Tuesday, 30th May, 2017
Today was our last day in New York. We had to be up early as myself, along with my puppet friends, and Miss Hannaford were invited to see a puppet show called Helping Drew at a Primary School in the Bronx. The Bronx is a suburb of New York City found in the Northern end of Manhatten Island. One of the puppeteers was a friend we made last year at Beyond the Sock- David Manley. My travelling companion, Coco the Dog , got to have her photo taken with David and Drew- the star of the show.
On our way to the show, we passed the famous Yankee Baseball stadium where the New York Yankees play.
After the show, we caught the subway to Central Park so that we could go back to the Jim Henson Bench for lunch. Both Miss Hannaford and I visited the bench in 2014, but this time we brought our new sock puppet friend Joop.
After lunch, our next stop was a return visit to the Puppet Kitchen. On this visit we had a tour of the whole building including the real theatre next to the workshop where Joop was made.
It has been a wonderful 3 days in New York. Tomorrow, we fly to Chicago.
Monday, 29th June 2017
What an amazing day! Miss Hannaford and I went on the tour of NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Center, also known as 30 Rock.
While we were waiting for the tour, both of us got to sit at the Today Show desk. The Today Show is similar to Sunrise on Channel 7 in Australia.
We got to visit the studios of NBC Nightly News, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, but while we were on the same floor of the building as the Tonight Show, Miss Hannaford achieved a major life goal in puppetry- to see the Muppet Pipes in person!
The Muppet Pipes are a very creative piece of Muppet History. They were originally steam pipes that helped to keep the building warm during winter, but in December, 1964 while waiting hours to go on television, Jim Henson, Don Sahlin, Jerry Juhl and Frank Oz were bored, so they used paint and fur to turn boring pipes into Muppet characters.
The whole story can be read on the Muppet Wiki
Until 2010, the pipes were inside a dressing room, so no one could see them. When the area of the dressing room was renovated, it was decided to turn the Muppet Pipes into an exhibit that people participating in the backstage tour could see the pipes.
I also got to see the new Muppet Pipe Wrench on display adjacent to the Muppet Pipes, which was presented to the host of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon by Kermit the Frog!
At the end of the tour, the tour group got to film their own tonight show video and both Miss Hannaford and I were the guest star in the video!! You can watch our video here!
After our tour, Miss Hannaford and I went to visit the Lego Store opposite 30 Rock. Miss Hannaford loves Lego!
Today is our first full day in New York City.
Our first activity was to catch the subway train from where we are staying in Brooklyn to Astoria so we could visit the Museum of the Moving Image. There are a great many subway lines in New York. They are all labelled with letters of the Alphabet and a few are labelled with numbers. The subway can be very confusing to use, so it is important to plan ahead so you can follow the signs to the correct platforms. Sometimes it is necessary to go down flights of stairs and up other flights of stairs to get to the platform you need or to reach the exit.
When we were walking from the train station in Astoria towards the Museum of the Moving Image, we passed the Kaufman Astoria Television studio! This is where Sesame Street is filmed! It is wonderful to be so close to the actual Sesame Street. Miss Hannaford used to watch Sesame Street twice a day when she was a little girl.
Next door is the Museum of the Moving Image. The museum is dedicated to the history of radio, film and television. They are also the home of a collection of puppets, props and artefacts from the history of the Muppets and Sesame Street. Unfortunately, the museum did not have any of the puppets on display as they are developing a new exhibition space, but they do have a wonderful collection of other objects on display.
We did get to see a couple of films from Muppet history that both of us had never seen before. The first film was Jim Henson’s experimental film Timepiece. Premiering in 1965, Timepiece is a short film at 9 minutes long and features many surrealist segments including Jim Henson painting a real elephant pink, animated shapes and colours, and Jim Henson flying past in a home-made flying machine.
The next surprise we enjoyed was seeing a special Jim Henson Legacy screening of The Muppets at Walt Disney World. Hosted by Craig Shemin, the president of the Jim Henson Legacy, the screening started with an episode of the Muppet Show that Miss Hannaford has never seen because it is not on DVD yet! The guest star Wally Boag was a Disneyland Legend who performed in the Golden Horseshow Revue for almost 40,000 shows. He was most famous for his Boagaloons- balloons twisted into animal shapes and for his slapstick comedy spitting out endless fake teeth.
The next film was the advertised screening, The Muppets at Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, we had to leave during the screening so we could get to our next exciting appointment.
Our biggest highlight of the day was a puppet making workshop at the famous Puppet Kitchen in New York. Having made many, many puppets, Miss Hannaford has never made a sock puppet from an actual sock!!! Miss Hannaford has wanted to visit the puppet kitchen for many years, but this is the first time she was able to visit the workshop. Over the 3 hours of the workshop, taught by Weston Long, Miss Hannaford added a red mouth, big eyes and arms to a purple sock. The original intention of the design was to make the puppet a cyclops with a big, single eye, but where the eye was placed, was turned into a trumpet-like snout.
Can’t wait for tomorrow’s adventure!
