A Mechanical Summer- Part 1

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I am about to start my summer school vacation. It has been a challenging year for me teaching and puppetry wise, but now that the year is almost over, I have some time to persue a few of my goals in learning more about mechanical design in puppets.

I have three goals in mind; 1. Design and make a cat’s tail using a cable mechanism, 2. Design and make a rotating eye mechanism, 3. Design and make a sliding control mechanism for blinking eyes. All of these mechanisms already exist in the world but, for me, making them myself will give me an opportunity to explore these shapes and movements and challenge my 3D printing and design experience.

Here are the videos that have inspired me

But, this book has been my chief inspiration-

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Figures in the Fourth dimension- Mechanical Movement for Puppets and Automata by Ellen S. Rixford

Here is a preview link of this incredible book- http://www.figuresinthefourthdimension.com/document/Figures-In-the-Fourth-Dimension-sample.pdf

This is going to be an interesting summer!

Teaching Puppetry as a class…

I was very privileged to have the New South Wales Teachers Federation come to my school to interview me and my students about the puppetry class I teach to Year 8 students this year.

I teach the class once a week how to make and perform puppets, and for homework, the students research different puppet traditions from around the world.

I am so proud of the video the Teachers Federation made about my class, that I just had to share it here on my blog.

Here is a link to the fantastic article about my class that was published in the state-wide journal Education.

http://education.nswtf.org.au/education18/news-features-3/teach-boldly-puppets/

Miss H.

Lucy’s USA adventure: Day 17 & 18

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Day 17: Wednesday June 15, 2016
Today was our last day in America and we spent it at the happiest place on Earth- Disneyland! 2 years ago, Miss Hannaford and I visited Disney World in Orlando Florida, but this is our first visit to Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

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Our first impression of Disneyland was that it was much smaller than Disney World but it was also backwards. The Town Hall is on the opposite side of the town square than in Disney World. While we were in the Town Square we had the chance to meet Mickey Mouse himself!

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Then we caught the horse drawn tram up to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and had photos taken in front of the castle.

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After our visit to the castle, our next stop was to visit Miss Hannaford’s favourite attraction from Disney World- The Haunted Mansion! The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland is slightly different especially on the outside and at the beginning of the ride but otherwise it was just as fantastic as the one in Disney World!

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After the haunted Mansion, we had lunch at the Three Bears, followed by a climb of Tarzan’s tree and a visit to the Enchanted Tiki Room- this was Miss Hannaford’s favourite place in the park because of all the great animatronic puppets that were even the columns that held up the roof!

On our walk back to the entrance of the park, we visited the attraction called Great Moments with Mr Lincoln- an audio animatronic presentation about Abraham Lincoln.

For the afternoon, Miss Hannaford and I went to California Adventure which is opposite the entrance to Disneyland. This park feels more like Disney Hollywood Studios in Florida. The ride we both wanted to go on was the Ferris Wheel. The Ferris Wheel has two kinds of cars- stationary cars and swinging cars. Miss Hannaford didn’t want to get sick, so we went on the stationary cars.

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We wandered around the many shops looking for Muppet merchandise for Miss Hannaford’s collection. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any but it did fill in some time while Miss Hannaford was waiting to meet up with one of her American friends, Steve Swanson from the Muppetcast. The Muppetcast is a podcast about the Muppets and Miss Hannaford has been listening to it for 9 years. Steve is the host of the Muppetcast and he wanted to interview Miss Hannaford for the podcast about her experiences last week at Beyond the Sock.

They met at Carthay Circle Lounge in California Adventure and the interview took 2.5 hours! Steve thought I was really pretty, told me I look like a real Muppet with my golden triangle facial features and he got to hold my new friend Professor McCluckagall! After the interview, Steve and Miss Hannaford went to watch the fireworks in Disneyland and we all went on the Haunted Mansion ride together followed by visiting the inside of Sleeping Beauty’s castle!

