I am happy and proud to introduce to you today my newly created character puppet "Dexter". I posted several weeks ago about the Stan Winston School Of Character Arts where you can learn how to make everything from monsters to Muppets. I have always wondered how the Muppets were made and as I am more of a Muppet kind of guy than a monster maker this was a no brainer in my book to take the class presented by BJ Guyer. I had an absolute blast making Dexter and so I thought I would put together this post telling you a bit about the class and how he was created.
Here's "Dexter"! This is the very first and certainly not the last Muppet style puppet I will create. I learned everything about how to make him from the video training that I received from the Stan Winston school online. Well worth the time and I have several other classes I want to take that are related to puppet making and performing as well as some that have nothing to do with puppets at all.
This is BJ Guyer who taught the Muppet making classes. Before I get into how the class went and some of the construction of Dexter here is BJ's info that will fill you in a bit more about how talented this gentleman is.
BJ Guyer has served as a puppet builder for The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz and puppeteered on Muppets from Space. He was also a coordinating producer and puppeteer on “Crank Yankers,” and has performed in a variety of other projects including Team America: World Police, “Between The Lions” and “The Book of Pooh.”
Most recently, he is a co-creator and lead puppeteer on MTV Flux series “Videogame Theater” and puppeteer and puppet builder for several commercials including Nike’s MVPuppet campaign, Boost Mobile, Grocery Outlet and Trace Adkin’s music video “Brown Chicken, Brown Cow.”
I want to let everyone know that I have never made a "Muppet" in my life and after taking this enjoyable class I highly recommend that you follow my lead and also take the class. It is not rocket science. The class to make Dexter was easy to follow and simple to create what "BJ" was teaching. Just like being in the room with him as he takes you step by step (or maybe by the hand) and shows you how easy and simple a Muppet character can be created. The photo above is one of the first steps in making the hands. All of the templates for making a Muppet are included with the class so there is no guess work. The main parts of the puppet is made from ordinary 1/2" foam. I picked up what I needed from my local Walmart store in their craft isle. In the photo above you can see the two hands that I traced and cut out of the foam. Below the foam hands are the wire skeletons that are mounted inside. It looks difficult to make but it really is simple once you learn how.
The hands are glued together with the skeleton inside and the edges are glued and pinched together to form a nicely shaped hand when done. In order to hold the hands to the arm and then to the body a shoe lace is attached to the wire framework as shown in the photo above.
The arms are nothing more than more foam glued together on the long sides to form a tube. In the photo above you can see the shoe laces sticking out of the ends where it will attach to the body of the puppet. The arm is glued to the hand at the wrist and then pinched to secure the contact cement. On the lower hand in the photo above you can see a portion of the pocket that is installed into the palm of the hand so that the rod to animate the arm can be mounted into the puppet.
This is a good start on the head of the Dexter. The wide opening in the front is where the mouth will be located. You can see all of the seams that were created when the head was glued together. Again with all of the templates included with the class it was a no brainer to follow along and get this rather complicated looking piece put together. I was a bit leery at first wondering if my puppet would turn out half as goods as the one BJ was showing how to build. I am happy to report that my thoughts about failing this classes were unfounded.
Here's a couple views of the head with the mouth in place. Already you can see a lot of how a Muppet is built by just these two photos.
I started playing around in Blender 3D with ideas I had for a face for Dexter early on in the construction. The character on the far right could be a frog easy enough. If the eyes were held up on supports then you could have an alien. The center character looks more like a standard Muppet character but nothing really makes him stand out. The last character struck my fancy with the goggles and the little black eyes.
With all of the work I had done over the years of designing and building things on my 3D printer the goggles were the right choice for me. Here is what Dexter looked before I painted the goggles. The blue fur really was a great choice too.
Here's a nice close up shot of Dexter with the goggles I hand painted and mounted on his face. The dots of his eyes are nothing more than the felt pads that you use on the bottom of chairs to keep them from scratching a floor. They already have a sticky back on them so it was a simple process to position or reposition the eyes to get the look that I wanted.
Here Dexter is completed all except some clothing that I had not picked out for him when this photo was taken and some hair that I want to use to finishing him off just a bit more. As you can see from this posting I have not gone into every little detail involved in making Dexter. That you can find out more about by taking the class as I did. I am still learning how to make Dexter come to life so to speak as I have only seen photos of Muppets and now I actually own a real one that I can play around with. I know my grandson will go crazy over Dexter and so I have a couple more characters at least that I have in mind to put together to go along with him so the fun has just started.
With all of this in mind I have also put together a short little video (shown below) I call "Dexter's Screen Test". It was a good way for me to see what it takes just to shoot the video and learn how to make Dexter come to life. This little video was a major undertaking and already I have learned that operating a Muppet takes a lot of practice and effort. I give the real Muppet artist a big thumbs up for their mastery of this form of entertainment. So with that in mind please let it be know that this is the very first time I have every tried something like this. No matter what I am having a ball with the process and it looks like I will continue in the weeks, months and years ahead. Enjoy the video!
Click the link above to learn how you can make your own Muppet!
A Last Minute Update!
Dexter has hair! His hair arrived shortly after I put the video together. He looks a lot younger!