Gurney Journey | category: Puppets


Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

Sculpting a Bobble Head Dog

I made a little bobblehead sculpture of Smooth to give my son for his birthday. (Link to YouTube)


There are basically two types of bobble head designs: 

1) Head on a loose, bouncy spring, which works for upright human characters.
2) Head on a counterweight, which works best for animals.

With type 2, the trick is to make the head light enough to balance against the lead weight, so I used craft foam for the head. You also have to sculpt the hollow body with enough space for the counterweight to swing freely up and down and side to side. 

All the materials are linked in the description of the YouTube video. 

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes

When Netflix released the fantasy series "Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance," they also shared a behind-the-scenes documentary called "Crystal Calls: The Making of Dark Crystal." 

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes
Image from Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, courtesy Netflix

The feature-length program explores how the new production builds on the vision of Jim Henson's original film from over 30 years ago. 

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes

In some initial tests, producers explored the idea of realizing the main Gelfling characters with CGI, pairing digital characters with real puppets for the reptilian Skeksis

But the CGI and physical puppets didn't pair up convincingly onscreen, so they decided to make them all as physical puppets.

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes

Most of the movements and expressions are manipulated by the performer. There's also some radio control and cable control, and a few of the blinks and other expressions are added digitally. 

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes

The production enlisted some of the best puppeteers at the top of their game, and even had a guest appearance from Barnaby Dixon, who has invented a new way to puppeteer with his fingertips. 

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes

In addition to making all the puppet characters, the production required elaborate handmade sets and props.

Dark Crystal: Behind the Scenes

Dark Crystal: Behind the ScenesSeveral of the key creative people from the original Henson production were recruited to the Netflix show, including Brian and Wendy Froud, who sketched and sculpted concepts for the characters and costumes. All images ©copyright their respective owners.
On Netflix: 
"Crystal Calls: The Making of Dark Crystal"
• The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: Inside the Epic Return to Thra
• The World of The Dark Crystal
• The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History
Exhibit: Creatures from the Land of Thra: Character Design for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
Courtesy of Netflix

Richard Teschner's Puppets

Richard Teschner (1879-1948) was an Austrian puppeteer who adapted the Indonesian rod-puppet tradition for European audiences.

His puppets were briefly featured in this British Pathé video. (Link to video)

The puppets are operated from below by rods rather than from above by strings. According to Brittanica, "The puppets were controlled by a central rod and had a network of internal strings to manipulate hand and leg movements, bending to the front or back, and sensitive facial expressions.

Teschner was also a gifted illustrator. Here is his character Zipzip.

Zipzip as a rod puppet
Teschner was inspired by a trip he took to the Netherlands, where he saw Javanese puppets brought back by Dutch traders.

Wassermann from "Prinzessin und Wassermann," 1913
Teschner believed that human voices interfered with puppet drama, so he performed his puppet shows in pantomime, with music box scores that he composed to match his exquisitely crafted characters.

"Bologneser Hündchen," 1929

A dog character with lots of fringes that would move with the main action of the puppet.

The Red from "Nachtstuck" 1913
An exhibition of the work of Richard Teschner took place a few years ago at the Theater Museum in Vienna.

Learn more online
Monster Brains (blog post with a lot of his illustration work)
50 Watts (with more info about his puppet theater)
Clive Hicks-Jenkins Artlog
Britannica on Teschner (biography)
Indonesian rod-puppet tradition (Wayang) on Wikipedia
Sculpting a Bobble Head DogDark Crystal: Behind the ScenesRichard Teschner's Puppets

Report "Gurney Journey"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?