Before 1950 most puppeteers performed to local audiences that were typically less than 500 people at one time. With television, millions of viewers could see a puppeteer perform without leaving their homes. Television offered splendid career opportunities for puppeteers and also new challenges. Puppet theatre that travelled from town to town could use the same stories and scripts again and again. Puppets seen on television by millions of viewers on a weekly or daily basis were constantly in need of new scripts and plots, as well as the fabrication of new puppets and new methods of manipulation that could work only in a television studio. Many programme series only lasted a season or two. With a rare combination of talent, luck and public approval occasionally puppet characters became cherished celebrities. There are puppet characters that have performed on television for 30, 40 or 50 years, beloved by successive generations. The longest performing puppet characters have been passed along to different puppeteers, similar to the manner in which successive generations of puppeteers performed Punch or Guignol. Sandman in Germany, Basil Brush in England, Kermit in the United States, Bobinette in Quebec, Canada, are all puppets that have survived the passing of their original creator.
A Brief Overview of Puppets on Television
In 1925, John Logie Baird transmitted the first television image using a ventriloquist’s figure in front of the camera (see Ventriloquism). In the 1930s, experimental television work was done in the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany, and the Soviet Union. The BBC began regular television broadcasts in 1936, but broadcasts were suspended during World War II. In France, Russia and the Soviet Union, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States regular broadcasting began again in the late 1940s. At first transmissions were local, but very quickly national networks were established. In some nations the first broadcasts were the responsibility of State-run radio networks or film studios and were free of commercials. Some approximate years of first regular broadcasts include: Mexico (1950), Canada (1952), Czechoslovakia (1953), Japan (1953), Italy (1954), Germany (1956), Australia (1956), Hong Kong (1957), Nigeria (1959), India (1959), Egypt (1960), Taiwan (1962), Greece (1966), Israel (1966), Turkey (1968), South Africa (1976) …
Frequently, early broadcasts offered programmes for family audiences of children and adults or programmes exclusively for children that included puppetry. In 1952, Canadian television was inaugurated with Uncle Chichimus, an endearing bald-headed glove puppet character created by John Conway. In 1966, the first Greek television channel began its broadcasts with a Karagiozis show by Eugenios Spatharis and these programmes continued until 1992.
Television Technology Evolves
Constant changes in technology brought television to more and more people offering more and more choices of programmes, with steadily improving image quality. At first most programmes were performed “live” in real time. Some early programmes were filmed as kinescopes. In 1957, television stations began recording shows on videotape, and around the same time, in the United States, broadcasting in colour began on a limited basis. The first full colour broadcast service in Europe began in 1967. Early recording equipment was expensive and limited to professional studios. Recording television programmes at home was possible in the 1970s but unusual. Early in the 1980s, home recording became popular, as well as rentals of videotape cassettes. For the puppetry audience in the 1980s it was finally possible to create a home library of work by puppeteers that could be enjoyed again and again. In some countries cable transmission began to replace over-the-air broadcasts, opening up a much larger group of networks to choose from. Changing technologies included satellite transmission, lightweight inexpensive video cameras, very large screens and very small screens on mobile phones, and an important switch from analog to digital transmission, reception and recording (DVD). Computer and Internet technology provided even more alternative ways to transmit and record programmes.
Puppetry Techniques for Television
Styles of puppets used on television include the classic forms of string puppets, glove puppets, rod puppets, and shadow puppets, as well as large costume puppet characters, three-person puppets and stop-action animation. Design styles, materials used in fabrication, and methods of manipulation are quite diverse. Basically, a puppet created for a show in a theatre will be seen from a distance of several metres. In order to conceive and build puppets for television, a technical parameter – the close-up – is essential to this media. In television puppetry, there are distinguishable differences between puppets manipulated directly in front of the camera in an appropriate setting, and those that are manipulated in front of the camera using special effects techniques. A film-making technique sometimes known as a “travelling matte” or “blue screen” was sometimes used for backgrounds for stop-action animation puppetry. This evolved into a television technique that was first called “chroma key compositing”. With the digital technology of the 1980s, this process became even more sophisticated and was known as “green screen”. The puppet manipulators (wearing green) could be erased, and the action of the puppet could be placed in a new setting or background in any location around the world, or an entirely imaginary landscape created by an artist.
