14 January 2009

The Crocodile Puppet

I built this for Red's "Crocodile Rock" number. The idea was to encourage the audience to "sing along" and then stalk her around the stage, ripping her clothes off. Here's the original video of Elton John's appearance on the Muppet Show for reference:

And for my Mom who can't watch YouTube videos at work, here's a screen capture:

I'm going to jump ahead to a photo of the final look of the act:

Photo by Shannon Cottrell, snagged from LA Weekly. They posted a review and slideshow of the evening, Monday Night Tease's Muppet (of Burlesque) Show. (The slideshow includes pictures that may not be safe for work.)

Not too shabby. A burlesque act is impressionism. The goal is not to create an exact duplicate. The goal is parody. Red does this extraordinarily well in her costuming.

I didn't wish to build a replica of the Muppet croc, but rather a recognizable croc silhouette with a Muppet "look".

As always, it started with sketches:

(The little guy in the middle was an idea for the "mini crocs". More about them in a bit.)

I did some visual research on crocs (thank you Google image search!) but pretty much winged the construction. I started with the head, figuring that was the most crucial thing to get right. We're visual creatures. I've heard it said (though I can't recall the exact context) that the first thing we become aware of as babies are our parent's faces. In particular the eyes. We gravitate to faces, hence the importance of getting the head right:

The eye and nostril ridges are temporary, just to give myself a better idea of what he's going to look like when finished.

I started with the mouthplate, covered it in felt, and built up the head. The cranium is the same "wedge" style of construction I learned from Andrew Young of Puppetvision. I cannot pimp his Tumbles P. Bear Project tutorial enough.

I made and kept paper patterns of each foam piece that went into building this puppet on the off chance that I have to build another. I doubt I will, but you never know.

I draped the fabric on the foam body and cut and stitched it into place. (I secured the fabric to the foam with a bit of hot glue.) Here's the finished puppet:

I should say "sort of" finished. There is a lot of surface detail I would have liked to add, but I ran out of time. The eyes are yellow ping-ping balls mounted with this really neat trick I learned from Russ Walko. (I don't want to give away any of his secrets.) The teeth are uncovered foam, snipped into shape and painted white. The legs were machine sewn by my wife who has far more patience than I do.

We also put together 35 "mini crocs" and distributed these to the audience for the "sing-along" portion of the song. Three pieces, built like oven mitts, and hot glued together. We took them all to "craft night" and encouraged whoever felt like it to give these puppets their finishing touches. The results are as wild and varied as the ladies who worked on them:

So popular were these guys, we didn't get one of them back at the end of the night. Which was exactly as intended.

By the way -- if you haven't already, please VOTE FOR RED SNAPPER! She's running for Miss Viva Las Vegas 2009, and the opportunity to dance for close to a thousand people in Vegas! If you have voted, please pass the link along to your friends. Only the top six have guaranteed slots in the competition! In order for your vote to count, you must receive a confirmation e-mail that includes a little link to verify your vote. If you don't receive this confirmation e-mail [and it may show up in your spam filter] please let me know!