You can listen to Miss Hannaford’s interview on the Muppetcast here: http://muppetcast.com/show-285/

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Day 18: Thursday June 16, 2016
Today we flew home to Australia after our amazing 3 week trip in America. Miss Hannaford and I were so tired that we slept for about 8 hours of the 14 hour flight home to Sydney. We will be arriving in Sydney on Saturday, because we are going to be flying over the international date line. I am looking forward to seeing all my classmates in Macquarie Blue, Green and Gold when I go back to school next week.

Lucy and Miss Hannaford

Lucy’s USA Puppet Adventure: Day 16

Day 16: Tuesday June 14, 2016

Today Miss Hannaford had the incredible opportunity not only to meet, but have lunch with Matt Winston, co-founder of the Stan Winston School of Character Arts. Miss Hannaford has attended many of the classes in creature and puppet making as well as in special effects that the Stan Winston School offers. Some of those classes were live and held in the middle of the Australian night and some of the classes, Miss Hannaford watched the library of recorded videos that she could watch anytime she liked.

After lunch, Matt took Miss Hannaford on a very special tour of Legacy Effects to see how they make costumes, creatures and props for upcoming movies! Legacy Effects is also where many of the Stan Winston School Lessons are filmed, so the various workshop spaces felt very familiar to Miss Hannaford. Here is a video of what Legacy Effects makes for movies since Miss Hannaford did not take any pictures to protect and respect the confidentiality of the movies currently being prepared by all the amazing artists and craftspeople Miss Hannaford had the honour to meet.

Tomorrow is the last day of this amazing puppet adventure across the United States of America!

Lucy and Miss H

Lucy’s USA Puppet Adventure: Day 15

Day 15: Monday 13th June 2016
Today was our first full day in Los Angeles, California and the day Miss Hannaford and I spent at Universal Studios, Hollywood!

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Universal Studios Hollywood is both a theme park but it is also a working film and tv studio. Miss Hannaford booked a VIP Experience for us to go on for the whole day so that we could go behind the scenes, walk on real tv and movie sets as well as enjoy the theme park. The VIP guests wait in a very comfy lounge above the entrance to Universal Studios until their guide joins them.

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Then we walked through the park to a special bus that drove us into the movie studio.

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The first actual movie and to set we got to walk onto was New York/ Chicago Street. All the buildings are fake- some are completely flat but this street is used a lot in movies and tv shows especially when things like cars and buildings need to be set on fire or blown up!

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Some of the buildings the bus drove into turned into special effects spaces where the bus was put on hydraulic platforms that shook and bumped the bus. We even got a little bit wet when we drove into a special effects room that had a subway set around us flood with water!

The next set we visited was the Bates Motel from the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho

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Then the tour moved to one of the largest standing sets on the Universal Lot- the devastated suburban street from the Tom Cruise film War of the Worlds. There is a real, wrecked 747 plane! Everyone on the tour had the chance to get off the bus and walk through the set and we got to have our photo taken in front of the plane!

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The last place we got to tour was the prop warehouse. This building is like a huge library where set dressers and production designers can borrow props and set dressing for tv shows and movies. Everything is barcoded just like library books!

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After touring the sets and stages, the tour returned to the theme park where the tour went on several rides. Miss Hannaford doesn’t like scary rides so the only ride we went on was Jurassic Park- that was scary enough with the big drop over the waterfall at the end!

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After a very yummy lunch in the VIP dining room, our next stop on the tour was to see the Waterworld Stunt Show attraction that uses many of the special effects that we had seen on the tour.

The last stop on the tour for Miss Hannaford was the village of Hogsmeade! This is when her new puppet, Professor McCluckagall made her official debut outside Hogwarts Castle and the Hogwarts Express train experience!

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It was a very interesting day seeing how movies and to shows are made!

Lucy and Miss Hannaford

Lucy’s USA Puppet Adventure: Day 13 & 14

Day 13: Saturday 11th June 2016
Today was the last day of Beyond the Sock 2016!
During performance class, students had the opportunity to get feedback on the Yes, and… Improvisation performances we that were filmed the day before. This was followed by a rehearsal of the group song and an opportunity to workshop scenes with the two puppetry teachers for the final show that night.

