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Fear the Puppet: Uncanny Valley Theory

puppet_show

Have you ever wondered why so many horror movies have some sort of puppet appearing? Well, there is a reasonable, if not spine-tingling reason as to why they are used. We are going to be exploring a theory put forward by a Japanese researcher called as the “Uncanny valley” theory. The theory as such is only about a few sentences long; this article, on the other hand, will dive into the depths of what has become a long-standing tradition.

To start things off, let’s talk about two popular mythical creatures. Frankenstein and King Kong represent the ideal match up in terms of historical cinematic importance and as standalone pop-culture phenomena. When people watch movies, they are transported to a world wherein they feel like they are part of the movie and not just as individuals viewing the movie. Which is one of the reasons why horror movies are so scary or the reason as to why romantic tragedies pull at our heartstrings and make us emote? So now we shall deep dive to understand why Frankenstein is important for this discussion. King Kong is a beast, a super ape that torments New York and the movie was a hit due to the visual prowess, but it did not inflict fear into the audience. The same goes for Godzilla, iconic behemoth, but it lacked the fear factor so to say. The major reason is that both Godzilla and King Kong will inflict fear on any human if they were to see these beasts walking down a street. But these two beasts are a figment of human imagination. Frankenstein, on the other hand, is closer to being human than the other two characters. The uncanny valley theory suggests that more human an entity or character is, the more emotions can be drawn from the audience.

puppets

On that note, let’s talk about puppets. A well-designed puppet can look more human than anything else; this is the reason why their representation on stage or in a movie can inflict a multitude of emotion to the viewing audience. We are at a period where puppets can be made even scarier using CGI. All things considered, they represent the perfect fear-inducing object in a movie. Some movies even include the puppets to make infrasounds. Infrasounds are at a frequency that is far below the audible range, but one that can be felt by humans. The sound waves cause an eerie feeling to build in people and can cause a lot of people to squirm in their seats due to a sickening feeling. Overall puppets are the perfect items to use in a horror movie due to its uncanny accuracy to human beings.

History of Puppets

puppet-show

Puppet is a kind of a doll utilized as a part of puppetry, an extremely old form of theater. An entertainer that animates the puppet is called puppeteer. Puppetry is known since the Ancient Greece and there are composed documents that mention theater of puppets dating since fifth century BC. Exhumed clay dolls from Indus Valley locales show that puppetry was known in India since second century BC.

Numerous kinds of puppets exit and they vary in size, materials utilized for their built, form and means of animation. The hand puppet (or the glove puppet) is a puppet that is worn on the hand by the puppeteer who utilizes the hand to control the puppet’s mouth and head or at times of more complicated hand puppets which can move eyes and hands as well. A standout amongst the most well-known hand-puppets are The Punch and Judy. Over time and history there have been many forms and evolution of puppetry. Let’s look at them.

Marionette is a puppet with jointed limbs which are associated with strings to control bars which puppeteers use to control the puppet. Strings are associated with head, back, hands to control the arms and simply over the knees to control the legs.

The sock puppet is a simpler version of hand puppet. It comprises of a sock modeled into a shape and with included details which makes the puppet more like a coveted shape. Puppeteer uses hand which is put inside a sock to animate the puppet and influence it to move and “talk”. They are extremely popular in light of the fact that they are easy to make and simple to manipulate.

Toy theater is an extraordinary form of puppetry and puppets, where puppets are made of paper which is stuck unto a card. A stick is then stuck onto a puppet with which a puppet is controlled. Puppet is then pushed in from the side of the puppet theater which goes about as a scene on which the play goes on.

Shadow puppet is a two-dimensional puppet cut out from a flat material with numerous details and jointed limbs which are controlled with thin rods by a puppeteer behind a screen onto which a strong light is lit. It is an exceptionally old form of theater and it begins from Java and China.

puppet

Ventriloquism dummy is a puppet utilized by ventriloquist. Puppet’s mouth and head is controlled by one hand.

Finger puppet is a straightforward sort of puppet with no moving parts in a shape of a cylinder which is put on the finger.

Rod puppets have body, head and arms and are controlled with rods by a puppeteer who remains underneath them. Typically, one rod holds body and head while two other merges with the finishes of the arms and control every one of them.

Carnival or body puppet is a large puppet that is the size of the puppeteer or significantly larger. It can be worked with at least one puppeteers.

The Puppets That Stole the Show and Made It On TV

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Although the entire concept of puppet shows might seem a little big old school or outdated, there are still many people that try and keep puppet shows alive.

Having a special place in the heart of television history, as many of the first television shows started out with puppets, which includes dummies, hand puppets and marionettes, most of these have been replaced by animations.

