Our research of the global history of puppets, led us to find out more about the different types of puppets. We realised that on a global scale, there were famous puppets from different countries around the world. We have researched about puppets from Greece, Italy, The United Kingdom and Australia. We even found out about a very famous puppeteer from America.
- Greece: Karagiozis
- United Kingdom: Punch and Judy, Bill and Ben
- Italy: Pinocchio
- Australia: Mr Squiggle, Agro etc.
- Famous Puppeteers: Jim Henson
Karagiozis is a form of shadow puppetry originating in Greece. Hardly any European countries adopted any style of puppetry, but once the Greeks did, they formed it into their own interpretation and it became independent from all other styles.
Unlike the common puppet show, Karagiozis is performed with only one person manipulating the puppets. But, as there are different characters in the Karagiozis shows, the puppeteer must change his voice to suit the different characters.
Karagiozis gets its name from the main character, while all other characters are based on common Ancient Greek personalities.
It is performed similar to any common shadow puppetry show, with the puppeteer behind a white sheet of cloth, with light shining through so that you can see the silhouette of the character.
The character of Karagiozis is a humpback that represents the weight of the world. One of his arms is three times as long as the other and he has an abnormally large nose.
Most of the performances’ stories revolve around Karagiozis trying to get money by impersonating various wealthy people such as: a sea captain, a prophet, a doctor and an icon painter. Most of his schemes are thwarted.
In Karagiozi’s shows, there is the sultans’ palace on one end of the screen and Karagiozis’ shack on the other. This represents prosperity and poverty of the land.
United Kingdom: Punch and Judy
This article is to inform you about Puppets originating from England and the puppets mentioned are well known around the world. They have had an impact on our society and here they are…
I have found that “Punch and Judy”, though known of by many, very few people know what these hand puppets are all about. Personally, I have never seen a "Punch and Judy" show, so I assumed that it was Punch, who would beat his wife, but after I had researched the topic, I found that it was Judy who would beat her husband.
The shows were at their peak in the 1840s and were performed at street fairs, at the back of wagons and in booth stages made especially for puppet shows.
The name "Punch" suggested to me that he would beat his wife. The stereotype that men beat women is common, but incorrect. It is not only men who use violence as a form of power. Violence is sometimes used by the women too, against men or other females. In the time of “Punch and Judy”, such violence was common and entertaining. Today, some video-games and movies are blamed as bad influences which turn children to a life of crime and violence with their gore and brutality. However, in some Punch and Judy shows, the characters have; dropped babies out of windows; beat others with a slapstick and have done many other things that would be banned from television today.
Punch often asks for a kiss from his wife but she declines, they repeat this until Mr. Punch gets his kiss. Punch is also a murderer, who often beats or kills his enemies (crocodile, devil, witch etc.) Such behaviour is unacceptable and would be banned from television if it was shown with the same levels of violence, bad parenting and sexism as it was in the late 1840s.
These shows are still shown today but less often. You might occasionally see a busker with a puppet booth on the street or a puppeteer at a fair, with Punch and Judy shows, so they are still performed today, but less frequently.
Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men
Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men are two popular British puppets. They were created by Hilda Brabben who based the characters around her two brothers, William (Bill) and Benjamin (Ben), hence the puppet’s names. Other characters in the series included their neighbour Little Weed who was also based one of Brabben’s family members, her younger sister, Phyllis.
For those who are less familiar with the world of Bill and Ben here is an accurate description that will update you:
Hilda Brabben wrote three episodes for a BBC radio series that revolved around these characters in 1951. Later, Freda Llingstrom and Maria Bird developed it into a TV series which arrived on 12th December 1952 as a section of the “Watch with Mother” television strand. The show ran until 1970 and was the basis of many supplementary materials such as books etc.
Bill and Ben speak in a strange language of their own called “Oodle-Poodle” which comprises of mainly the word ‘flobbadob’ and variations on that. Little Weed can only say her own name in a squeaky, high pitched tone.
There is quite an interesting story behind the ‘oodle-poodle’ language, but it was later proved to be untrue. It went like this:
When the real-live Bill and Ben, William and Benjamin Brabben were having a bath when they were toddlers and they accidentally passed wind, it said that Hilda would scold them in a way that sounded she was saying ‘flobbadob.’ Funny story, but as I said it was later proved untrue.
Actually, ‘flobbadob’ in the word ‘flowerpot’ translated into ‘oodle-poodle’ by Peter Hawkins, who voiced Bill and Ben. Each episode he would be given a script in English which he would change to ‘oodle-poodle.’
