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

20-Year Progression of One Puppet Character (Picture Series)

Today, April 30, 2008, is the 20th year anniversary of Su Huan-Jen’s (素還真) very first appearance on April 30, 1988. Wow, 20 years. I’ve been watching the same character for 20 years. That’s more than 1300 episodes and it’s still going. Today, let’s recount how the puppet has changed in the last 20 years.

To give a little bit of background information: The most popular puppet series in Taiwan is Pili (霹靂). It’s one never-ending, good vs. evil, epic saga that has gone on for more than 20 years. Su Huan-Jen is the lead character of Pili. He is handsome, intelligent, eloquent, and calm. He is also a kung-fu master and full of wisdom. He is the leader of the good people and is constantly trying to resolve conflicts in the Wulin (martial arts world) and is always fighting against the evil ones.

Enough of that. Let’s see some pictures! (Note: These are all screen shots from videos that span 20 years. There are Chinese characters at the bottom because the show is close captioned.)

1988: Su Huan-Jen’s first appearance. He was actually introducing himself in this one.


1990: In this shot, he was reading a letter from his wife, who had to go into hiding without saying goodbye. She did that because she did not want to become a burden while he faced the enemies. It didn’t help. He spent a lot of time looking for her and had gotten into more danger because of it. Too bad.


1993: In this shot, he was telling his best friend Ye Hsiao-Chai to retire from Wulin to be away from danger. Ye later came back to help Su anyway. He was still an active character in 2008.

1994: This particular puppet is a little odd. Normally these puppets have a neutral expression but this one seems to be smiling. Maybe that’s the reason that they didn’t use it for very long. But it was interesting to see.

1995: Not wearing his hat.

1995: This is around the time that Pili was experimenting with bigger puppet sizes. Around this time, all characters have really broad shoulder paddings because they were in the middle of figuring out how to hide the mechanism inside the puppets.


1997: Experimenting with wearing white.

1998: In this shot you can see that he’s wearing white clothes and has black fabric on his head. This is because he was mourning his son’s death. (Don’t worry. His son later came back to life. Su Huan-Jen himself died many times and came back to life many times, one way or the other. You’ve got to take breaks every now and then if you are going to be around for 20 years.)

1999: Still wearing white, but different style from the last two years.

2000: This puppet is using a head that’s similar to the one from the movie Legend of the Sacred Stone that they were shooting at the time. I cannot put in words what exactly is different, but it’s more similar to the movie head instead of the regular TV heads.


2002: Back to wearing white.

2002: He was severely injured, hence in a wheel chair in this one. Behind the wheel chair was his son. See? I told you that he came back to life.

2002: He sure changed quite a few times in 2002. There was a reason but the plot was too complicated to explain.


2004: Breaking character and saying that he’s celebrating his 1000th-episode anniversary.

2004: Trying out purple. I like this one a lot. Maybe it’s because the color scheme matches the house (see the background).

2007-present: I actually didn’t like this face as much when I first saw it. It was meaner than the previous one, but the more I looked at it, the more I liked it. I guess it’s because it made him look more decisive and determined when he was faced with challenges.

So, that’s 20 years of Su Huan-Jen. The puppets certainly changed many times. There were a few things that were his trademarks and pretty much didn’t change though. The puppet maker that carved out the first head and face decided to give him swirls in the eyebrows. And that became something that’s very recognizable him. The first stylist that worked on him decided to give him a hat shaped like a lotus flower. And he’s been wearing variations of that throughout the 20 years. Also, he normally carries a duster (拂塵). In traditional Chinese and Taiwanese drama, you often see characters carrying these things. Unless they are actually servants, these are usually elegent-looking dusters that serve as decorations. People carry these as symbols to remind themselves to rid their minds of dust to achieve clarity.

Ah, 20 years. That’s pretty crazy. I’m certainly happy to have been born in Taiwan to have a chance to know about and witness this phenomenon.

I won a book!!

When I woke up and checked my email, I got an email from Darren saying that I’ve won a copy of his new book: ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income. That certainly was a nice surprise because I didn’t remember entering a contest. As it turned out, the winners were picked randomly from the people that left comments on his blog this past weekend. I actually didn’t pay attention to the contest criteria until I’ve been told that I’ve won. I just simply commented because I felt like saying something. Oh well, I guess I only win when I’m not trying to win.

But hey, that’s the first online contest I’ve ever won. Woo-hoo!