Television Puppetry for Adults
It is perhaps unfortunate that television helped to give the false impression that puppetry was only for the amusement and education of children. Puppetry for adults including musical parodies, satire, and political commentary began to appear on television in its earliest years. In the United States, Burr Tillstrom’s Kukla, Fran and Ollie was not intended exclusively for children. It was intended for a family audience, and its subtle humour was enthusiastically enjoyed by many famous artists. Tillstrom’s poignant hand-ballet “The Berlin Wall”, broadcast on January 10, 1964 on the programme That Was the Week that Was, received widespread acclaim. When Jim Henson and Jane Nebel Henson began performing Sam and Friends (1955) on local television in Washington, DC their early work often used parodies of popular songs. In 1975, the Muppets were included in the first season of Saturday Night Live, a late night television show, most definitely not for children. The international success of The Muppet Show (1976-1981), appealing to both adults and children, helped to popularize rod puppets made of latex foam, as well as full costume puppet characters like Big Bird. Also in 1976 Madam, the bawdy puppet creation of Wayland Flowers began to make regular television appearances. In Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-1999, Trace Beaulieu puppeteer), puppets positioned in front of the screening of old science fiction movies would make mocking sarcastic comments on the film.
Cable networks were not bound by rules prohibiting the use of the language of the streets. Thus cable networks could portray sexuality more explicitly. In the United States Crank Yankers (Comedy Central Network, 2002-2007) and in Canada Puppets Who Kill (2002-2006) have almost no similarity to the gentle television puppets of the 1950s.
In Great Britain a show featuring political satire had many international imitators. Spitting Image (ITV UK, 1984-1996), created by Roger Law and Peter Fluck, used latex caricature puppets for biting satire. The first director, Peter Harris, had worked on many episodes of The Muppet Show. The format of Spitting Image was franchised for programmes in the United States, Japan, Portugal and Greece.
Alain Duverne (who had already conceived the puppets from the Bébête show in France, largely inspired by Jim Henson’s programmes) used similar techniques for Les Guignols de l’info (1988-present). Kukly (1994-2001) was a Russian programme in a similar style. Las Noticas del Guignol (1995) was the Spanish version. In Italy The Scoured (2011-2013) produced more than 100 episodes over three seasons on Sky One Network. In 1990, the long running Italian programme Striscia La Notizia developed a large costume figure similar to Big Bird, named Gabibbo, who is extremely popular.
In Melbourne, Australia a puppet satire programme, Rubbery Figures (1986-1990), was created in the studio of political cartoonist, Peter Nicholson. In Latin America the format of a mock news broadcast with puppets was used in 31 Minutos (31 Minutes) on television in Chile from 2003-2008. India has its TV versions of satirizing public figures with puppets: the show, Gustaakhi Maaf, which began broadcasting in 2003 and appears on NDTV, a private television channel, is in both Hindi and English. It is one of the longest running puppet-based political satire shows on television.
In Africa satirical puppet programmes were inspired by Spitting Image and Les Guignols de l’info. Kenya’s XYZ Show (2008) by Godfrey Mwampembwa (Gado), the editorial cartoonist for the newspaper Daily Nation, used puppets to expose mismanagement and corruption. In South Africa in 1997 cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro wanted to try satire with puppets. Jeffery Fineberg (from Spitting Image) created a puppet that was manipulated by Gary Friedman. ZA News (2007) evolved from this project. It was not broadcast on regular television. The episodes may be seen on the ZA News website and on YouTube. For Season 6 it was broadcast on the StarOne channel. In Tunisia Ellougik Essiyasi (Political Logic, 2011) was broadcast on Ettounisya TV. The show uses latex caricature puppets for political satire.