One of the most popular puppet show is ‘the Muppets’ and is one show that remains on air till this day.

The Best Puppets of All Time

Farfel and Danny O’Day

Playing the long-eared shaggy dog, Farfel, along with Danny O’Day both became hit sensations as puppets that appeared in television commercials for Nestle’s Quik, singing the commercials song with Jimmy Nelson in the 1950’s.

Andy Pandy – Playing a marionette that lived in a picnic basket on British children’s television in the 1950’s, the show included Andy, a teddy bear, along with Looby Loo, a rag doll. The show was brought back in 2002 and turned into an animation rather than a puppet show.

Howdy Doody – Starring in The Howdy Doody Show as its main character, Howdy Doody was a puppet that had stirred the hearts of many children in the 1940’s to the 1960’s. The show was hosted by Bob Smith and became a hit that ended up displaying the puppet at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Topo Gigio – Created by Artist Maria Prego in 1958, Topo Gigio was a much-loved mouse with big ears. Firstly, known in Italy as one of the main characters on the hit children’s television show in the 1960’s, the character went on to become a worldwide sensation and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1963. Still, till this day, Topo Gigio performs in Italy at festivals on a regular basis.

Topo Gigio

Kukla, Fran, and Ollie – Debuting as a children’s show back in 1947, with three leading characters, this show was considered one of the favourites for many children around the world. As the name suggests, the three main characters included Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. Kukla was a clown-like character, Ollie was referred to as Oliver J. Dragon and Fran was a big sister, not a puppet. Although originally meant for children only, many adults were entertained by the growth of the show, as well as the humour that followed.

Charlie McCarthy – Known as the most popular dummy on radio’s worldwide, Charlie McCarthy definitely made a name for itself. Playing a teenager in the 1910’s by Edgar Bergan, the show became a hit and was featured as a permanent show on Rudy Vallee’s radio show for 20 years. The pair also appeared on movies and television and stole the hearts of many. Edgar also won an Oscar in 1938 for the incredible creation of Charlie.

 

Teaching life lessons to your children using puppets.

puppet show

Children get very excited when they see puppets. They get so thrilled and listen to every work the puppets say. Children love puppets for various reasons. Small babies develop their visual systems, toddlers develop their language centres, and little children will learn about controlling their emotions. Choosing bright coloured puppets will grab their attention, and they will be able to respond to the puppet.

The following are some of the ways you can use puppets to engage your children:

Make it feel like puppets are their friends:

Children sometimes get anxious to interact with new things, and when you introduce a puppet as a friend, it will allow them to be more comfortable with the puppet. When you tell them that the puppet is their friend they will find a sense of purpose to things it says and does. When your child gets comfortable around the puppet, you can use that to teach life lessons to your children. You can explain how the thing is done, and you can teach them about teamwork, you can even convince them to do the things they normally wouldn’t do.

Try using finger puppets:

Finger puppets are a brilliant idea to help children be more creative. They are small, and it is perfect for children to create and develop their ideas and stories. Children can invent their plays, and as they are tiny, it is extremely easy to handle the puppets.

Finger Puppet

Make your puppets:

You can do your puppets at home and have a great time with your kids. Creating your puppets is a fun way to engage your children. You can use colourful paper bags and other things like glitter, beads, buttons etc. to create your puppet. Once you have finished, you can let your kids create a story and play with the puppets.

Have a puppet theatre:

Make a small theatre out of cardboard where your kids can showcase the story they have created. It is a lot more fun when kids get to showcase what they have prepared. It builds teamwork and also allows them to bring out new ideas and imagination.

Benefits of playing with puppets:

Children are more comfortable to speak to puppets, and thus they will be able to express their ideas and feelings. They will have the confidence to speak up and communicate easily. Even if your child happens to be shy, he/she will easily be able to interact with the roles of the puppet and be able to communicate with them. With a puppet in their hands, they will be able to take on new personalities and widen their imagination. You can use puppets to control the fears of your children and let them have confidence. Get a puppet for your child and see how creative they become as they play with it.

 

Famous Puppets and Puppeteers

famous puppets

Puppetry is a niche art form that involves the manipulation of various inanimate objects that become representations of characters, mythical creatures, animals and so and and are thus used to narrate a story creatively. Through the use of puppets, puppetry tries to express some of the most intrinsic human feelings and attempts to entertain and please audiences at large. Taking a different form in each country and region, puppetry has grown into a widely acclaimed form of theatre and expression and thus, over the years, several individuals have stood out, ones who have made the art of puppetry their passion. Mentioned below are the names of some puppeteers whose talent was unmatched and some puppets who have been beloved by audiences since the advent of this art form.

