Introduction: Kangaroo Puppet
This is Kanga, and in case you can't tell, it's a Kangaroo! This is a puppet I made back In second year of college and was made for street theatre events around Dublin and Wicklow. The Way this puppet works is quite like the Timone puppet seen in the Lion King Play. I stand behind it and with my head attached to its head, hands to hands and legs to legs. Through this you should be able to get an idea on how to make one yourself!
Step 1: Legs
Beginning the process of making this life sized puppet, I first had to research the animal using youtube. When the research was completed I drew an outline of an average sized kangaroo. Doing this allowed me to constantly go back to the drawing to see if the material was bent into the right shape and size with the aid of the drawing and measuring tape on the side.
To make the skeleton of the puppet I primarily used PVC pipe and a heat gun to bend and warp the pipe to the shape of the kangaroo. PVC pipe was the best and cheapest material to use. Under intense heat, the pipe can melt and be twisted into the shape you want. A Kangaroos legs are the most powerful part of its body.
Making two egg shaped rings with the pipe to represent the kangaroos thighs, I then attached hinges to them to create working knees. Bungee was placed inside the pipe so when the leg stretched it would spring back to its original position.
The tools and materials you need for this part are as follows
Tools- dremil, heat gun, glue gun
materials- pvc pipe, door hinges, screws, bungee cord, glue sticks
Step 2: Torso
After the legs were finished I began to work on the torso, manipulating the pipe into a solid frame. Problems arose during this part, some of which included trying to figure out how to move the legs individually. Using two flexible plastic tubes for the hips, you can move the legs with ease as well as show the puppets shift in weight. Using this tubing also allows me to detach the legs in case anything on the inside cracked or came loose.
Step 3: Shoulders
After the legs were attached to the torso the next thing to do was create the spine along with the shoulders. The tubing I used for the hips was very flexible so it was ideal for the spine. Further up the spine was the shoulder blades which were made by screwing a small piece of pipe to the flexible tube. This piece of pvc had bungee running through it so the shoulders would always return to their original position just like the legs earlier. By doing this, when the kangaroo stretched its arms and returned to its position it created a look as if the kangaroos muscles were flexing and then going back to a relaxed pose.
Step 4: Head
The head was difficult to shape correctly. Using a sheet of zote foam which was vacformed around crumpled up pipe to give the general shape of the kangaroos head. After getting a general shape i used the heat gun to stretch and flex the foam into a more believable head. Black sheets of styrene were vacformed and used for the eyes which were slotted inside the head. the neck rig was made using a wheel off a table leg. the wheel was screwed into the inside of the head and attached to the tip of the flexible spine tube.
The kangaroos head was attached to my own using strings, two at the temples and one at the back of the head. The two strings on the temples are strung tight where the one on the back is slightly loose. By doing this the puppeteer can turn the head swiftly and also look up and down.
Step 5: Arms
The arms were made using pvc pipe but since they only had to be straight I didnt need to warp it with the heat gun. Bungee was used to attached the arms to the shoulders and it was also used in the elbows. Aluminium rods were slotted through the pvc wrists and attached to the kangaroos hands. At the other end of the rod was a grip for the puppeteers hands. These rods were strong enough to hold up considerable weight, were able to rotate 360 degrees, and move the wrist back and forth using another rod attached to the puppeteers thumb.
Step 6: Skinning the Kangaroo
The material over the kangaroo was hessian and was hot glued around the entire skeleton of the kangaroo
Step 7: Rig
Another problem i had was with the rig, originally made for the kangaroo. After applying the head, arm, and spine to the torso, it was now too heavy and to difficult to move. The rig began to dig in to my back after 5 minutes controlling the puppet so a new rig was constructed. This new one i developed was a back harness that spread the weight completely around the back so it wouldn't strain any muscles. The rig is made of one large pipe which was split and heat gunned and pressed in to my back to make a cast of the shape of my back. Two pipes at my hips were attached to the kangaroos, these were also reinforced by two other pipes. The harness is strapped to my back with 2 belts along with bungee cords attached to the puppet giving it more balance. The tail was made using zote foam where i used a heat-gun to bend it in to shape and attach it to the back of the rig. For the materials i used hessian to coat the kangaroo. This material frayed, so to prevent it from falling off, was glued to the skeletal frame.