Elsewhere in the Middle East there have been satire shows. In Israel in the 1990s Hartsufim was another Spitting Image style show. Iranians living in London broadcast Shabake Nim on satellite and Syrians in exile have produced a finger puppet series on YouTube featuring a puppet named Beeshu.
Puppets on Television Across the World
Each nation has its own unique history of puppets on television. A comprehensive listing is beyond the scope of this article. Ten counties are here profiled in greater or lesser detail.
United States of America
In the United States from 1947 to 1957 there were more than 25 programmes with puppets broadcast nationally and intended for children. These shows were seen in black and white and broadcast live (videotape came into use in 1957). One of the first artists to work for television in the United States was Burr Tillstrom, the creator of Kukla, Fran and Ollie, a programme aired in Chicago starting in 1947. The show was broadcast nationally 1948-1957 in the early evening attracting an audience of adults as well as children. The Howdy Doody Show was aired 1947-1960. After 1950, Rufus Rose was the unseen marionette operator. Shows from this era, with the year of their first broadcast, included Bil Baird’s Life with Snarky Parker, Captain Kangaroo (1955), Children’s Corner (1955) with Fred Rogers, Shariland (1957) with Shari Lewis, and ventriloquist Paul Winchell had several shows.
During the prime time evening hours puppeteers were seen on “variety” shows and on “specials”. The Toast of the Town, later the Ed Sullivan Show (1948-1971) had over 70 “guest” puppeteers and ventriloquists including Señor Wences (Wenceslao Moreno), numerous appearances by Topo Gigio the Italian mouse puppet, and Jim Henson’s Muppets.
Most viewers, particularly children, were not aware of the distinction between a local programme and a national programme. In the United States there were programmes with puppet characters in Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc., that were enjoyed by local audiences but were unknown to audiences around the country. Jim Henson began his work with puppets on television in 1955 at age 19 producing a show that was known only in Washington, DC. Fourteen years later, in 1969, Sesame Street inspired Muppet-style puppetry for children’s programmes all around the globe. In some countries Sesame Street is dubbed. In an effort to be responsive to cultural differences the producer, Sesame Workshop (formerly Children’s Television Workshop), has co-produced the programme with producers in other countries. Teams are sent to create versions of the programme that use new characters specific to a particular country, language or culture, and local puppeteers operate the puppets (see Jim Henson).
In Czechoslovakia, one of the oldest programmes was Kouzelna Klubicka (The Magic Ball of Wool). The characters Ju and Hele were created by Stanislav Holy and that of Bertik by Ivo Houf, whilst today the puppet František appears in the show Kouzelna Skolka (The Magic Playground).
Regular broadcasting began in 1954 and, in 1963, a second network was added. Currently nine networks are producing programmes. In West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany), the first television programme with puppets was Peter und der Wolf (Peter and the Wolf), produced by the Augsburger Puppenkiste in 1953. In 1959, the same company created the popular Moomin Family. In East Germany (German Democratic Republic), Hans Schroeder (1928-2009) created the popular character, Pittiplatsch, seen on television 1962-1991. Unser Sandmannchen (Little Sandman, 1959-1991) went on the air in the GDR with the Sandman puppet created by Gerhard Behrendt (1929-2006). The Czech puppeteer Josef Skupa and the Russian Sergei Obraztsov both made guest appearances on the show. A different Sandman was created in West Germany in 1962, called Das Sandmannchen. After the reunification of Germany, there was an enormous demand to keep the puppet that told stories every night and then sent the children to bed. In 2009, Sandman celebrated 50 years on television. Another show using puppets, a dubbed version of Sesame Street, was presented in 1973 and, in 1977, the German language Sesamstrasse began production in Hamburg.
Topo Gigio, created by Maria Perego, debuted in Italy in 1959. He was popular on television both in Italy and Spain all through the 1960s. The puppet had a large following in Latin America, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom.