Famous Puppets

  • Pinocchio – Beloved by all, young and old, Pinocchio is a fairytale puppet that everybody associates themselves with. A little wooden puppet created by a woodcarver wishing to become a boy is the endearing story and then comes the audience’s favourite bit when Pinocchio lies and his nose becomes longer. A classic amongst children and adults alike.
  • Punch and Judy – The eponymous leads of the ever famous tale and the puppet shows that have been portraying it since, Punch and Judy are the husband and wife duo that everybody watches with tears of mirth. With the incessant fights between the two characters, the tit for tat, the jokes and the silly quarrels, audiences love the drama and the comedy that Punch and Judy shows portray.
  • Elmo – Everybody’s favourite little red Muppet character, Elmo is the star of the show, Sesame Street. A favourite amongst the younger audience, Elmo has been emulated into several puppet shows ever since he gained fame as a character and has since dominated the realm of puppetry.

Famous Puppeteers

  • Bill Baird – Perhaps the most noteworthy mention on this list, Bill Baird has been lauded for his art through the years, ever since the inception of his Baird Marionettes in 1934, his was the name that was associated with travelling puppet theatre, movies and television. One of his most popular and much loved performances was the song, ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ in the ‘Sound of Music’ wherein along with his wife, he put up a fantastic show that generations and generations have watched and rewatched together.

jeff-dunham

  • Jim Henson and Frank Oz – This duo became a partnership because Frank Oz carried forward Jim Henson’s legacy. The man who brought Kermit and the Muppets to television, Henson created characters that audiences all over the world loved to watch and enjoyed spending their afternoons being glued to the television. After his stint, Frank Oz took this forward and operated all the characters created by Henson. Expanding the Muppets became one part of the process and it greatly increased to include other shows within the same banner. Frank Oz also went on to operate the puppet character for Yoda in three Star Wars movies and later on dubbed as Yoda’s voice in the movies that used CGI animation.

Top 5 Places To See Puppets Around The World

puppet show

All of us love puppets. Puppets shows have gained the love and interest of almost all the people in the world as that requires special expertise and skills to stage the show rightly. But puppet is quite an old concept and is it being staged with the same authenticity even today? This is one question that most of us have. Quite contrary to what we think, puppet shows are staged across the globe, and people do throng to see them. So here are the top 5 best places to see puppet shows.

water-puppet-theaer

Bali

This is not something that you expected, but Bali takes the first place when it comes to puppets. Puppets for some reason looks like a concept that belongs to the east, and that is why probably, the shadow puppets in Bali are based on the Hindu religion dramas and events. Of course, shadow puppets in Bali are also based on various other concepts, but this one is quite famous.

England:

England is one of the oldest places that are well-known for the puppet shows that they run. In fact, many of the puppet shows that they have put up on the stage have then gotten into TV shows. Now you know the quality of puppets shows that are staged here. Among them, ‘Punch and Judy’ is one of the best puppet shows that take place in London.

Vermont

In case if you ever get a chance to visit Vermont, then we consider you the luckiest person on planet earth. This is because the puppets shows in Vermont are known internationally, and a lot of people eagerly wait for a chance to see it. Gigantic puppets perform here, and people are spellbound by the kind of performances that they see here. Bread and Puppet is the renowned name in the whole of Vermont.

Los Angeles:

Los Angeles is known for the Marionette theatres that are run there, and that is one of the major reasons why people love to visit Los Angeles. Among them, the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre is the best of them all and is one of the oldest puppet theatres in the world. Though the theatre is filled with a lot of bizarre taste for how the play is designed, it is still one of the best play with a great sense of humour.

Rome:

Rome, the rocking city of Italy, is one of the best places to be for the puppet shows that are being staged.  One of the best theatres to be in if you are looking forward to seeing the best show in Italy then it is definitely Italian Puppet Theatre that is in Rome. Though they look a bit out of fashion, they have the strong story back up and create values.

Top 5 Puppet Horror Films of all Time

Puppet Horror Films

Listed below are the top 5 puppet horror films of all time. These films can take the hell out of a person, and their very names can give you cold feet. Do you have your own list of the best horror films ever? Then read this list and check if it matches!

Puppet Horror Films

Poltergeist

Poltergeist features a scary clown doll that abducts the family’s younger daughter. The movie was released in the year 1982. Though there are a lot of films that have called themselves to be really scary all these years, Poltergeist, which released almost 30 years back, still holds a position for itself in the list of the most horror films ever.  It has been recognized as a cult classic as far as the horror genre is concerned.  There are two more films in the same franchise, Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III that released in the years 1986 and 1988 respectively. One of the movies was also remade in the year 2015. However, it didn’t have the impact that Poltergeist I has on people even today.

