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Stuffed animals as puppets?

Discussion in 'Storytelling and Puppets' started by Koi-kun, Aug 30, 2009.

  1. Koi-kun

    Koi-kun New Member

    As of yet, I have no clown skills. : ( The only electric buzzer I use is the one when you shuffle across a rug and grab the door handle. ;_; I'm also good at making cards disappear by dropping them all over the floor. I could put a quarter in my ear but it might get lost. : ( I plan to get off my fat nose and start learning to grasp the basics of juggling, magic, and to get over my fear of balloons long enough to start learning how to twist ASAP, but at the moment the only thing I know how to do is tell lame jokes, share happy energy with people, and playing roles. I'm wondering if it's conventional for clowns to use puppets---and more specifically, to use stuffed animals (cute, non-threatening ones) as substitute puppets--along the lines of something like the adventures of Duffy the Dachshund and Milton the Monkey. Or better yet, have Duffy and Milton interact with the kids, saying hi, telling jokes, telling Koi-kun off, etc? Will something like that be potentially negative? I humbly consult your wisdom, your Clowniness(es).
  2. LuLu too

    LuLu too New Member

    stuffed animals as puppets

    no, i don't think it would be a bad idea to have the puppets interact with the kids. It would be really cute as long as none of the kids got scared. Ask the parents if any kids would be. I know i like to be included in the fun i'am watching. Good luck!:mad:
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  3. Special K'z

    Special K'z Well-Known Member

    Puppetts can be a wonderful extension of your clowning. Don't go second guessing yourself Koi-kun. You probably know more than you think about clowning.:) You can open up the seam in the back of a stuffed animal take out some of the stuffing and use it as a puppett if you can't find a regular puppett that you like. As long as you are using it appropriately with children (no dirty jokes-now) I see a puppett as just another prop to get that interaction with your audience, same as any instrument (that you know how to play).
    Sara K.
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  4. Perry Noia

    Perry Noia New Member

    You don't even need to do that. Hoot at Moose Camp did a whole routine with Fitzwilly using a stuffed dog he got at a thrift shop just by holding the back of its head and making it move that way. The important things that he pointed out in his quick puppet workshop were 1) make sure you have the puppet looking where you want the attention to be (on the child talking, at the magic trick, at you if you are talking with the puppet, etc.) and 2) make the puppet have its own character (voice different from yours, personality, etc.)

    Also be sure that there is a good entrance and exit for the character and if they are still in sight of the kids, then treat them as if they are still that living character... don't just say, "ok we're done with that" and shove it in a box... you'll destroy the connection the children just made with that character.

    HOpe this helps... I'm still working on getting my puppets back into my show now that I got this info myself.
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  5. Special K'z

    Special K'z Well-Known Member

    Good points.
    When I taught daycare I used my puppet right before lunch (notoriously difficult time for young ones). When it was time to line up to go to the lunch room I had him go into a small house I made out of a cardboard box. It was time for him to go home and eat and take his nap just like the rest of the kids. It worked well. He was just a simple sock puppet. I had another that was a simple hand puppet with yarn hair and was a shy character. Worked well to quiet and calm the children down. Yes they need their own characters and they don't need to be anything fancy. Sometimes its better to pack light get the same bang for your buck, so to speak. Also about balloons. Perry suggested balloon-animals.com as a good resource and she is correct. It is a good place to watch videos to get the basics down. They are all there at one site. Books are great but the videos helped me more to actually see how it is done.
    Sara K.
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  6. Happy Chappy & Daisy

    Happy Chappy & Daisy Well-Known Member

    Daisy has a rooster puppet she made with a Webkins rooster and a white glove. Rip the seam, pull out some of the beans, sew on the glove and insert. Not necessary, as mentioned above, but easy and very professional looking.

    Also, Jim Henson said that part of the secret of the Muppets is that they didn't just open and close their mouths; they would shove the words out. Put a puppet on your hand and look at the difference.
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  7. Koi-kun

    Koi-kun New Member

    Thank you, everyone's advice and encouragement helped a lot, and that's reassuring, Perry Noia, that I don't have to take the stuffing out of the plushies. My reservation at doing that is because they're already very well-formed, and without the stuffing their heads and ears might sag and that might look scary or grotesque. Thanks for all of your input. ^^

    Good luck with that. ^^ I'm sure that the kids will love their return! ^^

    And that's it! ::Stuff.::

    Duffy: Ow, Koi-kun, watch the nose, will ya?!

