Monday, June 16, 2008

You like puppets too?...

Although I haven't spoken about it at all in the entire history of this blog, I am a HUGE fan of the Muppets & the art of puppet performing.

Along with Disney cartoons & movies, I was raised on the Muppets. Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock & Muppet Babies were some of the first shows I ever watched on television growing up. Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas has been a must-watch yearly tradition for my older sister & me every holiday season & John Denver with the Muppets has always been near the top of my music library. The Muppets first introduced me to many great artists, comedians, musicians & actors through The Muppet Show & the Muppet movies & they still entertain me to this very day. In many ways, the Muppets have been a bigger inspiration to me than any cartoon character.

To me, Jim Henson is the person I idolize the most. He was a very unique individual, who had an incredible imagination, appealing personality & more creativity & talent in his bare hands than most people have in their entire body. Of course he had numerous equally creative & talented people at his side (Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, & countless others), but nobody had the spirit & tenacity that Henson did. He left the world far too soon.

Being a puppeteer has been a secret dream of mine for many years, & until now I haven't been able to quench my thirst for it. A few months back, I decided it was finally time to make my dream a reality.

For weeks I scanned the web scanning, researching & inquiring numerous companies & studios who can seamlessly create a puppet based on my own specifications. After looking over numerous sites & asking questions through email with countless dead-ends, I finally came to the right place: Furry Puppet Inc. . I immediately contacted Zack Bouchman from Furry Puppet, getting a gratifying reply back from him. After meeting with him & discussing specific quirks & important factors in the design of the puppet, we struck a deal!

Before I made contact with Zack, I thought hard on who to translate from 2D to the third-dimension. I finally decided that Cannibal Chicken would be the best choice because I thought he'd be the most difficult to transform into 3D & fabricate in puppet form. Get the hardest out of the way first, right?

I sent Zack a bunch of sketches & finished drawings showing him what Cannibal Chicken would look like from all sides as well as his proportions, colors, specific quirks & details in his design (his one green eye, his shirt, etc.). Here's some of the drawings I sent him:

Zack took these reference drawings & started working...

A few weeks later, Zack sent me some work-in-progress pictures of the puppet. At that point, the puppet was only sculpted foam. Although it was hard to visualize how the puppet would finally look, I was shocked & excited at how far the project had progressed & how Cannibal Chicken looked in three dimensions:

After this point, the puppet's pieces were sewn together, had it's fabric & fur dyed the appropriate colors & sewed on, had bendable & flexible wires put into the fingers & tail, had them grafted to the body & had arm rods attatched.

After over a month of work, Cannibal Chicken was finally complete:

I couldn't believe my eyes when I first saw these pictures. I practically fell outta my chair! He came out a million times better than I could possibly imagine!

I'd like to thank Zack Bouchman & Maria Gurevich (chief fabricator) from Furry Puppet for their wonderful work & for letting me have permission to post the work-in-progress pictures. They're both extremely amazing & talented artists! Check out their official site & the Furry Puppet Blog to see their work & (if you desire) order a custom puppet of your very own from them. I highly recommend them!

Now that the first half of my puppeteering goal is complete, it's time for Phase #2! I'll try to post video(s) of Cannibal Chicken in the near future to see if I got what it takes. 'Til then, I'll be warming up & getting used to handling the puppet.

As you can probably tell, I'm very satisfied indeed.


BMan said...

It looks great!

I'd be curious to know the price range for something like that.

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

i like the muppets.
& i like your sideburns too. are you the new elvis?

Michael J. Ruocco said...

You're welcome, bman! Although prices do range depending on how much detail or mechanisms you desire for the puppet, I don't want to disclose that kind of information here. But I will say one thing, if you REALLY want a custom puppet of your very own, start saving up.

& anonymous... yes, my sideburns are a wonder to behold. Sadly, I am not Elvis 2.0 & probably never will be. They do need a bit of a trim though, don't they?

Anonymous said...

No, I don't think you need to 'trim' them.
They look schmexy!

and schmaltzy (what ever that means)

Anonymous said...

I remember you talking about the puppet awhile back but I had no idea it would turn out as well as it did! Now that you are going to be learning how to puppeteer will you start posting puppet shows on your blog?
I guess we're both spending our summers learning to do something we've always been fascinated about, I'm going to finally teach myself how to play the banjo. Have a great summer and keep in touch.

Your Pal,
David Spector