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Dilated pupils

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by Show and Tell, Mar 7, 2004.

  1. Show and Tell

    Show and Tell Member

    I've seen several JH puppets that have pupils that dilate and wonder if anyone has a clue of how they did that trick. From Wembly at Fraggle Rock to Gonzo. Hopefully this isn't some trade secret.
  2. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Hmm...I've never caught that. Probably saw it but don't remember. I have seen this done on other puppet shows as animation in post production.
  3. leliebel

    leliebel New Member

    I think they usually use an other set of eyes, and you don't see the pupils actually dialate, but dialated in a different take.

    Can you give an example?
  4. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    That's true - they have done that a lot. They shoot the puppet normally, then cut away, swap out the eyes and cut back to the puppet. I have actually seen it done where the pupils dialate but I don't think it was the Muppets.
  5. Beebers

    Beebers New Member

    You can do it in post, assuming you have the right editing toys, or it can be done with separate shots using separate puppets.

    Or, same puppet with interchangeable eyeballs/pupils.

  6. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    ...or some kind of really elaborate mech.

    Actually, the illusion of the same effect can be created with moving eyelids like Gonzo's.
  7. Jinx

    Jinx Member

    The eyes have it!

    My favorite example of pupil changing would have to be at the end of "Happiness Hotel" in "The Great Muppet Caper". Gonzo takes everyone's picture and they do a quick edit wherein they've switched the pupils on all the puppets to little teeny dots. Very funny!

    The only time I can ever recall a puppet's eyes in the action of dilating would be ET, when his eyes blink and dilate in reaction to light. A VERY elaborate set up and mechanical achievement. This particular set of eyes actually contained mechanical irises. There were, of course, several different puppets/costumes/gloves/limbs/eyes to create ET, and usually character pieces were only used in specific shots for specific purposes. A mechanical iris is a rather delicate thing, and so were only used in shots requiring active dilation.

    My opinion is that a dilating pupil would be far more difficult, expensive etc. to warrant contruction of such a rig, unless absolute realism is required and budgeted for.
  8. Show and Tell

    Show and Tell Member

    hmm Ill have to do some research because I am sure I saw Gonzo's pupils dilate on screen many times, usually when looming over some hot chick-en. Not all of the Muppets do that so I just thought it was a special feature of Gonzo's. And I remember an episode of Fraggle Rock where Wembly's eyes did that too. It's been so long so I can't exactly remember what happened to him to cause this but I think I remember thinking it was some really cool trick to watch his pupils get bigger like that right before my eyes.
    I have an idea of how it could have been done that wouldn't be so complex but I don't know if thats how they did it or not.

    Theory: Have a white of the eye with a whole drilled and smoothly sanded to insert the pupil. Place a clear hard plastic cover over that white of the eye leaving about 1/8" space between it and the white part. Put a very small black balloon inside the whole to be the pupil and have just enough air in it to make it round. Make both eyes alike and couple together with airline hose running down the inside of the puppet to hang below the puppet. Put a squeeze bulb at the end of the airline hose. Then the puppeteer can simply grab the bulb and squeeze lightly and the balloons should inflate just enough to appear like the pupils are dilating.

    Well? Sound crazy enough? Only problem I can think of is removing the glare from the plastic domes covering the eyes. But then that could just be a camera trick too. Actually if you left that glare it would give the illusion of a glazed over look. LOL
    CORRECTION..... It was Boober that had dilated pupils. Not Wembly
  9. leliebel

    leliebel New Member

    Í actually though that with gonzo it was an eyebrow thing
  10. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    That's actually an optical illusion. Gonzo has an eyelid mech. People often think they've seen the Muppets do things they can't. A lot of people claim Piggy can bat her eyelashes but that's also an optical illusion.

    It's all just the handiwork of very talented puppeteers! :)
  11. Show and Tell

    Show and Tell Member

    ok well I guess I thought it was both. Anyway so any comments on this theory of mine or do I need to draw a diagram to explain it better? I figured I could get the clear globe from those .50 cent toys you buy out of those crank machines just inside of grocery stores geared to kids and put a white ball with a whole in it for the balloon inside the globe part. Think it'll work?
  12. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Actually, it probably would. Personally I tend to shy away from complicated mechs these days but it's a very ingenious idea!
  13. Jinx

    Jinx Member

    I'm quite sure it could not have been Boober's eyes that dilated, as he has no eyes! Another great illusion, created by a very skilled puppeteer! I always had the same goal in mind whenever I puppeteered the Audrey II puppets in LSOH, to give them absolute focus in the absence of actual eyes.

    I do remember Webley's eyes on occasion rotating a bit. Specifically, I remember him looking up and to his right to look at someone who was speaking, and I remember in a song one time that they were rotating somewhat wildly.

    Now I'm gonna have to dig out all my old tapes to try to find out which episodes they occurred in!
  14. Show and Tell

    Show and Tell Member

    ok it has been so long since I have seen that show I dont even remember the characters anymore. I was thinking that Boober was the green one with light green hair and that wembly was the one that was very out spoken and had red/orange pom poms for hair. send me a copy of your fraggle rock so I can recap. lol :excited: is this Wembly or Boober? The Green one is the one I was talking about.
  15. PukkaPukka

    PukkaPukka Member

    To clear this all up...

    As far as the "eye-dilation" thing goes, that is indeed a neat trick involving eyelid mechanisms (someone told me once that, "the puppeteer does what's there, and the viewer fills in the rest with their own intuition"). Perhaps what you're "seeing" is not exactly what is "happening." It's a neat thing, that.

    Specifics-wise, on Fraggle, Wembley's eyes rotated via a mechanism. I know the episode that you're speaking of where they "rotate wildly." That episode was "Pukka, Pukka, Pukka, Squeetily Boink." Don't want to give away anything here, so to answer your questions, "no" to dilation..."yes" to rotation.

    Hope that helped out...


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