DEN Project

Making of the Puppets

Anna Krystyna Casey

Just seen all the Chinese puppets, looking forward to getting stuck in to replicating them for the animation project in a few weeks time. It’s the first time I have ever made puppets, so I am excited to learn a new art form, but it is a little worrying too knowing they will be in the animation for the exhibition means they need to look great! Each figure has really great individual features, so will make a great set of characters for the story. Some beautiful colours and decorative details, hope I can do them justice!!

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Scanned each of the characters today, giving me some accurate pictures to work from. It’s a little bit unusual for me to be working from photos, and not the real objects, but I don’t want to risk getting glue on the real things!! I also rescaled the images before printing; so all the puppets will be the same scale. It will be exciting to see the story come together, but until I know what they will be doing, I’ll be working from the originals.

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 Today I have begun to split the puppets bodies up into moving parts, finding where their elbows and other joints will be. It’s a little bit tricky, as the puppets are posed in some odd positions. These poses give them their quirky characters, so I don’t want to lose that, but I need to make them make sense when they move! Very tricky! Once I have decided where the joints will be, I trace the parts of the puppets individually, and copy them onto card. The cardboard body parts then get cut out and put together with split pins, creating the basic puppet! Two down, six to go!

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 Have all eight done in their rough cardboard forms now, although they have no detail, its nice to begin to get an idea of how they move. I will have to make a few changes to the shapes I think, some of the figures move in very odd ways, as the card doesn’t move in the same way fabric does, I think the best way to overcome this is to make some extra arms, posed in different positions. A little bit extra work, but I think it will be worth it for the animation!

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Showed the mock-up puppets to the group today, I think it was really useful for all of us! They got to get a rough idea of how the puppets will look (even though they are currently still card silhouettes!) to think about when writing the script. I got some great feedback from the group too, I will be thinking about making sure the puppets move in an appropriate manor for the Beijing Opera, upon which they were based.  The opera characters move in specific ways, according to their role in the opera, so I need to make sure I respect that, whilst making them as flexible as possible for the animation.

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Met with the animator, Trevor, and sound guy, Tom, today, and saw the place where we’ll be doing the sessions. Looks like it will be great fun! It was useful to find out how the sessions will work, and I had the chance to get some feedback from Trevor about how the puppets will work for the animation. I will scale them down a little bit, to keep within the constraints of the equipment we will be using.  And I was right in thinking I’ll need to make some ‘spare’ parts, so the characters can look in different directions and pose differently if need be.

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 Started working on the final puppets! Exciting and a bit scary!! I have made them slightly smaller now, and am adjusting some parts so they more a little more fluidly.  To start with I am making the cardboard bases in the same way as the previous models, which will provide a solid structure. Then each part (arm leg etc) is divided again, so there is a cardboard shape of each colour on the part. These tiny pieces will get covered in the right coloured fabrics and put together onto the larger card backing. Its very complicated to explain! And more complicated to do!

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 I am working hard on the puppets, but am enjoying doing some research into the characters too. Learning the history of where they came fro is helping me understand what their role in the play may be. This is useful as their character will dictate how they need to move. They group have done loads of great research so far, I am reviewing it and trying to add to it where possible, there’s so much interesting info out there, it would take far too long to go through it all, so I am having to be selective as well as thorough!

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Lots of tracing and cutting going on at the moment, making the cardboard bases for the figures. It’s vital they are right so the shapes meet up correctly, but its very tedious work! Luckily I have some help from Steph, so we are getting loads done.

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 Went to get the fabric and other materials today, which was great fun. Now we have these, the puppets should come on leaps and bounds and really begin to take shape. The animation days are getting close now, it’ll be really exciting to see them spring to life! We tried to get the fabrics to be a close to the originals as possible, so we will be able to get a really authentic look. Although the textures are not exactly the same, I think the colours look really good!

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Making great progress on the puppets, layering wadding and the fabrics over each card piece is quite time consuming! Each coloured piece is then put together like a jigsaw, and the puppet springs to life! Making sure they move smoothly is important too, so I’m lining up all the pieces as accurately as possible. To get the faces identical to the originals I’m using a technique called emulsion printing using paint and printed photos. This creates an identical face, really keeping the character of the puppets true to the originals. It also is good for recreating the details of the costume, getting the ribbons and patterns true to the original figures.

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 Finishing of the last couple of characters now, with Steph’s help. The rest of the group are making great progress with the beginning stages of the animation, when these last characters are complete, the animation will really be able to get moving. Hearing the group story boarding the animation has been really interesting, as well as very useful. Now I know exactly what each character will be doing, I am able to adapt each one to make it do its job well!

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Now the characters are done, I can get on with helping the rest of the group with the props and backgrounds, with this many hands on the job, we should come up with some fantastic results!!

 

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