Miss Hannaford’s teacher Noel, helped her create a scene where her puppet Professor McCluckagall was giving a magic demonstration that starts to go wrong! Miss Hannaford got to work with 3 of her classmates as well as Noel and his personal puppet Dawg! Having a chance to puppeteer with Noel and Dawg was a highlight of the week as Dawg is a very famous Dig and goes everywhere Noel goes!

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Towards the end of the class, Miss Hannaford’s group was joined by the other group to rehearse the group song for the first time as one really big group. The whole group means 30 puppeteers and 30 puppets in one very small space in front of the main television camera until it was time to go to Lunch.

After lunch, during the final construction session, students attached the foam skull of the puppet to the head skin and turned the whole puppet the right way out for the first time. Once the body foam had been inserted, it was time to start applying the facial features of the puppet by gluing the eyelid colour onto the eyes with contact cement. Miss Hannaford decided to cover the eyelids of her chicken with a skin tone fabric to represent Dame Maggie Smith who’s brilliant portrayal of Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter films, made the character Miss Hannaford’s favourite character from the Harry Potter series.

The class also constructed and attached the wings to their puppet. It was a very different way of constructing the bones for the wings of the puppet. Normally wooden dowel is used to make arm bones in puppets, but they can be very heavy. Miss Hannaford’s building teacher, Pasha invented a different method that used rigid plastic tubes threaded with nylon cord. The tubes are normally used as sticks for holding up balloons.

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Once the wings were attached, it was time to finish costuming the character. Miss Hannaford managed to finish making the costume the night before and now it was a matter of stitching it to the body of the costume and pinning on the Professor McGonagall brooch.

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The most challenging facial feature Miss Hannaford had to deal with was the red wattle that bends across the face, over the nose. It is made inside out and had to be turned right way around through a very tiny hole cut on the backside. When Miss Hannaford try to turn it through that hole, one whole side got stuck! In the end, Pasha showed Miss Hannaford a trick in turning the wattle where he pushed the fabric from the large end through the hole! It was so much easier than what Miss Hannaford was trying to do.

That night, it was time for the final show in front of a small studio audience. Miss Hannaford got to perform supporting puppet characters in 2 student performances including Commander Splock in a parody of Star Trek. The other performance was as a baby chick in a parody of the film Labyrinth song Dance Magic Dance called Dance Chicken Dance.

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The group song was the big finale of the night!

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After the show, everyone went back the theatre for a big group photo and to say goodbye each other. Miss Hannaford was really excited to get a picture with her teachers Noel, Martin and Pasha with her chicken puppets.

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Day 14: Sunday 12th June 2016
After such an exciting week, today was the sad in that we had to say a final goodbye to all our new friends and fly to our next destination, Los Angeles. We got to the airport in plenty of time for the flight but as soon as we got on the plane for the flight to Houston, everyone had to get off the plane and be moved to different flights because a really big storm was delaying all fights in Houston which meant we would miss our connecting flight to Los Angeles.

Once we changed our flights and got on a new plane direct to LA, but that was at the same time as Dallas airport was hit by an enormous storm that caused even more delays. Eventually we were able to fly to Los Angeles for the last stop of this big puppet adventure.

Lucy’s USA Puppet Adventure: Day 11 & 12

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Day 11: Thursday June 9, 2016
Today’s workshop schedule was the same as yesterday’s. Classes started at 8:30 with puppetry but this time in the television studio! It was the first time we got to see the amazing new set for this year’s final performance- it was a spaceship! Miss Hannaford and the other Australian puppeteer in the group, Brett Hansen from Larrikin Puppets were first onto the set to take this great picture!

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Today’s lesson focussed on using arm rods, sharing the tv frame with other characters including making bigger entrances and very small exits by utilising the whole frame as well as the space in front of the television cameras.

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Miss Hannaford is performing my sister Molly Fino who also travelled with us to America.

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Martin Robinson from Sesame Street giving performance notes to Miss Hannaford and Brett Hansen

After performance class, Miss Hannaford attended the next construction class and today’s lesson focussed on sewing together the fur face of the chicken and using the baseball stitch to sew the beak fabric together and the locking whip stitch to sew the beak fleece to the fur head.

