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Making Java Muppets.

Discussion in 'Puppet News' started by Carnby, Dec 14, 2008.

  1. Carnby

    Carnby Member

    I'm looking to make these since my daughter loves the sketch, but am a little puzzled on what to use. Someone recommended flexible dryer vent tubing like this:


    but I'm not sure how to color it. Someone else mentioned special paint used for plastic. Would that be a step in the right direction?
  2. mrhogg

    mrhogg Well-Known Member

    What do you mean by Java Muppets? What do they look like?
  3. Super Scooter

    Super Scooter Well-Known Member

    Frank Oz designed and (I think) built the original Java Muppets. They are made of tubing similair to that, though I'm not sure if that's quite the same kind. If you own the first season of The Muppet Show, they appear in the episode with Ethel Merman. Watch it with the Muppet Morsels on. If I remember right, they tell exactly what they're made of.
  4. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

    If were to make them, I would suggest some pipes that are sturdy, or else they would just sag forward or backward.
  5. Carnby

    Carnby Member

    Ok, I checked season 1's Morsels for the skit and they were made from dryer and vacuum vent tubes. So that's easy to take care of, but are there any suggestions for coloring them? I'm going to search around and see if there just happen to be wild colors for dryer tubes.
  6. Melonpool

    Melonpool Well-Known Member

    I believe the original ones (like the ones used on the Ed Sullivan Show) were white with colored boas attached at the ends.

    I know that they make white plastic dryer vent hoses in different diameters. They would be what I'd use, though I have no idea how to color them like the ones featured on the Muppet Show version of the sketch. Maybe neon spray paint for coloring plastic?

    The only tip I'd suggest is stretch it out and immobilize it when painting it (By maybe stretching it on a board suspended by two sawhorses) and resist the temptation to paint it all in one session. Also, don't move it at all until it's dried for a day or so. Even so, I have no idea if it'd even stick. The only other idea I have is possibly trying to dye it using rit or some other dye and submerging it in a bath for awhile. I have no idea if it'd work either.

    My best bet would be to try to recreate the Ed Sullivan versions. ;)
  7. Melonpool

    Melonpool Well-Known Member

    Look at this image:


    What about taking the dryer hose and feeding it through a pink nylon tight (or making a spandex tube)? You might have to glue it in place, but It looks sort of like that's the way they made the later version of the Java Muppets. Or, it might be something similar to a plastic slinky with a similar material over it.

    Just trying to help.
  8. Jinx

    Jinx Well-Known Member

    Great advice, Steve. I think all of the above-mentioned ideas would work. Personally, I think I'd go for the spandex covering for the greatest durability.

    I also did a really quick google search for "flexible paint for plastic". (Ain't the internet grand?) I found this link that looks interesting. It appears to have provisions for rigid and/or flexible paints.
  9. Melonpool

    Melonpool Well-Known Member

    I've always wondered how they were performed. Rods? I assume that since they always appear on a black background that the puppeteers (or at least part of the puppeteers) are dressed in black in plain sight, but other than that, I'm at a loss.

    I would think that there is a hand or a rod attached to each foot, but how do they manipulate the puppet so that the eyes can turn on cue? Do you suppose there are multiple puppeteers for each one?

  10. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I am not sure, but you could probably turn the eyes simply by turning the rod in your hands.
  11. Melonpool

    Melonpool Well-Known Member

    So, this weekend, my wife and I were invited to a barbecue and found out about 24 hours prior to the event that each family was expected to perform a little skit.

    Originally, we weren't going to do anything, but a couple of months ago, I had to replace the tubing on my dryer and still had about 3 feet of it in the garage... about three hours later, we had built the two Javas (though their bodies are made from the metallic version of the vent) and started practicing. We also found a version of "Java" that was similar to the one that the Muppets used... so it looks like we're going to perform Java in about four hours!

    I'm not sure if anyone will be videotaping it, but if they do, I'll post a link here. Necessity IS the mother of invention!

  12. Melonpool

    Melonpool Well-Known Member

    Our little "performance" went great! We were lucky in that most of the people there had never seen the original. We got a lot of comments like "you guys should perform this professionally!" Of course, we had to tell them that we would -- if we weren't ripping off an old Jim Henson bit in the process. ;)

    Anyway, this is how we performed it:

    I took a piece of foam core and cut a 2-inch hole about an inch from the center of one of the longer sides. In the hole, I put a small funnel with a piece of vinyl tubing taped to the bottom. I then taped the edge of the top of the funnel to the foam core to make sure it'd stay flush. I put this foam core (which served as our performance surface) at the edge of a dining room table, with the funnel and tubing hanging fown the puppeteer side. I filled the funnel with about a tablespoon's worth of white flour.

    We downloaded Al Hirt's "Java" from the internet and added an explosion sound to the end part, right were the little Java shoots the bigger one. I found a bunch of cool explosions at sounddogs.com

    We actually performed it from below the table, with our hands inside the feet of the Javas (we cut little slits for out fingers on the backs of the legs, just above the fur fringe so we could get a good grip). I reinforced the openings with duct tape so the dryer hose didn't rip.

    We practiced along with the Muppet Java on our coffee table until we got the timing, then moved under the dining room table and practiced from below the table a couple of times. All told, I'd say we ran through it about a dozen times total.

    So, the secret is the timing. You end up seeing the puppeteers arms from below the table, but no one seems to care. They get instantly captivated by the characters and laughed in all the right places. When the little one "shoots" the larger one, we knew were our "explosion" was in the song, so my wife pointed the foot of the smaller one at my larger one at the appropriate cue and I blew into the other end of the vinyl tubing at the same time, and had the larger one pop off the table. The flour actually was shot about 3 feet into the air and was so unexpected by the audience, that I don't think it mattered much that the smoke didn't actually come out the foot.

    The build for the two puppets was about an hour total with maybe a half hour on each one in refining them. We didn't spend a cent on this quick production (everything was built using stuff we had left over from other projects) and it was a ton of fun! If I had it to do over again, I'd use less collapsable tubing, because the larger Java's eyes sagged a little bit. Oh well! Next time!

  13. Melonpool

    Melonpool Well-Known Member

  14. rtgentry

    rtgentry Well-Known Member

    thats cool, I am going to attempt to make a set of these for a show. thanks for the detailed info
  15. rome kapen

    rome kapen Member

    I made some and performed with me as the big java and my mom as the little java (by video) for my school talent show.
  16. rome kapen

    rome kapen Member

    I made mine out of pool tubing then we put colored stockings over them. The eyes were styrofoam balls cut in half and the big java had fabric eyelids. Here is the video shown at the talent show.

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