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Mouth plates

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by mupcollector1, Oct 6, 2012.

  1. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    I've always wondered this? In terms of television / film puppets, how are the mouth plates made? Are they rubbery or more light cardboardish?
  2. kumakami

    kumakami Member

    the anwser is, yes! The more expressive mouths tend to be made of gasket rubber (it comes in sheets). while stiff mouths tend to be things like cardboard or more likely corigated plastic sheets
  3. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    So which ones do The Jim Henson Creature Shop (meaning what used to be The Muppet Workshop) and Puppet Heap uses?
  4. Animal31

    Animal31 Active Member

    I believe for Elmo and Ernie, they actually use wood. Kevin Clash has mentioned this a few times. For Kermit and Fraggles, gasket rubber would be the way to go, but every puppet is different.....
  5. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    I'm making a puppet with a very wide mouth. I first used gasket rubber, which worked so nicely for my Fraggle. However, the mouth was wide enough that the rubber bent in the middle, making it look just terrible when closed. So I got a clear plastic storage container--the kind you can buy at Target for a few bucks--and cut the mouthplates out of thatPresto, they worked like a charm!
  6. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    Really Wood? Hmm, never would have thought.
  7. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    My concern about the wood is wouldn't it be easily breakable? Like, if it's balsa wood or something? Cardboard can bend without breaking (for the most part), not so much with balsa wood.

    And Slackbot, I've had similar problems with gasket rubber myself... one common problem I've run into is that for some reason, the foam rubber likes to pull on the rubber, especially the jaw, so it results in the puppets looking like they have double-sided sneers. It kind of worked well with an elf puppet I built, because the character was meant to be sort of sassy and sarcastic, but not so much for others.
  8. Melonpool

    Melonpool Member

    Use 1/8 inch aircraft plywood. You won't need much. It doesn't splinter and is light and durable. I prefer to use Sintra for the upper plate (to give it stability) and gasket rubber for the lower (to give it flexibility). Also, make sure that your fleece or other skin fabric isn't too tight. If it is, it will giv you that weird frown, no matter what you do.
  9. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Hmm, I almost has that sneer problem with Janken, as his "skin" is tight, but his mouth is small enough that the extra thickness of the fleece "lip" makes up for it.

    Things to fix in version 2.0...
  10. The Llama

    The Llama New Member

    I don't recommend cardboard for a mouthplate. Overtime it will break down with the sweat from your hands.
  11. scandell

    scandell Member

    I used wood. Works great.
  12. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Active Member

    I've always liked to use wood or another rigid material for larger mouths (like Ernie's). Flexible materials work best for mouth plates that are about the size of hand. If they are much bigger than that, you will start to notice that they "droop" a bit.

    The material you use for a mouth can influence it's character too. A stiff, rigid material can help convey the personality of a stiff, rigid character. Likewise, a more flexible mouth can be used for a more excitable, dynamic character. This is not a hard and fast rule, just something to think about and experiment with when you're building puppets!
  13. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    I always thought that Scooter's mouthplate was rigid. It would have to be, considering he's got a pac-man mouth. But in Six String Orchestra he grimaced, bending his upper mouthplate. Ever since then it's bugged me. Did they make a special head with a flexible or jointed mouthplate for that shot?

    I'm currently working on the skull for a Wembley puppet. According to the extras on one of the Fraggle Rock season sets, the Wembley puppet doesn't have a pair of mouthplates, but a continuous one that is scored along the back to let it bend and flex. I'm currently playing with that, trying to get it to make the kind of expressions he did on the show. It's a fun experiment.
    Kermieuk likes this.
  14. Animal31

    Animal31 Active Member

    I was surprised to see that Bert originally had a flexible mouthplate, I know they use wood for Elmo, I would assume they do the same for Ernie and Count as well...

    Scooter's mouth is about the size of an adult hand, so I could see, as Bert, him having a flexible mouthplate that would not be noticed.
  15. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    [​IMG]

    Richard hunt must have had enormous hands.
  16. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Well, he appears to be leaning Scooter towards the camera, so that may cause him to look bigger than he actually is?

    I don't know, but it's rather surprising (and we even have a thread about this too) when you find out just how big, or how small, certain puppets actually are, when they really don't seem that size on screen. Like the Jim, Frank, and Jerry Muppets appear to be only slightly bigger than some mini-AMs (like Prairie Dawn, Roosevelt Franklin, etc.), but then Fraggle puppets appear to be rather large when you see them in comparison with their performers.
  17. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    I've seen the Jim puppet in person at the Center for Puppetry Arts, and he's not a little bitty thing like Prairie Dawn. As for Scooter's head not being that big...

    [​IMG]

    ...it's nearly twice as wide as Kermit's. Even if Hunt had hands the size of catcher's mitts, that lower mouthplate would still need extra support to keep it from bending around the thumb.
  18. Animal31

    Animal31 Active Member

    I have a pic where he looks much smaller than that, but even so, it would still stay pretty stiff with half inch foam under it while still able to bend with force. I'm in no way saying that's how he is made, only that its possible...
  19. Animal31

    Animal31 Active Member

    [​IMG]

    This was the pic I was looking at, it is funny how angles really can play a part in how we perceive the sizes of these puppets...
  20. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    That picture does show how long his head is from front to back, but it doesn't account for how wide it is. It's the width that makes the extra support necessary.

    Foam beneath the mouthplate? That's an approach I've never tried.


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