Posted by Troy Picou
Fellow puppet enthusiasts,
I wish you had been a fly on the wall at Beyond the Sock. If you had, then you would know that the $1350 price tag for attendance would be worth saving for. I can’t think of any place better to enjoy myself while developing my professional skills than this program hosted by the University of North Texas. A brain child of James Martin, a professor in the Radio, Television, Film & Performing Arts portion of the University, Beyond the Sock is sponsored by two different departments at UNT: Department of Media Arts and the Department of Dance and Theatre. It features the teaching talents of Sesame Street puppeteers Noel McNeal and Peter Linz, with the puppet building talents of Pasha Romanowski of Project Puppet. To say that these guys are my professional heroes, is an understatement. The first year I attended the workshop in 2013, I was a nervous admirer. Now I have the pleasure of calling these teachers, my friends. These gentlemen are not only talented, but kind and down-to-earth.
The previous two years attendance have increased my skills professionally, and this year was no exception. Pasha’s online patterns are in a class by themselves, the best available. His patterns at the workshop are even more exciting. Each year I have learned a new technique to add to my skill set as a builder. The pattern you receive is not available outside the workshop and should be considered one of the valuable take-aways of attending. The monkey pattern from this year is now one of the most complex in my personal collection. It’s amazing that beginners and experienced puppet builders alike complete their puppets each year in time for a final video production at the week’s end. Pasha’s instruction and a massive scramble by week’s end ensure that every participant has a video ready puppet to perform on Saturday’s live Sesame Street style professional taping.
With a max attendance of 24-26 students, and classes split in two groups alternating between building and performing each day, each attendee gets plenty of individual attention from the instructors. Daily practice in front of monitors teaches participants the art of puppeteering in the style of Sesame Street, the best in the business. Peter Linz and Noel McNeal have both professional experience as puppeteers on Sesame Street and as teachers of puppeteering for Sesame Street’s international television offshoots. The puppeteering portion is a delightful mix of hands-on practice with the polished and playful demonstration of key concepts by two very funny, talented guys. I love watching Noel and Peter. I laugh and smile as I tackle the concepts with their encouragement. With monitors as a reference for puppeteering in frame, this style is not an easy one to master. You and other participants slowly learn this craft in preparation for a final show taped on the last day of the workshop.
Everyone at Beyond the Sock knows I love this workshop. I wear my smile every day because I’m tickled to be there. During BTS, I live, eat and sleep puppet for 5 days straight. It couldn’t be more fun. I plan to attend Beyond the Sock 2016. I wouldn’t miss it. Hope to see you there!
Check out “Beyond the Sock” video highlights CLICK HERE to see what you are missing!
Review by Pam Groom
Love the look and feel of this commercial! Have a great day everyone!
Highlights from day three of the Beyond The Sock Workshop shows attendees getting even more involved in building their own characters and learning how to manipulate them on camera. It’s lots of work but also lots and lots of fun. Find out more at www.beyondthesock.com
Here is Howie and Baboo with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield! I build Howie and Baboo for a new show by Little Engine Moving Pictures and Sinking Ship Entertainment called “Now You Know”. This picture was taken by Giordano Ciampini during an episode called “How do Astronauts Float in Space?” Howie and Baboo were puppeteered by Frank Meschkuleit and Marty Stelnick.
I was very honoured to be a part of this show, everyone in the production were awesome to work with! I can’t wait for the premier of the show in end of Feb, early March!
Jamie Anderson, son of late Gerry Anderson (Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, Space 1999) wants to continue the work of his father by producing one of his father’s series concepts “Firestorm”.
As they describe on their Kickstarter campaign:
Firestorm was originally conceived and developed by Gerry Anderson in 2001 under the title ‘Storm Force’. The series was eventually bought by a Japanese production company and developed as an anime series. By the time it reached the screen it was quite different to the original series Gerry Anderson had envisaged, and we want to go back to those original concepts and develop them as a true Gerry Anderson production.
