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Preview: Puppets with Purpose

Puppets with Purpose

A resource blog for those who know the value of puppetry in presenting the Gospel.

Updated: 2017-03-17T17:07:36.359-07:00


Inteligent(?) Design


The other day Cicero and Nice of PuppetsBrazil fame helped me make a puppet that I am going to be using in some video spots shortly. Here is some pictures of the event.


Puppet And Stuff Puppetry Forum


Over the last couple of weeks we have started participating on the Puppet's and Stuff forum. Cicero, Nice and I have found it to be a great community of puppeteers and puppet makers who are very welcoming to interested parties. You will find people there of all levels of puppeteering, from the professional to the beginner. There are quite a few people there who are interested in Christian puppetry. Check it out!

Latest Video Efforts


Here are the latest videos we have done that have been shown on our local TV station. We have one more "in the can" that will be shown at an as yet undisclosed date.

Buga Buga: Rock and Hole

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This video introduces a new cast of characters, the Buga Buga tribe. Their language consists of the words "buga buga", and they illustrate biblical principles through their capers. If you have any doubt as to what they are illustrating in this video, check out the reference at the end.


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This one is just a little comedy bit that aired before the Buga Buga clip. It is based on one of my favorite Smothers Brothers routines. Below is a translation:

Junior: Hey Max.
Max: Hey Junior
Junior: Is it my imagination, or do I smell chocolate.
Max: It's not your imagination, it is really chocolate. I fell into a bucket of chocolate this morning.
Junior: You fell into a bucket of chocolate?
Max: Yes, an enormous bucket, full of chocolate. It was terrible.
Junior: I can imagine. And what did you do?
Max: I yelled "FIRE!"
Junior: Hang fell into a bucket of chocolate and yelled "fire"?
Max: That's right.
Junior: And why did you do that?
Max: Because nobody would have helped me if I had yelled "CHOCOLATE"!
(rim shot)

Back to Posting


Ok, I keep meaning to post here, but life just keeps getting in the way. There has been a flurry of puppetry related activity here, however, and so we have a lot of content that could go here. Hopefully we will be able to be more consistent from here on out, and post more material for believers seeking to make a difference through puppetry.

Last weekend we administered our sixth puppetry school here in Brazil. It was a raging success. Cicero, our technical director, put together this little promotional video featuring photos and clips from last week's event. Enjoy.

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Jornal da Cidade Feliz: Desafiando a Bússula


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Here is our latest production. In this edition of the Jornal da Cidade Feliz Junior and Manu talk about the movies "The Golden Compass" and "Facing the Giants".

Jornal da Cidade Feliz: Desafiando a Bússula


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Here is our latest production. In this edition of the Jornal da Cidade Feliz Junior and Manu talk about the movies "The Golden Compass" and "Facing the Giants".

Our "First" TV Appearance


Actually, we did about five over a year ago...but they are pretty primitive. We have spent some time and cash to make these new vignettes a little more "high quality".

In watching the following performance, we noticed that we need to work a lot more on the interaction between the human and the puppet, and also raise the quality of our lighting. I was also not completely satisfied with the final result of the interaction between the two puppets at the end.

We have worked on correcting these issues, and hopefully you will note a difference in next-week's posting (which is almost completely edited already!).

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This episode deals with a "missing link" that was discovered about a month ago in Rio de Janeiro. Manú (the girl) and Júnior (the puppet) talk about it in light of what the Bible has to say about creation. In the end, Júnior allows as how he thinks he has discovered a missing link, and displays a photo of Chico. Chico is none too pleased.

If I get some time, I will try to makes some captions so you can understand all of what is said.

After months of preparation, false starts, and scheduling conflicts, I am thrilled to be in regular production again.

Henson's Place, Part Three


In the absence of material of my own to post, I am posting the long-overdue third segment of the "Henson's Place" documentary, with my own pithy comments.

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"Watch the duck!"

The footage of the early programs shows that, even though limited in technical resources, the attention to quality was still there. Christian puppeteers--including yours truly--need to remember this.



