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Question: With the world going digital, what is the future of puppets?

Brian Henson:  It’s a completely different thing that you’re trying to do with a puppet.  It’s, or at least usually in our company, usually a puppet is made of felt and its eyes are often, you know, white plastic and it’s stuffed with foam rubber or stuffing and that’s part of what it is, that’s what makes the puppet funny.  And when you’re doing the puppet, if you’re doing a puppet of a goat, well, it’s not actually a goat that’s playing the scene, what’s funny is it’s a goat that’s made out of yellow felt and foam rubber and ping pong ball eyes, and that’s part of what the entertainment is.  If you were to rip the arm off the goat, there would be cotton wool that comes out, not blood.

And that’s not something you can copy with 3D digital animation. That’s specific to puppetry.  So I don’t think, I think there will always be a place for puppetry.  3D animation, I think people were asking the same question when we were doing animatronics through the ‘80’s and ‘90’s when we were doing animatronic characters.  Well, we were building puppet characters, but you were meant to believe if you cut them, they would bleed, with “Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth” and more recently, “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” or “Where The Wild Things Are,” those are characters that are meant to be closer to the illusion of living, breathing characters.  And I think animatronics has been largely replaced, and certainly enhanced by 3D digital animation.

But I think the place for puppetry, the simplicity of what you’re doing with puppetry... well, you can’t beat the simplicity of a puppet and a camera and there you are and you’re done.  So I don’t think puppetry is going anywhere fast.  I think it’s one of the oldest art forms in the world and I think it will still be going strong.

Recorded on April 8, 2010

More from the Big Idea for Monday, May 03 2010


Is There a Future for Puppets?

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