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

It’s a California Christmas

I’ve made Christmas videos the past three years. Guess what? Here’s the 2015 video, making it four years in a row!

This one was… quite a lot of work. It was also the first of many things for me. It was:

1) The first of my Christmas video where, in addition to the lyrics, I also wrote the music myself!
2) The first time using a keyboard controller in Garageband to arrange and record music.
3) The first time using a sketching app on the iPad to draw all the backgrounds instead of building them out of construction paper.
4) The first time to include an animated character.
5) The first time to use swipes, and lots of them, because, you know, Star Wars is on my mind.
6) The first time to have (fake) camera panning instead of cutting back and forth.

I have a lot of fun bringing these projects from just an idea in my head to a complete video. I enjoy having a chance to delight friends with a video around Christmas. And some even told me that it’s become something that they look forward to each year. I am glad this annual project is still continuing! 😀

Oh, Christmas Tree! Merry Christmas!

So, here you go. This is the Christmas video for this year.

Sure, I didn’t finish it until an hour before actual Christmas (in California, anyway), but hey, it’s done. I guess having done it two years in a row encourages me to keep the tradition going.

Enjoy! Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas! Deck the Halls!

Been a while since I posted anything. But hey look, a new Christmas video!

Last year’s Christmas video was pretty well received among my friends, so I’ve decided to make another one. Enjoy!

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

New Video! (With New Puppets!)

And… here’s the new video! I built four new puppets for this project, so together with the old ones, there are 8 total in this video. This is a music video that I made in January to enter the Brad Paisley’s “Start A Band” green screen contest (which I didn’t win, but whatever, enjoy! :-) )

If you can’t see the embedded video, click here to see it on YouTube.

The premise of the contest was that they provided the green screen footages of Brad Paisley singing the song, and you can use the footages in your video any way you like. I was glad that I participated, because I’ve always wanted to try these things:

  1. make a music video
  2. purchase and learn to use a sewing machine
  3. build more new puppets
  4. build puppets that are humans (as opposed to “monsters” and animals)
  5. build puppets that have shoulders made out of foam and cloth them
  6. build puppets with hair made out of yarn
  7. try out new lighting set-up
  8. enter a contest
  9. overlay several different green screen shots

And somehow making this video has all those elements! Of course, that’s also because I consciously attempt to try out a new technique every time I make a new video, but so many of them at once? That hasn’t happened before. So yeah, it was definitely a good experience. And I hope you all have as much fun watching it as I have making it!

Episode 16 – Insomnia

About damn time for me to release a new episode, eh?

In this episode, Mac and Cheese is having a hard time falling asleep. Bottle Monster suggests sheep-counting as possible remedy. And then… I think it would be more fun to watch the video and find out for yourself instead of having me tell you.

If you can’t see the embedded video,
Click here to watch Insomnia on Youtube.
Or download Quicktime movies here:
m4v format (22MB)
mov format (7MB)

I actually got the idea for this episode when I was sort of dozing off. Also, filming this one made me realized something: it’s probably a good idea to get a small TV to use as a monitor. See, with the bed scenes, I was operating one puppet on each hand. And that can get pretty awkward already… especially when Mac and Cheese was in bed and Bottle Monster was supposed to be on the side. AND I had to twist my back and neck just enough so that I could actually see the camera’s tiny LCD screen. Since I like to find the easy way out, I think I should probably get a monitor so I don’t have to look at that small screen. Heck, it’s easier than becoming a contortionist!

In case you are wondering what’s that book Bottle Monster was reading, it’s Marisa Haedike‘s What Are You Going to Be Today, Olive?

The tracks used are Earnest and Hamster March, both by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

PS. What’s a little odd is, the video and audio are slightly off in the two downloadable files. But when I uploaded the file to Youtube, it seems to be free of that problem. Weird.

Creative Commons License

Previous episodes:
Episode 15: Godfather Nightmares
Episode 14: Tofu
Epiodse 13: Tis the Season to be Charlie

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How to make a moving mouth sheep puppet (Bobby)


Baaaaah, Behhhh. In this tutorial, we’ll talk about how to build Bobby, a moving mouth sheep puppet with arm rods. Bobby is based on the prototype Mac and Cheese which we’ve talked about how to build earlier. It is structurally very similar except with more decorations. The major difference is that the mouth is built seperately and then attached to the outside instead of inserted inside. This tutorial is therefore going to focus on the things that’s different from the prototype.

Here’s a list of materials used, followed by the steps:

Parts Materials
Main body sheep-looking furry fabric
Mouth board (structure) hard cardboard
Mouth board (decoration) felt
Eyes store-bought plastic craft eyes
Head stuffing bag of polyfill
Arm rods bamboo skewers
Sewing Sewing machine
Glues hot glue gun


1. Build the basic structure: Like how we built Mac and Cheese and Bottle Monster, you want to fold the fabric over, trace the pattern, sew it up, and flip it over. For more detailed instructions please look at step 1-5 of the How to build Mac and Cheese tutorial.