So I have on my computer the latest--and by far the best--segment our team has ever done. One problem--I can't put it up here until it goes on TV. And it won't go on TV until we get some more filmed and "in the can". And because we can only count on our cameraman 25% of the time, only God knows when that will be.




This is a cross post from our ministry blog. We are finally filming again at the Cidade Feliz.

First, we went to the First Baptist Church, where filming was in progress for "Reason to Live", which is the "parent" program that hosts our Cidade Feliz segments. There we did a little promo spot, announcing the return of the Cidade Feliz program.

Nice readies Júnior, and Pastor Francisco readies himself for the camera.

Júnior and Pastor Francisco

Pastor Francisco Fabiano (pictured above) is the host of the "Reason to Live" TV program, which is a ministry of the First Baptist Church. We are very grateful to them for giving us space on their program.

After filming that little spot, it was on to the seminary, where we set up our green screen and filmed one episode of a segment called "Cidade Feliz News".

Setting up the camera

Sound table

Manú and Júnior clowning around

After resolving a few glitches with equipment, we were able to film the episode. Currently the film is in post, scheduled to air a week from Saturday. This first segment tackles the evolutionary concept of a "missing link". Tomorrow we will be filming another couple episodes.

Cicero, our production assistant, took some footage on his digital camera against the green screen. I used it to practice my chroma key technique. Below is my very first attempt.

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Green Screen


A few weeks ago we made the decision to do any future taping of our program with a green screen. One problem: we did not have a green screen. Cicero and Nice to the rescue. These two dedicated members of our team took an idea that I drew (scribbled) for them and ran with it.

This was the result:


Our first camera-call in over a year will be tomorrow, with our brand-new green screen. Here is Nice with her character, Junior, testing out the screen.


Hopefully after tomorrow I will have pictures of the filming process, as well as some helpful links that show how to film with a green screen. I have the links right now...I just don't know which ones will be helpful.

Henson's Place, Part Two


At long last I am posting part two of the Henson's Place documentary--along with my own astute comments on aspects which relate to puppet ministry.

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The difference between the first concept of a puppet and the final result is good to note.

I was fascinated by Henson's comments on what it is about puppets that fascinates children.

Note the effort that goes into developing the various personalities of the puppets in Sesame Street.

Think running an effective puppet program is easy? Check out the "job description" given by Mrs. Henson in describing her husband.

Character Puppets


God has blessed us with the friendship and collaboration of a very talented couple--Cicero and Anice--who are busily making the puppets for our filming project. I was just at there house, and got to see a few of the finished products:


Some of these guys are still in development, but I am getting excited about the results.


This is my brother Daniel--who is here in Brazil to speak at a Carnaval retreat--interacting with Dr. Baltazar--our series villain. (Daniel is the one in the glasses)

Henson's Place, Part One


The following is a real find for the puppet community. It is a documentary which delves into the evolution of Jim Henson's Muppet empire. I first heard about it at Puppeteers Unite. It was posted by the same YouTube-er who brought us the Of Muppets and Men series.

The documentary comes in seven installations. I am going to post one a day for the next seven days, and make comments on some of the aspects of these documentaries that are relevant to using puppets in ministry.

Here is the first installation:

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In watching the first part of the video, I cannot help but be impressed with how the Muppet industry "started small". They did not begin with big, multi-million dollar productions. Yet, from "a way to make extra money in college", it grew into one of the biggest entertainment companies in history.

It is also pretty neat to see that they got their start on local television--exactly where we are working. Of course, today there is also YouTube.

What Mrs. Henson says about "little tiny movements" is very important. It is those movements that give a puppet it's life.

Also, pay close attention to her talking about the potential of puppets to communicate.

The way they work the "human-arm" puppets has never ceased to amaze me. The amount of coordination needed for each hand to be operated by a different person boggles my mind.

One formula for their success: skilled puppeteers+skilled puppet makers.

Stay tuned for the other installments. There is a lot of puppeterring gold to be mined from these videos.

Human Puppet Interaction


One of the more dynamic aspects of a puppet presentation is when you have a human talking to a puppet. Check out the following video:

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h/t Puppet Vision

Notice how the actress interacts with the puppets, not the puppeteers. She also displays the full range of emotions. Her performance enhances the lifelikeness of the puppets.