    No, I actually have a strong connection with the stuffed animals myself, because I've been collecting them over a period of six years or so, and I'll make sure that they bow out with dignity and cheerfulness. ^^
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  8. Happy Chappy & Daisy

    Happy Chappy & Daisy Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry, I forgot to mention this before; the Webkins are sort of double-stuffed. There's regular stuffing in the head, and beans in the body. Daisy took out the beads and never touched the regular stuffing, changing the shape. Again, it's not necessary, but it works if you want to do it.
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  9. saphireSue

    saphireSue True Blue

    There are a lot of clowns that use puppets, I do as well, kids and adults respond well to puppets.
    Only thing I want to add, it that a puppet does not have to speak, they can, but they can make animal noise or they can speak through you, [like it whispers in your ears], One of mine is a baby dragon that is controlled by a wire and his head moves, I just sit him up there while doing some walk around stuff and move him occasoinally, he gets a lot of attention, he doesn't speak; [btw he's one of my funny farm animals where my clown lives]. I've had adults ask if he was real betieve it or not.
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  10. Mr. Woolery

    Mr. Woolery New Member

    Puppetry is an artform that I have only recently recognized. I think the real key is, as mentioned above, to create a connection with the puppet. The audience has to accept your puppet as a real thing. You don't need a voice for this.

    The video that convinced me to get a puppet was by Bill Abbott and he does his Chico the Mind Reading Monkey routine on it. Wonderful routine. Essentially, he does a very simple magic trick and the monkey does bits of business that flesh a 45-second trick out to 10 minutes.

    If you want to learn a particular skill, you will make the time and take the effort to learn it. Part of the fun is in the learning. And even very simple things can be a lot of work to learn. How long does it take to learn to shuffle a deck of cards? Takes a while! How long do you show off the skill when actually performing? Couple of seconds. But it is very important.

    My advice is to use a puppet or stuffed animal when you are doing anything where you are alone. Watch TV and talk to it about how stupid the show is. Find a voice for your puppet (or decide that it only whispers in your ear, but that's a form of voice, too) and practice having it talk to you. Make it something you do like grandma used to knit when she would otherwise have idle hands. The result will be a better rapport with your puppet and that translates to kids believing in it better.

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  11. Christopher Clown

    Christopher Clown What the Seuss??!

    Consider this advice... Its not about having the fanciest puppet. Christopher Hudert gave a far better performance with his stuffed dog than I ever have with my Axtell Orangutan. Its not about the quality of the puppet... but the quality of your performance. You have to believe what your doing is real, that the conversation is real, that your puppet isn't a puppet but a live character. If you don't, then that will show in your performance and be really noticeable.

    And its not about being the best ventriloquist either... Trust me I can't keep my mouth shut anyway But if you create focus on the puppet as a character and cause him to draw attention to himself then the kids could care less if your lips are moving or not.
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  12. Gimpdiggity

    Gimpdiggity New Member

    I have long been fascinated with puppets. I have three human puppets, a Wizard (which actually does a magic trick), a prince, and a princess. I also have a hand made bird on the way as I type this.

    I am eventually going to get an Axtell bird, but I'm not sure which one because I like so many of them.

    I have some very minimal ventriloquism skills. Basically the stuff that just about anyone can do.

    With this said, I had never even thought at all about having the puppet have a voice, and that voice be whispers into my ear. That's absolutely amazing, and gives me something to actually USE my puppets for!!

    I had always basically just collected them because I thought they were cool...I always figured I wouldn't really have much use for them because I wasn't very proficient in ventriloquism.

    The idea of using them so that they whisper into my ear gives me lots of ideas for how I could use them...

  13. Mr. Woolery

    Mr. Woolery New Member

    If you want to invest in a good routine, I suggest getting Bill Abbott's video about magic for kids. Some of the production quality is low and all of it is rather amateur (my degree was in broadcast journalism), but the content is superb. It includes a routine called Chico the Mind Reader. This is a 10-12 minute routine with a little monkey puppet. It whispers into Abbott's ear when it wants to say something and the routine involves a magic trick as well. He uses it for kids and adults (there's an adult performance in the bonus material on the DVD) and it is equally successful for any age.