Dead Silence

Dead Silence is a supernatural psychological horror film that came in 2007. The story begins with a mysterious gift that arrives at the door step. The family opens the gift only to find a ventriloquist doll named Billy. The story is about how the lead crew in the film get over this mysterious doll or did they even get over? The movie was a hardcore horror flick that the very image of the doll Billy can scare people to death. Of course, you do not want to scream because the hoarding says, “You scream, you die.”

Annabelle

Annabelle is a supernatural horror film that was released in the year 2014. The movie was released as a prequel to the 2013’s best horror film ‘The Conjuring.’ The news of the movie ‘Annabelle’ created quite a stir in the hearts of the movie-lovers. After the release, the movie went on to surpass all expectations and became a success at the box office. Now the lovers of the conjuring series are celebrating the release of the 2014 movie’s prequel Annabelle: Creation which hit the screens in the year 2017.

The Child’s Play

The Child’s Play is an American supernatural slasher film that was released in the year 1988. The film grossed more than $44 Million and gained a cult status. The story is about the soul of a wanted fugitive that enters into a doll to avenge the detective who killed him. The doll is named Chucky and is bought by a woman for her six-year-old son, Andy. Andy is framed for the crimes of Chucky. So how the little boy escapes, forms the rest of the story.

Tourist trap

This supernatural horror film, Tourist Trap was released in the year 1979. It is a story of a young group of friends who get caught into a museum. Little did they know that the owner of the place had powers to control his collection of mannequins, they soon started facing supernatural events and realized that they are stuck in the museum for ever. The movie takes eerie twists and turns and finally gets a peaceful ending, when the villainous mannequin, Mr. Slausen is brought down to pieces. Though the film wasn’t a blockbuster when it released, later it gained a lot of positive reviews from both viewers and critics.

Different Puppet Shows From Around the World!

Different Puppet Shows

There are 23 different kinds of puppet shows that take place across the world. However, they are classified under eight broad heads which are more than enough to understand how the puppet shows differ. Let’s quickly see what the eight heads are and how they function.

Different Puppet Shows

Glove Puppet:

Glove puppet is also known as a hand puppet. In hand puppets, the figure or the doll doesn’t have a movable mouth. The three fingers of the puppeteer become the neck and the other two as its arms. This gives life to the puppet and doll starts enacting. This is how it works in the glove or the hand puppet show. The widely known hand puppets are The Shari Lewis Show and Hush Puppy.

Rod Puppet:

Here the puppet show figures are connected to a rod, while the rod is held by the puppeteer. The rod puppets usually function with the same expression because the rods are connected only to their arms. However, in some professional shows, experienced puppeteers handle multiple wires. These strings are attached to every part of the puppet so that the puppeteer can micro manage things. Widespread examples of the rod puppets are ‘The Muppets’ and ‘The Sesame Street.’

Shadow Puppet:

The puppets are made traditionally made out of animal hides. They are then painted and punched with decorative designs to suit the play. To create colors in the puppet’s projected shadow colored acetates are used by the puppeteers. A puppeteer moves the puppet in and out of the light, so its shadow grows and shrinks. The popular shadow puppet shows take place in the Wayang Thailand Puppet Theater.

Hand and Rod Puppet:

Jim Henson developed the hand and rod puppet show. The dominating hand of the puppeteer controls the head and the facial expressions, while the other hand operates the arms through the arm rod. Therefore this combines both the hand and the rod techniques and gets the name hand-rod puppet.

Marionette:

Marionette is also known as String Puppet. It is one of the toughest forms of puppetry. The marionettes hang on the strings and the puppeteer has to manipulate it effectively. As far as puppetry is concerned, your act goes flawless depending on how swift and how creative you are. A good performer learns how to use the gravity of the floor in his favor and pull strings accordingly.

Ventriloquist Figure:

This type of puppetry demands a lot of training and hard work. Not all can master the art of ventriloquism. You know there has to be a doll in this event, but you are not supposed to call it dummy. It is known as a vent figure, and the performer is called the ventriloquist. The concept is quite simple, the figure and the performer try to communicate with the audience. The performer speaks for him and the vent figure. The crux lies in finding how he communicates on behalf of the doll when his mouth is absolutely shut. Remember, it needs a lot of practice. Paul Winchell is the best of them all.

Stop-motion Puppet:

Stop motion is a technique where the object is capable of making movements, and the best part is that the puppet looks like it is moving all by itself without the help of an external hand or simply say a puppeteer. It is an ancient technique. However, it is loved and viewed by people even today. Artists prefer to be called as animators than puppeteers.

