Gerry Anderson, your shows were FAB!

Wump Mucket Puppets pays tribute to Gerry Anderson

Wump Mucket Puppets Terrence Burke and children

Gerry Anderson fans Eleanor Burke (hiding behind a Stingray DVD), Terrence Burke, and Tiernan Burke

Our world begins 2013 (so much for that Mayan calendar!) without a man who’s puppet and science fiction television programs made many boys and girls happy in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  British television producer Gerry Anderson passed away on December 26, 2012.  His programs featured fantastic futuristic vehicles, realistic looking aircraft, and some cheesy humor too!  I became aware of the show Thunderbirds some time in the early 1970’s when I was a boy growing up in the Boston area.  I don’t recall exactly how I learned about it, yet I do remember that the television station that broadcast the show (WSMW TV-27) was too far away from where my family lived to watch the show with any form of clarity.  Being the A/V club member that I was back then, I figured out that our cousins lived in the broadcast area of TV-27.  FAB!  When we would visit I would attempt to convince my mother that I “had” to watch this show.  Sometimes I was able to convince her of this need, sometimes I would be told to go outside and play with my siblings and cousins.  From the bits of the program that I could view, I could determine that something remarkable was being broadcast, and it had puppets!

The future, as seen in 1975

Several years later, in which I was firmly a sci-fi fan,  I got word on the playground that a cool new television series was going to be on the air featuring two of the actors from Mission: Impossible (another show I loved).  It was 1975 and I was eleven years old when Space: 1999 was launched.  I recall that my brothers and I went crazy for this show.  We were fans of Star Trek, Voyage To the Bottom of the Sea, Batman, almost anything sci-fi related.  Space: 1999 was exactly the show for us, it had lots of spaceships, laser guns, explosions, plus a woman who could change into animals and monsters too!  WOW!  We would often pretend to be members of Moonbase Alpha in our backyard.  Lucky for us, and many other kids, there were a number of toys made to promote the series.  Of course, it was a “Space: 1999 Christmas” at our house that year!  I do wish I still had those toys. Sadly only a tiny part of my Eagle spaceship has survived from my youth to middle age.

Thank Goodness for DVD

Good thing that the future turned out a little different from how it was depicted on Thunderbirds and Stingray, on those shows everything was saved on magnetic tape!  With the invention of digital media adult fans of Gerry Anderson’s programs could now “stand by for action” once again and re-watch the shows that they loved as children.  For me many of his older programs were completely new since I was only familiar with Thunderbirds, UFO, and Space: 1999.  I have since enjoyed watching the children’s shows on DVDs with my children, who in their own ways have become fans of Stingray (Eleanor) and Thunderbirds (Tiernan).  We’ll have to wait a few years before we watch UFO and Space: 1999, as these were adult programs with adult themes and situations.

Wump Mucket Puppets G'Wazzl with UFO toy

G'Wazzl wonders if Commander Edward Straker ever encountered a UFO like this

So thank you Gerry Anderson, and all the puppeteers, designers, actors, model makers, and crew who created these FAB-ulous visions of what the future may have looked like.  You’ld be happy to know that the shows you made are still entertaining children, and their geeky daddies in the 21st century!

Happy Birthday Caroll Spinney!

Happy Birthday Caroll Spinney from Wump Mucket Puppets!

Today is Caroll Spinney’s birthday.  He’s 79 years young!  Those of you not in the puppetry world may wonder who he is.  Perhaps you have heard of the puppets that he’s performed on Sesame Street since 1969.  I am sure you’ve heard of Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird.

Little did I know it, Caroll Spinney was entertaining me several years before I watched his puppetry on Sesame Street.  You see, we are both from New England.  He performed as Mister Lion on the “Bozo the Clown” show that aired on Boston TV station WHDH.  I watched it almost every morning.  I remember being upset when my older sister started kindergarten.  Not only was she my first playmate, she watched Bozo with me.   Now we had to walk her to the bus stop BEFORE Bozo was on the air.   Not fair!

