Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Instant Marrionette

Okay, maybe not instant, but way faster than it could have been.
I'm working on a production of Pinocchio and in this script there is supposed to be a real marrionette on the table through the first few scenes. It is only when the blue fairy appears and that the doll is replaces by an actor. The doll didn't need to be life sized, but the other marrionettes I had purchased on ebay weren't big enough. Apparently the theatre used to have one (they have done this show before) but it seems to have been lost when they moved to a new space last year. I looked online and in toy stores for things that I might be able to alter, but eventually it became clear that I was going to have to make this thing. Turns out that it probably should have been the first thing I tried.
Here he is, pre-paint and clothing.

His body is made out of a piece of 4x4. It gave him a solid base so I didn't have to worry about balancing him to sit. I cut the neck and shoulders out of a piece of 2x4 and the head is a foam ball that I coated with Elmers glue to make it paint-able.
The arms and legs are simple dowel rods that I attached with little screw eyes. I don't have a picture of it, but later I stabelized these joints with strips of muslin (kinda like tendons) so that they couldn't spin and twist.
To attach the ball to the neck I used a T-nut in the neck and a long bolt through the foam head. 
The face was made by molding Model Magic over the Styrofoam ball. (As a side note, his face is weird because A: The script says that he isn't supposed to have a nose and B: the actor will be wearing a mask that creates big cheeks to disguise the mechanism for a growing nose so I wanted this to resemble that). For some reason as the model magic cured it developed large cracks all over the face. I filled the gaps by giving the whole mask a coat of elmers glue and then filled them the rest of the way when I painted the mask. 

In a move that would make any costumer cringe, I didn't sew any of the clothing. I hot glued all of it together, but since it won't be worn by any actors that will be exposed by wardobe malfunctions, and since hot glue really does stick fabric together really well...it was easier and faster than trying to pattern something for a wooden block doll.

For his hair, I used some foam sheets that I cut into strips (note, start at the bottom).

I'm really happy with the way he turned out, and even better was how easily he came together.

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