Before you move on to another post, don’t get nervous. More advanced doesn’t always mean more difficult. It just means there is more detail involved, a little extra work.
Inevitably you are going to come across a stuffed character that has a great framework for a puppet, but is a little more than gently used in some areas or the mouth isn’t configured to just insert a mouth unit, but you don’t want to give up on your idea. This is where added construction is needed to get the puppet that you are looking for.
Change Out What You Don’t Need
In some cases, its adding new limbs or even building a new face that will accommodate a mouthplate. In some cases, it may require both.
Don’t be afraid to “carefully” remove the pieces that just aren’t going to work and design a new piece.
Sometimes, it’s not so much removing a piece as it is repositioning. Like for example with my puppet Gordi the Gecko, when I found him at Goodwill he was a stuffed lizard that set on all fours with his head facing out.
I widened his back so when the mouthplate and sleeve were added, it made his head naturally positioned so that all I had to do was reposition his arms to work with arm rods and there you have it. To cover up the extension on his back I just use clothing since I didn’t have any matching fabric at the time.
In a worse case scenario, the plush may be a total loss as to building it out, but maybe the fur or fabric could be re purposed as hair or clothing; the eyes could easily be removed for a future
project. Don’t completely discard something if it has some level of potential. I keep a large trash bag just for the purpose of collecting stuffing for future projects.
Sometimes all you need is a good body structure and an imagination to create an amazing puppet.
In the embedded photos, you see that I found a great body, but the face wasn’t conducive to what I needed, so I removed the mussel area and replaced/rebuilt it with something that would work. This is how it turned out.
Another advantage of rebuilding these parts is that you can place in physical characteristics that further personalizes and adds to the dimension of the character you are developing.
For example, the character I am developing here is Lionel, a dopey Lion that, more often than not, makes decisions based on his stomach and not what he should. By building the mouth area, I am able to give him physical characteristics that gives the audience a visual clue to his personality before he even says a word (Or opens his mouth so to speak).
The same idea is also used when cnverting any part of the body (which I am still working on and will reveal in a later blog/video.
When first starting out, investing in quality puppets may not be in your budget, so don’t be afraid to try your hand at making your own from old stuffed animals. It’s fun and cost effective.