Therapeutic puppets

“Once upon a time a boy of less than 10 years witnessed the murder of his family committed by his father. He stopped talking because of the shock, he lost all strength to start to live again. He was entrusted to the care of several doctors who were unable to find a way to make him reacting to the trauma. Finally he was entrusted to the care of a woman doctor, a particular doctor: she was a lover of puppets. She gave the child simple materials and gave him the task of building a puppet. After a moment of hesitation, with the help of the doctor, he began to build a puppet with his similarities: finished the work, the child began to talk to the puppet unaware of being observed by astonished doctors. It was thanks to this puppet that the child was able to overcome the shock and continue to live.”

This incredible event is not a fantastic story: it really happened! I’m talking about the great experiment made by Ornella Baragiola, a puppeteer expert in play therapy. In 1950, she started to heal childreen using puppets built with poor and simple materials. It has been proven that sick children respond very well to interaction with puppets, especially if they are built by them. Children tend to build their own puppet with their similarities, they need to recognize themselves in it to be able to trust it, as if it was an imaginary friend. As it happened in the episode narrated above, it is easier for a child to interact with someone who he knows, instead it is very difficult for him to trust strangers, especially after a trauma. Puppet therapy has greatly developed, and it can be compared to ClownTerapia, which is able to bring a smile to those children who no longer have reason to smile. In 1980 Ornella Baragiola founded the “Teatrino Tascabile”, an association engaged in the creation of events for children held in Svizzera and abroad. The mission of the organization is clear: to work in the childhood field to meet the emotional needs and to stimulate the imagination and creativity of children.


New puppeteers

As Remo Melloni suggested us, the today puppet companies have completely revolutionized, expanding their skills and involving new professionals to enhance their entertainment: in addition to puppets, actors, musicians, dancers, set designers create a new surprising and unpredictable artistic language.

Today one of the greater puppet company is the “compagnie Philippe Genty” from France. On their website, they describe their company with these words:

“From one creation to another, the company pursues its exploration of a visual language. A language where the “scene” is the place of the unconscious. A language that reflects the conflict of the man against himself. In each of our creations, the free associative enchainment of the scene, follows neither a linear narration nor the psychology of classic characters, nor the principle of causality, it seeks a resonance with our inner landscapes, to bring out the depths of our fears, those wild hopes, these shames those repressed desires, these boundless spaces, confronting the impossible, producing visual shocks. Like a dream, images apply to condense multiple senses. Dance, the human body, the relationship with the object serve this area of the unspeakable. An approach that makes the viewer no longer to be confined to the role of passive observer of a drama or comedy. He is drawn into a journey through a series of enigmas, finding here answers to his own questions or instead plunged into a disturbing disorder.

I do not want to spend words trying to describe these particular shows, here you are some very funny videos!

Another important puppeteer is Neville Tranter, the founder of the Stuffed Puppet Theatre in Amsterdam. He developed his typical style of visual theatre with human size puppets: in his own brutal, ruthless but poetic way, he confronts the audience with their fears and dreams, urges and desires, personified by what are often life size talking puppets. Combining a minimal decor with sophisticated music,lighting and sound, using the oldest devices of the theatre as well as state of the art technology. Neville Tranter is the artistic force and the only constant factor in all those years of Stuffed Puppet Theatre, indeed he is the only person on stage.

Do you know other popular today puppeteers? Have you ever attended this kind of show?

I greet you with this amazing video!

The video interview

Here you are the video of the interview with Remo Mellloni! That was really an amazing experience! Thanks to Giacomo who created a fantastic video montage: it really seems to be a professional tv interview! 😀

Remo Melloni’s interview!

Yesterday i had the plesure to meet Remo Melloni, a great expert in puppets and the teacher of “The history of theatre” at the Drama School Paolo Grassi in Milan. He was very kind and helpful in telling me his point of view about the history of puppets and puppeteers, the big difficulties which this kind of theatre is going through in recent times and the name of the new international innovative artists. Soon i will post the video of the conversation! Here you are the synthesized and translated interview for you! 🙂

In your opinion mister Melloni, what is the mission of puppets?

Puppets and marionettes have developed, through centuries of history, their own language. The live show, in all its forms, has always been the mirror of his audience by interpreting the feelings, aspirations and highlighting its contradictions. Puppet theater is a theater that makes extensive use of satire, which allows you to highlight also the tragic aspects of reality. Each category of animated figures of this theater has developed its own language, but all of them have one aspect in common: they must do and say things that the actor in flesh and blood cannot say with any credibility. Each puppet is not a person, it is an animated object, it is not a character, it represents a category of characters in society. It is then allowed them to make the most ruthless satire, to use the more grotesque language. They should never imitate what is happening in the world, this is the task of the actor.

What has mostly changed in the world of puppeteers today than in the past?

In the past the education of puppeteers took place in an artisan way and the companies identified themselves with their families. The younger ones learned from the elderly and they should have enormous skills: they should be able to play, to animate, to write texts and often they produced by themselves all that was necessary for the show (they carved heads and bodies, they painted sets, they built their theaters, etc.). The needs of the today’s audience, which is much more sophisticated and cultured than in the past, require more extensive competences. Companies make greater use of sculptors, set designers, playwrights, tailors, etc.

