Hey everybody! I'm delving into my first stop motion film and have picked up a number of supplies to create latex puppets.

One of the big questions that is still looming in my head though is how am I going to create a mouth flexible enough to make certain mouth shapes or create replaceable mouths for the puppets? I know the possibilities for this are pretty limitless but if any of you guys have examples of some mouths you've created for projects you've worked on that would be a great reference point for me. Thanks!

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My solution for most of my small puppets is, the mouth isn't flexible enough to make clear shapes for different phonemes, but I settle for muppet style gum flapping.   I only have space for a simple loop of wire in each jaw.

This is the "talkiest" mini-film, with basic opening and closing mouths:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRt9ZIX4l5g   It sort of works most of the time, but you can see it has limitations.   In that size of head, and with a fairly realist human shape, I don't know if I could get a lot more shaping.  

With a monkey mouth that wasn't on a bigger head but projected forward a lot more I was able to shape it better, and could do an Oooh sound by opening up the middle and pressing the sides closed.  From above, the mouth was a U shape, rather than a shallow curve like a human mouth, so there was more wire in it.  Not quite the same as real lips stretching forward, but it worked well enough. 

When the mouth is a little bigger, like on my frog puppets, you can do more shaping.  In one case I had 5 loops in each lip, one in the middle, one either side, and one right at the corner of the mouth on each side.  Opening just the middle ones got a suggestion of an O shape.   There's a shot of a green frog going craawwk near the start of this showreel, showing the mouth shape rippling.  that's the 5 loops of wire.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UjUOu-zrRQ   

In another puppet I had just one wire in each jaw, fixed at the sides, but it was zig-sagged so it had a lot more flexibility and stretch.   You could raise a couple of zigs without the bits on either side going up as well, because the wire also zagged back between the zigs... if this makes any sense.  Sorry, I never took any photos.

When I animated Isabel Peppard's silicone puppets for Butterflies, the smaller child character only did simple mouth movements with it's loop of wire, but the larger adult version of the bad guy could actually form some shapes, enough to make the lipsynch look a lot better.  It felt like a single piece of wire, but probably 2 thinner wires twisted together, it was just the wider mouth that gave me room to bend just parts of the wire.  It's the best lipsynch I've ever done.  Sorry again, the film is still in festivals and won't be available for viewing for another 6 months or so.

If mouth shape is really critical, there are always replacement mouths - a lot of work to make a set of them, but along using with clay animation for the mouth, you can get any shape you want.

On a related note, regarding replacement mouths you mentioned, StopMoNick, how would this also work on action figures/dolls/models?

It's mainly the adhereing not the construction i am worried about as some of my figs have a small surface area for the mouth.

There is the super cheap and crappy stick-on paper label method used by Robot Chicken (in the early stuff at least, haven't seen anything after the first half of series 1).
The same thing can be done better, with a smooth area where the mouth would be, and stick-on printed mouths that actually fit the space.
Probably the same thing applies to sculpted mouths, like the sausage mouths that are added on to the surface, you want a smooth area to stick them onto.
For more elaborate mouths you want a hollow space that the sculpted mouths fit into. That way when the mouth opens, there can be a space behond the lips. Sometimes there is a pin to help register each mouth, sometimes it is just the shape of the space, with the back of every mouth cast to fit it exactly.
Sometimes there is a magnet in the head, and a bit of steel in the back of the mouth. Other times I think a bit of plasticine or Sticky Wax is all you need to hold the mouth in place. If you smooth a bit of plasticine around the edges to blend it together, that would probably hold it most of the time.
Action figures are a true 1:6 scale, so the heads are smaller than mine. A friend of mine did shoot a film with true scale 1:6 silicone puppets, and wire in the jaws, but the action was just simple opening and closing like my puppets. I thought it looked ok for the dialog shots though. At that size, replacement mouths are probably the only way to get much shaping for the different phonemes. But I am talking about a method I have read about, but don't actually use myself, so I am not the expert on this.


StopmoNick said:

There is the super cheap and crappy stick-on paper label method used by Robot Chicken (in the early stuff at least, haven't seen anything after the first half of series 1).
The same thing can be done better, with a smooth area where the mouth would be, and stick-on printed mouths that actually fit the space.
Probably the same thing applies to sculpted mouths, like the sausage mouths that are added on to the surface, you want a smooth area to stick them onto.
For more elaborate mouths you want a hollow space that the sculpted mouths fit into. That way when the mouth opens, there can be a space behond the lips. Sometimes there is a pin to help register each mouth, sometimes it is just the shape of the space, with the back of every mouth cast to fit it exactly.
Sometimes there is a magnet in the head, and a bit of steel in the back of the mouth. Other times I think a bit of plasticine or Sticky Wax is all you need to hold the mouth in place. If you smooth a bit of plasticine around the edges to blend it together, that would probably hold it most of the time.
Action figures are a true 1:6 scale, so the heads are smaller than mine. A friend of mine did shoot a film with true scale 1:6 silicone puppets, and wire in the jaws, but the action was just simple opening and closing like my puppets. I thought it looked ok for the dialog shots though. At that size, replacement mouths are probably the only way to get much shaping for the different phonemes. But I am talking about a method I have read about, but don't actually use myself, so I am not the expert on this.

So I've been experimenting lately and I was making a sort of rooster looking puppet. At first I had two small pieces of armature wire for the beak stuck in some epoxy putty. I realized that wouldn't really work so I thought I'd try something else. (I apologize that the images are not rotated correctly. For some reason the website uploaded them at this angle).

So I decided to try and epoxy glue wire to the sides of his head, and then bend the wire in the front to create a beak. This made the rooster look more like a very odd Pelican (and it didn't help that I added a coat of a light orange color for his skin).

But this definitely gave a little bit of flexibility with the mouth! I put epoxy over the two wires and covered that with liquid latex for the color and texture. The wires are also glued right below the eyes with epoxy glue as mentioned above and covered with the liquid latex.

For now I'm going to keep experimenting with different mouths and characters to try and test new things. I appreciate all the feedback on here!

Thanks,

Adam M.

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