In 1983, I got to operate a real, screen-used Fraggle. It’s a story I’ve recounted numerous times so I won’t go into detail again (I’m sure I’ve told the story on the podcast at least once) but it was the crowning achievement of my young life at the time. I had been deeply interested in puppeteering since I was able to understand what it was, even designing and building my own characters in a mess of cushion foam, hot glue and butchered ping pong balls.
The love of it never left, but of course real life presents very few opportunities to pursue a hobby as esoteric as this and turn it into a career. Eventually it waned in favor of more productive interests like rock music and dating. Decades later when I would come to make the animations for our cartoon, I constantly found myself pulling on old puppeteer instincts for the character’s performances — in fact owing to the cut-out style animation of our show, the characters are essentially digital puppets.
Now skip to this year of Operation: PUG. The Museum of the Moving Image. The Jim Henson Exhibit. Myself, Jamie and our partners having a lovely time, enchanted by the wonderful displays of the history of Jim’s work. Even being surrounded by Muppets again wasn’t enough to give me the nudge. However… one small area of the exhibit gives visitors the opportunity to see how the Muppets are actually filmed and try it themselves. There’s a camera setup and you can record a short clip with one of the practice Muppet-style puppets on a nearby rack. Jamie was trying it out and after some hesitation I put on one of the excellently-made puppets myself (I later found they are made by Bay State Creature Shop and now have one on the way).
Boom. It all came flooding back. A few seconds with a professionally-made puppet is all it took to snap the instincts into place.
From that moment it wasn’t a question of *if* I was going to do a puppet-based project, but merely what that project was going to be. The next day Jamie and I entertained our partners by brainstorming ideas over breakfast.
That was about four weeks ago. In the time since I got back from NYC I’ve been planning, testing, writing, researching and emailing. Now I can say it’s in pre-production.
Operation PUG Presents: The Oracle.
In a future episode of the cartoon we will meet The Oracle, a strange lizardy creature who functions as Seer for all of the video game world. The premise of the upcoming puppet project is The Oracle opened up the wrong portal and got sucked into our world (a “Reverse Tron” we call it), and has started a YouTube show where he answers questions about video games and general nerd stuff. Shows will be quick 5-ish minute shorts, weekly or bi-weekly depending on schedules.
The image at the top is early concept art for The Oracle. I’m working with an excellent builder who has already iterated wonderfully on my crude scrawl to get the puppet made. Anything hand-crafted like this is going to take time, so we’re looking at starting to shoot mid-January. That gives plenty of time for the writing of scripts, which is all good.
So there. It’s announced. I don’t want to spill all the beans before it’s ready and lots can change between now and launch, but I’m super thrilled to be working on this. Feels like coming home.