Lucy and Miss H
Saturday May 27 2017,
I am so lucky that Miss Hannaford is once again taking me, and several of my puppet friends with her on her next adventure to the United States of America while she continues her studies in puppetry from the world’s best puppet makers and puppeteers. Our itinerary includes 3 days in New York, 5 days in Chicago, and 7 days in Denton Texas.
To make our long journey across the planet easier for all of us, Miss Hannaford arranged for us both to travel in Business Class! I got to sit in a seat that turns into a bed!!
During the flight, we watched a couple of movies including the classic movie Singing in the Rain, and a very new movie called Hidden Figures. Both are wonderful movies!
We also enjoyed very fancy, restaurant quality food on the flight. The flight attendants laid a table cloth on the tray table with cutlery and wine glass. Then the amazing lunch was served- rack of lamb ribs on a bed of couscous. It was delicious!
The flight from Sydney to Fort Worth Dallas was 15.5 hours long. We then had a very short amount of time to change planes for the flight to New York. In the end, it took 28 hours to fly to New York. By the time we got to the hotel, we were both very tired but glad to be here.
All I can say is wow! It works- it’s alive!!!!! I have 16 vertebrae and 8 are moving precisely like they are supposed to! Stage 1 of the tentacle- from the tip to vertebrae 9 is moving and curling. However, for some reason, stage 2 is barely moving. Current working theory is that the brake cable housing I am using is too stiff to allow the stage 2 mechanism to move at all. I may have to make another base plate that has no large passage holes and screw all the brake cable housings into that so that the bare cable is running through the passage holes of the actual tentacle.
I have started assembling the tentacle! After printing one of the vertebrae, I held it up to a puppet that it could be used for, and I found that the diameter of the vertebrae was too wide. So I reduced the diameter on the original model to 1.5 inches, reconverted it to metric and printed 12 vertebrae. For the tip, base and vertebrae 8 & 9, where the cable housing had to be inserted or the cables terminated, I had to adjust the design so that the holes were 4mm in diameter.
Each vertebrae holds onto the central speedometer cable using a 10/32 by 0.25″ set screw. I had the drill and tap each hole to be able to thread the set screws. I am now waiting for more set screws to arrive, then, I will be able to thread through the outer cables and hopefully this tentacle will start moving!
Today I tried to print the first of the vertebrae. When I imported the design into the UP Studio software, the vertebrae appeared incredibly small. I designed the vertebrae to be 1.75 inches in diameter and the main ring is 0.25 inches high, but in the UP Studio software, the design was 1.75mm wide!
I consulted with a more experienced colleague of mine and together, we discovered the problem. UP Studio software cannot distinguish between imperial and metric measurements. It can only read in metric, so when I imported my design in imperial measurement of 1.75 inches, it read it as 1.75mm. I had to convert the design parameters to millimetres in the software I use to design 3D objects and then re-import the file into UP Studio. Finally the design could be printed!
I had a much more successful day today, finding the brake cable I need. I ended up going to Clarence Street Cyclery in Sydney where they had both the brake cable and the cable housing! I was really impressed with their service and amused at when they asked me what kind of bike I needed the cable for, and when I said it’s not for a bike, they were very confused.
Now that I have all the cables, I am almost ready to start construction. All that I need to do now is order the set screws for each of the vertebrae and 3D print the first test vertebrae so I can test my concepts.
I have had mixed success finding the necessary hardware for the tentacle mechanism. I was able to get the speedometer cable for the tentacle core at a car parts and accessories store in my area, but finding the bicycle break cable has proven to be impossible as there are no bike repair shops in my neighbourhood. I have one break cable in my collection of puppet parts that I can use, but to make the whole tentacle I need seven more. I have found a bicycle repair shop in Sydney CBD that I will try, otherwise I might have to look online.
Now that I have the speedometer cable and one of the bicycle break cables, I have started 3D designing the vertebrae. I started by designing a disc that had the holes for the cables marked. Next, I designed the oval passage holes to pull the first stage of cables through the second stage. At the moment, I have two concerns. Firstly, the vertebrae feels too thick dimensionally. The pieces need to be 1/4 inch thick maximum. My second concern is making the passage hole for the set screw that will hold the vertebrae on the core cable. At the moment, the hole is not passing through the stem properly. It could be because the size of the hole is wrong, or the stem is the wrong size.
I won’t know how to solve these issues until I 3D print at least 2 of the vertebrae and test fit them into a tentacle.
While I was watching the full tutorial on designing and making tentacles from Stan Winston School of Character Arts, I took some notes on how I might proceed to make my cat’s tail tentacle mechanism.
So now I begin the process of sourcing all the hardware required to make the tentacle mechanism. I have to get the hardware first, before I can start modelling and 3D printing the vertebrae. Fortunately, a colleague of mine, made a fantastic suggestion about using bicycle brake cables for the main cables as the cables come with their own housings.
So it is off to Autobarn tomorrow to get the speedometer cable I need for the central shaft of the tail, then I need to find a bike repair shop to get the brake cables I need. I still have to source a few parts like the 16 set screws online but if I can find all the cables on the weekend, I can start 3D designing the vertebrae!