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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Between the Lions: My Once (Now Second) Favorite PBS Show

Do you watch kid’s educational shows on PBS? I sure do that a lot. (For non-US readers, PBS stands for Public Broadcasting Service. It’s the American non-profit public broadcasting television service, and the home of shows like Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and Clifford the Big Red Dog.)

Contrary to what many people might think, Sesame Street is not my favorite show on PBS. My favorite is Between the Lions. It’s a show about a family of library lions that love adventures in books. The format is similar to that of Sesame Street with repeating characters and skits, but Between the Lions has a bigger emphasis on reading. While Sesame Street focus on letter and number of the day, Between the Lions would focus on a vowel or a consonant, what words are spelled out and how they are used. I love all the tongue-twister-ish writing and silly puns. And it’s a also a plus that they used many types of puppetry.

There are many recurring segments. For example, there’s Cliff Hanger that can never seem to get off the cliff:

There’s Monkey Pop-up Theater:

There’s the very mindless Dot and Scot, and Chicken Jane who always winds up in some kind of disaster:

Aw… poor Chicken Jane. And here’s my favorite song of all time from this show, When Two Vowels Go Walking:

Ah, this show puts a smile on my face. Up till about two weeks ago, this was my favorite show on PBS. But over winter break, a relatively new show became my new favorite and she sure stole my heart. Do you watch PBS Kids? Can you guess which show it is? I’ll reveal the answer in a later post. (Unfortunately, this show is relatively new so it hasn’t been picked up by that many PBS stations yet.)

John McCain puppet

This is a music video of a John McCain puppet singing “100 Years To Win”, a parody of Five For Fighting‘s song “100 Years”.

I’ve seen a few puppet videos online parodying president candidates John McCain and Barack Obama. Unfortunately many of them are just people putting a light color puppet and a dark color puppet next to each other and calling them McCain and Obama. This one, however, actually looks like John McCain. I think it’s the shape of the head. My favorite part is the eyebrows. They certainly made the puppet a lot more expressive.

The election is in a few days. As for this blog, I’m planning to put up an episode that has to do with the election, and I’m planning to write a post about presidential debate moderators… if I finish in time, that is.

Please Don’t Call Me Dummy

Look. Being a puppet isn’t easy, I tell you. Show them some love.

This is a little song called “Please Don’t Call Me Dummy” by Puppet Scraps. The lyrics are heart-felt and really depict the social issues faced by puppets everywhere. Carry on, puppet. Live a good life.

Joe the Plumber

Guess who’s all the rage these days? Yep, Joe the Plumber.

For those of you not familiar with Joe the Plumber, he is this guy that questioned presidential candidate Barack Obama about his tax plain. His name was subsequentially brought up numerous times throughout the presidential debate as Obama and John McCain talk about their visions and plans. Under media scrutiny, there are also other facts revealed about him, such as his real name and the fact that he wasn’t a licensed plumber.

Anyway, I was thinking, somebody (let’s not look at me for now) should make a puppet show where Joe the Plumber, Joe Six-Pack, and Hockey Mom would sit down to discuss politics and economy. I think that would be hilarious.

And then I happened to come across this yesterday… not quite what I was picturing but it was amusing nevertheless.

Fist of Oblivion

UNAUTHORIZED Fist of Oblivion Trailer (via Tubefilter) from Tubefilter on Vimeo.

What do I like? If you’ve been coming here for a while, you know the answer: kung-fu fighting puppets!

Just for the trailer for Fist of Oblivion, which is a web series produced for Scion coming this November. According to Puppeteers Unite, it’s about “the story of Ricky, an ex-cop and kung fu master who’s on the hunt for Bjorn, Ricky’s former friend and partner who framed him for a crime he didn’t commit”. The trailer looks promising. This should be an interesting series to watch. I’m looking forward to it.

And here’s another trailer for it.

(Via Puppeteers Unite)

Jack Rabbit and the Beanstalk Review

Over the weekend I watched Jack Rabbit and the Beanstalk that’s a part of the Santa Monica Puppetry Festival that has just wrapped up. The puppet show took place at Miles Memorial Theater and is “a twist on the classic tale by puppet artist Doug Seymour for family audiences” according to the event website.