Firestorm will see a return to several elements that we think are essential for a real Gerry Anderson project:
Practical effects – yep, that’s REAL explosions
Beautifully detailed miniatures
and yes… puppets!
Harking back to the wonderful world of Thunderbirds, we’re calling this updated combination of elements: Ultramarionation.
Here are some of the beautifully crafted puppets being built by the talented folks at Mackinnon and Saunders (Bob the Builder, Postman Pat and Fifi and the Flowertots, to Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox) Their Gerry Anderson connection runs deep – Ian Mackinnon had his very first paid job working on the 1980s pilot show Space Police, and the company was also responsible for the puppets in Gerry Anderson’s Lavender Castle.From concept maquettes, mould making and armatures to costume, hair and paint, their team will always go the extra mile to ensure the characters that are produced create the maximum impact on screen.
Their Kickstarter campaign is chalked full for information and describes exactly what the funding will be used for. Please give to this amazing project!
If you were a child (or college student) watching TV in the late 80s, Pee Wee Herman, the cherubic man-child of Pee Wee’s Playhouse, was your patron saint of silly and fun. As a college student, I fondly recall rolling out of bed just before 10am on a Saturday morning to tune in for my wake-up call and weekly inspiration. Cool Cat, Dirty Dog and Chicky Baby were beat-poet, jazz musicians in the Puppetland Band, puppet fish swam in the fishbowl, while Randy, the bully marionette teased and terrorized. Of course, there was Pterry the Pterodactyl, Pee Wee’s ardent sidekick who loved to fly and play catch. There were several other resident puppets including Clocky, Globey, Magic Screen, the flowers, Mr. Window, Chairy and others. Pee Wee’s Playhouse incorporated everything you could love as a young puppeteer including claymation, animation, stop motion effects and wonderful humanette techniques. The psychedelic color palate and cast of characters were an artist’s dreamscape and, no-doubt, instilled inspiration for that generation of merry-makers and would-be puppeteers.
The entire series plus a glut of bonus gems will be available on blu-ray in US and Canada on October 21, 2014. If you were a fan of the recent Wayne White documentary “Beauty Is Embarrassing” with White’s brief focus on his days working on the Playhouse, the included bonus materials looks like a puppeteer’s and Playhouse fan’s dream come true.
From the Shout Factory official release:
TV Guide named Pee-wee’s Playhouse #10 of the Top 25 Cult Television Shows Ever!
All 45 wacky episodes, plus Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, have been METICULOUSLY RE-MASTERED from the original film elements — and now YOU can see this ground-breaking series for the very first time in beautiful HIGH-DEFINITION!
Winner of an amazing 22 Emmy® Awards!
Scream along to the SECRET WORD with Pee-wee Herman and his pals — Jambi the Genie, Miss Yvonne, Cowboy Curtis, Reba the mail lady, Captain Carl, Magic Screen, Conky, Globey, Chairry, Pterri, Randy and many more! Aaaaarrrrrrrrr!!! I know you are, but what am I!?! Mecka-lecka hi… Mecka-hiney ho!
Includes Bonus Features:
– OVER 4 HOURS of brand-new interviews with the cast and crew, plus never-seen, behind-the-scenes footage—all part of TEN FEATURETTES, including:
– Building the Playhouse
– Opening the Playhouse
– Writing for the Playhouse
– The Look of the Playhouse
– Music of the Playhouse
– The Cast of the Playhouse
– Puppets of the Playhouse
– Animating the Playhouse
– A Very Merry Christmas Special
– Fans and Memorabilia of the Playhouse
– These featurettes include interviews with actors Laurence Fishburne (Cowboy Curtis), S. Epatha Merkerson (Reba the mail lady), Lynne Marie Stewart (Miss Yvonne) and John Paragon (Jambi the genie).
– Mark Mothersbaugh and Danny Elfman explain the music of the show and the Emmy award-winning production design team of Gary Panter, Wayne White and Ric Heitzman explain how the sets and puppets were imagined and produced.
