Kudos to Nashville Public Library for making a video that explains their new curbside service in 1990 style! "Curb Side Baby" parodies Vanilla Ice's megahit AND relays important info about checking out books with rapping mice puppets ("Vanilla Mice"?). What more could you ask for?
This video was produced in-house by fantastically talented staff: Greg from Main Library Children's Division and Morgan from The Puppet Truck. Rap performed by Justin from The Puppet Truck, and Wicked Ida Puppetry provided the non-marionette puppets.
screengrab via Nashville Public Library
(Nag on the Lake) Read the rest
• “Miss Piggy,” “Kermit The Frog,” and all your favorite Muppets will be there.
The beloved humans behind The Muppets are gathering for a special live internet broadcast today to honor the late Jim Henson, who died 30 years ago today. Read the rest
May 16 marks 30 years since Jim Henson passed away. To remember his delightful legacy, here's a public access video of him and Don Sahlin (who went on to create and voice Rowlf) from 1969, teaching kids how to make puppets out of random household objects like tennis balls and socks.
Image: Blake Handley / Flickr (CC 2.0) Read the rest
The struggle is real. Also this song bops. Read the rest
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This comes late but if you catch it you will be glad you did.
almighty Opp is livestreaming a special extra installment of their usual once monthly amazing, absurdist puppet ritual.
jeffrey can help us all hold it together. Read the rest
On October 18, 1979, Kenny Rogers, who died on Friday, performed "The Gambler" on The Muppet Show. See the human hands on those muppets? This was one of the rare instances in which "the puppeteer lends his/her body parts," according to the Muppet Wiki.
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Jim Henson's "The Coffee Break Machine" (1967), a skit in an IBM training film, was the first appearance of a proto-Cookie Monster, then green, who evolved from a puppet named the Wheel-Stealer. (A slightly different version of the clip appeared on the Ed Sullivan show that same year.) From the Muppet Wiki:
A proto-Cookie Monster wanders upon a talking coffee machine that has been set in "Auto-Descriptive" Mode. As the machine describes its parts, the monster eats them. Once the machine is finished, the voice of the machine from inside the monster tells him that he has activated the anti-vandalism program, which harbors the most powerful explosives known to man. The monster instantly combusts. The version on the Ed Sullivan Show is slightly different; in this version, the machine itself is an explosive device.
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Judith Hope is a UK-based puppeteer who has created maneuverable art for theatre, festivals, parades, and more. Read the rest
Legendary puppeteer Carroll Spinney, who brought Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life on Sesame Street, died today. He was 85. Here's the New York Times obituary. And from the Sesame Workshop:
Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its earliest days in 1969 through five decades, and his legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending. His enormous talent and outsized heart were perfectly suited to playing the larger-than-life yellow bird who brought joy to generations of children and countless fans of all ages around the world, and his lovably cantankerous grouch gave us all permission to be cranky once in a while.
In 2018, Spinney retired from Sesame Street. Below is Sesame Workshop's video tribute to him and the following is from a New York Times profile from the time:
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Although they had previously crossed paths in the 1960s, Spinney pinpointed a fateful encounter at a Salt Lake City puppeteers’ festival in 1969, when (Muppets creator Jim) Henson watched him try to perform a multimedia show that went gradually awry.
As Spinney recalled, Henson came to him afterward to say, “I liked what you were trying to do.”
Soon after, Henson invited Spinney to play two Muppet characters that were being developed for “Sesame Street,” which made its debut on public television later that year. One was Oscar, who was envisioned as a cranky, trash-loving purple character. (He was orange in his earliest appearances, before taking on his familiar green hue.)
Children of the 80's will remember the disturbing puppets from satirical puppet show Spitting Image and the video for Genesis' Land of Confusion. Co-creator Roger Law has confirmed that a pilot has been filmed, with hopes of a new series focusing on major celebrities like Donald Trump and Mark Zuckerberg.
Jeff Westbrook, a writer on The Simpsons and Futurama, is serving as show-runner, and caricaturist Adrian Teal is working on the puppets. You can get a glimpse of the Trump puppet in action in this clip:
(Images via Avalon and The Guardian.) Read the rest
ETH Zurich engineers demonstrated a system enabling a robot to control a marionette. Although a robotic puppeteer is pretty damn cool, that's not the point of the research.
"Our long term goal is to enable robots to manipulate various types of complex physical systems – clothing, soft parcels in warehouses or stores, flexible sheets and cables in hospitals or on construction sites, plush toys or bedding in our homes, etc – as skillfully as humans do," they write in their technical paper. "We believe the technical framework we have set up for robotic puppeteering will also prove useful in beginning to address this very important grand-challenge."
(via IEEE Spectrum)
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In Bermuda, the enchanting Crystal Caves attract tourists with their huge stalactites and stalagmites above the clear water pools. As a child, Michael K. Frith frequently visited the caves and never forgot their weird, otherworldly beauty. Those caves would eventually inspire Frith, working with puppeteer Jim Henson, to co-create Fraggle Rock, a beloved muppet TV series that premiered in 1983. From Jennifer Nalewicki's lovely piece about Frith and the Crystal Caves in Smithsonian:
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...It wasn’t simply the caves themselves that inspired Frith; it was also the way they were discovered. During the last Ice Age, roughly 1.6 million years ago, the Crystal Caves formed as a result of rainwater eroding the surrounding limestone, but they remained unknown to Bermudians up until 1907, when Carl Gibbons and Edgar Hollis, two local boys, accidentally discovered them. As the story goes, during a game of cricket their ball rolled next to a small crevice that was emitting warm gusts of air. Curious, the duo began digging with their hands, dropping a rock through the narrow opening to see how far down the hole went. Hearing a "plink," Gibbons ran the short distance home and grabbed a crowbar and a kerosene lamp, and they continued digging only to find a subterranean world beneath them....
“The thing that got me about the story [of their discovery] is the idea that these kids were suddenly in a place where no human being had ever been before,” says Frith, who is now retired. “I always felt that must have been an astonishing thing to be standing there with a flashlight and tracing its beam and hitting the stalactites, stalagmites and the glitter of the water running down them.
Bert and Ernie made headlines today after Mark Saltzman, who wrote for the show for 14 years starting in 1984, said in Queerty interview: "I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [gay]." Read the rest
Unusualist Raymond Crowe has created something really special with his hand shadow puppet performance of Louis Armstrong's 1967 hit "What a Wonderful World." In this video, the Australian-born entertainer is presenting his now-signature piece in front of Queen Elizabeth at the 2007 Royal Variety Performance.
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Using common objects like socks, tennis balls, wooden spoons, and even potatoes, Jim Henson and his assistant Don Sahlin show children how to make basic puppets and bring them to "life" in the 1969 Iowa Public Television show, "Volume See."
Previously: These over-the-top Muppets shoes are downright inspired
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It's hard to describe this video, posted by Dan Cole, but I'll try.
1. A man objects to having a camera put in his face by a videographer who is talking vicariously through a glove puppet.
2. The man adopts a doomed strategy: trying to get the camera out of his face by fastidiously keeping his face in-shot while following the camera around.
3. He argues as he does so, occasionally with the camera operator, but occasionally with the glove puppet.
It gets so good at the end I'm almost certain it's staged – but not entirely. Read the rest