    Another one (without the magic trick) is the Benny the Bunny routine that Canadian magician Brian Lehr does. He has a clip of it up on YouTube, so it should be easy to find. Again, the puppet doesn't have a voice the kids can hear, but they don't miss it.

    How can you incorporate a puppet into a routine? Is there anything you do where having a "helper" could involve a puppet instead of a volunteer? There are loads of ideas out there for the Rocky the Raccoon spring puppet and that's essentially a stuffed animal (stuffed with a spring instead of poly-fill).

    Or, another example, as a clown, how long can you get the kids to buy the idea that you think this pink puppy is a real dog? What might you do that makes them laugh? The dog does tricks like lay down, stay, play dead. Could you be afraid it is going to bite you?

    I'm no expert, but I have kids and I volunteer at their school, so I have a lot of kid exposure. I think the key is to let them realize that you can play at their level without it coming across as pretending to play at their level. Does that make sense? Kids don't care for phonies, but if you can have fun being silly and draw them into the fun, it works a whole lot better than trying to just be silly when your heart isn't in it. That would be true of any entertainment, whether magic (my field) or clowning or music or poetry recitation.

  14. Zippy Zoo

    Zippy Zoo New Member

    I did feel guilty cutting into my stuffed rabbit, Buttercup. But I did it. I didn't pull out all the stuffing. I left the head and the legs and arms all stuffed and only cut into her behind and removed the stuffing from her back. Then I lined her bottom and back with fabric for decoration and to keep the leftover stuffing from leaking and sticking to everything. Guess what? She ended up beautifully! I got this toy from Dollar General. She was on clearance for about seventy cents.

    The rest of the materials(the piece of fabric) cost less than thirty cents (I didn't use much). Therefore, Buttercup cost me less than a dollar.:applause:
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2010
  15. Texas Sprinkles

    Texas Sprinkles New Member

    intriqued by your baby dragon puppet got any pictures?....funny farm animals where clown lives??? ima newbie
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2010
  16. Texas Sprinkles

    Texas Sprinkles New Member

    Pictures please!!! idea:applause: everyone with a puppet post a pic?
  17. Zippy Zoo

    Zippy Zoo New Member

    I'll be happy to when I get a pic of Buttercup! She's adorable. You'll love her!
  18. Zippy Zoo

    Zippy Zoo New Member

    Pix of Buttercup

    Here are the pix of Buttercup. The last one is of the opening for my hand. It's really hard to see, but it's not as small as it looks. There is plenty of space for my hand and arm. The fabric lining is a glittery purple sheer fabric. To pose her head and arms, I simply use my fingers. I thought of adding sticks to use as control mechanisms, levers, but decided against it, since there is very little reason to move her arms (she's holding a rabbit doll, named Lavender) and I actually have much more control than I thought I would when I came up with the idea. Maybe I'm over thinking it, a crime of which I'm often guilty. She did turn out beautifully. I'm thinking of maybe making more puppets like her. Although there are some GREAT puppets at Kraynak's I may eventually buy.

    Well, it doesn't appear that I'm gonna be able to load the pics tonight. Maybe the princess has it set so no one can to keep people from uploading bad material. I don't blame her. Someone probably would! I'll try again tomorrow.

  19. Texas Sprinkles

    Texas Sprinkles New Member

    Looking forward to seeing the pics Zippy Zoo!!
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  20. Zippy Zoo

    Zippy Zoo New Member

    As you can see, I left most of the original toy intact, removing as little as feasibly possible. She still has her legs and tail. Even a big portion of her stuffing. In one picture her ears are cut out. She still has her ears! I just lost them in the pic. Couldn't get further away because she was on my hand. If I do a photo shoot with her and need someone to hold her, I just might improvise some kind of prop, instead, to allow for distance. I had to edit these so they looked like her, instead of some yellow blob. Other than that...this is Buttercup!:applause:

    buttercup1.jpg buttercup2.jpg


    The last pic is of the hole for my hand. The fabric you see is a sheer glittery purple of unknown composition. It came from the thrift store. You had to know I was gonna say that!:D

    Last edited: May 3, 2010
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