Video transcript
The Arts Unit @home Art Bites - Making mini paper puppets

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[music playing]

GENEVIEVE DE SOUZA: Hi, there. My name is Gen. I am a drama teacher at Epping Boys High School, and the year eight ensemble tutor at The Arts Unit. Today, I'm going to be showing you how to make a mini paper puppet, and to share with you some ideas about how to make your puppet seem alive.

Now, they are not very pretty to look at, but they are really easy to make. They're a fantastic way to extend your puppetry skills, and they're really just a bit of fun to play around with. This video is aimed at students from years five to eight, but can be used by anyone who wants to learn some cool and easy puppetry. If you're younger, you should ask a trusted adult for some help while making your puppet.

So let's get started. Take two. This puppet only needs three things. A piece of A4 paper, you can use scrap paper, magazines, whatever you can find in your house. Just make sure you check with an adult that it's OK to use so you don't accidentally make a puppet out of an important document.

You might like to make a practise puppet with some scrap paper before making a final working puppet. I cut this one too thick and he came out a little bit wonky, but the next one was much better. So don't be afraid to make mistakes.

You will also need some scissors and you will need some tape. It can be clear tape, masking tape, anything that will stick to paper. Again, just check with an adult if you're not sure what you can use. Now to make our puppet. Step one, fold your paper between the two far corners to make a long diagonal line across your page.

It doesn't matter if the corners don't line up exactly because you'll see that it won't matter in the final product. Just make sure your line is relatively straight and unfold. A small gap like this is totally fine. Then make two more folds on either side of this diagonal line, about 2 to 2.5 centimetres apart, about the length of your thumb knuckle.

If you have a ruler and a pencil, you might like to draw the lines along the page instead, or use the printout attached to this video, which has the lines pre-measured. But it won't matter too much if your measurements are approximate. Repeat the measurement on the other side, fold, and then unfold.

Step 2, cut along these three lines so you have two long strips of paper. You will notice as I'm cutting that I'm not being too careful to follow the lines exactly, as it doesn't need to be a perfect line. You'll see the reason for this in the next step. Please make sure you're being very careful of your fingers with this step. And if you are younger viewer ask for assistance from an adult or an older sibling.

You should now have two thin strips of paper, which takes us to step 3. Carefully pinch along each strip and scrunch the whole way along. Now you see why the lines don't really matter. Don't worry if it looks a little bit messy. We want puppets with a little bit of personality.

Just ensure that you are scrunching not just folding, as it's the scrunch that will give the puppets stability. Step 4, holding each end of one strip of paper, bend the paper in half, and then join the ends together about halfway down. Twist once or even twice, and tape over the top to hold this in place. This will create the body of your puppet.

Step 5. Then take the next strip and do the same thing, but rather than pinching halfway down, only pinch about a third of the way down to create the smaller head. Twist once or even twice, and tape in the same way. You now have both body parts ready to go, which takes us to step 6.

Place your smaller head circle above the larger body circle, and tape them together. If the connection is feeling slightly unstable, you might also like to tape each shoulder to the body for extra stability. And the final step, step 7.

Gently twist or rescrunch down the arms and legs to give them a little more structure. You might like to bend the tips of each limb back a little bit to make hands and feet. Congratulations, you now have your very own mini paper puppet.

Here's another that I made from a magazine page for another look at how to make it. And now we're ready to learn how to make the puppet come alive. Watch this puppet and see if you can spot the thing that is making it appear alive. Any guesses?

The answer is breath. Breathing is a clear sign of life, and most of the time, we don't even realise we're doing it. So let's practise making our puppets breathe. Lay your puppet down and practise moving the body of your puppet in time with your own breathing, as if your puppet is sleeping.

Did you know, professional puppeteers use their own breath as a tool to create life in their puppets, which is a pretty cool idea. This puppet is actually based off a larger puppet that the puppeteers use in their professional training. Remember to be detailed. All your tiny movements create the magic for your audience.

So the more detailed you can make your puppets movement, the better. Once you've got the breathing down, you can start to move your puppet around. Can you make your puppet sit up? Can you make it walk, jump, sit down? Remember to take it slow and don't expect too much too soon.

I practised before I filmed this video, and even I'm still working on realistic movements. I'll speed through my practise here. Unlike some stringed puppets or hand puppets that you might have used before, the trick with these puppets is not actually about hiding your hands. It's about directing the audience's focus.

So by using really precise movements, and really lifelike movements, and our breath, and our sounds, we direct the audience to see the life in the puppet, and to be focusing their attention on the puppet rather than the hands that are working the puppet. This can be seen in large scale productions too, like the play, 'WarHorse,' where three adults move the puppet of the horse.

And even though we can see the puppeteers, our brains are tricked interconnecting the movement, sounds, and gestures and seeing a real horse in front of us, even just temporarily. And this means that we don't even notice the puppeteers after a while, which is really, really cool. It's theatrical magic.

Some tips. [music playing] Use the two taped sections as your anchor points. This means they are the most stable points. It can be a bit fiddly, but practise moving different parts of the puppet while maintaining one of these anchor points.

Another thing you should think about when moving your puppet is its gaze. Where is the puppet looking? What is it seeing? This helps your audience to imagine the puppet is seeing too, adding to the illusion.

Along with the breath, you might like to experiment with adding some sounds to your puppet. Start with small size grumbles, mumbling, and other non-verbal sounds. Then you can even experiment with adding some talk to your puppet if you like.

Now it's time to make a performance to impress everyone with your new skills. First, set up a performance space for your puppet. I'm using a chair with a blanket over it to make it look a little bit more fancy, but any flat surface works. Then plan a short routine for your puppet that engages your audience. You might like to think about what kind of character your puppet will be.

Is it old or young? Shy or confident? These ideas will change the way your puppet moves. So have a play with how your puppet can represent different kinds of people. Check out the resources attached to this video with scenarios for puppetry performance and a performance planning sheet to help you record your ideas.

Then rehearse the delicate movements you will need to make your performance successful. Remember to think about the breath, the gaze, and the lifelike movements of each body part. Whenever you're ready and when you've had a little bit of rehearsal time, gather your family together to perform for them. Or if you are unable to perform live, you can always do what I'm doing right now, and record your performance and share it remotely.

[music playing]

If you have a sibling or other relation at home, this is my partner, Doug, you could each make a puppet and have them to interact. I didn't realise at first that I gave Doug an unstable puppet. So he had some trouble to begin with. But with a more stable puppet, it was much better. We had our puppets meet and engage in a dance party.

Or you might even like to try moving your puppet together, with one person in charge of the upper body and one in charge of the lower body, for maximum detail. If you have an A3 piece of paper or can tape 2 A4 pieces together, you can also make a bigger version of the same puppet.

It's the exact same instructions, just make sure you make your pieces a little thicker, around four to five centimetres. We had a lot of fun making this guy tap dance. So there you have it.

I hope you guys have enjoyed making these tiny paper puppets as much as I have. And I hope that it's given you some new ideas about how to make theatrical magic on a stage. And of course, it's just really nice to use our imagination and our creativity to try something different. So happy puppeteering. Bye.

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