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


[About this site]

This site is about puppets, as the name suggests. The focus for this site is the stuff you can do at home. I do not own professional-grade puppets. Instead I build my own using fabrics, tissue paper boxes, index cards, and other materials. I do not own a professional studio with bunch of different lights and camera. Instead I do it home movie style, but I believe that with enough creativity and planning, you can still make videos interesting.

This is the site where I will post
1. How to make simple puppets: Really, you don’t need to buy them. I’ll share how I do it.
2. How to do different effects with puppets: Filming puppets has its own quirks that’s different from filming human actors. In fact, with puppets, there’s so much you can get away with!
3. My thoughts when I watch some puppet show: Usually with some kind of YouTube link?

[About me]

My name is Kelvin and I love puppets. I’m originally from Taiwan, and I grew up watching Taiwanese puppet shows. Unlike how puppet shows are usually perceived in the United States (it’s for kids and so on), adults watch these puppet shows too. Taiwanese puppets can either be on stage or on TV. Traditionally it’s only done on stage. The stories they perform are sometimes based on ancient Chinese history and sometimes things that the master puppeteers come up with themselves. When stage puppetry was at its best several decades ago, there are many many different puppet troops performing at the same time, all competing against each other for ticket sale. Although that was before my time, I still saw many performances of this kind growing up. I was really fascinated by how much these pieces of wood and fabrics can convey.

Then Taiwan started to have TV stations and these puppet shows are adapted for TV as well. Puppeteers start doing very creative things using this new medium. The sets become more elaborated. Special effects (such as explosions and dry ice) become an important element of the show as well. In the recent years, green screens and computer animations are used throughout the episode to achieve things that they couldn’t have done before. This is an art that’s alive. The people are still making new episodes (two hours of DVD every week for rental) and constantly innovating.

It had great influence on me. I got interested in performing arts (puppet theatre in particular) because of it. I started making up my own stories. I started learning more about music because back then there was no mp3 and when I hear some music I like, I wanted to reproduce that myself. I got interestesd in voice acting because in these shows, the master puppeteer voices every single character (that’s the tradition that people still do now). To say that it has one of the biggest influences on my life would not be an exaggeration.

And then I started watching Sesame Street on TV as an adult (and loved it!). I started making my own puppet shows because I’ve been watching so much and I’d like to try to make one. I’ve seen puppet shows on stage. I’ve seen them on TV. I’ve seen them with no special effects. I’ve seen them with high tech 3D computer animations. There are many things I want to try, and really, playing with puppets is literally playing with toys. It’s just a fun thing to do.


  1. Leon
    August 2nd, 2007 | 10:42 am

    Yeah, I remember watching puppet shows back in China when I was a kid. Actually, my father was a writer for the troop and I was able to go back stage and have fun.

  2. August 3rd, 2007 | 12:49 am

    Wow, that’s pretty awesome!

  3. September 12th, 2007 | 2:59 pm

    Hi Kelvin! Thanks for adding your 2c to the powerpoint pet peeve quiz.

    I remember those puppet shows when I was a kid in Taiwan. I’d see them in the night market. However, I was more interested in watching people catch goldfishes with paper “nets”, so I didn’t get to appreciate the puppet shows.

    I also started watching Sesame Street as an adult and I’m amazed at how they get the puppets to interact with people and animation alike.

  4. September 12th, 2007 | 4:40 pm

    My pleasure. Always great to talk about pet peeves, haha.
    Yeah, those goldfish things are still there. I never really associated puppet shows with night markets though. It’s always been more about random religious celebrations for me.
    Yeah, that’s one goal for me too… connecting puppet shows with technology. Thanks for visiting. Come on back anytime. :-)

  5. Deb
    February 3rd, 2008 | 3:47 pm

    I just found your episode 14, and loved it! So I came here, and your explanation about puppetry in taiwan vs in the u.s. reminded me of a book I read not too long ago ( which has at least one section on puppetry and its use in activism, as well as people trying to break the stereotype of it being for kids only.

    Anyway, I look forward to more episodes, as well as to learning more about this art form!

    Deb’s last blog post..puppet kaos on where soy milk comes from

  6. February 4th, 2008 | 1:36 am

    Thanks, Deb! I am glad that you liked the video. =)

    I’ve never read the book, so I don’t know what it mentioned about puppetry and activism, but I’ve heard stories about puppeteers arrested in Burma (recently) and Taiwan (a few decades ago) for political reasons. Clearly some of them have connections with activism and some governments in certain circumstances do not like that. I believe that it’s an art form, much like theatre, literature, painting is, so of course, people use it to express ideas… sometimes political and not liked by the government.

    The kids only thing is very similar to what animation had been dealing with. I think, to a degree, it has something to do with people’s current views on what’s appropriate for children and what’s not. If you look at certain old cartoons and certain old Sesame Street footages, you’ll see that they are not necessarily appropriate for kids by today’s standards. I guess for animation, they go to the ends of the spectrum. You have cartoons designed for kids (plenty out there) and stuff that’s strictly for adults (like South Park). In the case of puppetry, it seems to me that most of them are for kids nowadays and few went the other direction. This doesn’t say too much. There just aren’t a lot of puppet shows on TV today.

    Enough about this serious stuff. More silliness coming up. 😉

  7. August 15th, 2008 | 8:02 am

    […] wondered how they make the Muppets? Kelvin Kao of Puppet Kaos shares a tutorial on how to make your very own, based on “Mac and […]

  8. Shania Hence
    January 16th, 2010 | 10:47 pm

    Great site! What software do you use to edit your videos?

  9. January 18th, 2010 | 4:18 am

    Hey Shania, I replied to your email. Check your inbox!

  10. November 16th, 2011 | 5:03 pm

    This is an excellent site and filled with lots of creative ideas. It just goes to show you that if you have a great imagination and act on it using whatever materials you can find, you don’t necessarily need to have expensive puppets or cameras or anything. I am going to bookmark this site to come back and read more. I know the grandkids would love what you have to share and I hope to get some ideas for making something with them.


    Deb Loyd’s last blog post..Audio Stories for Kids Can Help Your Child in Many Ways

  11. November 17th, 2011 | 4:00 am

    Thanks! By the way, I grew up listening to audio stories on tape. It was a big part of my education. 😉

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