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What are puppet eyes made from

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by mupcollector1, Oct 17, 2012.

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  1. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    You know one of the things I kind of knew about The Muppets was their eyes where made of some kind of plastic material (excluding the Land of Gorch Muppets of course which were made of glass). I know that the first Kermit's eyes was a pin pong ball cut in half but I'm just curious about not only the Kermits after that or the other characters. The eyes always looked custom made plastic wise. The only thing I can think of is plastic spoons. So what are they made out of? For some reason I also wanted to ask, I'm not sure what it was but on a Sesame Street Documentry (I think it was the A&E one") when they were talking about how Steve Whitmire took over Kermit and Ernie, there's a clip where a puppet captian I think they are called or a puppet ringler, the person who prepairs the puppets before they are taken by the puppeteer for filming. Someone was cleaning Ernie's eye for a breif moment. Anyone know what I'm talking about? What is that? Just curious if that was some kind of cleaner that polishes the plasticy material the eyes are made from?
  2. TheCreatureWork

    TheCreatureWork Active Member

    The Muppet eyes are mostly vacuum formed from polystyrene. The puppet wrangler you speak of was probably just cleaning the puppets eyes. You don't want eyes to be polished- I always sand my eyes or spray them with flat paint- as light shining off the eyes can distract the viewer. I'm certain all Muppet eyes aren't vacuum formed- they use plastic soup spoons, tree ornament globes (spray painted), wood balls, ladles, doll eyes of all various styles and makes- basically anything :)
  3. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Some Fraggle eyes are fishing bobbers, so I've heard. Basically, it's "whatever works."

    For my Janken Fraggle puppet I used large eye hemispheres from Out of the Box Puppets, attached to styrpfoam balls that were then covered with fleece for eyelids. For Skeeter I used plastic spoons.

    At Dragon*Con Peter Linz was looking at Janken and giving me advice, and among the things he suggested were shortening the arm rods and flecking the eyes with gray paint so they won't have that plastic glare. I'd like to see a close-up of eyes treated that way so I can try to do it; as it is I can't picture it.
  4. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    The puppet looks really cool. Yeah, I'd love to make quality puppets like that where you can see glue mistakes and sown arms, stuff like that. But isn't puppet building super expensive? When I did it years ago, I build a puppet during my high school years and spend 40 bucks on materials. Maybe it was because I was using leather material for a leather jacket that I bought at AC Moore. That was the store I used to get materials from.

    I remember I asked someone last year to build me a professional Muppet style puppet according to a sketch I grew because I kind of wanted to hold, feel and practice with something close to professional for the first time and just to look at it kind of like a model of inspiration, not to rip off or anything but to see if I could build something simular without copying. Kind of like reffernce. But I found out that the puppet would cost about a thosand buck and an additional thosand if I wanted the eyes to blink and move which Is super rough for me finactual. So I'm just curious if building one myself would cost that simular amount or if that was mostly just a price for the hard work and effort of the builder. Just curious the adverage price.

    Also one thing that I noticed is that puppets need to be big in scale. The ones I made for film experiments in high school and college Were about the size of my hand but when ever I see footage of a Muppet or a Spitting Image / Guignols puppet next to a human being, I'm just WOWED thinking, MAN those puppets are bigger then I thought. Usually I would think they were no bigger then a human hand and arm. But the hand size alone only overs the mouth and there's a few more inches for the head. I've got lots to learn. lol :)
  5. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    It wouldn't cost me a thousand dollars to build a puppet, that's for sure. Fur, antron fleece, reticulated foam, and the like aren't cheap, but they aren't in the second-mortgage league either. (Ostrich feathers for hair, now that can get pricey!) Where most of the cost comes in, I suspect, is the labor involved. It takes time and work to translate a drawing into three dimensions, finding/making/dyeing the materials you'll need, and sewing it all up. Puppet making is a labor intensive biz!

    I'd suggest making a puppet yourself. You don't need to get 'spensive materials if you're just experimenting. Cloth shops have reasonably priced fleece and fur, and foam isn't hard to come by. Home Depot for contact cement and gasket rubber (for mouthplates), craft shops for adhesive backed felt for mouths and eyes. Online stores have special things like arm rods and eyes, if ping-pong balls or other easier-to-find elements don't suit you. Anyway, get cheap materials and just play around, see what you can come up with.
    mupcollector1 and Walter like this.
  6. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure if I mentioned this on this thread or another but one of the problems that I had with flat foam building was having my hand stable to the mouth plate because if the head is big, My fingers would have a hard time staying on the mouth plate so what I discovered was taking a sock and attaching the mouth plate to that secures my hand to the mouth plate so it wouldn't fall into the hallow head. I'm not sure if anyone here ever had this problem or similar solutions. Though the problem with that is putting on the puppet, you would have to find the sock somewhere inside. I also wanted to get into foam carving and stuff like that and I heard that with a variety of sizzor sizes and some sand paper usually helps sculpt block foam. It's usually polyurethane foam right? Is it usually white or yellow? I remember working with green flat foam for awhile when I was advancing a little in my college years. Also say if I wanted to make characters that didn't have fleese skin, what would work for foam paint? I tried arcrilics but it would just crack and desinergrate and get all over the place.

    Anyway what is the average prices for puppet building budgets?


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