While I am not really expecting blogging to generate me any income (not to mention a six-figure income), I’ve been reading Problogger because it helps me improve this site. (Or rather, it gives me many different perspectives of looking at a site and figuring out what’s good or bad. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m making those changes, but at least I am more aware of what works and what doesn’t for future reference.) I like his writing. It’s clear, full of information, and not condescending. He’s a really nice guy and really generous in sharing his knowledge. If you are interested in blogging, check out the heap of knowledge on his site. I’m certainly looking forward to reading the book. :-)

Happy National Day of Puppetry

Actually, I didn’t know that it’s the National Day of Puppetry today until reading this post on Puppeteers Unite. Oops. If I had known about it sooner, maybe I would’ve made a video about it. But anyway, here’s some stuff that’s going to happen around here (puppetry-related, that is).

  • I am currently writing a tutorial on how to make Bobby, following up on the posts about how to make Mac and Cheese and Bottle Monster.
  • I am writing new episodes of Puppet Kaos at the moment. And I’ll start filming and editing next week!
  • Next week, we celebrate the 20-year anniversary of a puppet character’s debut. I’m in the middle of taking screen shots from video footages over the last 20 years, and it should be fun to look at the progression once I put them in order!

Stay tuned. :-)

Seamus and Magellan frame grabs

As some of you might have aleady known, I’ve been involved in a short film by writer/director Allyson Schwarz called Seamus and Magellan. We filmed in February and the film is now in editing. Here’s several frame grabs. Look for me.


So… did you find me? No? Good. That means I did a good job hiding behind/below the bed.

I was the one puppeteering the koala bear, although you’d have to take my words for it, since you couldn’t see me. When you are a puppeteer, you become the expert of hiding below or behind something. In fact, I’m so good at this skill that I’m going to start coaching people. So let’s say if you are a man planning to have a fling with a woman at her place and she has a real jealous boyfriend or husband that just might just come home unexpectedly through the front door that’s 15 seconds away from the bedroom and there is only one door so you can’t get out of the room and there’s no closet for you to hide in so you can’t use what you learned from R. Kelly and it’s on the 8th floor so you can’t just leave through the window and the only thing you can do is hide below or behind the bed, then my expertise in hiding can help you. Before you go and do anything stupid, let me coach you first.

Of course I’m joking, but you are welcome to pay for the non-existing service anyway. Here you go. 😀

Related Posts:
Seamus and Magellan: Day 1
Seamus and Magellan: Day 2

Parody and Satire

Last Thursday I went to a sketch comedy show written and performed by some of my friends. It was the Old Dirty Conservatories show featuring Randall Park, Dwayne Perkins, Rick Lee, Johnny Skourtis, Ray Lai, and Matt Hill. Afterwards I was reading a blog entry about the show by a friend and playwright Michael Golamco. He was talking about the difference between parody and satire, and I really like what he said here:

You’ve gotta have a special sort of intelligence to write sketch. Like I’ve said here before, it’s the difference between parody and satire. Anybody can do parody — dress a man up like Hillary Clinton and have him/her clap to Hillary4U&Me. Easy. Brainless. It is to comedy as Hot Pockets are to food.

But what is the moral of the story? What does this mean for me, sitting there in the audience? Where is the truth in your comedy? What new thing have you shined a light on? If the answer is nothing, then give me back my ten fucking dollars.

I think he’s so right. To make story good, you’ve got to have an interesting series of events and a good message/reflection at the end. Good satires are good because they do a good job poking fun at something, and then they give you a message to take home with. Now, don’t get me wrong. I still love parodies that’s just downright pointless. Some of them are really entertaining although there’s absolutely no point. I value good satires as well as good parodies. But what distinguish them apart? The answer is, when they are not very good.

When a satire is not entertaining, you might not be laughing, but you will still get the message. Maybe the jokes are really lame, or maybe you are offended by it, but it should still be very clear what’s being satirized. You might not have been entertained, but you still have the message so you didn’t just waste your time hearing that story. Now what if a pointless parody falls short? Then you get nothing. If it was pointless to begin with, you do not take a message away from it. You are just there to be entertained. And when it’s not even entertaining, then you’ve just wasted your time watching it, pretty much.

I admire people that can write good satirical short sketches. It’s often not easy to write something that’s entertaining and totally to the point at the same time. I admire people that have the knack to do it.

My First Fantasy Basketball Championship

This is totally unrelated to puppetry, but hell,
I just won my very first
championship in fantasy basketball!!!

Now that’s important news. 😀


I was first introduced to fantasy basketball in the 2002 season by my then-roommate Phillip. So this is my 6th season. I’m very proud of myself for picking up Ramon Sessions when nobody had noticed him. And who knew he’d dished out 24 assists in one game?

Anyway, finally winning a championship after 6 seasons is great. That sure made my day. :-)

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