Types of Puppets – Puppetry by its nature is a flexible and inventive medium, and many puppet companies work with combinations of puppet forms, and incorporate real objects into their performances. They might, for example, incorporate “performing objects” such as torn paper for snow, or a sign board with words as narrative devices within a production. The following are, alphabetically, the basic and conventional forms of puppet:
Black light puppet – A form of puppetry where the puppets are operated on a stage lit only with ultraviolet lighting, which both hides the puppeteer and accentuates the colours of the puppet. The puppeteers perform dressed in black against a black background, with the background and costume normally made of black velvet. The puppeteers manipulate the puppets under the light, while they position themselves unseen against the black unlit background. Controlling what the audience sees is a major responsibility of any puppeteer, and blacklight lighting provides a new way of accomplishing this. Puppets of all sizes and types are able to be used, and glow in a powerful and magical way. The original concept of this form of puppetry can be traced to Bunraku puppetry.
Bunraku puppet – Bunraku puppets are a tyrepe of wood-carved puppet originally made to stand out through torch illumination. Developed in Japan over a thousand years ago and formalised and combined with shamisen music at the end of the 16th century, the puppeteers dress to remain neutral against a black background, although their presence as kind of ‘shadow’ figures adds a mysterious power to the puppet. Bunraku traditionally uses three puppeteers to operate a puppet that is 2/3 life size.
Carnival or body puppet – usually designed to be part of a large spectacle. These are often used in parades (such as the May day parade in Minneapolis, USA) and demonstrations, and are at least the size of a human and often much larger. One or more performers are required to move the body and limbs. In parades, the appearance and personality of the person inside is not relevant to the spectator. These puppets are particularly associated with large scale entertainment, such as the nightly parades at various Disney complexes around the world. Similar puppets were designed by Julie Taymor for The Lion King.
- Nottingham Light Night 2010
- Giant Puppet Street Parade, Siem Reap, Cambodia 2012
- Little Girl Dancing – Sea Odyssey Liverpool 2012
- Rudolf Nureyev at Muppet Show
- 4 Legged Stilt Costumes
- Walking With Dinosaurs visits Urban Rush
- 2008 Tony Awards Lion King Circle of Life
- Traditional Chinese Dragon Dance
Finger puppet - An extremely simple puppet variant which fits onto a single finger. Finger puppets normally have no moving parts, and consist primarily of a hollow cylinder shape to cover the finger. This form of puppet has limited application, and is used mainly in pre-schools or kindergartens for storytelling with young children.
Sock Puppet – A puppet formed from a sock and operated by inserting ones hand inside the sock. One then moves his hand up and down to give the impression of speaking. Sometimes eyes and other factors are added to the sock in order to make the puppet more realistic. Sock Puppets are also popular in many puppet performances, as they are simple to make and easy to use. They are mostly used in satirical or childish works, as they are not very professional.
Hand or glove puppet – These are puppets controlled by one hand which occupies the interior of the puppet. Punch and Judy puppets are familiar examples of hand puppets. Larger varieties of hand puppets place the puppeteer’s hand in just the puppet’s head, controlling the mouth and head, and the puppet’s body then hangs over the entire arm. Other parts of the puppet (mainly arms, but special variants exist with eyelids which can be manipulated; the mouth may also open and close) are usually not much larger than the hand itself. A sock puppet is a particularly simple type of hand puppet made from a sock.
- Make a Winter Glove Puppet
- Punch & Judy May Fair – “clowning around”
- Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey
- The World of Jim Henson
Human-arm puppet – Also called a “two-man puppet” or a “Live-hand puppet”; it is similar to a hand puppet but is larger and requires two puppeteers. One puppeteer places a hand inside the puppet’s head and operates its head and mouth, while the other puppeteer wears gloves and special sleeves attached to the puppet in order to become the puppet’s arms, so that the puppet can perform arbitrary hand gestures. This is a form of glove or hand puppetry and rod puppetry.
