I'm a puppet maker with a degree in theatre. A former lighting techie, stage manager and producer. And I like to think that with puppetry, the only limit is your imagination. More...
Unless specified, all text, images and files are © by School of Puppetry, 2007 onwards. This means you can not use any of the text, images or files without my permission, unless specified.
This type of puppet may at first confuse you, but once you think about it, you’ll realise just what they are. Costume puppets are just what the name suggests: a puppet that you wear! Most people think of this as a fursuit or mascot, to be worn by a human actor.
|Big Bird is just a person inside a large costume. One arm controls the head/neck, whilst the other arm controls one of the wings. The puppeteer also has a small TV strapped to their body, which allows them to see what they’re doing at all times. Image by EvelynGiggles.|
These types of puppets allow the person inside, and often animatronics operators on the outside, to create a visually interesting and unusual creature. For instance, one of the most well-known costume puppets is Big Bird from Sesame Street. Big Bird is actually two halves of a costume, one being the lower half of the bird, the other being the top half. The person inside controls the puppet, including the eyes, head, and arm movements. How does the puppeteer know what they’re doing? They have a small TV fitted inside the costume, and watch a reversed image of themselves on the screen. It sounds complicated… and it is! It takes a lot of practice to work well with a puppet like that.
But costume puppets aren’t just limited to Sesame Street; things like The Fimbles, Teletubbies or Pumbaa from the musical The Lion King are also costume puppets; there are many sci fi shows that have used animatronics combined with human actors, in order to create unusual creatures and ‘other life forms’. Many outdoors puppets (see parade puppets) are also costumes, allowing paraders to create a visually interesting, yet easy to control, puppet entry.
If you’re new to puppetry, you may not want to start with costume puppets. While anyone with a bit of dressmaking experience can make a simple one, newcomers to puppetry will have to deal with the following learning curves: how to create and operate simple puppet items (ie. blinking eyes, moving parts, etc); making something that is light, as well as comfortable; dealing with any ergonomics (ie. making sure any headpieces are supported so as not to weigh down on the puppeteer’s neck); etc.
Costume puppets are generally used when a puppet is needed that has more dexterity of movement than your average rod or mouth puppet can offer. They are also useful in scenes where a full-bodied puppet is needed to be seen in its entirety, and doing things while in that scene. They’re particularly used for film or TV, with fewer used in a live theatrical setting. However, as mentioned, they are popular for parades or outdoors events.send feedback / have a question?
Australians may want to buy locally. Where? I explain here.