From the early 1960s, puppetry has found a place in Spanish television. Among the vanguard, the Austrian ventriloquist Herta Frankel and her characters Quique and Marilyn the little dog appeared in Fiesta con nosotros (Party with Us, 1962), Amigos del martes (Tuesday Friends, 1963-1964), Vuestro amigo Quique (Your Friend Quique, 1972) and La cometa blanca (The White Comet, 1981-1982). Today her puppets are in Barcelona at the Marionetarium. The Italian Torrebruno hosted a series of children’s programmes – La guagua (The Bus, 1975), El recreo (The Recess Playtime, 1977) and La locomotora (The Locomotive, 1979), and the most popular Sabadabada / Dábadadabada (1981-1984) – which featured sketches with puppets.
In 1976, the Spanish Television Corporation, TVE, introduced the American programme Sesame Street, translating it into Spanish and retitling it Ábrete Sésamo (Open Sesame). Three segments were broadcast in the afternoon targeting 3 to 6 year olds, 6 to 9 year olds, and 9 to 12 year olds, respectively. For its second season (1979-1980) it was renamed Barrio Sésamo (Sesame Street, 1979-1988). The third and fourth iterations featured entirely new domestic productions with independent schemes and guidelines. They were again retitled, Los Mundos de Yupi (The Worlds of Yupi) and Bluki, which ran from 1996 to 2000.
Between 1981 and 1983, a small TV show called El libro gordo de Petete (The Big Book of Petete) was broadcast. Originally an Argentine show, it was translated into Castilian Spanish and was presented by Petete (with the voice of Marí Carmen Goñi), a puppet-penguin who taught children about nature. The 1980s also witnessed the appearance of El Volcán (Volcano, 1984). This educational programme was created by the Catalan puppet company La Fanfarra and featured a mix of actors and puppets. Its catchy theme song included the verse, “El Volcán, el Volcán, sólo quería jugar, pero sin tener a nadie que asustar … ” (The Volcano, the Volcano just wanted to play, but without scaring anyone …) and introduced the title character, a body puppet. Other recurring characters included two magicians – Lapelli and Confetti – and three children called Jonay, Pino and Candelaria, who were in search of the island of San Borondón. Another educational programme which incorporated much music and humour was Los Sabios (The Wise Men, 1984-1986), presented by Andrés Caparrós, Isabel Gemio (credited as Isabel Garví), Silvia Marsó, Miguel Ángel Jenner and the programme’s mascot, Mim. At the same time, El kiosco (The Kiosk, 1984-1986) was presented by Veronica Mengod and the puppet Pepe Soplillo (voiced by José Carabias) and included a section dedicated to drawing.
La bola de cristal (The Crystal Ball, 1984-1988) reflected the spirit of the 1980s, particularly the post-Franco Spanish transition and the cultural and musical movement known as “la movida”. Directed by Lolo Rico, La bola de cristal featured puppet characters known as Los electroduendes – Bruja Avería, Bruja Truca, Hada Vídeo, Maese Cámara and Maese Sonoro (the Breakdown Witch, the Truca Witch, the Video Fairy, Professor Camera and Professor Sound) – each of which had unique abilities. For example, Maese Sonoro (Professor Sound) could hear everything and produce all sounds, while the Hada Vídeo (Video Fairy) could view and project any image she wanted, and the Bruja Truca (Truca Witch) was passionate for cinema and knew all about it. In contrast, the Breakdown Witch had the power to blow things up, including the other “electroduendes”.
During the late 1980s and 1990s, a number of new programmes featuring puppets appeared on Spanish television. In Las Aventuras de Bor (The Adventures of Bor, 1989-1991) the young Bor lived exciting adventures in fantastic places and faced an evil villain. The puppet company Marimba conceived this production. As mentioned above, the third segment of Abrete Sésamo and Barrio Sésamo was Los mundos de Yupi (The World of Yupi) which ran from 1988 to 1989. When their spacecraft breaks down, the extraterrestrials Yupi and Astrako land in a small Spanish village. Both characters succeed in being integrated into the village and its inhabitants keep the secret of their visit.
