Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What Puppets Can Do

A blog I enjoy following is "All Kinds of Stuff," which is the blog of John Kricfalusi, or "John K." John K is the, at times, controversial animator behind "Ren and Stimpy." A lot of his work is definitely adult oriented, but I enjoy some of his observations about animation in general. He will often break down sequences from classic animated shorts to talk about what makes them work. I enjoy doing the same thing with the world of puppets.

One of his recent postings is called "What Cartoons Can Do," in which he breaks down a sequence from a Woody Woodpecker cartoon called "Banquet Busters" to show what you can do with animation that you cold never do with live action.

As I read this it got me thinking about puppets. Puppets, of course, are a bit more limited than an animated character is. But still, one of the things that is so great about puppets is that they can do so many things that just aren't possible with live action. In fact, I would say the limitations of puppets work to their advantage many times. Just look at Kermit the Frog's performance of "Happy Feet." Jim Henson manages to convince the audience that Kermit is a great tap dancer, though we never even see his feet. For an actor on a stage, you can't fake tap dancing! With the right manipulation, puppets make the audience connect the dots in their own minds. They start to see things that aren't really there!

It's a challenge for we puppeteers to continue to...well...challenge our puppets. We need to explore what they are capable of, and even explore what they may not be capable of but which we can fool the audience into thinking that they are.

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