Hi Guys,

I am new hear and fairly new to stop motion. I wanted to get some advice on something I tried to scan this website for but couldn't really find what I am looking for. I wanted to get some advice on how to construct a stuffed puppet that is similar to Tsuneo Goda, who created Domo. He is a Japanese stop motion artist who operates Dwarf Studio's in Japan. I wanted to make a stop motion about my 2 dogs in this particular style but cannot find information on how to put a stuffed puppet together. I think I understand what type of materials you would use, but its the actual structure for it that is confusing me. I tried googling it but it always showed examples of people just putting wire etc into stuffed animals which is not what I want, i would actually like to see if i could get a armature made etc but need to understand what i would need etc :)

Has anyone made one of these puppets before?

Any type of information o this would be great and appreciated 

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If I were to make a puppet like that I would build the armature (either wire or ball and socket would work) then add hard foam or balsa wood to the head, torso, and limbs so that you have hard blocks to grab onto while animating.  Fill in the gaps with clipped foam - something like upholstery foam would work.  To finish it off either sew the costume or glue it on depending on how you want the finish to look.

It seems like a pretty standard puppet, just make sure your materials are lightweight and that you have good tie-downs in the feet and possibly some rigging points where needed.

Wow thank you so much for the reply!! I really appreciate you taking the time to reply back!

Yeah i have done a little research and saw people using foam which I never thought you could use 

I would have to order a special armature from the UK as I am in Australia, and I don't know of anyone who makes them here who is contactable anymore. Im looking to get one bulky one and one slender type one for 2 different breeds of dogs :) 

Adam Taylor said:

If I were to make a puppet like that I would build the armature (either wire or ball and socket would work) then add hard foam or balsa wood to the head, torso, and limbs so that you have hard blocks to grab onto while animating.  Fill in the gaps with clipped foam - something like upholstery foam would work.  To finish it off either sew the costume or glue it on depending on how you want the finish to look.

It seems like a pretty standard puppet, just make sure your materials are lightweight and that you have good tie-downs in the feet and possibly some rigging points where needed.

How long is the animation going to be?  Is it going to be a natural style of animation on 1s ala Laika or 2s ala Aardman?  If you are going for 2s and the film isn't too long you can save a lot of money and make some wire armatures.  If you are going cartoony, wire is great there too.

Best not to just put the armature into the stuffed animal.  You build it up by starting with the armature - whether it is ball and socket, or aluminium armature wire - build up the body shape with sheet foam, glued and carved with scissors, then put the fabric covering over it. 

The only difficulty might be if it is very chubby, like soft toys tend to be.  Thick sections are harder to bend than thin ones. A fat belly might benefit from having spaces between the foam blocks so it can more easily expand and contract when the puppet bends at the waist.  Then the surface covering can cover over those gaps.  Sometimes just cutting slits is enough, so it can open out without having to stretch the foam too far, it will compress well enough without actual spaces in between.

Looking at images of Tsuneo Goda's characters, the bodies are not too thick, the main issue is that the heads are very large, so you need to keep them light weight.  Sometimes I have a little piece of pine with the neck wire epoxied into it (so it is strong), then build up the bulk of the head with Balsa wood or even polystyrene foam.  But the foam is not attached directly to the armature, the wire would easily tear it and pull out.  If there are mouth wires, or ear wires, they attach to the small block of wood in the centre that has the neck wire in it.  They can go through the styrene or foam padding, but don't depend on that weak stuff to anchor them.

Adam's advice sounds good for this type of character.

This is a skinny body with a small head,  so it looks nothing like the characters you want to make.  But it may still help illustrate how all the wires are anchored, and the body shape is built up over the armature.  There are many other puppet makers with their own variations on this basic technique.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbF6m3BeGUQ&t=2s

Hi StopMoNick,

I have actually seen your video before in our animation class at Griffith. Michael Linhart showed us. I was wondering if you could except my friend request so i would be able to email you some questions about foam etc, its actually funny, i actually thought of the idea that you said about having the middle section sort of 'vacant' or springy to have that bend etc, which is great because i feel like i dont know what im doing haha. I am wanting to purchase armatures for the leg sections of the dogs im wanting to make. I kinda have some rough sketches of my Lab dog that i want to make, who is a really fat round stumpy character and my other dog is a white German Shepard who is quite tall and slender, but haven't really done some sketches i like yet of her. I'm really worried about the armature because, I wanted to use wire, but since they are that stuffed type look etc, I was worried about the wires breaking within the characters and it being a mission to try and get inside and fix them. But like i said, i have no idea what im doing, ive researched a whole bunch of stuff but kind of not sure what to do with the information. Do you have any suggestions on 'where to begin'? I know thats a broad question, but sometimes its very hard to start.

