showed us the intricate way in which a few puppets worked, and then, under his careful consultation, we started constructing our own.

Such Stuff as Puppets Are Made On

As mentioned above, we used very sophisticated materials - cardboard and gaffer tape! But I'm also referencing a Prospero quote from The Tempest in the subheading there - 

We are such stuff / As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.. 

This is said by the magician Prospero when he uses his powers to make a group of spirits disappear. He then reminds his daughter - Miranda - and her fiance - Ferdinand - that life is as fleeting as a dream and can end quickly. So too can puppet life begin! In this case it began by making the components of the puppet's arms and legs out of rolled up cardboard and gaffer tape, which were then stuck together in a special way to form movable joints. 

 Here I've made some legs by rolling up cardboard and holding it together with gaffer tape. Each leg consists of two rolls with a joint - the knee - in the middle. The flat cardboard will be rolled into arms...

 likewise the arms are made out of two rolls with a joint - the elbow - in the middle. We are yet to make the joints at this stage...

 The components of my puppet's legs and an arm. The ends are flattened and sealed with gaffer and will form the joints.

Legs and arms with movable joints where the knees and the elbows would be.

It was quite a fiddly and sticky process  to create the joints with the tape - folding it back on itself so as to create a sort of 'tendon' from which the cardboard 'joints' could move. 

Then we stuck the arms and legs to the puppet's body and created shoulder joints too. Next we added a movable neck and some feet - also making sure that the puppet had the ability to flex its feet up and down by fashioning ankle joints. Mine is missing a head at this stage - but we were pushed for time. It was a tough call to make an intricate puppet in only two hours. The puppets Oli showed us at the beginning of the class may have taken weeks to make! 

Complex and Clever

I'm certainly struck by how, even seemingly basic puppets, can be so complex and clever by design. When making puppets it can never be enough to merely make something that looks good, or characterful. It must be taken into consideration how the puppet will move. And importantly, as Oli said, it has to move in a realistic way so that a human audience will empathise with it, relate to it and connect to it too. So that they'll believe in it...!

Suzie x

Any questions for Suzie or the Pinocchio team? Write a comment below and join in.....

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