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Do the Muppets have nylon sleeves up to the mouth?

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by Rugby, Dec 16, 2003.

  1. Rugby

    Rugby Member

    I ask because I had the chance to work the puppets (not sure if they were 'real' muppets. I'm guessing they were, but they sure did look beat up.) at the Vision of Jim Henson exhibit when it was in St. Paul a year or two ago. They were the alien puppets that were bolted down onto the alien planet stage. You could work the puppets and watch yourself in the monitor below. I had lots of fun. I did notice that they felt great when you put them on your hand. They fit snug and it felt like there was some kind of a nylon sleeve that went up to the mouth. I have always heard that Muppets fit like a glove and that's what it felt like. Toastcrumbs, can you divulge what is used or how this is accomplished?


  2. ToastCrumbs

    ToastCrumbs New Member

    Neck Sleeve

    There really isn't a simple answere to your question, but I would say that for the most part Muppets do have some type of neck sleeve or a channel that leads up to the head. There are many reason why they are in place, but the most obvious one is that it just serves as a quick guide to bring you up to the mouth plate or finger grip when you put them on in a hurry. I believe there was a picture of one or two puppets being prepared for the Master Card spot and in it you saw just Fozzie's head, I think you coud make out part of the sleeve. It may be a good starting point for you, so take a look if you get a chance.
    As for the type of fabric used in making the sleeves, all I can say is that the same two are used most of the time. A tip when it comes to pickin' out fabric for your sleeve is that you need it to be strong but also have a little stretch to it, so when it comes time to place your puppet on there's room to slide your arm in with comfort.:)
  3. Super Scooter

    Super Scooter New Member

    I've made these "sleeves" for two of my puppets before, and they are so nice to have. It makes it easier to perform, or at least more comfortable to perform because it's a bit tighter, softer, and a better feeling than nasty foam.
  4. Jinx

    Jinx Member


    I saw and operated those same alien muppets at the "Art of the Muppets" exhibit in Salt Lake City back in the summer of '86! I'm sure that they would be pretty beat up after that many years of use/abuse by non-puppeteers! I remember the sleeve that you mention, and there was a lady attendant there who had several of the sleeves in her hand and was getting ready to change them out for the day. She explained that they were used to preserve the inside of the puppets from excessive wear from being used by so many people each day. So they did not appear to be a regular part of the puppet.

    As I recall, the arm rods were incredibly thick and had huge bicycle-type handles attached to them, and only a narrow slot in the set through which they could be operated. I wanted nothing more in the world than to operate that puppet ouside of the set!
  5. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Most professional TV-style puppets do have some kind of arm sleeve. I started building puppets with them a few years ago and have never looked back. The real advantage of them is they allow the head of the puppet to turn independent of the body plus - just like Scooter said - they just feel nice inside the puppet too.

    I usually make them out of a non-stretch jersey material - the perforated material that football and hockey jerseys get made from. It's great because it can let your arm "breathe" a little and it does not retain a lot of sweat.

    I'd avoid using any kind of heavy material for this. It will weigh down the puppet and make your arm sweat a lot too. Also, I used to make arm sleeves out of a semi-stretchy black material and really regret it now because all of those sleeves have stretched too far.
  6. Rugby

    Rugby Member

    Wow! Thanks for the info, Jinx! I couldn't believe it when you said 1986! When I was there, I don't think they had the arm rods anymore. Infact I'm sure they didn't. I have pictures I took of the exhibit. I can't remember, but I think I have a picture of the aliens. I could post some pictures if anyone is interested. We also took a priceless picture from behind the stage of me operating one alien and my son, who's 6 now, operating the other puppet. Like father like son! :)

    That exhibit was so cool! It was the first time I had ever seen real muppets in person. I was almost in shock the whole time we were there. I wish I could relive it again. It was the next best thing to meeting Jim Henson, which I always thought I'd get a chance to do before he past away. I still have crazy thoughts of just following my dreams and trying to get a job as a muppeteer. I am really good at transferring and conveying thoughts, actions, and emotions through my hand and am very good at lip syncing and using my thumb instead of doing the 'eye flop' method of mouth movement. Plus, my voice is very versatile. I can imitate almost any muppet voice and have a wide variety of voices I can do with different accents to boot.

    Okay, getting WAYYYY off topic. Sorry about that. Got carried away! I just feel it was my destiny to work with the muppets. I'd love to give it a shot. I know I've got what they're looking for. :) :) :)
  7. Jinx

    Jinx Member

    I know what you mean about experienceing them first-hand. I remember I was in Salt Lake on other business and just happened upon the exhibit. I only had an hour to tour it before I had a meeting to attend, so I was rather disappointed that I didn't get to really savor the experience. I would love to see any pictures you have!
  8. Ryan

    Ryan New Member

    Yes, post pictures please!
  9. BorkBork

    BorkBork Member

    Post pics, post pics :-D
  10. Rugby

    Rugby Member

    Okay, I'll post some pictures as soon as I figure out what I can use as an image host. Or maybe I'll just make a new web page and link it here so everyone can go to the page and check the pictures out. I'll let you know when it's done.
  11. ScrapsFlippy

    ScrapsFlippy Member

    Over at “Playhouse Disney – Live Onstage” we have the real deal – Henson Creature Shop-built “Bear in the Big Blue House” muppets. They do indeed have nylon sleeves inside (which make it easy to slip in and out of puppets for our quick transitions.) The sleeves have regularly spaced “air holes” kind of like a basketball jersey, but there is more like an inch to an inch and a half of space between holes.

    I remember the exhibit of which you speak coming through Little Rock, Arkansas. My wife and I woke up early and drove two hours to the Children’s Museum. (I still have the t-shirt!) What most stands out in my memory are the “real” Bert and Ernie on display, and one of the beetle-monster-guys from “Dark Crystal.”
  12. Show and Tell

    Show and Tell Member

    So everyone agrees then that nylon or the jersey material used in sports is the best stuff to make arm sleeves out of? Kinda wondering if it would be a good idea to make a removable arm sleeve so it can be washed and/or changed out so as not to stink up the puppet with sweat.:p
  13. biblebetty

    biblebetty New Member

    I don't understand?

    Hi everybody!
    I never seen a puppet with sleeves before if there is a sleeve in the puppet that go all the way to the mouth where in the mouth would you atttach the end of the sleeve. I hope I made myself clear, I don't understand where inthe head this sleeve would be attacted and how would you change it out once the puppet was made?

    thank-you bibleBetty
  14. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Normally the sleeve is sewn or glued inside the hole for your hand at the bottom of the puppet's head. The other end of the sleeve is usually attached to arm hole in the puppet's body.

    Does that help?
  15. biblebetty

    biblebetty New Member

    still questions

    No, not really, I understand the opening at the bottom, but the other end of the sleeve is attacted to what? the mouth, the head, the neck or is it loose? Thank-you for the help!

  16. ScrapsFlippy

    ScrapsFlippy Member

    Maybe Shynee can back me up on this one.

    I haven't bothered to turn the otters inside out, but I believe the lining goes all the way up - I think that the "sleeve" is just sewn to the inside of the fur before the puppet is actually assembled. So, in other words, you cut your pieces, flip them over, sew the lining on the back, and assemble the puppet. I think. I mean, isn't that how they put linings in vests and jackets and such?


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