Monday, March 30, 2009

Back to Business

Now that the LAN'ded reading has officially happened, it's time to go back and talk about the puppets we created for the process.

We know these posts may seem a bit out of order, but this build was a fast one for us and we'd still like to share some of the steps we took along the way...even though the official reading is over. We've also been saving the better quality pictures of the final products so that you have a little something to look forward to.

I'll HEAD things up with DR. CORTEX!

I built this foam head two summers ago when we were really getting into using this kind of foam. I know it was one of the first I built, not only using reticulated foam, but with a PROJECT PUPPET pattern. Unfortunately I can't remember for the life of me which pattern of theirs I started with. I'm about 89% sure Cortex (as I often refer to him because Dr. is just soooo hard to say/type) stemmed from the Roly Puppet Pattern.

Check them out. Really. You'll learn a lot, even if you know a lot to begin with. If you need to, go in on it with a buddy like we had to. I know times are tight, but if you're still aching to build and eventually sell puppets, you really can't go wrong with learning from Project Puppet. It's only going to help make your own designs more solid and visually pleasing.

So as I was saying before that brief commercial break...

I started the head two summers ago with no idea what it would ever turn into. It began as a way to modify the Project Puppet pattern and learn a little more about shaping foam. So after moving around the country with me and sitting on many a shelf in many apartments across the Greater Chicago area, the unused head found a purpose . I needed to create Cortex pretty quickly, so I proposed the character sketch including the preexisting shape and everything took off from there.

I decided that while I liked the shape, he needed a little more modification. With a bit more foam and contact cement, I ended up with this...

It's still pretty much the same shape I started with, but with the addition of a little more foam, I was able to make it more skull-like. You can't tell from the picture, but the original shape left the bottom jaw completely separate form the top of the head. I was looking for more of a connected head since I have more experience covering them when I get to the fleece.

The marker lines make things look more intricate than they really were. Some mean absolutely nothing and are just there as indications that make sense only in my head (at least they did at one time anyway).

Kyle's up next with the beginnings of Wally. We're going to switch back and forth for the next week or so and see how that goes over.

My next post?...Quit your BELLY aching, you'll find out!

Sunday, March 29, 2009


As of this post, the reading for LANded is officially underway!

Congratulations to the cast and crew at Point Park University, and (as always)

Best wishes!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cortex and Wally: United!

Well here they are!  Built hundreds of miles apart by two different builders, we present the first official viewing of Dr. Cortex and Wally!

Cortex flew in from Chicago, while Wally trucked it from Syracuse, to join Aaron and the crew at Point Park University for this weekend's production of "LAN'ded".

We look forward to bringing you more news as it develops this weekend... so keep checking back!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wally: Process With Pizazz!

Welcome back!
As you probably know (because you've been following the LAN'ded blog as well), Dr Cortex and Wally will soon officially be unveiled!  We decided to keep the final outcome a surprise for the cast and crew in Pittsburgh... which unfortunately means that no final pictures can be posted until next week (but believe me, it will be worth it).

As Dave mentioned in his post, we both have similar, yet drastically different styles of process and product.  My design phase in this particular project was based on researching wallabies (quite interesting) and tracking down as many pictures as I could to create a profile of characteristic images.
One of the reasons Wally has been my undertaking is because I have had more experience in creature creation, while most of Dave's projects have been more humanoid oriented.  With that differentiation in characters, we ran into the challenge of matching styles - especially in the eyes.  Judge for yourself next week if we accomplished it 680.22 miles apart!

This project is also the first time I've ventured into the use of gasket rubber and a new type of wire for the hands.  In addition to that I decided to recycle some old arm rods that I was unable to use until now... so, huzzah!

In other news...

Long story -> Short:
In addition to building Wally, I have been working on reclaiming Yancy (the blue guy - I'll formally introduce you next week) from the bus company from our trip earlier this week...  The bag he was in got wedged out of view and in his rush, the bus driver took off without checking.  So...  In order to obtain him, I now must meet up with the bus driver on the side of the highway outside our hotel as he passes through Syracuse on his way to NYC with a high school band!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Concept Sketches: Dr. Cortex

Hey, it's David.