In a major change, Las Noticias del Guiñol (The Guignol News) took the form of a news bulletin with political humour. It was inspired by Spitting Image of the UK and the French version, Les Guignols de l’info. It was first broadcast on Canal + in 1995 and was picked up by Channel Quatro (Four) in 2005. It ran until 2008, and over its history more than 3,200 editions were aired.
Blukie, the fourth part of Abrete Sésamo and Barrio Sésamo, was initially aired in September 1996. This presented Blukie and three other new characters called Gaspar, Vera and Bubo along with twenty or more human characters, all reflecting a broader racial and cultural diversity. The new programme’s 130 episodes featured real life settings, upbeat musical arrangements and quicker pacing than previously.
In the first decades of the 21st century, new programmes have appeared. Los Lunnis (The Lunnis) was first broadcast by the Spanish Television Corporation, TVE, in September 2003 and by Clan since 2010. The programme is known for its prolific output and the extravagance of its animated characters. The song “Los Lunnis y los niños nos vamos a la cama” (The Lunnis and children go to bed) made the programme very popular. Finally, in keeping with the ventriloquist tradition of Herta Frankel, this form of puppetry has retained a place in Spanish broadcasting, represented by “Mª Carmen y sus muñecos” (Doña Rogelia) and José Luis Moreno (Monchito, Macario and Rockefeller).
In the United Kingdom Muffin the Mule, with puppetry by Jan Bussell and Ann Hogarth (see Hogarth Puppets), was broadcast from 1946 to 1955. Sooty, and the eponymous glove puppet character created in 1948 by Harry Corbett (1918-1989), continued with his son Matthew Corbett (b.1948) as puppeteer. When Matthew retired in 1998, Richard Cadell (b.1969) took on the role. Gerry Anderson developed a puppetry technique that he called “supermarionation” which was used in Supercar (1961), Fireball XL5 (1962), Stingray (1964), Thunderbirds (1965) and Captain Scarlet (1967). In 1962, Peter Firmin created the glove puppet character Basil Brush, brilliantly voiced by Ivan Owen (1927-2000), which appeared on daytime British children’s (and later adult) television. After Owen passed away The Basil Brush Show returned from 2002 to 2007 with a different puppeteer. Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate created several series including The Clangers (1969-1974), set in outer space, and Bagpus (1974). Inigo Pipkin (also known as Pipkins, 1973-1981) featured Hartley Hare, a rod puppet. The Muppet Show (1976-1981) was shot in London and was enormously popular in England. The classic tale by Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, was presented with stop-action puppets by Cosgrove Hall Studios on ITV (1983-1988).
In France, Papouf et Rapaton, created by Raymond Chariaud and Martine Gervais for Télé-Luxembourg, was one of the first creations for puppets on television at the end of the 1950s. Among the “historic” French puppet programmes, there is Claude Laydu’s Bonne nuit les petits (Good Night, Littl’uns), created in 1962 with the characters Nounours, Nicolas and Pimprenelle, and Le Manège enchanté (The Magic Roundabout), created in 1963, and starring little Margote, her dog Pollux with the English accent, and Zébulon, a boy wizard. From the mid 1960s appeared Kiri le clown, created by John Image in 1966. After great success outside of France, André Tahon created the TV show Sourissimo (1969-1970). L’île aux enfants, with Casimir the gentle orange dragon, a large costume puppet by Yves Brunier, appeared in 1974. And there was the programme, Chapi, Chapo of Lonati and Bettiel with music by François de Roubaix, created in 1974. More recently, Rolie, Polie, Olie, a series of French programmes for television broadcast three times a day from 1999 to 2009 for toddlers aged 2 to 5 starring three small, kind, eponymous robots made up of spheres, cones and cubes, is today shown in several countries, and is a Canadian/French/American children’s television series.
