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"Puppetry is an Under-rated Artform"

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by D'Snowth, Feb 1, 2012.

  1. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    This has happened to me on occasion: I meet someone, or someone meets me, they find out or realize that I'm a puppeteer, and when they do, their reaction is usually, "Oh, how cool, puppetry is such an under-rated artform".

    Since I am active in the field of puppetry, and know there are a lot of puppeteers out there, both professional and amateur, I find myself having to disagree, because to me, puppetry doesn't seem like an under-rated artform at all. However, I've tried to look at puppetry from the perspective of people like this, and I think I can see why they would think that: I think most people, who don't really think about puppetry as a whole, really rely on what they actually see within the general public... what has happened in recent years? As somewhat overly exaggerated with the release of the new movie, in recent years, the Muppets haven't had an impact on pop culture: aside from SST, the Muppets have only been seen in TV movies or TV special that have, for the most part, have gone under the radar with some people, while other people like to pretend those never happened. Before that, the Muppets were regularly active, we got theatrical movies every few years, meanwhile specialty channels would broadcast reruns of TMS or other Muppet/Henson series from time to time. However, it's not just the Muppets either, but for a while, puppets were rampant on TV, especially as far as children's shows go; some of them have ha impact on people and kids growing up, others have become something of cult favorites, while others were un-successful... shows like Puzzle Place, Allegra's Window, Wimzie's House, Tiny Tots, Teletubbies, different shows from Shari Lewis, Between the Lions, etc, a lot of which have disappeared from the airwaves in recent years. Not only that, but we've also had discussions within our MC community of how some much of what's done in movies nowadays that may have used to have been achieved through puppetry or animatronics are pretty much now replaced with CGI and such.

    From that perspective, I think I can see why some people would think that puppetry seems like an under-rated artform, but again, because I'm involved in puppetry, I don't think that puppetry as a whole is under-rated, it's just gone under the radar somewhat because of the lack of puppetry seen in movies and television; however, a lot of puppetry is don almost exclusively on the internet these days by people like us who use the internet to showcase their work... but again, the problem there is that not everybody in the world has regular internet access, let alone, not everybody in the world is even computer-literate... what do you guys think of this?
  2. TheCreatureWork

    TheCreatureWork Active Member

    I disagree. Puppetry is very underrated in our North American society. Proof of this is everywhere.

    A) I get people asking me why my puppets cost so much- even after I do a materials cost breakdown and inform them that I build a puppet by hand.

    B) You never see theatrical puppetry get the dues it deserves- Even Avenue Q and War Horse have trouble filling seats...and these theater companies have a multi-million dollar marketing machine behind them. Audiences are not educated on what makes good puppetry good or other forms of puppetry other than the Muppets. I've witnessed an amazing show of puppet manipulation by a great puppeteer named Bernd Ogrodnik and while walking out of the theater I heard a woman say that the story was lacking and that his puppetry wasn't at all like the Muppets...are you kidding me?! I couldn't believe her ignorance. LOL Here is a couple of scenes I saw Bernd perform and you let me know what you think.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vm20L0NVHg
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7V1ufAo-3Y

    C) Most Youtube puppetry is sub par- lip synch is off, heads are flopping everywhere, blocking is never thought out, eye line is always off. It seems that some people think they are puppeteers because they put on a puppet and by the definition of puppetry they are... but the question is whether they are good puppeteers...which some of them aren't. It takes years and years of practice, and tons of trail and error to get to the caliber of some of the great puppeteers we look up to- many people under rate the level of competency puppetry needs to be good. Don't get me wrong... I have much respect for those people who work hard and release Youtube material weekly - even if they lack puppetry skills- we all have to start somewhere and by doing one can learn and change and grow into better performers....that I get. But I get frustrated when people expect they are the next Jim Henson or Frank Oz without doing any work at all. These people, by their actions demonstrate they underrate the art form.

    D) Most puppetry is still looked at as Children's entertainment and not taken seriously in most forms of entertainment. Which has been puppetry's saving grace and curse.

    E) We still have people questioning why there is a MFA (Masters of Fine Art) in Puppetry... Seriously? If we have to defend this question then the art is definitely grossly underrated by the public. See here what I am referring too:
    http://bigthink.com/ideas/41034?page=all

    F)Every time someone asks you to perform for free- it shows that they underrate the artform.

    G) Every time someone walks past a puppeteer performing without stopping to notice the performance- it shows they underrate the art form.

    H) Every time someone (on TV) puts poorly manipulated puppets on their show played by a non puppeteer (so they don't have to pay professional puppeteers) it is underrating the art form.

    Puppetry has come a long way because of Jim Henson and other great pioneers of puppetry...and I thank God for that; but puppetry in North America still has a long way to go before it gets the respect and dignity it deserves and not looked at as a cheap form of entertainment. So I have to agree with people that puppetry is underrated. Sorry, that's just my opinion.
  3. Frogpuppeteer

    Frogpuppeteer Well-Known Member

    Very well said and i agree...it is a very underrated form..i remember when i was in college and on the awards committee...i had just gotten puppetry recognized by the school and because of my the tv dept now touches on puppetry in their classes...but anyways they wanted to stick the puppetry category of the awards show in with animation
  4. Melonpool

    Melonpool Member

    Let's be honest. Most art forms are underrated. How many cartoonists have drawn something for free "to pad out your portfolio?" How many singers have sang a song for no pay "just for the exposure?" How many dancers have taught someone to dance for no compensation whatsoever?

    I think -- as with all art forms -- the people that undervalue our work the most are ourselves (myself especially).


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