Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Dish and the Spoon Puppets

I wish I had many more process shots of these puppets, but decided that it was worth sharing them anyway.
The dish and the spoon were mostly 2D puppets for Goodnight Moon. Part of the challenge was that they each needed to be easily operated with one hand, because the same actress was operating both puppets at the same time (in addition to playing a third character herself, quite a feat). To start I created a base shape for each puppet on a piece of 1/4" ply.
The mouth operated similar to the mouth of the parrot and the curious child that I built previously. The mechanism requires a plate on a pivot to function as the jaw, a string to pull the jaw down on the pivot, and a spring to pull it back up.
On the two previous projects, where I was creating mouths in heads that had dimension, I was able to attach the pivot point of the jaw somewhere inside the head. In this case, since my 2D puppet did not have a place like that, I used heavy gauge wire to create the fixed pivot. To attach the plywood of the jaw to the wire pivot I drilled a series of holes in the plywood and used another wire to create a series of loops (like a spiral notebook)
Once it was completed, the actor could easily operate the mouth with her thumb, while holding the spoon with one hand. 
To create the look of the front of the spoon, I first added a layer of foam board on the handle and around the face. In addition to giving the spoon some basic dimension, it also served to reinforce the plywood without adding almost any weight. I sculpted the rest of the dimension of her face with Crayola model magic. After the model magic was set, I took a large piece of stretchy lycra fabric and used it to skin the entire puppet. To attach the skin I used spray adhesive, spraying on bit at a time working from the most detailed portions of the face outward to the smooth edges. At the opening of the mouth I cut several slits in the fabric so that I could pull and attach the fabric to fit smoothly around the opening. Add some paint for red lips, pink cheeks and blue eyeshadow, some large googly eyes, and some pipe cleaner eyelashes, and she was ready to go.
The mechanism of the spoon started off in a very similar way, but the operation of the mechanism ended up being very different.
Since there was no way for the actor to hold the dish below the mouth, and be able to pull directly down, I had to use a series of eye hooks to move the strings to a place the actor would be able to access it. As you can see, my initial design had the actor holding the spoon by a handle, where her thumb would have been able to pull in on the string closest to the top.

In the end, she found it worked much better for her hand to be placed directly against the back of the spoon, and to pull up on the string by using a ring attached to her thumb.

To create the face, again I used foam core to create the basic dimension along the lip of the plate, then model magic to sculpt the face. I used a cream colored lycra to skin the plate, and then added a bit of paint, and of course the awesome felt mustache and uni-brow. 

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