Another excellent programme is the French-Belgian series, Téléchat, which won the prize for the best programme for children and young children at Cannes in 1984. This series, which still runs, was created by Roland Topor and Henri Xhonneux with the puppets of Harry Tolsma (based on Topor’s designs). The wacky cast of characters includes Groucha the cat and Lola the ostrich, as well as an abundance of surrealist character-objects – the grouch Gluon du Trou (Gluon Hole), Pub-Pub, Albert the dictionary in two volumes, Giselle the saucepan, Duramou the iron, Brossedur the broom – who all speak, have opinions and give advice on everything, providing the tone of this little absurd world manipulated by the Belgian company of puppeteers, Les Galopins.
The Pili puppets from Taiwan, created by the High Energy Group, have had a major impact on Taiwanese puppet theatre. The High Energy Group, founded in 1970, is directed by Huang Chunghwa, playwright, and Huang Wencheh, “the man of a thousand voices” (see also Huang Hai-Dai). The puppets are fabricated in the purest tradition of Taiwanese puppets. The wood sculptured heads are made by Hsu Binhuan. The costumes are richly embroidered and hand stitched. The virtuoso “glove” manipulation is sometimes complemented with digital imaging. At studios in Hu Wei, in Yun Lin Province, filming can take place outside in a vast garden surrounded by cement mountains that are said to be “more realistic than nature”. There is a permanently installed temple and waterfall, ready to receive the puppets. Inside, all the technical workshops – for the making of the puppets, the sound and the images – and multiple elevated platforms of changeable height allow continuous filming, with scenes placed in advance for several sequences. Several cameras film the scenes simultaneously. The studio lost many puppets in a fire in 2010. The High Energy Group invested more than 195 million Euros in the filming of The Legend of the Sacred Stone.
With all-out branding and marketing (TV production, cinema, shows, broadcast by satellite, branded products, comics, books, VCD, DVD, audio-CD, games, promotion via Internet and a fan club of over 30,000 adherents) and a television audience rate achieving the record of 97%, this genuine social phenomenon gave birth to “pili fashion”, and today it is possible to encounter young girls, dressed like puppets.
Japan’s first TV network, NHK, began broadcasting in 1953. Bunraku was well documented on the NHK programme, Nihon no Dento Geino (Japanese Traditional Performing Arts) from 1990 to 2013. NHK began an educational channel aimed at lower elementary school age children. PUK Puppet Theatre (Ningyō-Gekidan PŪKU) has always had a major role in Japanese television. PUK established Studio Nova in 1970 and began full television progamme production in 1979. The studio has produced more than 200 serialized puppet programmes. In 2013, Studio Nova was actively involved in 10 on-going NHK children’s programmes.
The collaboration of puppeteer Takeda Kinosuke (Kinosuke Takeda, 1923-1979) and artist Tezuka Osamu (Osamu Tezuka, 1928-1989) on a TV puppet series called Ginga Shonen Tai (Galaxy Boy Troop, 1963-1965), running 92 episodes, proved to be a great success. Takeda Kinosuke brought the traditional puppetry skills and artistry learned from his family (also see Takeda Sennosuke) and combined them with a modern graphic style applied to popular science fiction themes. In 1960, Takeda Kinosuke transformed novelist Shinichiro Hoshi’s work into a sci-fi puppet series called Spaceship Silica for the Japanese national channel NHK. The channel had already established a tradition of puppet shows for family viewing, but most of its shows since 1953 had been based on classic novels or traditional tales. The young audience loved Takeda Kinosuke’s space adventures. Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Tetsuwan Atom (known as Astro Boy in the West), published his first “manga” (graphic comic book) in 1946. His prolific artistry was immensely important in the development and international popularity of both manga and the anime style of animation. The technique used by Takeda Kinosuke was similar to the “supermarionation” style developed by Gerry Anderson in the United Kingdom. Takeda returned to science fiction with Aerial City 008 (1969-1970, 230 episodes), a far more ambitious full-colour series. Takeda Kinosuke was consequently named an UNIMA Member of Honour.