– Animation Supervisor of all 5 seasons of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, Prudence Fenton (Liquid Television) talks about all the types of animation used in the program and animators Peter Lord and David Sproxton (Wallace & Gromit) discuss their contributions.
– Ve Neill, the multi-Oscar winning make-up artist talks about designing the make-up ‘looks’. Two of the shows writers talk about how the scripts were created.
– Other cast and crew explain, in fascinating detail, stories from the production of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. If that weren’t enough, many of the shows puppeteers and voice artists are interviewed about how the puppet characters were brought to life.
Article Written by: David Manley- Up In Arms
Produced by Redleg Films, Monkey Horse Cop is an action-comedy web series that stars Puppets as police. It’s Lethal Weapon meets Sesame Street, it is currently in Pre-Production and they hope with your help they hope to move it into production this fall. Please give and let’s get this made. CLICK HERE TO TO TO KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN
This is a documentary about the amazing puppeteers and members of the Puppetry Group (part of the Hunan Puppet and Shadow Art Protection and Inheritance Center) and their passion for performing puppetry.
Up In Arms’ latest puppet musical, “Monster Intelligence“, makes its debut with 3 shows free to the public in Orange County, New York on May 10, June 7 and June 14, 2014. Looking back, it’s been quite the journey. Over a year ago, many of my friends in the puppet community had been discussing the hurdles we face as full time artists. Bookings were and continue to be low and balancing budgets and the prospect of producing new shows becomes difficult to reconcile. This article won’t be about the hardships that we all know too well. I’d rather focus on the triumphs and community of puppeteers and supporters who made this show possible.
The grant and budget would pay for the script writer, music arranger, recording studio, puppet materials, additional puppet builder, scenery and props, photographer, talent rehearsal and performance stipend. Along with that, I had a community of people ready to lend a hand. Derek Lux is a builder from LA who was kind enough to buy an Up In Arms t-shirt when I had them printed to raise funds. I always enjoyed his artistry and was happy to be able to employ him as my additional builder. Although the materials were supplied, he jumped in at a reduced fee to help build some of the puppets. Pasha Romanowski from Project Puppet has always been a champion of all we do at Up In Arms and lent his artistry in drawing some initial concept designs for many of the characters. When it came time to construct props, I needed a drawing of a young monster for a cereal box. Of course, Dave Hulteen came to mind and I knew just the character of his I wanted to use. When I asked for use of the character, he not only allowed me to use it but, mocked up what he thought the cereal box cover might look like and it’s now being used in the show. These are all people that I’ve developed relationships with online over the years but, it still fills me with love and support that these people believe in what I do. Relationships in this community are everything to me. I met puppeteer Charlie Kanev at the POA festival in Swarthmore, PA last summer and he wanted to help in any way he could. I want to support this young talent, not only because of the friendship we’ve forged but, because of the amazing artistry and potential that he so obviously has. When I needed a butterfly for the opening scene, Charlie, with his knowledge of rod puppet mechs, built me a beautiful butterfly rod puppet with flapping wings. Charlie was instrumental in designing and painting some of the set pieces as well and will be puppeteering for the premiere performances. A designer I met at the Puppetry Guild of Greater New York (NYC) was Justin DuPont who designed and built a simple rolling frame for the monster’s doors which roll on and off during the show.
Of course, there are more than just puppeteers and puppet builders that made this show happen. I’m lucky to be part of an arts community where I live and called upon talented friends for the initial table-read of the show, vocal talent to record the show, Scott Test, our exceptional music arranger, my friend Hannah Blair Butler who created costumes for a few of the characters and, my insanely talented friend John Simpkins in Oregon who painted the backdrop for the show. Major kudos, of course, to my creative partner and script writer Alex Ishkanian for taking on the ‘monster’ task of bringing this story to life. “Monster Intelligence” is ready to be embraced by an audience with a community of exceptionally talented and caring individuals behind it.
Article by David Manley