It was nearly a year ago when I first decided to purchase a puppet, a decision that has opened my eyes to the world of puppetry in ways that I could have never predicted. As someone who grew up watching The Muppets as a kid, I feel like I’ve always been at least a little curious about puppets. I owned a cookie monster puppet when I was a kid who I could “feed” objects to, and then they would pass through a hole in his mouth and drop down on the floor. I can’t say that I ever caught the bug for performing with a puppet. My audience would have been very small, though, unless you counted my sister, maybe, or our dog. I would play with stuffed animals and action figures, however, and in a way this was a bit of a precursor to puppetry.
My first hand puppet as an adult was a monkey. I also picked up a set of stuffed chickens from the movie “Chicken Run.” While they weren’t hand puppets, what was great was that they each had triggers on the back which allowed you to move their eyes and mouths.
Back when my daughter was a baby, she often watched “Baby Einstein” videos. I was inspired to create my own Baby Einstein-type video using the stuffed animals and other items we had around the house. This eventually turned into a full-blown movie and took all night to produce. This was before YouTube, and it was time consuming to transfer all of the video to the computer for editing, so everything was done in camera. The two chickens were stars of the show, and even performed a couple of musical numbers. It was definitely a passion project, motivated out of love for my daughter.
There has been an increased amount of interest in puppetry over the last few years, with the introduction of Grogu on “The Mandalorian,” the continued presence of “The Muppets,” the robot characters on “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” and puppetry being used in smaller YouTube projects like Chadtronic’s “Cursed Videos.”
I think that a year ago, I was toying around with the idea of doing some stuff on YouTube beyond just posting family videos. But, I’m not very comfortable on camera, so I didn’t want to appear in the videos. And, I can’t really do voice overs either. The use of a puppet seemed to solve both of these problems. I had also noticed there were some really well-done videos on YouTube where illustrations were used to represent the speakers. A puppet didn’t seem to be that much different.
My family gave me an Amazon gift card last June for Father’s Day. I occasionally would search Amazon for different ideas of what I should get with the card. I looked at messenger bags and different types of electronics, but none of it felt worth it. Then, I began researching for puppets that were less than $100. This lead me to more examples of puppetry on YouTube and some tutorials, and immediately I was convinced that I should get a puppet with my gift card.
My very first puppet was from a company called Silly Puppets, and the puppet would come to be called Carl Bean. He arrived in late September. As I experimented with him on camera, I realized that I could put him in front of different backgrounds like other puppeteers do in their videos. So, I invested in a small, round pop-up green screen. My goal with Carl was to produce commentaries, and the first video was about “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.”
By this time, my nine-year-old son had gotten involved. The videos which followed the first were more comical. I also ordered a second puppet from Silly Puppets which was a robot.
I had checked out the Pubbets company while I was searching for stores that sold puppets. The style of their puppets was closer to that of The Muppets, and overall they looked very impressive. I went with Silly Puppets for my first puppet because they were less expensive.
Well, after I bought Carl and the robot, Puppets dropped their prices so that they were now closer to the same price as a Silly Puppet. I decided to take a chance on Pubbets, so I ordered one of the girl puppets. I was so impressed with how easy it was to perform with that I ordered the “alien,” followed by other girl puppet, and one of the monsters.
I’ve been really impressed by how easy it is to perform with the Pubbets, and how comfortable their foam bodies feel around may hands. It is easy to control their mouths as I sync to the words they need to speak. And, I often rely on the finger grips inside to increase my level of control during scenes.
One additional feature which attracted me to this brand of puppets was their poseable fingers, something that I haven’t seen offered for similarly priced puppets. I knew that this would open up a long list of possibilities for story telling.
Here is a musical lip syncing video I produced using my first Pubbet Gary.
My collection of puppets have also continued to entertain my now ten-year-old son. He has recently begun picking up puppets and performing with them just for fun, and continues to help me brainstorm ideas for future videos. One benefit of puppetry I hadn’t accounted for is how therapeutic it can be. My life was flipped upside down when my oldest son, Josh, passed away after a fight with cancer. I’ve found that puppetry has given me a new way to express myself. I think that the puppets have helped Elijah workout his feelings, too.
So, I think that there are a lot of uses for puppets on stage, on video, therapy, and as a part imaginary play. Puppets can be mouthpieces, companions, avatars, mascots, or mini-me’s. And, don’t worry if you’re not a practiced puppeteer. I’m just getting involved in puppetry while I’m in my late-40’s, and I’ve found lots of resources which have helped me to get started quickly. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter how good you are with the puppet as long as you’re having fun doing it.
Pubbets is continuing to produce puppets for sale. You can find them listed on their website. They also have an online “lab” which allows you to order a custom puppet. I would recommend them to anybody who is considering buying a puppet. Or, there are ways in which you can build your own puppet. Either way, I promise you won’t regret it.
Puppet Affairs is an affiliated seller of Pubbets. Purchases made through the inks shown help to support the website.