We wanted to start taking you through our build process for the characters of LAN'ded to give you an idea for how each of us work. I guess no two projects are ever truly the same in this line of work, so of course, no two builders can be either. Even when they work closely with each other (I say this while we are 600 miles apart...) and learn the same techniques together, creativity and personal style come in to play to produce a different work of (hopefully) art.

There are a ton of different ways we go about designing a new puppet character. Sometimes we have a well planned out idea, while others (as was the case for Melody the Music Note) are constructed simply from scratch- grab the foam and glue and go!

I personally didn't know as much as Kyle about the LAN'ded project when things got started. I was invited in after the characters of Cortex and Wally had been established. I was a little apprehensive at first, because I didn't want to step on the toes of the artistic vision. Lucky for me, the toes handed over a blank canvas. Here are the original sketches I drew up quickly while we were chatting about Cortex and Wally my first night on the team...

While the two look pretty similar, for the one on the left I went with a bit of a Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future feel, without wanting to over doing it. For the one on the right, I started with the head shape and went from there since I already had an unused foam head (almost two years old actually) sitting around that I though might work.

The next guy may look a little familiar too. As I experimented with ages and shapes, something resembling Albert Einstein came out. I think a little too much Waldorf crept in too, which was completely unintentional. As you can see, I couldn't get away from a lot of the same ideas: big round eyes with eye bags, big ears, and the same balding hairstyle. I decided to trust my instincts and make them my major character traits.

With these traits in mind, this drawing became my jumping off point (below). The result will probably most resemble him, but of course things change as you start to build. Aaron (creator of LAN'ded) really enjoyed the idea of having a hint of Christopher Lloyd in the design so I went with that. I also opted to use the preexisting head, after all it was perfectly good and had been waiting long enough to receive a face and body!
There were many other versions of Dr. Cortex I discarded over the course of the design process. A couple of them were awesome characters (some of my favorite designs in a while actually) that I know we'll end up using in the future for other endeavors. They just didn't find their way into this particular project.

Check out tomorrows post for Kyle's original designs of Wally and his battle with the obstacles of building on the road.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wally: Sneak Peek!

Just arrived in Syracuse, NY, so I figured I would sit down and show you how my latest build is coming along.

While Dave is building Dr Cortex, I have been busy working on his wascally wallaby sidekick Wally!  It has been quite a challenge so far due to my very limited supplies (I will have JUST enough foam!) and trying new methods, but I am quite proud of how it is shaping up!

The mouth and head shape work really well for allowing a wide range of characterization opportunity - and I can't wait to get to play with him more after the reading...

If you are in the Pittsburgh area, I highly recommend checking out the staged reading of "LAN'ded" this Sunday at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.  For more information check out the blog and/or feel free to shoot an email to

We will be adding posts every day this week to show you a bit more of the quick build process along with bits of character information.

See you again soon!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dr. Cortex: Sneak Peek


It's David. I've been hard at work on Dr. Cortex from the new project we mentioned called "LAN'ded," but I wanted to take a moment to show you what I've got so far.

"WHO IS DR. CORTEX?!?" ask...

Not to worry, all will be explained in the next week along with pictures of the build process!

Kyle is working on the other puppet character from the series as we, you read...Check out his video and pics soon to come!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

WHATnot to do...

You've read Kyle's adventures in the Whatnot Workshop Land, now it's time for my own experience...electronically.

For my birthday, Kyle and my girlfriend pitched in and got me a MUPPET WHATNOT of my own. They ordered the kit so I could design it online and have my little friend greet me by way of UPS Ground delivery.

I was so excited when I got the kit that I plopped down on the floor and started playing like a kid with the color forms for hours...days...weeks. I could not figure out which combination I wanted. Kyle and I seemed to want just about all of the same features and our goal was to get a good variety to see how everything was made.

