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Movable jaw for a fullbody muppet costume?

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by shoo, Jul 19, 2011.

  1. shoo

    shoo New Member

    I've been looking over several videos on youtube and scouting for pictures for advice, but apparently there's not a proper answer for this yet...

    I am basically trying to make a FULLBODY muppet character's HEAD. In my case it's Cookie Monster's HEAD, WITH a movable jaw.

    So yeah, I am basically wondering if you lot got any pointers on how I can make a MOVABLE JAW for my Cookie head. As you can see in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DnfcnjiFPk - Cookie Monster's jaw is opening and closing with ease. But how?! Is it a combination of foam and fun foam, or? And what sort of mechnism must I use in order to make it movable? Are there perhaps other materials used for making his head?

    Is the head attached to my chin somehow or do I have straps going around my head that are connected to the head's foam, or?

    It seems like making a movable jaw for Cookie Monster is different than to a regular animal/fursuit, hence why I am posting this thread.

    Any ideas anyone?

    Would it perhaps be something like this: http://www.therpf.com/f9/sesame-street-puppets-68715/index3.html - or?

    ANY pointers and help is greatly appriciated!
  2. Animal31

    Animal31 Active Member

    That link is for a puppet head, I think you are on the right track in regards to the chin strap you mentioned. If you look around, there is another thread which I believe talks about what you are trying to accomplish.....

    Good Luck!
  3. Melonpool

    Melonpool Active Member

    It looks to me like these are radio-controlled. They're way too in-synch with each other to be up to the individual performers. Also, if you look at them, they never open and close their mouths any differently (larger or smaller movements). They seem to all be either open or closed.
  4. Animal31

    Animal31 Active Member

    I think a few of the older muppet ones were actually hinged and just swung up and down when not in closeups? Pufnstuf was much the same way.......
  5. MuppetLabsBoy

    MuppetLabsBoy Member

    Yeah, I think that Melonpool is right and that these are radio controlled mechanisms. Their hands/arms are moving too much to have a Big Bird like string and operate the arms w/one hand & the mouth with the other. They also keep every mouth movement consistent; no variety in the amount that the mouth opens when they sing a long bar. Try doing the chin strap. I suggest building the whole head on a bicycle helmet...It snaps onto your head and doesn't move up/down when you open up your mouth.

  6. shoo

    shoo New Member

    Whut? You mean that their mouths are radio controlled...? Does not make any sense really.

    I think a chin strap would work out nicely, yes.

    Sounds a really good idea to make the head out from a bicycle helmet, but the question is HOW i can do THAT... hmm...
  7. jcnegron

    jcnegron Member

    Once I met one of the performers in the show, never occur to me to ask him how they move their mouths, but as he was telling me that he was really a dancer, and that's the profile they search when hiring this kind of performers, I will agree with the about comments that mouths are synchronized with the audio tracks by means of some remote control.
  8. fragglerockr

    fragglerockr Member


    Actually, it does make lots of sense. The mouths are radio controlled by another performer from the tech booth, much the same way an r.c. car is controlled. The performers in the costume merely mime the actions and dance. You can look it up online.

  9. TheCreatureWork

    TheCreatureWork Active Member

    Jcnegron is correct. The mouths are all mechanically sync'd with the audio track. In the old days this was accomplished by placing high frequency "pitches" on the audio track on tape. Nowadays I believe it is computerized. This allows the performers who are the actual characters to focus on dancing and their overall performance. I can't see them having a second person to perform remotely as they would not only have to pay a second person but house etc. when on the road touring. So I believe it is all done through computer. BTW it makes perfect sense, not only financially but for the performance as well.
  10. nettleface

    nettleface New Member

    This sounds about right, it's quite a nice easy way to get movement into the jaw. Barney and friends stage show use this for most of the characters allowing them to chatter away as they jump about the place. The jaw is attached to the head with a very free moving pivot with as little resistance as possible and bungee cord (either at each side of the jaw or from the centre of the mouth) gives you the bounce.

    Or if you want a pretty grim method you could use a bite bar where the performer holds a padded bar in their mouth, which is attached to the jaw, and moves their head up and down to make the character talk. Hopefully not many costumes use this now!
  11. shoo

    shoo New Member

    Hmm.. been a while since i posted here now...

    I am still trying to figure out how to make the jaw movable for my fullbody muppet costume... I don't really fancy that mechanical way you mention. There gotta be other ways, no?
  12. Animal31

    Animal31 Active Member

    I think there were at least two other methods mentioned, no? Read thru the thread again and I'm sure you will find them....
  13. chuckgreen

    chuckgreen New Member

    I was able to solve this problem robotically and have the actor be able to control the robotic jaw with his own jaw. I used a few servos, a power supply for them and an arduino to control them. There is a sort of rubber cord that changes resistance when it's stretched, and that's what's around the lower jaw, sending the signal to the arduino in the back of the helmet. Here is a video of a test of that mechanism:

    This was something I was able to put together in a day, having the arduino and servos already (as well as a bunch of angle aluminum, a baseball helmet and a bunch of tools).
  14. Mdk Productions

    Mdk Productions New Member

    Hey! At sesame place we actually have a button in our hand that we squeeze like a bike petal that moves are lips. We have tons of practice in costume to sink are hand movements to the rest of the cast. We can not afford radio sinking;) great question!
  15. Gluvets

    Gluvets New Member

    The Sesame Street live heads are cable controlled mouths with a trigger in the glove much like a bicycle break cable
  16. Mdk Productions

    Mdk Productions New Member

    Yes that is the same at sesame place:)

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