Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I Feel Pretty

Mastering lip synchronization is very important when it comes to operating a moving-mouth style puppet, but it's really just one small part of the big picture. Humans communicate so much through body language, puppets should do the same. Just take a look at "I Feel Pretty" from the Charles Aznavour episode of "The Muppet Show" (Season 1). In pure Muppet form, a pretty girl puppet transforms herself into a monster as she sings the classic song from "West Side Story." During the course of the song, the appearance of the puppet changes, so does the voice...those things obvious. However, what sells the transformation is the gradual change of body language.

As the piece begins, the puppet's movements are very graceful and flowing. The first change comes as the puppet removes her nose. Immediately the voice becomes nasal and the body language becomes somewhat stiff. When a bulbous green nose is put into place, the body language is similar to what we saw in the beginning, but with a bit of a sinister touch. The fingers of the puppet (a human-arm character) start to wiggle in a creepy way. After replacing the hair and eyes, a mouthful of fangs is put in place. Now the character's posture is almost hunched over and the character seems to almost lunge out at the audience.

It's unclear which puppeteer performed this character (the ending voice is clearly Henson's, the starting voice is clearly not). Whoever they were, they were very aware of making a transformation happen not just by adding monstrous features, but also having the actions of the character change with these features.

1 comment:

Steve Petra said...

The voice in the opening and middle parts of this bit is....FRAN BRILL. She opens the song nice and sweet and then goes increasingly nasal as the character transforms. I doubt if she was in England during taping of the show but she performed a number of songs for season one... so my guess is that Jim Henson operated the character.

Fran is a Muppet veteren. She does Prairie Dawn and Zoey on Sesame street and was probably the first female muppet performer (exlcluding Jane Henson) that was part of the primary Muppet team.

You can actually see Fran Brill if you catch any of her TV ads for Actonel, an osteoporosis drug.

Steve Petruzzella