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

Help Mr. Snuffleupagus!

Many of my regular readers know that I have taken classes at Puppet School founded by master puppeteer Michael Earl. Several days ago, he updated his Facebook with some news, which he doesn’t do all that often. It was revealed that he has been diagnosed with colon cancer.

A friend and former student of his set up a fundraising page for him to help with the medical expenses. The outpour of support from everyone was really amazing to watch. The initial goal of $10,000 was reached within 24 hours. I can’t help but think, how much good will has the man built up over the years for this to happen?

He’s always been a gentle, kind soul, and a good friend and mentor to many people. Looking at the messages people left on the page, I saw a bunch of former students (many of us know one another, naturally) and a number of big names (in the puppeteering circle, anyway) too. He has deeply influenced many people.

His classes was where I first received professional training in puppeteering. I still remember watching him do demonstrations in class and being in awe of what he could do with the puppets. I still remember our class singing him happy birthday in class (with puppets, naturally) at a time when Puppet School wasn’t even established and it was just him renting studio time to teach the classes. And we were still blown away with his performances during our shows, even though we were all perfectly aware of how these things work.

Even if you didn’t know him personally, you might have seen his work in projects such as Sesame Street, Muppets movies, and Team America. He was best known as the original Mr. Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street. (You can see him in this interview when the local news came to visit and he ended up talking about it and doing the voice.) Many have been touched by his work, without realizing it.

He’s now taking a leave of absence from teaching, and we all wish him a speedy recovery. (Well, I don’t think these things are ever speedy, but ASAP recovery doesn’t sound right either.)

Here’s a link to the fundraising page, if you would like to help the man in his battle:

PuppetVision: The Movie

From the IndieGogo page:

My name is Andrew. I’m a filmmaker and puppeteer and since 2004 I’ve been writing a daily blog called PuppetVision that I’ve used as a platform to share thousands of great puppet films, videos and performances with close to half a million people around the world.
From the giant Dinosaurs that roar to life in arenas, to the amazing horses that have taken Broadway and the West End by storm to the the Muppets making a comeback, puppetry is in the midst of an incredible renaissance right now. In an age of cutting edge technology audiences seem to be enthralled with the magic of good, old fashioned puppets.

All of this work is being done by different artists, in different cultures, often working in radically different artistic traditions, but collectively they’re part of an amazing cultural legacy that stretches back tens of thousands of years to the very dawn of civilization.

Inspired by my PuppetVision Blog, I’m making a feature length documentary called PuppetVision: The Movie that examines puppetry as an art form and the common threads that link these artists. Using interviews with and performances by over sixty puppeteers from at least fifteen different countries, this film is going to share amazing work by amazing artists and have them talk about how they create it and why.

The PuppetVision blog is a blog that I’ve been reading for quite a while. Lots of good information on puppetry and links to interesting videos people are making with puppets. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it was a starting point for me when it came to puppets (that weren’t Taiwanese). Back then, I literally went through the blogroll on the sidebar of the site to discover other websites and found cool people such as:

  • Naomi Guss: who runs School of Puppetry that has tons of information on all kinds of puppets. Lots of well-research articles and tutorials, especially on puppet making.
  • Stacey Gordon: who makes the most awesome finger puppets on her site Puppet Pie.
  • Tom Stewart: who posts tons of interesting puppet videos on his site Puppeteers Unite. There’s also a directory of puppetry blogs and websites. And the puppet making videos based on the Project Puppet patterns are simply excellent.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal: Puppeteer by day and award-winning sci-fi writer by night. That’s already enough awesome that requires no further elaboration.
  • Gaston Morineau: who builds the cutest puppets and regularly puts on shows in San Diego. And a great guy too.

… and many more. In fact, it got me involved with the online puppetry community and gave me the opportunity to work on a student film. It introduced me to Swazzle, a local puppet making / production company. I started following them on Facebook, which at one point mentioned Michael Earl’s class, which led to me signing up, receiving more training, making more friends and performing in shows. When I traced it back, the PuppetVision blog was a starting point that later led to a lot of things.

It would be great if the film can serve as a starting point for many viewer’s journey for puppetry as well. If you would like to contribute, go to their IndieGogo page.