What about the evolution of puppets in Italy? And all around the world?

The traditional italian theater, which has prevailed until the second half of the twentieth century, has seen its audience gradually reduced due also to the poor quality of the operators. Today’s valid operators are few and only less than ten are able to compete internationally. Internationally, the trend is the integration of languages​​. Puppets and marionettes are increasingly acting with actors, dancers and mimes. Also the digital is joined in this world: animated objects act with virtual figures, with the scene. In the past, an important feature of this theater was the presence in the repertoire of all the genres, from literature to history, from melodrama to the “Commedia dell’Arte”. Today to human knowledge and the integration with all kinds of live performance, it must be added new technologies, from cinema to digital ones. Although these technologies developed their own languages​​, they integrate the animated world of theater, enriching and evolving their languages​​. Philippe Genty, Neville Tranter, the Tandarica of Budapest, the Draak with its gigantic installations, started a renewal in puppet theatre that goes beyond the old formulas related to an ethnic group, to face the world, to bring new emotions to a wider audience, to evolve languages ​​and to explore new ones.

Finally, look at this…….

This is the Remo Melloni’s puppet, a present from his student. Don’t you think they are the same???? 😀

Advertisement Puppets

Television advertising is the primary mean used to push consumers to buy products, to inform them of the existence of events and to make them aware of certain important issues. Always people who invent advertisements fight against a superficial television viewing, they search techniques to hit efficiently the audience and make impress in their minds the items advertised. Many times the use of puppets resulted an effective method in achieving this goal. Puppets have a stronger impact on the public than a famous actor. This is true because viewers can project their favourite characteristics and values in these fictional characters, therefore puppets influence them with their speeches which are judged true and important. Most of all puppets are so popular because they can do what men cannot, so advertisments become funny and involving, like cartoons!

Advertisement puppets are many! Everyone remember MR CHUCK, the popular puppet of the recent chupa chups spot I showed above. Gruppo 80 created a puppet not shown on tv of FOXY, the testimonial of the Foxy toilet paper and Muppets were used in advertisement too because of their great success!

Topo Gigio, as I told you some post ago, was the testimonial of the casmpaign against influence A!

The most important advertisement puppet was surely FLAT ERIC, the yellow puppet of Levi’s spot! He became an icon, everyone wanted that puppet, thousands of t-shirts with its face were sold and the single “Flat beat” in whose music video the puppet appeared climbed the music charts worldwide. Less lucky was Levi’s company: people only remembered FLAT ERIC, they did not care about their jeans! 🙂

Do you remember other popular puppet advertisement?

Gruppo 80

Do you remember “Bim Bum Bam”? If you watched it some years ago, surely you would remember Uan, Ullala, Baccellina and Four, the funny characters of Gruppo 80!

The Group 80 was born in 1979 from an idea of Kitty Perria and Enrico Valenti. Kitty had worked for years with Maria Perego, creator of Topo Gigio, from whom she learnt many things. Enrico, who in the ’70s was the photographer of many puppet companies of the time (like Ferrari’s one), began to work with the “Teatro del Buratto” in 1977 as animator and designer; from the first 70s, even Kitty was working for that company. When they were not engaged with the “Teatro del Buratto”, the two started to experiment with new creations, searching for a new style. The desire for new experiences brought them to work for the first private televisions as Group 80. In the program “La Bustarella”, a kind of erotic-team game broadcasted on Antenna 3,  they presented a small woman doll made by neoprene resin, which sang Marilyn Monroe songs and performed in stripteases, parodying those of the women of the show. The Group 80 created and animated the puppets, built the sets, wrote the lyrics and supervised the dubbing direction.

In 1981 they began working for Channel 5 and two years later they created Uan, the main puppet of “Bim Bum Bam”, a program aired on Italia 1, which was the presenter with his human colleagues Paolo Bonolis and Licia Colo. The Group 80 continued to produce puppets for many TV shows in foreign countries too, and many of these have still remained indelibly in the memories of several generations. Coated foam, sculptured foam, latex foam and padded cloth: these were the materials for the construction of the puppets, which were then animated from below or using the technique of the black animators.

Recently, the Gruppo 80 created some episodes distributing by VHS about popular fairy tales narrated and interpretated by puppets with a pedagogical aim of entertainment for children.

Here you are “Snow White”….

…. and “Little Red Riding Hood”! Enjoy it!

“The Great Muppet Caper”

I’ve found the introduction of the funny movie “The Great Muppet Caper”! I remember when I was young and I watched it for the fist time! In this film the Muppets are involved in a murder mystery set in London. When the charming Miss Piggy is falsely accused of stealing a diamond belonging to his employer, the fashion designer Lady Holiday, Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo, unemployed journalists, become detectives to solve the case. I really think it is amazing!

Have you ever watched it? What do you think about it?

If not I recommend you to do it! 😀

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