Creating the Puppet Pattern

The first step in making the new puppet is to determine its height and create a pattern for the wire armature.  I’ve decided to make mine 12 inches high.  Since this puppet should be as perfect a match to the live action character as possible, my next step is to make measurements and apply them to the pattern.  So, if my character is 64 inches high and my puppet is 12 inches high, one inch on the pattern equals 5.33 inches in real life. If you need a math refresher, here is the equation to use in this case: 64″ divided by 12 = 5.33.  Say the measurement from my shoulder to fingertip is 28.5″, divide 28.5 by 5.33 to find that the puppet’s arm should be 5.35″.

The pattern for the puppet's wire armature.

The pattern for the puppet’s wire armature.

Detail of the pattern for the wired puppet hand. I'll use a mixture of 18 gauge copper and 16 gauge aluminum wire to achieve the correct finger width.

Detail of the pattern for the wired puppet hand. I’ll use a mixture of 18 gauge copper and 16 gauge aluminum wire to achieve the correct finger width.

While I am sticking to natural proportions for this puppet, many animated characters have much larger heads in comparison to the rest of their bodies than is found in real life. Adult humans are usually about 7.5 to 8 heads high, counting the head.

Here is a good diagram I found on Wikipedia.  You can see that cartoon characters usually resemble infants or young children in proportions.

My next step is to build the wire armature.  I’ve just started it.  Here is a photo of it on top of the pattern.

The first two wires twisted together to form the torso.

The first two wires twisted together to form the torso.

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2 thoughts on “Creating the Puppet Pattern

  1. Anonymous December 27, 2012 at 1:21 am Reply

    Do you find changing the proportions a useful method for establishing a puppet character?

  2. Christiane December 27, 2012 at 8:24 pm Reply

    I’m not sure if I understand what you are asking, but I’ll attempt an answer.

    I think it can be helpful for an animated character to have a larger head than what is natural when you want it to be very expressive. When the head is so emphasized, the expressions are clearer. Also, facial features on a large clay head would be easier to animate than those on a small one. A character with a larger head in proportion to its body might also appear cuter or more compelling than one with a smaller head which may seem more remote or sophisticated.

    But these are just generalizations and each artist must develop their own style. Plenty of cartoon characters don’t have especially large heads, but there is usually something exaggerated about them. Often the eyes.

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