Design Dairies: The Puppets of Oz (Part II)

Design Dairies: The Puppets of Oz (Part II)
By Mia Passarella

Hello everyone! And welcome back to my designer diary/photo journal for the puppets of Oz. My last segment focused on the design itself. Today we are going to focus on some of the construction of individual puppets.

Today I’m going to talk about my process working on both the head of the crocodile and the Toto puppet. Let’s start with our reptilian friend.


The items I used for both puppets are:


  • Insulation foam
  • Wire
  • Twist ties
  • Pliers
  • Hot glue



As seen in the first picture, insulation foam comes in one giant sheet. You can buy it at Home Depot. It’s super lightweight and easy to cut through, but still pretty stable. I saw Brian working with some on the set and thought that the material would be perfect for the base of my puppets as well. It’s my first time using this material for a project and I’m really happy with the results so far.

For the crocodile, I decided that I was going to make the top and bottom halves of the head individually and then create a hinge to join them together. This, I think, will allow more mobility for the actors when trying to make the jaw snap. I started with the top half.

First, I drew and carved out the shape of a bird’s eye view of a crocodile head.

The result looked like this


From here, using one long wire down the center, I formed the shape of a profile view of a crocodile. Then, I used multiple strips to cut horizontally across the center wire. This was to both stabilize and fill out the shape.




For extra stability, I ran more wire vertically along either side of the center line. Where the strips of wire crossed, I used the twist ties to join them and hot glue to seal it.




And voilá! I have a frame for the top half of a crocodile head.

Then, in a surprising turn of events, I started working on Toto! I tend to jump around quite a bit when I’m working…

I started working on the frame for Toto’s body (minus head, neck, and limbs) next.

Similarly to our crocodile, I used the foam and cut out the shape of a bird’s eye, but also a profile view of the body of a small dog and hot glued them together. Rather than shaping the whole thing with wire, I decided to use the foam to create most of the shape, and the wire to fill out the empty parts. Again, I used horizontal and vertical strips of wire, tying them together with twist ties and sealing with hot glue.

The shape of the body turned out like this




Next, I made limbs. I cut out three seperate pieces per leg like this (the little one is the foot)



I didn’t pay too much attention to exact shapes, because most of that won’t be seen once it’ all covered in fabric. You’ll see.

I then strung them together by making joints out of hooks with the wire. I used hot glue along the way to make sure the wire wouldn’t become separated from the foam later.


Then I made sort of a pin out of wire and hot glue


And used it to basically spear the legs into place.


Finally, I made a handle using (you guessed it!) wire at the top of the body in order for the actor to better manipulate the puppet.


The end result looked like this


I’m pretty happy with it already and it’s still basically a skeleton.

Anyway, I hope this was enough to get you intrigued, because I am going to stop here! Yes I know. It is an odd place to end my blog. But, to be fair I showed quite a bit on two different ones, so I hope that makes up for the unfinished Toto. And Mr. Crocodile…I should name him.

If you want to find out how I make Toto’s head and attach it to the body, stay tuned, another blog will be your way next week! I’ll also be talking about making the bottom half of the crocodile head and hinging it together. And (if we’re lucky) we just might catch a glimpse of some dragons ;).

And don’t forget to get your Oz Chronicles tickets! It’s seriously gonna be a beautiful show.

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