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Ping Pong's Wonderful World of Puppets

March 29, 2001

Hello, Hello, Hello!!!

Here we are at the puppet workshop of The Olde World Puppet Theatre.

In the 30+ years our theatre has been open, we've built several hundred puppets of all kinds. We've built the characters for our own shows and we've built characters for other company's shows as well. Some of the characters are famous, like those from Wee Sing Under the Sea, and characters from The Hunchback of Notre Dame at DisneyWorld in Florida. Others are for smaller companies and individuals all over the world.

We thought you'd like to follow us along the construction process to see how they go from paper drawing to finished puppet. We'll be adding pages from time to time as construction continues.

But first, here are two pictures of puppets we built for other companies in the past few years.

Ralphie from The Rockin' Ralphie Show

We Built Ralphie for the unreleased children's video movie, The Rockin Ralphie Show. He's a marionette about 4 feet tall, with his head alone almost a foot across. We put 10 foot long strings on him and he was operated from a scaffolding above and behind the set. His baby blue eyes blink and his mouth moves, and he's quite a favorite of ours. He's one of almost a dozen puppets we built for the movie. Perhaps some day additional funding will be be found and Ralphie, Brodie, the Flying Squirrel and all their other buddies can finally see the light of day. We certainly hope so, because it always hurts really bad to work so hard on a project only to have it cut off and not finished.

Spike & Ink from Wee Sing Under The Sea

Wee Sing Under The Sea is a children's movie you can buy or rent at your local video store. We built Spike and Ink (pictured here) as well as the Hermit, the Hermit Crab, and even performed several of the characters in the movie. Spike is a rod puppet about 18 inches in diameter, with a moving mouth and the ability to puff up like a real puffer fish. Ink, the Octopus, on the other hand, is the biggest puppet we've ever built. He's operated by up to 10 puppeteers, with one sitting inside. When fully operational, Ink measures 12 feet across with all of his tentacles extended. His eyes are robotic, with a puppeteer able to both blink them and move them left and right. His mouth was cable-operated with another puppeteer working those controls.

This summer we will be building puppets for four different organization located on the west coast of the United States.

  • First, we are building all of the characters for a show to be presented by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (OVLC) in Ojai California.
  • Second, we are building all of the characters for Perseus, Hero of Ancient Greece by the Tears of Joy Puppet Theatre in Vancouver, Washington/ Portland, Oregon.
  • Third, we are conducting puppet-building classes to create giant puppets for the Day of Species Procession sponsored by the Earth & Spirit Council of Portland, Oregon.
  • Finally, we are building the heads, hands, and feet for a Hans Christian Andersen and a little girl puppet for Larry Adrian's new production by the Oregon Coast Children's Theatre in Netarts, Oregon.

All of our contracts for building puppets for other companies start in a similar way, with a telephone call asking first if we'd be interested, and second if we have the time available. If the answers are yes, then a contract is worked out describing what type of puppet they are to be, what the puppets are to be made of, what size they will be, when they are to be delivered, how much they will cost, and what the payment arrangements will be.

All our Puppet building projects begin with drawings

Shown above are copies of Production Designer William Earl's drawings for Perseus, Hero of Ancient Greece. They are the topic of discussion at early pre-production meetings where the size and operating necessities of each puppet are ironed out.

Then, we need some drawings to work from. Either we provide sketches to them, or they provide sketches to us of how the puppets should look. Usually, the sketches go back and forth a few times, are changed, re-changed, and finally approved for construction.

For the OVLC puppets, Pete Johnson, their contact, sent us some rough ideas, we sent back Steve's pen and ink drawings made from Pete's sketches. The contract was worked out, they sent us our deposit check, and the next step is for Steve to send them color versions of the drawings. Once these are approved, the actual construction will begin.

To contact Ping Pong or the Museum Staff Click Here

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All text and photos © 2001 Olde World Puppet Theatre
except photo of Ink & Spike © 2001 MCA/Universal Home Video

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