Parking: The parking was across the street from the actual theater beneath the AT&T building. When I got there and told the parking booth attendant that I was there for Miles Theater, she directed me to to level P3. I didn’t see many cars there, so I’m guessing that many people didn’t know about the free event parking there. I guess they didn’t check the playhouse website like I did. When I crossed the street to get to the theater, I realized that most of the street parking in the surrounding streets were taken, so I guess it was the right thing to park in the structure.

The Audience: I got there close to show time so most people were already seated. The show was for ages 3 and up, so the audience members were mostly parents with little kids. (I don’t know if they are actually 3 and up, because I didn’t see bouncers carding those who look like 2-year-olds.) I was probably one of the few adults in the audience that didn’t come with a kid or two. It was attended by about 80 to 100 people, but I’m not sure how accurate this count is, because one, I suck at estimating, and two, some kids were sitting on their parents’ laps or blocked by backrests, making it harder for me to see and count. The stage was pretty much empty. A guy went up, started welcoming the audience and talked about what other events are going on for the rest of the puppet festival, and after that, show started.

The Puppets: The curtains opened and revealed an owl in the tree. That’s our narrator. And then the princess came in and started talking to the king. And… why do I bother telling you the story? It’s based on the English (probably) fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk, so you know what it involves, like the cow (yep, named Betsy, of course), the giant (Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!), and the magical beanstalk (though in this case, it talks and flies). The puppets are cute and there are a variety of them in terms of controls. Most of these puppets are marionettes, except for the narrator and the giant. The giant is a human-sized puppet that shares his legs with the puppeteer. And then the puppeteer used one hand to manipulate the head and the other for the right hand. Most of the time the giant was either eating or sleeping so one moving hand was pretty sufficient. I was wondering how they were going to do the giant falling down from the sky part. It was a pleasant surprise when they brought out a screen and started doing that part with shadow puppets. I liked the way it was handled.

My Favorite: My favorite puppet of the whole show, though, was the magical harp that played itself. It was a marionette. The puppeteer used wires to control it a few feet above it and it actually looked like it was playing. It looked very natural too. Instead of just having a bunch of strings moving around, it looked like invisible fingers were plucking the strings, and then the strings would snap back into place and oscillate back and forth. I couldn’t figure out how they did that but it looked awesome.

The Sound: This show used a pre-recorded soundtrack, which cut out the possibility for improvisation but also made the tech part easier and smoother. The voice acting and the sound effects were good too. The puppeteers could focus more on the puppeteering without worrying about who was saying the next line and where. So that’s good too.

The Kids: The reactions from the kids were typical. There were kids really captivated by what’s going on on stage and stayed focused on the story the whole time. There were kids that were too young to really pay attention or understand the story but they were just happily watching all the colors and movements on stage, while the parents whispered into their ears. And of course every now and then a kid would start crying and the parent would need to take him/her outside.

For Parents: Just like taking young kids out on a trip, sometimes it’s more for the parents than for the kids. Young kids might not even remember going to these shows or places, but it’s quality time the parents spending with the kids. Besides jokes that would be understood by kids, there were stuff that probably took someone older to understand. Nah, there were no sexual language or jokes, but there were references to elevators, the game show Family Feud, and an explanation of photosynthesis when the magical beanstalk was asked why he grew so tall so fast.

The Puppeteers: When the show was over, the six or seven puppeteers came out and took a bow. The event website only mentioned Doug Seymour. I recognized Bob Baker from an interview that I previously watched previously but I don’t know who the rest of them are.

It was a good show and I enjoyed it. I am not going to urge you to go see it though, simply because I don’t know when they will be doing it again. But yeah, I am gald that I went to check out the show. And of course, I also encourage everyone to check out some local puppet shows!

PS. Also, the theater was located inside Christine Emerson Reed Park. It looked pretty nice and I totally would’ve walked around some more if lunch wasn’t waiting for me. Hm, overall I just like Santa Monica a lot and that’s why I’ve also lived there before even though rent was generally higher there.

PSS. I had some problems charging my camera so I wasn’t able to take pictures. These pictures are of the original production from the event website. The puppets looked like the same ones used in the show I watched, except the giant. The giant looked bigger (giant-er?) in the one I watched.

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