And here’s some cool footages of Taiwanese puppets shot for the documentary (which reminds me, I still need to upload some Taiwanese puppets footages I have). Enjoy! 😀

Puppet Jukebox II

Isn’t that a cool picture?

Last May, we did a puppet show called Puppet Jukebox. And now, we are bringing it back for another weekend of performances. So here it is, the sequel: Puppet Jukebox II: The Return of The Gaga.

It will be the same format. We are going to walk you through the history of music in the last century. We have a mix of people who have performed in the first one, such as myself, and a new group of graduates performing together. We have a mix of songs from the previous show and some new numbers. The theater is better, and the stuff we are doing is more ambitious. And it’s going to be fun.

So, if you are in the Hollywood area, here’s the info:
Opening night: December 10th, 8pm
Matinee: December 11th, 3pm
Closing night: December 11th, 7pm
at the Hudson Theatres
6539 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90038-1548

For more info and tickets, visit

Here’s a video from the last performance:

Puppet Jukebox Rehearsal

Last weekend we had a rehearsal where the two classes (TV and Theatre) met each other and rehearse together. It was an exciting moment because we’ve never seen what they rehearsed and vice versa. I was really impressed by what the other class had. Some of the choreography was simply amazing. And the singing, wow, the singing.

Sure, this class was about puppeteering, not singing, but man, we got some really great singers. Some of the singers really made me looked at the puppeteer instead of the puppet, because I could’ve sworn that I was listening to a recording instead of live vocals if I didn’t look at them. Now, I wouldn’t call myself a good singer, but I definitely had no problem carrying a tune. But some of these people simply were on another plane. They totally wowed me with their voices.

We also rehearsed the piece at the very end, which included every single member from both classes. It was not actually entirely written. We basically just had a structure and outline, and then improvised from there. It came out somewhat different every time, but I personally think that was great, because we all had to be really in tune (no pun intended) with what was going on in the scene. For this particular piece, I think I actually prefer not having set melody and lyrics.

Looks like the show was coming together. The fact that I would not be able to make the rehearsals this weekend did make me a little concerned, but hopefully the combinations of the rehearsals we’ve already done, the extra meetings I had (and will have) with the director, and our abilities to played off of one another can reduce the impact to the minimum.

Should be a fun show to watch. :-)
Get your tickets here.

Puppet Jukebox

And it’s time for our graduation show!
Puppet School proudly presents… Puppet Jukebox!

The show will run for four performances from May 26 (Thursday) to May 28 (Saturday). There is one show each of the night, and a matinee on Saturday, where it’s family-friendly with all the curse words cleaned up. (But where’s the punch in that, right?) The show will take place at The Complex – Hollywood. So if you are in the Los Angeles area, come join us for some silly fun!

For more details about the show (and to get tickets), click here.
To see the Facebook event, click here.

PS. Don’t ask me who those people in the picture are. I don’t know either. I believe they are people from the other class, but anyway, we’ll find out after tomorrow’s rehearsal when the two classes meet and rehearse together.

Career Change: Koala’s March

So the other day I was thinking about my professional life. I do iOS development, which has treated me well but in the end, isn’t what I was the most passionate about. Puppetry? Well, that’s a little bit closer, but not quite either. I’ve decided to quit my job and pursue my true passion. And that passion is Koala’s March.

Ever since I was a kid, I love these koala cookies. These are bite size snacks with chocolate filling that has drawings of koalas on them. The old ones have the koala playing a drum, kicking a soccer ball, etc. But since then, they have expanded the varieties quite a lot.

Now I want to take it more seriously and pursue koala cookie design. I mean, think of all the possibilities! The koala-shaped cookie is a blank canvas. On it you can draw all these different characters! You can have a koala-pig hybrid. You can have someone you met in high school. You can also have video game characters! See my wonderful drawings? I used to lack confidence, but now that I got an ego, everything just looks so much better!

My friend Dave once said, “Most people move on from childhood and leave it behind. I feel like Kelvin managed to take his grammar school years with him and has continued to develop them throughout his adulthood.” Well, he’s damn right! Now that I am full of myself (just like a child), I can go pursue my childhood dream!

Wish me luck! Here’s more of my koala drawings on my Flickr album.

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