The diverse styles of programmes and puppetry on television in Japan include Hakkenden (NHK, 1973-1975, 464 15-minute episodes), a period drama with samurai, a princess, and a ghost-possessed dog. It was popular with both children and adults and inspired a popular anime version in 1990. Hirake Ponkiki (Fuji TV, 1973-1993) was perhaps the most important show on a commercial channel. The main character on the show, a green dinosaur named “Gashapin”, has an enormous popular following.
Kure Kure Takora (Gimme Gimme Octopus, 1972-1974, 260 episodes, each episode 2 minutes and 40 seconds long) is produced by the Toho Company and is broadcast on Fuji-TV. It features a red octopus puppet. Z Bomber (1980-1981) is a marionette “tonkusatu” (special filming) TV series created by manga artist, Nagai Gō (Go Nagai, which also used the “supermarionation” technique. Hotch Potch Station (NHK, 1995-2005), an educational television programme, has been seen in 50 countries around the world. Quintet (NHK, 2003-2013) was a music-themed show, with puppets pretending to perform on instruments. Kasoh Taisho (or Kasou Taishou, NTV 1979-2008) is a semi-annual talent show formatted as a contest among, for the most part, amateurs. Bodies, body parts, props, and scenery play interchangeable roles in illusion-themed short routines that combine techniques of puppetry, object theatre, dance, mime, and kabuki.
Karakurizoshi Ayatsuri Sakon (Doll Puppeteer, Sakon, 1999-2000) is an anime TV series (not a puppet series) about a Bunraku puppeteer named Sakon, who solves mysteries. It was broadcast by satellite to a wide audience. Similarly, Puppet Princess (2001) is also an anime fantasy with puppeteer characters.
Three important stop-action animation puppeteers worked in both film and television and sometimes collaborated. Mochinaga Tadahito (Tadahito Mochinaga, 1919-1999) began his career in 1938. For a time he worked in Manchuria and in Shanghai, China, returning to Japan in 1953. He served as animation director for the American production company, Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc. (also called Videocraft International, Ltd.), famous for its Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). This international artist did work of distinction in Japan, China, and the United States. Japanese puppet designer and maker, screenwriter and animator, Kawamoto Kihachirō (Kihachiro Kawamoto, 1925-2010), created puppets for his short stop-action puppet films which have received numerous international awards. In 1946, he began working in the art department of the Toho film studio. After travelling to Prague in 1963 to study with puppeteer-animator Jiří Trnka, Kawamoto created his first independent film in 1968. For several projects Kawamoto built puppets and collaborated with Mochinaga Tadahito. For a time Kawamoto joined forces with another stop-action animator Okamoto Tadanari (Tadanari Okamoto, 1932-1990). Okamoto had also studied Czech stop action animation with Bretivslav Pojar (1923-2012). In 1972, “Kawamoto and Okamoto Puppet Anime Show” exhibited works together in Tokyo and other cities. He is best known in Japan for creating the vast array of puppets for the historical television series Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1982-1984), made in collaboration with CCTV China, and also Tale of Heike (1993-95). After visiting the puppet festival in Iida (Iida Ningyōgeki Fesuta, Iida Puppet Festa) in 1990, Kawamoto donated 200 puppets that provided the basis for the popular Iida City Kawamoto Puppet Museum. The third Japanese independent animator, Okamoto Tadanari (Tadanari Okamoto, 1932-1990) created 37 short subject films. He worked for Rankin/Bass Productions, and then opened his own studio, Echo, in 1964.
- Baird, Bil. L’Art des marionnettes. Paris, Hachette, 1965. [S]
- Baird, Bil. The Art of the Puppet. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1965.[S]
- Clements, Jonathan, and Motoko Tamamuro. The Dorama Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese TV Drama Since 1953. Berkeley (CA): Stone Bridge Press, 2003.[S]
- Greg (Grego) Dana for information on Japanese television programming.
- Kihachiro Kawamoto: Animation & Puppet Master. Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1994.
- Sharp, Jasper. “Forgotten Roots of Japanese Animation: Masters of Puppets”. Film International. Issue 25, 2007.
- TOPIC for information on Spanish TV programmes.