StopmoNick said:

Best not to just put the armature into the stuffed animal.  You build it up by starting with the armature - whether it is ball and socket, or aluminium armature wire - build up the body shape with sheet foam, glued and carved with scissors, then put the fabric covering over it. 

The only difficulty might be if it is very chubby, like soft toys tend to be.  Thick sections are harder to bend than thin ones. A fat belly might benefit from having spaces between the foam blocks so it can more easily expand and contract when the puppet bends at the waist.  Then the surface covering can cover over those gaps.  Sometimes just cutting slits is enough, so it can open out without having to stretch the foam too far, it will compress well enough without actual spaces in between.

Looking at images of Tsuneo Goda's characters, the bodies are not too thick, the main issue is that the heads are very large, so you need to keep them light weight.  Sometimes I have a little piece of pine with the neck wire epoxied into it (so it is strong), then build up the bulk of the head with Balsa wood or even polystyrene foam.  But the foam is not attached directly to the armature, the wire would easily tear it and pull out.  If there are mouth wires, or ear wires, they attach to the small block of wood in the centre that has the neck wire in it.  They can go through the styrene or foam padding, but don't depend on that weak stuff to anchor them.

Adam's advice sounds good for this type of character.

This is a skinny body with a small head,  so it looks nothing like the characters you want to make.  But it may still help illustrate how all the wires are anchored, and the body shape is built up over the armature.  There are many other puppet makers with their own variations on this basic technique.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbF6m3BeGUQ&t=2s

28534637_10155501724078251_1796761976_n.jpg

28459009_10155501724058251_1029468780_n.jpg

Sorry forgot to post the images, there a work in progress. I would like to have the mouth sort of like a muppet style (not sure how else to explain it) but having the top section of the mouth being able to come down and fully close off the inside of the mouth. Sorry if I am confusing 


Erin Mills said:

Hi StopMoNick,

I have actually seen your video before in our animation class at Griffith. Michael Linhart showed us. I was wondering if you could except my friend request so i would be able to email you some questions about foam etc, its actually funny, i actually thought of the idea that you said about having the middle section sort of 'vacant' or springy to have that bend etc, which is great because i feel like i dont know what im doing haha. I am wanting to purchase armatures for the leg sections of the dogs im wanting to make. I kinda have some rough sketches of my Lab dog that i want to make, who is a really fat round stumpy character and my other dog is a white German Shepard who is quite tall and slender, but haven't really done some sketches i like yet of her. I'm really worried about the armature because, I wanted to use wire, but since they are that stuffed type look etc, I was worried about the wires breaking within the characters and it being a mission to try and get inside and fix them. But like i said, i have no idea what im doing, ive researched a whole bunch of stuff but kind of not sure what to do with the information. Do you have any suggestions on 'where to begin'? I know thats a broad question, but sometimes its very hard to start.

StopmoNick said:

Best not to just put the armature into the stuffed animal.  You build it up by starting with the armature - whether it is ball and socket, or aluminium armature wire - build up the body shape with sheet foam, glued and carved with scissors, then put the fabric covering over it. 

The only difficulty might be if it is very chubby, like soft toys tend to be.  Thick sections are harder to bend than thin ones. A fat belly might benefit from having spaces between the foam blocks so it can more easily expand and contract when the puppet bends at the waist.  Then the surface covering can cover over those gaps.  Sometimes just cutting slits is enough, so it can open out without having to stretch the foam too far, it will compress well enough without actual spaces in between.

Looking at images of Tsuneo Goda's characters, the bodies are not too thick, the main issue is that the heads are very large, so you need to keep them light weight.  Sometimes I have a little piece of pine with the neck wire epoxied into it (so it is strong), then build up the bulk of the head with Balsa wood or even polystyrene foam.  But the foam is not attached directly to the armature, the wire would easily tear it and pull out.  If there are mouth wires, or ear wires, they attach to the small block of wood in the centre that has the neck wire in it.  They can go through the styrene or foam padding, but don't depend on that weak stuff to anchor them.

Adam's advice sounds good for this type of character.

This is a skinny body with a small head,  so it looks nothing like the characters you want to make.  But it may still help illustrate how all the wires are anchored, and the body shape is built up over the armature.  There are many other puppet makers with their own variations on this basic technique.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbF6m3BeGUQ&t=2s

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