I'm in the process of designing a new puppet, and I'm interested in including an eyelid mechanism. I was just wondering if there is a commonly-used method, or if any of you have any experience with such things. It occurred to me that the ParaNorman DVD or book might include a similar technique, but because both of those are on my Christmas list, I can't buy them at the moment. Are those indeed posable, or are they replacement eyelids? Thanks, guys.

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Here you can (sort of) see how they did it - if you look really really fast! 

It looks like the eyelids are just thin plastic shells that sandwich between the eyeball and the head block, probably just held by tension. I don't know exactly how the eyeball itself is attached (I've watched this clip probably a few dozen times now, pausing multiple times all the way through, but never really paid much attention to the eyes) - it looks like those shells together cover nearly all the surface of the eye around back when all the way open, so I'm guessing each eye is held in with a single screw right in the center back. Not entirely sure, but I think the iris part is just stuck to the ball with a thin layer of vaseline so it can be slid around or replaced with the Umbrella Corp issue octagonal irises that feature so prominently in this film and Coraline. So the eyeballs themselves don't rotate around, they'd be solidly fixed. 

Most amateurs don't do anything so technical - generally they'll just apply little pieces of plasticene only when needed - maybe three different sets - a third of the way closed, 2 thirds, and then fully closed, and you cycle through them forward and back for each blink. 

Ok, a bit more complicated than I thought. I can see two little swivel hinges of some kind behind the eyes and it looks like they each have a little hole in them, pointed down before the eyeballs are inserted. I guess the eyes are each held onto those with a single screw. Then there are some big white hinges for the upper and lower lids to attach to - or maybe the bottom ones just cradle the lids/eyeballs and provide constant upward pressure to keep them from slipping? Hard to tell. 

You might want to try this - sometimes we're lucky and get Laika people in here to answer questions, but you need to get their attention first. As the thread starter, you can still edit your post using the little box at the top that says Options. Click on Edit Discussion, and change the thread title to something like Posable Eyelids in ParaNorman. Then if you're not on the Naughty list you just might get a little stocking stuffer from someone who actually worked on the puppets. No promises though of course. 

I visited Cosgrove Hall years ago and saw what they used for the Wind in the Willows puppets. The eyelids were thin metal shells that fit in between the eyeball and the latex socket. They had a small pivot on each side, and a thin raised edge so you could pull them closed with your fingers.
I did a simpler version, vac formed plastic shells that just floated freely, and that worked just as well. I made a few eyelids just by heatind some styrene sheet, then quickly pressing it onto a marble with a piece of metal tubing that was a little bigger than the marble.
Later I just made replacement plasticine eyelids, and sometimes I just paint the blinks in post, usually in TV Paint but Photoshop does it just as well.

Those free-floating eyelids didn't shift as you animated?


Thanks for the replies, by the way, fellas.

No, I seem to remember the eyeball rotated against the inside of the eyelid more easily than the eyelid slid against the foam latex around it.  So the eyes could look around and the lids would stay still.  But when I did a blink I had to make sure the eyeball stayed where I wanted it.

Isabel Peppard made sets of silicone replacement eyelids for all her puppets in Butterflies - here is a crop from 3 frames.  The same eyelids could be re-used over and over, which made them better than my plasticine eyelids.  A db of petroleum jelly was enough to stick them on.  There is a pair of thin upper lids there in the first frame, and there was another pair even thiner so she could open her eyes wider in surprise.  Isabel actually put eyelashes on them, so there could never be no eyelids at all.  Sometimes, when the eyes had to look to the side, an eyelid would fall off and I had to put it back on.  Usually I could replace it perfectly, but if not, I could do a blink so you wouldn't see it shift in one frame only.

I think I might consider silicone replacement eyelids.  I just thought building an mechanism might be an interesting challenge, but I'm having trouble finding enough examples to be confident.  I could give it a shot, anyhow, I suppose.  After all, stop motion requires a great deal of trial and error.  I'll post something if I make any progress.  Thanks again!

Normans head looks pretty complicated. Here is an exploded view that allows you to scrub slowly into the mechanisms. Looks to me like the lids are fixed inside the head. With a total of 9000 facial expresions you would need three times as many lid positions to match each upper and lower face. So the lids just rotate around.

http://paranorman.com/#open/norman-exploding-head

I use a thin wire shaped around the eye with a very small piece of pantyhose attached to it. The other side of the panty I stick to the arcade below the eyebrow. Moving the wire makes the eye blink. Because of the flexibility of the fabric and the colours in comes in it looks very realistic. Not as smooth as Norman but smoother than the girl-puppet above. Placing the fabric is very delicate, but so are most things in puppetmaking. I only use upper eyelids though.

I can't provide you with a photo just now. My files are locked up in a crashed computer. But I'll be building a new puppet soon, and will be sharing pics.

Greats Jowanneke

I read an article yesterday that said that they used a 3D printer and printed out every variation and did replacement animation. Pretty damn cool, if you've seen those things work. 

Article

Wow, that's nifty! 

Sometimes I get the feeling the puppet heads are deliberately made so complex just because they can be. That's not a negative at all. I think it's great that the artists designing the mechanisms are challenging themselves just as much as the animators themselves.


Steve Copeland said:

Normans head looks pretty complicated. Here is an exploded view that allows you to scrub slowly into the mechanisms. Looks to me like the lids are fixed inside the head. With a total of 9000 facial expresions you would need three times as many lid positions to match each upper and lower face. So the lids just rotate around.

http://paranorman.com/#open/norman-exploding-head

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