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Photo credit: Rudy Cervantez

Day 12: Friday June 10, 2016
Much like the last few days, today was the same routine Puppetry class in the morning followed by construction class in the afternoon. Today’s puppetry class focussed on developing character in the puppets through movement. We learnt how to create the illusion that the puppet sits down in a chair or uses a double take for comedic effect. We also learnt how to make it look like the puppet is sleeping or trips and falls over. It was also really exciting because the class got to hear the group song that we were going to perform on the last night in front of an audience! Miss Hannaford became really excited when she was told that she had one of the lead roles in the song! It is her first ever puppetry role!

Lucy’s USA Puppet adventure Day 9 & 10

Day 9: Tuesday June 7, 2016
Today was the first day of the Beyond the Sock workshop!
The workshop started with everyone registering but everyone brought puppets with them so I had the opportunity make many new friends as well as catch up with friends I met last year at Beyond the Sock.

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Once introductions were completed, we moved to the design studio where we started designing our chicken puppets by drawing and colouring versions of the puppet Miss Hannaford was going to make. Miss Hannaford has known for many weeks what type of chicken she wanted to make so she already had a few sketches finished before the course.

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After designing the character, the students cut out their puppet pattern pieces

After class there was an informal get together of all the students, teachers and staff at the group hotel. Miss Hannaford not only invited me to join her at the party but she also brought another puppet she had made- my friend ‘Fire’- a carved African Mask puppet based on a famous puppet from the Harry Belafonte episode of the Muppet Show

Fire was not only very popular with all the students but he was also enormously popular with Miss Hannaford’s puppetry teacher Noel MacNeal! Mr MacNeal took these photos of my friend Fire-

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I also got to mingle with all the other puppets in the room while Fire was being admired.

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Day 10: Wednesday June 8, 2016
Today was the first full day for Miss Hannaford learning puppetry and starting to make her chicken puppet. Classes started at 8:30am and her morning class was held in a room with a long mirror along a wall so the new puppeteers could practise their hand movements. The thing that Miss Hannaford found challenging was redeveloping her lip sync techniques and keeping her hand still so that the lower jaw of the puppet is the only thing that is moving. The class practiced counting the numbers 1 to 20 many times while the two puppetry teachers, Martin Robinson and Noel MacNeal went along the line assisting each of the students. Other activities we did was learning to centre the puppet on the screen, following a ball around a screen to create the illusion of that the puppet is looking at things in the area.

After lunch, Miss Hannaford went over to the construction workshop to start building her chicken puppet. The process started by cutting out all the fur pieces so they could be sent to the sewing room where the volunteers see the pieces together. Nice all the fur was cut out, the next process was to cut out the pieces of foam that made up the head structure and glue them together.

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Lucy’s USA Puppet Adventure Day 7 & 8

Day 7: Sunday June 5, 2016
Today was another travel day. Our next stop was Texas for the week long Beyond the Sock puppetry workshop! Since Miss Hannaford and I had a 6am flight to Texas, we had to leave the hotel by 3:30am!

We arrived in Dallas Fort Worth Texas and caught a shuttle bus to our hotel in Denton Texas. Miss Hannaford was really excited to meet one of the other students from the workshop who had also come from Australia that day! We ended up having an early night since we had been travelling since the very early hours.

Day 8: Monday June 6, 2016
One of Miss Hannaford’s favourite activities before the Beyond the Sock workshop is to visit all the places where people can buy puppet making supplies such as hardware stores, art supply stores, and dollar stores that are similar to the variety stores we have in Australia. The difference between these stores and Australian stores are their really big size and the quantity of different kinds of products they sell. The best thing about these stores is that they are all in walking distance from the hotel where we are staying.

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After our shopping expedition, Miss Hannaford had dinner with some of the other workshop students who had arrived during the day at a local restaurant.

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Tomorrow the workshop begins and we are so excited!

Lucy and Miss Hannaford