This past weekend’s performance had me dragging out my old sketchbook to share with the children in the audience. I was demonstrating how I create a puppet character, and told them everything starts with my imagination, which leads to an idea, that ends up inside the sketchbook, to eventually be made into a performing puppet.
I had a recent conversation with a neighbor, who had brought her daughter to a show. She asked me how did I become interested in puppetry, to which I replied (what many of our regular readers already know) “Sesame Street”. Yet, as the conversation continued while I broke down the puppet stage, I remembered how entranced I was with cartoons as a child. Heck, I still dig ’em! I recalled that I somehow had learned at a very young age, to create a cartoon, you had to make many drawings, that were then colored, then filmed frame-by-frame, and eventually added the voice, music, sound effects. That seemed like far too much work for me. So, I began to see the connection between puppets and cartoon characters. Both could tell jokes, tell silly stories, even sing. Yet it was the puppet that was real. The puppet could ad-lib, change it’s voice, even pick something up with it’s mouth or hands during the show. I have yet to find a cartoon character that can do all of that.
So, back to the sketchbook… Here are a few very early sketches that the Cyril the Sea Serpent (or Cyril the Cincinnati Sea Serpent as I called him early on):
This is the earliest drawing I have of Cyril, dated 4-8-2001.
Here is a darker close-up of the puppet’s face:
The note says "Eyes have eyelids".
These sketches were made by my wife Lara Rumizen, who is very helpful in refining my puppet designs into practical, workable puppets. Lara’s small doodle is much closer to the final puppet than my original sketch.
Notice the catfish-like tendils that were never used on the puppet.
At last, a recent photo of the puppet that we know and love… Cyril
Our dear friend Cyril the Sea Serpent.
I hope that you have enjoyed this behind the scenes look into the creation of my puppet characters. Please continue to read the Wump Mucket Puppets blog for future editions of “The Puppeteer’s Sketchbook”.