18 August 2007


Here we go: Andrew's World Famous Tennis Ball Rod Puppet.

(Also known as "the puppet design that saved my college German Language grade.")

One day, while trying to teach Holly how to play fetch I noticed that the springy tennis ball our reticent dalmatian refused to run after had a curious "seam" that almost looked like a down-turned mouth. Since Holly was having more fun destroying a pair of Pamela's boots than playing fetch, I took her tennis ball to my puppetry workstation (our dining room table), grabbed a nearby x-acto knife, and cut open a portion of the seam.


I mounted the ball on a dowel, gave it facial features, and dressed it in a red hood. I gathered together a few random puppets I had laying around, pounded out a short play script ("A Not So Grimm Fairy Tale"), and enlisted fellow theatre major Scott Black in the ensuing madness. We had to present a "final project" in our German Language class, something about or involving German culture. Dr. Mitchell, our Yoda-like professor, was absolutely delighted by the little puppet play, and Scott and I got passing grades. The play was in English.

The design has evolved a bit over the years. Little Red Riding Hood (wish I had a picture!) had no arms and no body to speak of, just a red felt hood that hinted at structure underneath. I've solved the problem of body and arms using simple items you can find around the house.

[NOTE: Do not follow the bellow instructions. They are grossly irresponsible and dangerous. I mean, using an x-acto knife in the way I describe is absolutely insane! Don't do it.]


Tennis ball
16" long, 5/8" diameter dowel rod
Fishing line
Plastic or metal ring, 1" diameter
An empty 25 oz liquid dishwashing soap bottle
Strut hanger (wire hanger with paper tube)
1/4" stretch elastic (or ribbon)
Googly eyes, pom poms, yarn, etc. (puppet face making stuff)
Small nail, small screw eye
Tools (hammer, cordless drill, etc.)

1. Using an x-acto knife (or other similarly dangerous cutting device) on the tennis ball, I cut the puppet's mouth.

2. I then cut a "neck hole" in the bottom of the tennis ball. This needs to be big enough to accomodate the dowel rod.

3. Now I shove in the dowel rod. (If I want to earn extra points, I paint the end of the dowel rod black, so that it can't be seen when the puppet's mouth opens!)

4. I then tap a nail into the end of the dowel rod, through the crown of the puppet's head.

5. Okay, this is really dangerous. I make hole in the bottom of the soap bottle, big enough to accommodate the dowel. I hate to say I how I do this. The plastic on the bottom of a soap bottle is fairly thick, so trying to melt a hole with a red-hot screwdriver takes forever. I use a 5/8" paddle bit ... vary carefully!

6. I make a hole just under the top rim of the soap bottle. This is for the screw eye. I make two more holes to accommodate a control line for the mouth.

7. Time to assemble the puppet head and body. The soap bottle body is held in place by the screw eye. Neat, huh?

8. Using a pick, I make a hole in the puppet's lower lip.

9. Time to string up the puppet mouth! Sometimes I'll make a small loop on the lower lip, and tie the fishing line to that. Makes it easier to replace the fishing line as needed. Usually I'll just knot the fishing line inside the mouth.

Feeding the fishing line through the bottle is a pain. I have yet to come up with the perfect solution for this. Once it's fed through, I tie on a little plastic ring.

10. Arms: This is something new that I'm playing with. Take the paper tube off of the strut hanger, and cut it into arm and hand pieces. Cut the metal part of the hanger in two, and straighten the two parts out except for the ends that go into the paper tube. These are the arm rods. Dummy up handles on these arm rods, and set to the side.

From the paper tube I cut two 3" pieces, two 2" pieces and two 3/4" pieces. I string these arm pieces together, and attach to the body.

The bent ends of the arm rods insert into the puppet's hands.

11. Ta-da! A puppet! Paint it, glue fabric to it, give it facial features, etc.

14 August 2007

Happy Anniversary to the Love of my Life!

Some years ago, back when I was a high school senior (and very full of myself) I met Pamela. I haven't been the same since!

(This is a picture of her building her burlesque costume from scratch. I dig this picture. She's so intent on what she's working on. It turned out great, by the way!)
Great observation from my new favorite writing guru. He calls it the "Rule of Joss":
I'm working on my metaphysical pay cable series, and as a massive sf&f geek, I find myself tending to look at episodes from a point of view of "what is the cool sf&f antagonist in this ep? And I have to remind myself of (what I'll call) the Rule of Joss: don't start with the sf&f antagonist. Start with where is the hero emotionally? What is Buffy's real-world emotional problem this week? Now, what is the sf&f antagonist that best catalyzes that emotion or problem?
Read the whole entry. And then read the rest of his blog. And buy his books.

Alex Epstein is awesome.

13 August 2007

I finally got my own Disembodied Animal Head Theatre t-shirt!

See, I realized that I had enough CafePress bucks to buy one.

Funny story ... Pamela and I are still working on a Documentary entitled "My Trip to the Nude Beach" all about recreational nudism and how it's actually pretty cool to drive down to the beach and "get your kit off" as Tex might say. So I decided to go ahead and make some "My Trip to the Nude Beach" t-shirts to help fund our little film.

I had made a bunch of "Dal Motion Pictures" stuff for the same reason (to fund some projects) so I figured why not go for it?

I made a few uninteresting items with slogans like "Born Nude," "I'd Rather Wear Sunshine," and of course "Happiness is No Tan Lines."

Guess how many "Dal Motion Pictures" t-shirts, tote bags and coffee mugs I've sold? What was that? "Goose egg?" Very close. In all fairness, I did sell one Dal Motion tote bag ... to Pam.

For reasons I have yet to grasp, people really love "Happiness is No Tan Lines." They really, really like it. They like it enough that I didn't have to pay for my DAHT shirt.

So it goes!


For Pamela, the uncropped photo showing off the "guns":

They're much more impressive when flexed.

07 August 2007

Stunning shadow puppetry from Triumvirate Pi Theatre:

But watch the whole thing! The first half of the video is the performance; the second half shows how it was done!

Outstanding work.

(They're also on MySpace.)

06 August 2007


A couple of years back, I ran across this picture of (left to right) Herbert, Julius, Leonard, Milton and Adolph Marx. Five brothers who look very much alike! Heck, they could be twins. Well, except for the height difference.

And here is a good lesson in adaptability.

Although the palates are very much alike, add in different make-up, wigs, costume pieces, etc. and you have completely different characters that bear little resemblance to each other:

Relating this to puppet design, it is possible to build up many different characters off of the same basic frame. Take a look at the photo gallery at Project Puppet for an example of this in action. Or how about this old favorite:

... which just goes to show that what makes a character a character is the individual artist's touch; the whimsey that an artist brings to the table.

UPDATE: To illustrate my point further, take a gander at this pic that I swiped from www.puppet-planet.com:
Here you can see the Fraggles at different stages in their construction. Same basic frame, a glorious multitude of possibilities!

01 August 2007

Irony, Wikipedia Style:


I remember hearing nothing but good about My So-Called Life back in the day. Just like Freaks and Geeks, I never caught the show when it originally aired. Unlike Freaks and Geeks, it has taken forever for My So-Called Life to come out on DVD.

Seriously, the show ended in 1995! WTF?

From all that I've read, this show has much in common with Felicity. The narration of the lead character, occasional dips into the supernatural (for instance, both series have episodes that use the tarot as a narrative device,) and of course the complex relationships in which young adults can find themselves embroiled.

My So-Called Life debuts on DVD October 30th, 2007.