Mechanical Extensions for Body Puppet Anatomy:
Light Curtain puppet presentations use specifically focused light to highlight small areas of a performance, allowing the puppet to be seen while the manipulators remain invisible. The puppets stand on a stage divided into an unlit background and a well-lit foreground, meeting to form a “curtain” of light. The puppeteer dresses in black and remains hidden in the unlit background of the stage while the puppet is held across the light curtain in the lit foreground of the stage. “Light curtain puppet” is an umbrella term, and any puppet which is extended into a well-lit area where its handler remains separated from the puppet by a division of light may be called a light curtain puppet.
Marionette or “string puppet” – These puppets are suspended and controlled by a number of strings, plus sometimes a central rod attached to a control bar held from above by the puppeteer. The control bar can be either a horizontal or vertical one. Basic strings for operation are usually attached to the head, back, hands (to control the arms) and just above the knee (to control the legs). This form of puppetry is complex and sophisticated to operate, requiring greater manipulative control than a finger, glove or rod puppet. The puppet play performed by the Von Trapp children with Maria in The Sound of Music is a marionette show.
- Salzburg Marionette Theatre
- “The Lonely Goatherd” from The Sound of Music
- Cool Reggaeton String Puppet
- Amsterdams Marionetten Theater – ‘De Toverfluit’ and still shots
- Puppets in Praque Marionette Carving Workshop
Marotte - A simplified rod puppet that is just a head and/or body on a stick. In a marotte à main prenante, the puppeteer’s other arm emerges from the body (which is just a cloth drape) to act as the puppet’s arm. Some marottes have a small string running through the stick attached to a handle at the bottom. When the handle is squeezed, the mouth opens.
Pull String Puppet – a puppet consisting of a cloth body where in the puppeteer puts his/her arm into a slot in the back and pulls rings on strings that do certain tasks such as waving or moving the mouth.
Push puppet – A push puppet consists of a segmented character on a base which is kept under tension until the button on the bottom is pressed. The puppet wiggles, slumps and then collapses, and is usually used as a novelty toy.
Push-in or Paper puppet, or Toy Theatre – A puppet cut out of paper and stuck onto card. It is fixed at its base to a stick and operated by pushing it in from the side of the puppet theatre. Sheets were produced for puppets and scenery from the 19th century for children’s use.
Rod Puppet – A puppet constructed around a central rod secured to the head. A large glove covers the rod and is attached to the neck of the puppet. A rod puppet is controlled by the puppeteer moving the metal rods attached to the hands of the puppet and by turning the central rod secured to the head.
- Making rod puppets
- Puppet Arm Rod Tutorial Pt. 1 * Pt. 2
- What are Hand and Rod Puppets?
- Disney’s The Lion King – Timon
Shadow puppet – A cut-out figure held between a source of light and a translucent screen. Shadow puppets can form solid silhouettes or be decorated with various amounts of cut-out details. Colour can be introduced into the cut-out shapes to provide a different dimension and different effects can be achieved by moving the puppet (or light source) out of focus. Javanese shadow puppets (Wayang Kulit) are the classic example of this.
- Hand shadow puppets
- Shadow Hands
- Round – Hand Shadows Video by el Mago Serpico
- Free Resources Online
Supermarionation – A method invented by Gerry Anderson which assisted in his television series Thunderbirds in electronically moving the mouths of marionettes to allow for lip-synchronised speech. The marionettes were still controlled by human manipulators with strings.
Ticklebug – A ticklebug is a type of hand puppet created from a human hand to have four legs, where the puppet features are drawn on the hand itself. The middle finger is lifted as a head, and the thumb and forefinger serve as a first set of two legs on one side, while the ring finger and little finger serve as a second set of two legs on the opposite side.
Table Top Puppets – A puppet usually operated by rod or direct contact from behind, on a surface similar to a table top (hence the name). Shares many characteristics with Bunraku.
Ventriloquist dummy – A puppet operated by a ventriloquist performer to focus the audience’s attention from the performer’s activities and heighten the illusions. They are called dummies because they do not speak on their own. The ventriloquist dummy is controlled by the one hand of the ventriloquist. Such acts aren’t always performed with a traditional dummy, occasionally using other forms of puppetry.
Water Puppet – a Vietnamese puppet form, the “Múa rối nước”. Múa rối nước literally means “puppets that dance on water”, an ancient tradition that dates back to the tenth century. The puppets are built out of wood and the shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers to control them. The appearance is of the puppets moving over the water. When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other using this puppet form.