Even though I don't have any latex, I went ahead and experimented with making a puppet head armature. It has a core of balsa wood, with twisted 20ga wires for lips, nose, ears and eyebrows (epoxied in), two 16ga wires set into an epoxy putty plug in the neck and covered in a thin layer of epoxy putty. The thing is quite light, and I am hoping the epoxy plugs and covering will overcome any problems with the balsa being too soft to stand up to the stress from bending the wire while animating. The basic shape is very close to the build-up puppet Nick demonstrated on his YouTube site. The image is a bit blurry, but that is because I have to use my laptop's camera. Ignore the large, life-like "dummy" behind the armature. . . .
I have to put the eyebrow and ear wires in yet, I managed to have enough foresite to put holes in the epoxy putty before it hardened. I also have to finish covering the balsa with epoxy putty, but that should be a trivial task (yeah, right, you know how THAT goes!). The eyeballs are fake pearl beads, which I will eventually paint, although they might give it that "je ne cest quois" effect.