Building a Better Roberta

Whenever I talk to people about this puppet film, they always comment that “at least all of the puppets are made.” In a way, they’re right — we do have puppets for all of the characters — but that isn’t stopping me from rebuilding all of them as we rapidly approach our first filming date…

Each puppet takes me approximately 30 hours to complete. Luckily, most of the puppets share patterns — The two Ralphs share 95% of the same pieces; Mayberry, Sam, and the Ralphs share the same body pattern; All of the puppets share the same arm patterns — and Mayberry and Roberta share the same head pattern (with a few subtle alterations).

So, why am I rebuilding them? Well, for one thing, most of the current batch of puppets are around seven years old. Some of the materials start to break down after five, so these puppets are ancient by some standards — but more importantly, I’ve learned so much about puppetry over the last few years that these new versions can be so much more expressive and look so much more like the cartoon characters they’re based on — that it would be a shame not to rebuild them for the film.

Here’s a picture of the original Roberta puppet (actually the second one I built — the first one was too ugly to post a picture of):

robertaSo — she looks pretty good, but when it comes to actually performing her, she’s a rather unruly puppet. Since I didn’t know how to make a really good mouth plate seven years ago, the puppeteer’s hand has a tendency to “flop around” inside her head, getting in the way of the performance. Also, the material used were kind of heavy, adding to her problems. Finally, because I didn’t reinforce her construction when I originally built her, Roberta’s head often caves in on itself — making for a less-than-aesthetically-pleasing puppet!

Over the next few days, I’ll post pictures and behind-the-scenes info on the rebuilding — and redesigning — of this brand-new and improved puppet.

Storyboarding, Sets and Puppets — Oh, my!

Just an update to tell you that things are still progressing on the film! I’ve been storyboarding the whole thing and am about 1/3 of the way through it. I’d love to show you guys what we’ve done so far, but I’m doing my best not to give away too many spoilers. This aspect is probably the hardest part of the filmmaking process for me: keeping my big mouth shut!

The set is also coming along! We’re planning to have a big workday on it Sunday. If you’re up for some backbreaking work for no pay and live in the LA area. e-mail me. Do I know how to sell it, or what?

And finally, production on some of the puppets has started! I would love to post a picture of the latest one, but unfortunately, it’s a puppet that would give away some of the plot, so I won’t post anything. Let me say, though — this is probably one of the best puppets I’ve ever built and I can’t wait until the movie’s done, if only so I can share it with you guys!