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Behind Puppet Planet

It took a year from the word "go" to completion, there were some changes along the way, and almost every drawing or idea I came up with was used in the end, but writing Puppet Planet was a dream come true. After Puppet Mania was accepted by a much older audience than at first expected I knew that in this book I could let go of a few secret techniques that were a little bit difficult but could make more professional looking puppets. I had developed them over years of trial and error and it feels good now to know I've passed on some information that can help puppeteers be more creative.
Puppet Planet Cover When I first started the process of coming up with projects for this book I dug down deep into my puppet picture drawer and opened up my old puppet trunks to see what I was making when I was a kid. This is where I felt I would find the projects that might inspire young puppeteers. Because I had no restrictions, I began looking at early drawings and characters to see what caught my imagination. I could pick up where I left off on an idea that I had when I was 10 or go off on a new thought with only a performance technique in mind.
John and Ed Lucas with Puppets I made these puppets when I was a student at Brentwood Elementary in Plainfield, Indiana. My best friend Ed and I made it into the local paper because we were to peform at the school talent show. The white looking puppet (second on the left) became the pattern for the Podium President.
Stocking Strongman I made a puppet from stuffed stockings when I was in high school. I added a mechanism for blinking the eyes by means of a bent coat hanger and small stocking pieces stretched over the wire and sewed to the brows. My editor, David Oeters, felt that this puppet was much too scary to put in the book and he had an idea of incorporating a strong man as a movement coach for each project. This soft sculpture approach to puppet making transformed him into the Stuffed Stocking Strongman.
John and Pig There was no title for the book when I started. My publishing company, Northlight Books, comes up with the title once most of the projects are in place so most of the motivation for the puppets come directly from experimenting with puppet materials and performing when I was a youngster. I just keep my honest, original perspective on what kept my drive for puppetry alive and the stories behind the puppets write themselves. I have had a lot of adventures while performing my puppets. I could do a whole book just on crazy things that have happened to me during a show. I've had puppets pulled from my hands, I've been pelted with quarters by a group of board teenagers, and have had a puppet accidentally nailed to my hand.
Foam Sculpted Gobblin One of the techniques I am most excited about sharing is the foam sanding technique. I spent most of my career trying to smooth out foam by snipping with scissors but the result was always bumpy. In 1992 I tried making my own sanding discs for my grinding tool and was blown away by the results. I knew I had something special and set out to make a bunch of new puppets.
John Building Puppets Doing the photo shoot is hard because you have to have all of the projects ready in steps for the camera to photograph. If you look at the photos you'll see every shot has my hands in it. That's because I had to make each puppet in real time for the camera. What you see on the cover of the book are puppets that I made the week of the photo shoot. Now that's pressure.
Puppet Planet Display Once the book was finished I decided to get some pictures for publicity. I enlisted some of my friends at the Central Florida Puppetry Guild to help me put on a workshop and show for the Orlando Repertory Theatre. In one night we built all of the puppets for the show which we performed for the opening performance of one of the ORT's plays. Later all the puppets joined an exhibit which stayed at the ORT for a month.
John and Pink Puppet I would like to thank North Light Books, the Orlando Repertory Theatre, and the members of the Central Florida Puppetry Guild for helping in the release of Puppet Planet and making one kid's dreams come true.