Finally, on my girlfriend's birthday- exactly 10 weeks to-the-day after mine- I got so jealous of her getting presents, that I ordered one for me! Kyle already had the green body, which was my first choice. Then, he had just received the orange on in the mail. My second choice was blue so I went with that. I played around online and came up with something that looked like nothing I had chosen before. Then I clicked to finalize the order before I could change my mind...

This is the nightmare part for a puppet builder. You know what you designed and had in mind, but the fate of the features are up to the "puppet builder" at the Whatnot Workshop. I've got to admit, if I had dozens or hundreds of the same order go through my hands, I'd probably mix things up quite a bit and hope that the owner likes it when I'm done...but that's just it...what if they don't?

I got a call from my girlfriend that I had a surprise waiting for me after rehearsal. I knew exactly what it was and agreed to open it when we could both see it together...after a long rehearsal and a visit to a friends house, we were finally home together so I opened it!

He'll grow on me I guess...

I wish they'd show the side view of the heads online. Don't assume you know what the head shape is by looking at the picture. I wouldn't have picked blue, that's for sure...

I knew they used hot glue- as well they should with order sizes as large as they receive- but it just proved yet again why I stopped using it so long ago. This may not apply to any of you out there who consider yourselves "Hot Glue-rues," but if you insist upon using it with your puppets, specifically with the features, know that less is more. I invite you to give Fabri-tac and the gel form of Contact Cement a try though, as well as good old hand stitching.

The eyes themselves are great, however, they were places slightly too close together and slightly askew so instead of the Muppet focus, he's a little cross-eyed. The teardrop nose The hair is what breaks my heart the most, though.

Something that I enjoy very much when designing features for a puppet, is taking into consideration the way that those features will assist the characterization. Movement is BIG! Hair is KEY! I love fluidity in hair because I happen to be a more fluid puppeteer. I love the side to side movements so the yellow boa was the perfect choice.

I see where they were going with the placement of the hair. He looks like a balding conductor, especially in the lounge singer type jacket. I wanted a younger character though so Kyle and I could trade clothes sometimes. With the boa placed so far back on the head, you can't really use it in the movement of the character because you can't see it. It may have stood a chance though had the glue not been so hungry for the frilly part. It is matted down and doesn't look as full as others I have seen.

So I'm a bit sad...

Don't get me wrong. I love that my girlfriend and my best friend went out of their way to buy me something they knew I'd love. It's a gamble when you do it online like so many of us have to do. It's even harder when you're a picky puppet builder and you've got to give over the creative control.

If you want a Whatnot, I'd recommend waiting until that trip to NYC. Bypass the online experience...unless you're feeling lucky.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The MuppetCast Celebrates!

Earlier this week, our friend Steve Swanson gave us all a true gift.  Sunday March 8 marked the 100th episode of The MuppetCast!  
Not only is it a monumental achievement, but Steve also gave us a bit more of himself in this "Live" broadcast.  Being a musician, he covers several Muppet-related songs from the numerous franchises - and it really is a joy to listen to.  If you haven't already, I urge you to SUBSCRIBE right this moment!

Thanks for the memories, new and old - We look forward to your gift every week and cannot wait to see what you give us next!

Congratulation Steve!

Friday, March 06, 2009

For Good Fortune

Looking for some good luck?

Here's our newest build.

Our magician friend, Jason Hudy was looking for a new cool trick. He came to us with an idea (maybe after some Chinese food) for a trick where he could throw an over-sized fortune cookie into the audience, and ask them to make up the fortune as they toss it around. Upon it's return to the stage, Jason will open it up, and reveal the fortune to be EXACTLY WHAT THEY JUST SAID!!!

We're not even sure how he's going to do it, but we can't wait to see the trick in action.

I decided to throw in a few more in case he got hungry.

Check out Jason's site here. He's excellent to work with!

...oh, and be sure to ask him about "Pierre."