Speaking of Jim Henson


When I was just getting started in puppetry, one of the books that influenced me the most was "Of Muppets and Men", which was a behind-the-scenes look at the Muppet Show. I borrowed the book from the Addison Public Library (the fact that the Addison Public Library actually had the book is only slightly less surprising than the fact that Addison, NY actually had a public library) a hundred times. I spent hours looking at each picture, and as I prepare for our filming project now, those images come back.

The book is kind of hard to find today, but it is well worth the effort if you do. What I did not know back then was that a documentary of the same title--and covering much of the same material--was produced. Recently it surfaced on Youtube, and I am embedding it below. All six videos take a while to watch, so schedule some time, fire up the computer, get some hot chocolate, a note pad and a couple good pencils, and take it all in.

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Learning from the Master


The all-time, undisputed master of puppetry was Jim Henson. If you want to learn about puppetry, watching anything produced by him is always a sure bet. Which is why I was very excited to see a series of never-before-published videos from Gary Friedman at It appears that Mr. Friedman participated in a puppetry seminar run by Jim Henson himself somewhere in France. Five videos were made, each one showing different aspects of the seminary. There are a couple actual student productions, and one "making of" segment.

Click here
, sit back, and feed on the puppet goodness.

Making Puppets


So you want to start a puppet ministry, but you don't have the money for the exorbitant prices charged by some companies for puppets. Maybe you want your puppets to have their own personality--as opposed to using something mass produced and probably used by a myriad of other church puppet groups. Or perhaps you live in a part of the world where puppets are not readily available.

In truth, all three of the above challenges apply to our ministry here in Brazil. In the face of these difficulties, we have found the following resources to be of great help.

1. Puppeteer Paul Muller has posted an outstanding series of videos on how to build puppets. Anybody who is interested in making puppets should watch it. The puppets produced are very basic, and use easy-to-find materials.

2. If you are interested in starting out with some classy patterns for some really nice looking puppets, no place is better than Project Puppet. The patterns they sell are reasonably priced, and easy to use.

We have taken aspects from both of these outstanding sources, as well as things learned from disecting a few Puppet Productions puppets, to make the puppets for our project. We are still in the process of character development, but below is the latest effort.

Do any of you have other sources for patterns or materials? Let us know!

Audition Video Tests


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In the world of professional puppetry, someone with a project (and a budget) gets the word out to the puppeteer community that they are hiring puppeteers, and soon they have a cast. In the parallel universe of Christian puppetry, however, the puppeteers are mostly homegrown. This is especially so on the mission field.

For our Cidade Feliz TV project we have discovered that it will be necessary to train our puppeteers from scratch. This process has been helped by the puppetry seminars we have administered in local churches, where we have discovered some latent talent.

During the past two Saturdays we gathered these hopefuls together and held intensive training sessions. The video you see above is from those sessions. The camera quality is horrible, as is the sound and filming. Yet this is the embryonic beginning of what we hope will be an effective TV program.

Changing Philosophy


For years I have held that in a live puppet performance--especially one where the people come to identify with the characters--the puppeteers should never reveal themselves. One must maintain the illusion of life, and to do that, one must never admit that there are actually living-breathing human beings behind the stage.

I am rethinking that whole philosophy, however. Puppeteers who have worked with me in years gone by will doubtless be nonplussed, as this was something I drilled into them constantly. But recently the success of Jim Henson's Puppet Up! and Avenue Q--both of which feature the puppeteers in plain view of the audience--has me convinced that the puppeteer/puppet dynamic can be quite effective. (By the way, if you decide to look up Puppet Up! or Avenue Q, be advised that they have lots of material that is not God-honoring.)

For an example of puppetry where the puppeteers are out in the open, check out this video from Japan. This appears to be some sort of a talent show, where the contestant has to learn how to do something, and then perform it in front of the cameras. In this case, she choses puppetry. She does an outstanding job! Be sure to watch all the way to the end, the final performance (including the "backup singers") is outstanding. (h/t Puppeteers Unit)

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Inspired by this trend, I decided to add a "live" element to our programming for the live presentations of our seminary team. At the end of the final song, the puppets descend one-by-one, and then reappear outside the stage with their respective puppeteers. The video below showed the first time we did it. Other than the fact that most of my puppeteers forgot all about their proper exit techniques, I think it was fairly effective.