2. Build the mouth: First we need to cut cardboard into the shape of a mouth board (pic 2a), and then we glue felt on it so it doesn’t look like a piece of cardboard. In the last two puppets we used black fabric for the mouth. This time I thought I would try red felt for a change.

And now it’s time for the exterior portion of the mouth. In pic 2b, you can see that I started gluing some fabric to make the jaw. In pic 2c, you can see the jaw is done. In pic 2d, the upper part is also done. Notice that you are only gluing the edges of the fabric. You want to have space between the fabric and the cardboard. You are creating pockets so that you can put your hand inside to manipulate the mouth. Also it makes the mouth look more three dimensional. The mouth part is done by now. Sure, it doesn’t look like a sheep yet, but already you have a mouth to play with!


3. Glue jaw to the bottom of the face: In the previous two tutorials, we cut a slit across the head/face portion of the basic structure and then put in the mouth. This time, we have not only the mouth but also the face to put in. So we cut out a circle instead of just a slit. Now you want to glue the the jaw to the lower portion of the circle. There should be space between the upper portion of the circle and the upper portion of the mouth, because we still need to put in the rest of the face, such as eyes.

4. Put in the upper half of the face: This will be the flat part of the face (unlike the mouth, which is the protruding part). First cut out a piece somewhat larger than the area you are covering (pic 4a). And then glue the top of the fabric to the top portion of the circle cut out (pic 4b). And once you are done, glue the side to the side of the circle, and the bottom of the fabric to the top of the mouth. By now, the basic structure, the mouth we made earlier, and this new piece of fabric we put in to be the mouth should all be connected. Then we put in the eyes. Now we basically the head done (pic 4d).

For the last two puppets I draw eyes on index cards and then cut them out. This time I decided to try something different. In pic 4c you see these plastic craft/stuffed animal eyes that you can purchase at craft stores. The way you install it is simple. First drill a hole wherever you want the eye installed. Stick the screw looking part (the black piece in this picture) into the hole, and hold the washer looking part (the white piece) behind the hole so the two pieces fit together, sandwiching the fabric (which is the face) in between. Please make sure you already planned out where the eyes are going to go, because once these things are installed, it’s very hard to get them off without breaking things.


5. Put in the ears: First cut out the ear shape out of the fur babric (pic 5a). And then you can glue on a smaller piece that’s not furry to create the inside of the ear (pic 5b). Of course, this is not required but this gives the puppet more personality (or sheeponality). Before I installed the ears, I first decided to pinch parts of the back of the head (pic 5c) and sew them together. This is to make the head smaller. In the last two puppets, the head space is shared by some polyfil and the mouth board. However, with this puppet, the mouth protrudes and doesn’t take up head space. That’s why I am making the head smaller. And then you can glue on the ears. When you are done, you have something like pic 5d. And all that’s left to do is put on the arms.


6. Make the arms and rods: First make the arms. The arms are just two tubes made from two strips of fabric folded over and sewn together. Sew or glue these two tubes onto the main body of the puppet and stuff in some polyfill to give it some volume (muscles, if you will). Pic 6a wasn’t quite clear so you’ll have to use your imagination.

And then you want to drill a hole towards the end of the arm (near where the hand/hoof will be). This is for the rod to go through (pic 6b). Then we make the arm rod. I glued a piece of cardboard on top of a bamboo skewer so the rod would stay in place (pic 6c). Then you want to put the rod through the hole we’ve just drilled (pic 6d). And finally we take a piece of fabric to seal the arm tube. This has two purposes. One is to give it the hand/hoof look. And another was to seal that piece of cardboard in so our rod doesn’t slide out of the tube. And now you are done!

Oh wait, one more step. The head might be a little empty at this point, and when you touch the top of the head, it just sinks in. All you have to do is make a little pouch/bag, put some polyfill in it, and stick it into the head. I don’t even seal it, because sometimes I would like to take the bag out to adjust the amount and shape.

And that’s how you build Bobby!

More puppet building tutorials:
How to make a moving mouth puppet with arm rods (Mac and Cheese)
How to make a moving mouth puppet with glove hands (Bottle Monster)

List of videos Bobby has appeared in so far:
Episode 12: Daylight Saving
Episode 11: The Truth Behind Halloween
Episode 10: Silent Sneeze
Episode 9: Wordcraft
Episode 8: Nobody’s Watching
Video Special: Obscure UCLA Facts You Did Not Know
Episode 6: Dance, Dance, Dance
Episode 5: Amazing Grass

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