The Best Puppet TV Shows Ever!

Puppet TV Shows

Puppet TV Shows

Sesame Street:

Sesame Street is one of the long-time favorite puppet shows of young and old alike. It is one of those puppets shows that bridges the cultural and educational gaps with play-way methods. They make that learning is fun and cater to the educational needs of the children. When television was the medium of attraction, these type of TV shows kept children occupied in the best possible way, and Sesame Street played a very significant role. They have been in the field since 1969.

Lady Penelope:

Lady Penelope is believed to the pink blonde that brought grace to the British Television screens. It existed during the 1960’s and is the first puppet show to employ the puppetry technique ‘Supermarionation.’ The lady has been there in the dark for almost 30 years, and now she has come to light.In the year 2016, the Lady Penelope puppet items were sold for £19,000. It is also an honor to make a note that this Lady Penelope is a Thunderbirds’ puppet.

The Muppet Show:

Muppet Show is a family oriented comedy television series that was in existence from 1976 to 1981. The show was launched by Jim Henson, and his show comprises of his Muppets Kermit and Miss Piggy, who play the lead roles. There are also other characters and among them is Scooter, who is a close representation of a human puppet in the whole show.

Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons:

Popularly known as ‘Captain Scarlet’ it is a 1960’s science fiction television series in the soil of Britain. It was produced by the Century 21 Productions. Of course, the series is all about being a hero, and Captain Scarlet has super natural powers. He protects the earth from the Mysterons who are believed to have come from Mars. The characters are designed as Marionettes, and it is one among the first few shows to put the ‘Supermarionation’ technique in puppetry to use.

Between the Lions:

Between the Lions is an American television series, and it followed the puppetry style of the Sesame Street. It won several Daytime Emmy awards during the years 2001 – 2007. The idea behind this show was to promote the habit of reading among the children, and the target audience was children between the ages of 5-8 years. It was one of the recent shows that ensured that puppetry is not a thing of the past and that present generation came enjoy them as much as the kids of the 90’s. The show experienced almost 20 different puppeteers in a span of 10 years.

The Best Puppet Shows Ever!

Shockheaded Peter

There are a lot of memorable puppet shows that have always been remembered by people. Irrespective of whether they exist today or not, the below-listed shows had left an indelible mark on the history of puppetry. Let’ get to know more about these puppet shows.

Shockheaded Peter

Shockheaded Peter:

Cygnet Theatre is the fast growing theatre company in San Diego. The theatre is best known for the Shockheaded Peter play.You can never see fairy tales as bizarre as they are played here. It becomes a fiendish mash up of morality play and the macabre.  The theatre aims to produce both entertaining and thought-provoking plays, and it happens all round the year.

Shakes versus Shaw:

Shakes versus Shaw is 1949 play written by Bernard Shaw himself. This play is a memorable part of the history because it was Shaw’s last completed dramatic work. The whole play is a comic argument between the iconic personalities of the history, Shakespeare, and Bernard Shaw. For those of you who do not know history, Shaw was born approximately 250 years after the death of Shakespeare. So the best part of the play is that it is fictitious. It was later staged as a puppet show and was widely appreciated as a classical piece in the history of art and literature.

Punch:

Punch puppet show represents the domestic abuse that a woman went through. Th basic idea is the same in every play that was staged, but the plot might not be the same. This renowned puppet play also forms a part of the letter written by Charles Dickens to Mary Tyler sometime around 1847 – 1849. Which evidently shows that this is one of the oldest puppets shows that hasn’t gone off people’s memory for generations.

The Night Flyer:

The fight of a brother to save his abducted sister forms the core part of the story. The boy on his bicycle moves along with the speed of the train. The images are drawn in black and white, probably to instill the feeling of melancholy. The play keeps the audience at the edge of the seats hoping the boy gets the train and wins over the baddies. It is a case of hand-drawn puppets magically brought to life. As the paper figures move speechlessly along the live music, the viewers are down to tears. It one of the best puppet shows ever.

We reserved the best for the last. This is one of the best, and the coolest puppet shows ever.

Royal de Luxe:

The idea behind this show is to get straight to people instead of dragging them into a room. The shows were played on the streets. Every year the performance increased and the people were let free to watch it anywhere. The event happens till date successfully. They choose to work on concepts that reflect the importance of culture, objects from modern day life and a taste for the unorthodox. The puppets that move around the streets are sometimes more than 40 feet. More than a dozen of professionals are required to get the puppet to work. These puppets move just like a fully grown human. It is considered to an iconic and almost mythical street theatre company.