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Jim Henson on Character Development


One of the most difficult and yet most rewarding parts of setting up a puppet program is the development of the characters. In the case of our Cidade Feliz project, we are currently designing and building our puppets from scratch after having given them personalities and character traits.

Many church programs rely on mass produced puppets purchased from any number of companies. Even so, the development of a puppet's personality is key to the success of a program--key to how well the message is transmitted.

Here is a video of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Michael Frith, and Kermit the Frog talking about character development.

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By the way, I got this from an outstanding collection of puppet videos put together by Andrew from Puppet Vision. If you are at all interested in working with puppets, you need to check out these videos, and be a regular reader of the Puppet Vision blog.

Facing the (Media) Giants


Christian Movies. The very name congers up images of the cheesy flicks I watched at youth rallies where everybody wore bell bottoms and had 70's hairdos. They were made mostly to be played in church, and quality was obviously not the number-one priority. Christians have a lot of catching-up to do in the movie department. Perhaps it is because for so long going to a movie theater was considered a sin. Perhaps it is because we were suspicious of any method of communicating the gospel other than preaching, Sunday School lessons, and door-to-door evangelism. Without knocking the afore-mentioned methods (and those who know me will attest that I am particularly insistent on passionate expository preaching), I must say that insignificant attention has been made in Christian circles to the power of story-telling. This is odd, because our Savior communicated to masses of people by telling them story, not to mention the fact that God has revealed His will to us through the Scriptures, which are--for the most part--a collection of stories. How then has this art been lost on us? There are of course some fine examples of Christian storytelling--the works of John Bunyan and C.S. Lewis come to mind. But how is it that up until recently, while the medium of film began to tell stories as never before, the best Christians could do was the flannel graph?I say "up until recently" because some encouraging trends are starting to emerge. I believe it started with Veggietales. I don't know where Phil Vischer got the idea to communicate a Christian worldview using talking legumes, but it worked. For those of you who would contest otherwise, please read this.Now along comes "Facing the Giants". It's a movie about a football coach. It was produced by a local church. It uses non-professional actors. It has the formula for being everything that I hated about the Christian movies of my youth, minus the bell bottoms and enormous sideburns. src="<1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" style="width:120px;height:240px;" scrolling="no" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" frameborder="0">But it works! It had me emotionally involved in the story. It made me re-evaluate priorities in my life. Most importantly (and I do mean most importantly), I jumped out of my seat and cheered when the final, game-winning, fifty-one yard field goal attempt went through the uprights. Why do I say most importantly? Because this shows that, at least for me, the story did not get lost in the message--which is one of Christian film making's biggest drawbacks. We cannot seem to tell a story without preaching. Of course those who have watched FTG will know that the Gospel and the Christian worldview are presented numerous times throughout the film in no uncertain terms. And yet, the story WORKS!My hat is off to the people of Sherwood Baptist Church, and especially to their philosophy of being able to change the world from Albany, Georgia. If they can do it from the state where the Devil goes looking for souls to steal (not to mention the fact that there are a lot of rainy days, midnight trains, and blackouts*) then perhaps I can do it from here in Northeastern Brazil. You can be sure I am going to try. We are starting our puppet project out small--live presentations in churches, a TV program on a local channel. We believe, however, that if it wi[...]

Obligatory Introductory Post


(image) Hi!

My name is Andrew, and I am a missionary in Brazil. I have worked with puppets since I was 15 (the picture to the left is VERY old), and today puppets play a big part of my ministry. As director of ministry internships for a Baptist seminary here, I direct a puppet team made up of students that travels the region doing presentations in churches, schools, and public parks.

I am also at work on a filming project for a TV program that our area churches broadcast on a local TV station.

My aim with this blog is to contribute that which I have learned (and am learning) with the Christian puppetry community.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by. If you like, you can check out our ministry blog, as well as an outstanding blog in Portuguese run by a fantastic couple that work with me.