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And for my first puppet...Animal!

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by ashkent, Jul 11, 2011.

  1. ashkent Active Member

    A fan of the Muppets since childhood, as I grew older and began collecting memorabilia - models, statues, busts - of various things, not just Muppets, I found one thing frustrating me for around a decade. The fact that I could not get replica of Animal that was a) true to all of the variations there have been of Animal over the years - from the very pink and fluffy original, to the less hairy and somewhat elongated version used in the upcoming Muppet movie - b) could actually be used as a puppet and not just sit there, and c) not cost so much I needed to take out a new mortgage to buy it.

    I know many people have said how they like the MR Animal, but for me, there is still something lacking in it that I can't quite put my finger on but basically it is not my Animal. I think when anyone is asked to think of Animal in particular, everyone thinks of the version they first saw.

    So with all that in mind, I set out with two doxen Animal images, a few YouTube and DVD clips, and materials costing around £60 including 1/2 inch foam, over 7000 individual spines from Ostrich feathers, some felt, some craft foam, stuffing and a red sponge ball. Oh, and a couple of clear balls that come in two halves and are usually used to make decorative Christmas baubles.

    I should point out that I had never made a puppet before. This was the ultimate baptism of fire. Creating a near accurate replica of one of the most iconic Muppet's to have come from Jim Henson's brilliant mind and actually do it justice. All I will say is, it has taken two months and has been one of the biggest but most worthwhile challenges of my life.

    I have gathered together a few pictures of the process and the final head - body is still under construction - and once they upload I will post them here. (I have posted this elsewhere, but it's full of links to the pictures, here i'll actually post the pictures in order)
  2. ashkent Active Member

    These are the photos from the initial cutouts to the final head. I'm currently making two bodies - one as a half body puppet and the other as a full body with legs and capable of sitting on its own. I've basically attached velcro to neck section so it can interchange between bodies. I'll post those shots when it is finished.













    Bryan M, Muppet fan 123 and Hayley B like this.
  3. gojira54rules New Member

    Nice Job! He's Coming Along Nicely. :)
  4. The Shoe Fairy Active Member

    I can tell you now he looks absolutely fantastic. For a first puppet, I think this blows most of, if not all first puppet builds I've seen before, and he's not even finished!
  5. ashkent Active Member

    Thanks for that. I think the hardest part is that there are so many variations of Animal anyway - and I think the first one I ever saw as a kid was from around the time of The Muppet Movie so that's the one i've always thought of whenever anyone mentioned Animal. That's the one I was trying to make, but with colours more like the original one from Series 1 of the Muppet Show.

    Because the "skull" was being completely covered then it was more getting the proportions right than being neat...and putting 7000 individual feathers into the headpiece almost killed me and brought on early arthritis! lol. All definitely worth it though.
  6. charlie bird Member

    This is exstreamely good!How did you put on the feathers?coooooooooooooool!
  7. callmemilo Member

    7000 hairs? Are you serious?! That's crazy! But **** impressive :)
  8. ashkent Active Member

    Originally it was just pink fur, but it was too short and didn't move anywhere near as well as the feathers. I just threaded five into a needle at a time and punched them through, building them up and gluing them on the underside as I went.

    And yes...it's obviously not exactly that but going off the average spines I was getting off the big ostrich feathers it worked out between 6500-7000 including the chin and top lip ones. It was definitely worth it over using just fur - he moves brilliantly in the breeze.
  9. Animal31 Active Member

    What did you use for the mouth plate?
  10. ashkent Active Member

    I was originally looking for plastic but had none to hand so I took an old strong cardboard box, cut the shape and for durability I covered it with duct tape. Also I made the hand grips from a strip of 1/2 inch foam wrapped in tape - makes it strong but also quite comfortable. Then the side that was on display was obviously covered in black felt.

    I did notice in some videos of Animal he seems to have a quite flexible mouth and other times it is rigid. If I was making him again (7000 feathers again, not on your life!) the only thing I would change would be to try and find something that would add that bit of flexibility and expression more than the rigid mouth.
  11. charlie bird Member

    just curious as to where you got the ostridge feathers ....They usually dont sell them as individual um...what do you call them...Ill make somethin up..."hairs",if that makes anny sense :)
  12. ashkent Active Member

    I bought them as full spandosas (I dont think that's actually the word but it's close enough) on ebay - the huge ones that are used for burlesque and wedding table decorations. Then I just used a penknife tp slice up the central spine of the feather to end up with a load of individual feathers. The good thing was that the end that was cut was thin and quite firm so it made it easier to thread too.
    The main problem I had was finding the right colour - how many different shaded of hot pink do people need?? lol
  13. The Shoe Fairy Active Member

    Is each feather simply mounted in the underside of the felt/fleece on top of the foam head or are they more firmly attached; eg. with glue.
  14. ashkent Active Member

    They are glued on the underside. The only thing I had to make sure was not to overdo the glue - it was one of the firm hold spray glues I was using - or I'm guessing it would have been too stiff to get into the shape to go on the foam skull. It was basically making sure there was just enough to make sure they stuck - which didn't seem to be a problem as I always had bit of feather that i couldn't unstick from my fingers. lol
  15. Puppetainer Member

    Wow. A truly amazing accomplishment! As others have mentioned you set the bar pretty high for yourself for your very first puppet. But as high as that bar was you just went right over it! Great job! I still haven't taken any photos of my first puppet build. Not something I'd be proud to share. Keep up the great work!
  16. ashkent Active Member

    @puppetainer: thanks for the compliments. I agree that there are a load of simpler puppets I could have used for my first...where's the fun in simple though? lol. It was the purely selfish reason of always loving Animal and as a child wishing i could have one that made me take it on. That's the thing as a child there are so many things like this you want but of course its very unlikely you'd be able to make one. For me, when some people say it's childish to like muppets they either haven't been that child when they were young and probably spent their whole time reading science books, or they don't get what imaginiation is for.

    Another reason I wanted to make him now is that my first child is on the way and just because I couldn't have an Animal as a kid, why shouldn't they. I'm just hoping he keeps them entertained when they're a little older.
  17. Fozzie Bear Moderator

    That's awesome looking!!
  18. Puppetainer Member

    Oh ashkent I wouldn't worry at all about folks who find any of it childish. I'm sure great people like Walt Disney or Jim Henson were thought of as childish by some but thank God they were! The world could use a few more adults who haven't lost touch with the magic of their childhood experiences! So I say kudos to you and keep the magic alive my friend!
  19. ashkent Active Member

    Puppetainer, don't worry - i'm straight from the school of thought CS Lewis followed when he put in the dedication in Lion, witch wardrobe which said something like you get older and leave behind childish things, but one day you will be old enough to lose your fear of being childish. I just never bothered leaving them behind lol
    Puppetainer likes this.
  20. ashkent Active Member

    Just finished the torso, arms and legs for the full "poser" style body. And just as an added quirk I think i'm the first person to give Animal ribs! lol

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