Today we kicked off the first of a series of speakers we’re bringing in to learn new perspectives from various industries. We had local puppeteer, Bonnie Duncan, give a presentation about her work. Talking about her craft in front of a large group of adult nerds was probably intimidating, but we assured her that we are just as easily amused as children. We learned about the various types of puppetry, from hand puppets to rod-mounted, to shadow and marionettes. It was pretty inspiring watching her transform these strange cloth objects into fully realized characters.
There are many interesting parallels to the challenges we face. Both professions take coordination across a variety of disciplines to produce a finished piece of art and entertainment. We also do a fair bit of puppetry when animating the characters and objects in the worlds we create. She spoke of motivations – it’s more visually compelling if you’re telling a story with the movements. Why is this character walking to the left? He should have a motivation, first pausing to look over, turning his body slowly, and then tangibly deciding to move towards his destination. The animation style is also important – puppeteers face the same "uncanny valley" challenges we do. The closer you approach realism, the perceived realism goes in the opposite direction. This means that, like puppeteers, we must also rely on more expressive animation in many situations because the human mind is more willing to suspend disbelief.
A huge thanks to Bonnie for stopping by and speaking with us!