Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Red Balloon

 The red balloon was one of the trickiest pieces to figure out in Goodnight Moon. We wanted it to be able to move around the room, tip side to side, and move up and down. After some crazy ideas involving fishing poles rigged with right angles, tracks and pulleys running around over the set, etc. we realized the easiest solution was yo make the balloon a marionette operated from the catwalk. 
(Big shout out here to the run crew person who climbs the ladders, makes the balloon dance and then climbs  back down a dozen times per show). 
 The balloon itself is just thick paper mache formed around a large rubber playground ball. It has four screw eyes around the sides where the strings attach and are run to the grid. 
At the top of the strings is this this cross piece. Each arm corresponding to one side of the balloon. Instead of tying off at each point, I put an eye hook at each point and continued running each string through screw eyes, over the top of the crosspiece, and down to the handle where the operator will be holding the piece. 
 At the end of the handle all of the strings are run back to this fishing reel. The reel allows the puppeteer a wide range of up and down motion. Also, by counting turns she is able to hit designated heights consistently. 
 Hanging off the end of the crosspiece is this clip. The clip allows the puppeteer to clip into the grid where ever she is over the stage. The balloon clips into the grid, balances on the bar nearby and the puppeteer can leave it whenever she needs to to run downstairs to operate any of the other puppets. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

The cow jumps over the moon

By now it should be pretty clear that everything in Goodnight Moon moves or comes to life. The paintings are no different. For the cow jumping over the moon, we needed to cow to jump out of the frame three times and return again each time. 
this is the, terribly uninteresting view from the back side of the wall. Here you can see that the dowel attached to the cow is leaned against a piece of angled 1x2 and attached to the wall with a bolt. 
Jumping the cow out of the frame was just a matter of pivoting the dowel around the bolt.
We didn't want the cow to back up into the frame though, so once we got to this point we kept going until the dowel was pointing straight down. (it's hard to see in these pictures, but the 1x2 was attached to the back flat, and there was a gap between the 1x2 and the front flat the allowed the dowel to swing through). 
To get the cow back into the frame, the run crew uses the 1x2 as a guide to slide the cow smoothly into place. Once it is at the right height, they simply slip the pivot bolt back into its hole and the cow is ready to jump again.

The final time that the cow reappears in the frame, she has just successfully jumped over the moon and has been given a gold medal to celebrate her bravery. During previews several kids asked the director after the show why the cow didn't have her medal when she returned to the frame. Answer: because it hadn't even occurred to us. So after the show I whipped up this quick medal. 

I folded a piece of plumbers strap to fit over the cutout, covered it in white Gaff tape, with red and blue spike tape for stripes, and added a felt furniture glide painted gold. 
The piece slides easily over the cow's neck while the cow is out of the frame between scenes. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dancing bookcase dolls

One of the more challenging and magical moments in Goodnight Moon, involved these dolls. 
Early in the show the dolls are taken off the bookcase and given to Little Bunny in his bed. About halfway through the show he places the dolls back on the shelf. Moments later the dolls magically start to move. 
To achieve the magic, both dolls were built with hooks coming out the bottom, that slipped into holes in the bookcase. 

As soon as they were placed on the bookcase, the run crew member backstage quickly attached hooks to the loops. 
To allow the space needed under the dolls, the majority of the books on this section of the bookcase were just bindings glued onto a piece of foam to hold them in place. 
The mechanisms within the dolls were difficult to photograph (pretty much impossible with all the fabric and stuffing surrounding the hardware). I figured a drawing might be an easier way to explain the way the dolls moved. 
The boy doll had wires in each arm The arm wires were attached to the wire going down through the bookcase, and a spring attached to the top of the dolls head. When the wire was pulled down it forced the arms up. When the wire was released the spring pulled the ends of the arm wires back and the arms went back down. 
What is not shown in the drawing is that the wire coming out the bottom is run though a piece of PVC to prevent it from getting snagged on anything. There are also too large dowel rods run from the seat of the doll all the way to the top of his head so that pulling the wire actually stretched the spring instead of just squishing the doll. 
The giraffe was rigged with a nodding head. A large trampoline spring was installed in his neck and heavy duty thread was sewn in from the font of his chin, though his body and down through his foot. when the wire was pulled from below, the spring was forced to bend and the giraffe nodded. When the wire released, the spring sprung back and the giraffe returned to it's initial position
I did have to insert some heavy bolts into the back legs of the giraffe to counter weight him. We were having problems with him tipping over when the string was pulled even slightly too hard. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mantle Pieces

These mantle pieces were a quick project for Goodnight Moon.
To make them I used circles cut from 3/4" insulation foam and these glass bottles I found at American Science and Surplus (originally lava lamp bottles). 
I carved the foam to shape, attached everything together with Liquid Nails. 
Side note: make use when gluing foam that you use the Liquid Nails with the blue label. That is the one that is safe on foam. Other will eat through your foam, ruin you project, and produce some pretty toxic chemicals in the process
Finally I painted over all the foam with Elmer's glue to allow it to take paint, and spray painted them blue to match the clock on the fireplace. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Magic Phone

For the phone in Goodnight Moon, I started with this lampshade from IKEA. 
I cut out spaces at the top to provide a resting place for the receiver, cut out a space for the dial (which will later reveal a surprise face), and used a couple layers of duct tape to seal the top. 
 And a view from inside.
 To solidify the receiver cradle I used epoxy putty to fill in along each of the remaining prongs. 
 For the phone's first magic trick I wanted the receiver to jiggle when the phone rang. I used three L-irons and a small machine screw to make this tiny lever. 

 I installed the mini-lever on a small piece of plywood and screwed it into the phone.
 From the top the lever sits below the surface of the tape.
 Then when a string is pulled the L-iron pops up just enough to make the receiver jump a bit.

From below you can see that when you pull the string, the L-Iron pivots to pop up and stretches the spring
 When the string is released the spring pulls the L-Iron back into it's resting position.
For the phone's second trick, we wanted a face to be revealed when the phone spoke to bunny. 
 In resting position, all we see through the hole I cut is a standard phone dial.
 When a string is pulled from backstage the phone's face is revealed (I later changed the face to be much cuter than the one pictured here, which I was not at all happy with). In this picture you can see the springs that pull the panel with the dial on it back up when the string is released.
 This picture (awkwardly) shows how the panel with the dial painted on it disappears down below the phone, into a hole cut into the little bedside dresser.
And here is a view from above, looking down past the springs into the hole.
This project required a good deal of futzing to get to a point where the dial panel didn't get caught on anything on the way back up, and the string moved easily without friction from where the backstage crew was operating it. It also required a lot of rehearsal because the person who is pulling the strings backstage can't see what they are doing.*fingers crossed* it seems to be working well now.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

reusable knitting

In Goodnight Moon, our two little kittens are puppeted by wires attached through their bodies and up the the Old Lady's knitting needles, disguised as yarn. 
Because of the alternate use for the knitting needles, I couldn't have the Old Lady actually knitting. Too much was going on onstage, the knitting needed to be removable and real knitting would have quickly become a quickly unraveling mess.
Instead, I knitted a short length of...whatever this is supposed to be the start of, and knotted it off as if I was finishing. As I was tying off each loop I inserted one of these small rubber rings (found in the jewelry section of Michaels).
The rings allow the Old Lady to pretty convincingly approximate knitting by working the rings along the needles and transferring them back and forth from one needle to the other.

This trick was especially appropriate for this show, but I think with a few alterations it might be a trick I come back to often when an actor needs to be knitting on stage. Especially an actor who didn't already know how to knit, would be freed from thinking about her hands and allowed to concentrate on the scene.