After the show ended 30 years ago, it recently was revamped with clay animation replacing puppetry.
Pinocchio is one of the most famous puppets. He is from Italy and made from wood, by Geppetto (a character in the story of Pinocchio). Of course he wasn’t a real life puppet at first; he was only made after the book first came out. Pinocchio became world famous when Disney made a movie out of the story, but they changed a lot of it.
Pinocchio was originally written by Carl Lorenzi who in 1860 first used the pen name Christopher Collodi. He was born in 1826 and in 1883 it was published in book form by Felice Puggi which is a Florentine publisher that mainly specializes in children's literature. 1892 was the year it was first published in English.
Pinocchio did not start out as a book it started out as a story in a newspaper where a little bit more was told every day or week. The problem with the Disney version of the story is that they over-simplified it. They made Pinocchio come across as a loveable puppet but in the original story he was really a bratty little puppet that needed to be taught a lesson.
If you have never read the original version only the Disney one you would probably think it is a story for little children, but the original is a much darker story and really a story for all ages.
Puppets are rare on Australian television. Most well known puppets for children were:
- Mr. Squiggle
- Agro and
- The puppets of Feral TV
Ossie Ostrich and Dicky-Knee who were also puppets were aimed at an older audience.
Dicky-Knee and Ossie Ostrich were from a show called Hey, Hey it’s Saturday. Ossie Ostrich was a life sized puppet, he was bright pink and Ernie Carroll was the puppeteer for him. Dicky-Knee was a puppet who quite simply was a head on a stick. His voice and Ossie’s was done by John Blackman.
One puppet which every Australian child loved was Mr. Squiggle. He was a marionette with a pencil for a nose. He lived on the moon and loved to turn children’s squiggles (which were sent in) into pictures. Often the pictures were upside down because the puppeteer who controlled him is looking down at it. When this happened Mr. Squiggle would say “upside down! Upside down!” and turn it the right way up. He also had friends- Blackboard (a blackboard), Gus (a snail) and Bill (a steam shovel).
Agro was the host of a show called Agro’s Cartoon Connection. He was mean tempered and rude. His voice was by Jamie Dunn. Agro’s Cartoon Connection was on Channel 7 weekday mornings.
On Feral TV there are four Ferals, Mixy the rabbit, Derryn the dog, Rattus the rat and Modigliana the cat. They try to create award winning TV shows with disastrous results. They are usually sabotaged by Rodney the cockroach who is constantly trying to be liked but he would never be part of the gang. They are rod puppets.
Photo by Sasha Davas
Famous Puppeteers: Jim Henson
Jim Henson was born on the 27th September 1936 in Greenville, a small town in Mississippi. He is a fantastic puppeteer, who has achieved some great things in his life. Probably one of his greatest feats was creating the Muppets, and later Sesame Street.
Henson created rod puppets which were originated in America, and were made mostly out of hard, but still squishy foam and other textured fabrics to enable them to express a wide range of emotions. He used rods to move his muppets’ arms which allowed greater control of expression. The Muppet Show first appeared on September 1976 and ran for five seasons (120 shows). This show included the famous muppet Kermit the Frog who also appears on Sesame Street. Sesame Street is still running after thirty seven seasons.
Some of Henson’s most successful puppets include; Elmo, Kermit the Frog and Big Bird. Here are some interesting facts about Elmo: He was born on the third of February and is three and a half. He was originally called “Baby Monster”.
Big Bird is eight feet tall, has appeared on the cover of Time Magazine (November twenty-third, 1970) and in an American postage stamp. Kermit the Frog is the logo of Jim Henson Productions. In 2002, Kermit the Frog had a star placed for him on Hollywood’s walk of fame, and has also met Queen Elizabeth II.
Jim Henson has directed some movies including; The Dark Crystal and The Labyrinth, two slightly unusual fantasy movies with a cast almost entirely of puppets. He has also produced various Muppet style movies including; The Muppet Movie Elmo in Grouch land, Muppet in Space, The Muppets take Manhattan and a few smaller style movies.
Many of Henson’s creations have received awards. Sesame Street has won the following: one hundred and one Emmies, two Peabody’s, four Parent’s Choice Awards and An Action for Children's Television Special Achievement Award
Although he has had a very successful career with creating and operating puppets, Mr. Jim Henson of Greenville Mississippi died at the age of fifty-three, due to a severe case of pneumonia on May the sixteenth 1990.