Here’s a video of Bozo that I probably watched in 1966:

Then in November of 1969, I  discovered something so wonderful and unique it would capture my imagination for the rest of my life…  Sesame Street, especially Oscar the Grouch!

My father was the morning radio announcer on WCCM in Lawrence, Massachusetts around the time that Sesame Street started.  His show was the usual news updates, weather reports, sprinkled with pop music of the 60’s & 70’s.  My dad knew that we would often have his show tuned in at home and would play “I Love Trash” for me now and then.  It was a special feeling, being 5, to have your Dad play one of Oscar’s songs for you on the radio.

As an adult I have had the pleasure of meeting Caroll several times.  He has always offered very encouraging words to me about my puppetry.  In 2004 I met him at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  I brought along my Cyril puppet to show him.  One of the university staff spotted the puppet as I brought it out of my bag to snap a picture with Caroll and Oscar.  She came up to us and firmly said “No outside puppets!” or something similar.  Caroll turned to her and calmly replied, “It’s okay, he’s another puppeteer with the puppet guild”.

Caroll Spinney and Oscar the Grouch with Terrence Burke

Caroll Spinney and Oscar the Grouch with Terrence Burke at Miami University 2004

Not only has Caroll helped educate and entertain millions of children through his puppetry, he has been the inspiration to many puppeteers, myself included.  Thank you Caroll, have a wonderful birthday.

Want more info about the life and career of Caroll Spinney?  Then you will want to check out the new film that is being made: http://www.iambigbird.com/

 

 

Happy! Happy! Jolly! Jolly!

With Christmas less then a week away, I find myself remembering when I was a boy growing up in New England.  Our family would often buy a live tree at a tree farm in New Hampshire.  In early to mid-November we would pile into my mother’s VW bus (without heat!), drive to the farm, and try to agree on a Christmas tree, and eventually tag it.  A few weeks later we would return to have the tree cut down and tied to the roof of the car.  Although my memory of what decorations we used is a bit foggy, I do remember that my parents had sets of Christmas lights that had large bulbs, possibly from the late 1950’s.  When the holidays were over we would drag the tree to the compost pile that sat at the edge of our yard to return to the soil.

My children have only known an artificial tree.  They have never complained about this. Years before we had children, my wife and I bought one because we just couldn’t justify buying a Christmas tree every year, to throw it away.  It seems wasteful.   Once we had a small potted Norfolk Pine tree -one of our cats peed on the tree and killed it!  The cats have since passed away, yet the plastic tree lives!

Puppeteer Terrence Burke of Wump Mucket Puppets

Whether you use a “paper or plastic” Christmas tree, I hope that you enjoy the fun times had around it with your family and friends.  Happy Holidays!

Here’s a fun holiday video I found that i hope you get a chuckle out of:

Watch Santa Claus’ Punch and Judy in Documentary | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Autumn is here

After a very busy (and hot!) Summer for Wump Mucket Puppets, we have finally made it to my favorite time of the year, Autumn.

I was born in New England, and have many fond memories of this season. Some of them are apple picking, delivering newspapers around the village I grew up in while leaves crunch beneath my feet, and of course Halloween!
I wish that I had photos to share from that time in my life, the costumes were remarkable. You’ll have to remember that I grew up in the 70’s, decade before digital cameras and the internet. Let’s see, some of my favorite costumes that I made were:
– A silver robot made out of cardboard boxes
– Making a witch nose & chin from liquid latex that my mother bravely allowed me to make   a plaster cast of her face. She has a great witch cackle!
– Although I didn’t make the Frankenstein monster mask, I had fun pretending to be what may be the world’s shortest Frankenstein as a warmed-up the people waiting in line to enter a community center haunted house.

These days, I enjoy watching my two children have fun as they trick-or-treat around our neighborhood in Cincinnati. Here is a cute video from 2007, when our family dressed up as the Mystery Inc. gang from Scooby-Doo: