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Having trouble getting any Wannabe Pirates work done, so I figured I'd try working on something different to see if I can get myself back in the groove.

This is something I've wanted to do for awhile.

Started working on the first of two character models for it:

Click to view attachment
Nice! He looks like one of the muppets.
If you had said it was an actual Muppet, I would have believed it. Great stuff, Mark!
me too
He looks great Mark! smile.gif
You always make great characters!
Paul Forwood
Looks like the genuine article. Reporter or sleuth?
Thanks, guys!

Well, obviously for brand reasons, you can't call him a Muppet, but the idea is to treat the characters like a mix of marionettes and puppets, which is where the Muppets get their name. Of course, in this case it'll just be a simulation of a marionette/puppet.

I've been obsessing for months about the idea of animating puppets. Puppets can be more "animated" in their performances and they aren't as complex and subtle in their movements as people are. The bar for "realism" with puppets is significantly lower. :-)

He's the former, Paul. I haven't completely committed to it being entirely black and white, but I know at least part of it will and I want to see if I can achieve some film noir with it. I may desaturate the non-b&w parts so that just a touch of color is there.

I'm thinking of this as part proof-of-concept. The goals are to see if I can accomplish simplifying the animation process by using puppet-models and also see if I can get a more polished look.

The short should be around 4 minutes long.
fun fun fun
We have to feed our creative souls, smile.gif and hes a fun charterer Mark.
I bet you could use Luuk's AMTrak to mocap the puppeting... put some markers on your hand and shoot that.
Great looking character, love the render.

What are you using, doing to get the felt look?

Awesome Mark, Love puppets (Hell i have a puppet on Epic Gamin'). I'll be keepin' my eye on this.
Thanks, everybody!

Robert, unfortunately A:M Track is still Windows only. I fear my Windows installation for Parallels won't work after losing the last hard drive since Windows will inevitably think it's another machine and all the license info is in storage.

Nancy, the felt look is simple noise via the Surface settings. The hat and coat use the ToonNation->Joyce attribute.

Great looking character mark!
like the rest thought it was a muppet
very cool
Thanks, guys!

While working on the characters for that short animation, I decided just to go ahead and play with the idea on the Wannabe Pirates site. Since I wasn't getting anywhere with new pages, I decided I'd try out these ideas on the strip and see if anything comes from it. So far, it's been a nice shot in the arm.

Part of the fun is that I can create the characters quickly enough that I can do anything on a whim. Tomorrow's strip features a parody of the old Captain America theme song:

Click to view attachment

Now that is just too cool!

I think you are on to something here. smile.gif

Edit: My only suggestion would be to tone down the specularity over all so that the entire character doesn't look of plastic. Of course if something is suppose to be plastic... specularize the heck out of it! The words 'matte finish' come to mind but I'm not sure if that's what I mean. Anyway... Press on... press on!

Disregard all of this... you are doing great. Scoot on down to the next post for more praise...
Dude... I was just reading back.
You are out-muppeting the Muppets!
(Is that possible?)

You had me laughing out loud.

When it comes to humor... I need some of whatever you have.
Thanks, Rodney! I am having a lot of fun with this. So nice to be freed from the pressures that I was feeling on the Wannabe Pirates.
Man you really hit the target. I don't know if its AM or your skills or both but I am extremely impressed with these results. Seasamy street does some cg, not a whole lot. I watch it a lot because of my daughter. I may be mistaken but I have never seen muppets that look this photo real on the show before.

I guess because they are not human to begin with they get a free pass on the uncanny Valley.

Your choice of materials, lighting and modeling looks perfect.

This may sound far fetched and you may not be interested but if you put together a portfolio of more muppets like this and more of a range in characters that still maintain the classic Gym Henson style. and animate 2 shorts both 30 seconds or less that represents Sesame streets values of education and child entertainment.

I would be willing to bet I could get you a meeting with a producer for them so you could be contracted to make short segments for the show.

Their biggest issues is turnaround time, cost and content quality. They are extremely hesitant to move away from the classic 70/80's look and feel of the show.

I have another idea that would raise eyebrows over there. Make your set and story appear to take place in classic 70s/80's set along with the classic clothing and colors from that error.

This idea will sell for 3 reasons

1. the 80's are so hot right now.
2.People love when something new is juxtaposed against something old. Sometimes people refer to this as a variation on a theme. This stuff is Gold. The Writer Joss Weden is really good at this.

For example Buffy the vampire Slayer was taking the old theme of the attractive, classic, blond, dumb, scream, queen who runs from the monster only to trip fall and then be killed. He took the same concept and turned it upside down. Now the Attractive blond was chasing the monster and she is not so dumb and he is very scared.

In our case the fact that this is CG and not live action but still looks real and set in the look and style of 80's of Gym Henson Sesame street is the perfect combo. We would definitely want to model and animate in all the flaws that they take out now a days like the thin wirey dowel like controls for the real life puppet arm and hand movements. To decrease animation time and increase realism of the original puppet tears puppetry in our cg we could rotoscope some classic spots from typical episodes of the 80's. We would want to pay close attention to the limitations in the movements of the old puppets and try and duplicate that in our animation. The result would look look extremely appealing and unique but allow us to push the envelope by injecting capabilities that they didnt have in the 80's
If we held a golden rule that we approached this "as if we were of the 80's, existed in the 80's but had the budget and technology of the future dropped in our lap what would the passed create with the power of the future.

Richard donner did this same thing in the recut of Superman 2 the richard donner cut, where they added a number of new special effects scenes but still maintained the old 80's look and feel but were able to push the envelope because shots like this would have cost millions in the 80's.

3. reason is we can do these segments for really cheep but while still maintaining production value. Currently a lot of work is shipped to factories in Kerea and china. They put out a lot of crap very fast. It rarely looks this good. But they are cheep. From what i have heard its something like 25 cents to 55 cents per frame of CG @24fps for a 22 minute show. Basically $8-$16k per episode. That is for very templated shows where lighting is basically ambiance on everything. and very few scenes with even a reflection.

Shows like sesame street and Yo Gabba Gabba love bumpers. Little 15 to 30 second very simple, yet visually stimulating and hopefully educational shorts to pepper throughout the program.

I can almost guarantee I could get us work doing 15 to 30 second spots if we kept the budject to $1000.00 per segment or below.

I know that does not seem like much but after we get the initial sets and characters made the remaining work for the year would be marely putting those charactors and sets together and animating them.

An episode can be as simple as a character counting or saying the alphabet. Kids love interaction. another segment could be the character conversing with the viewer talking about subjects like near and far, tying shoes, watering plants, Saying the cow goes mooo!!, explaining how water turns into snow, how to treat animals like the dog and cat gently, explaining time outs for bad behavior.

If you are interested in pursuing this together I would like to move forward. This could really work. Eventually we could get the entire hash community contributing for low pay like a Chines factory.

Its all about volume, the more we can do in less time while maintaining a set level of quality increases the pay for everyone.

Give me a call if you would like to have a meeting on this subject. My number is on the contact page of

I am guessing I could get us 3-6 segments per episode 15-30 seconds per segment @ about $30.00 per second.

We could generate $20k-$80k per year based on 13 episodes per year.
Thanks, Jason!

Wow, I'm impressed with your entrepreneurial spirit, but coming up on my 44th birthday, I don't think I'm up to trying to compete with Korean sweatshops. :-) I don't have the energy I had when I was in my 20s. Hopefully, I'll find something where *I* get to farm out the work.

It's interesting to me how pervasive the Muppets are. I'm creating puppets, but like Kleenex, people think all puppets are Muppets. I recall seeing a 60 Minutes story about the Muppets from back in the days when the TV show was on and they pointed out that even though Hollywood would normally generate a slew of counter-puppet shows to cash in on the Muppet's success, they weren't doing it because it was far too expensive to do. Like Apple with the iPad, Jim Henson's company was already too far ahead of the curve. The Muppet Show was being funded by a wealthy guy in the UK.

I think pursuing the Muppets for work would be counter to what I'm doing. It would be saying that all puppets are Muppets and I don't agree with that anymore than saying all cartoon characters are Looney Tunes or that all CGI films are Pixar movies.

I'm also really aware that I have a limited time ahead of me and I want to work on independent projects that excite me. I want to toss around some of the ideas I've had over the years and explore them and see if I can come up with something I can market effectively and something that I'll have a passion for. The puppet format allows me to do them quickly. (Henson went into puppetry for the same reason. He wanted to do animation, but the process was too time-consuming. Puppets were faster.) And yes, puppets aren't human, so they stay firmly on the friendly side of the Uncanny Valley.

One thing I observed doing these last two conventions was that even folks who had their own properties were making the majority of their money doing sketches of Marvel/DC/Star Wars characters. It reminded me that the Mad comic book didn't take off until they did a parody of Superman. I think that's a way to get an audience's attention, so I'm planning on stacking the deck with parody stuff which hopefully will be the bait that gets them in for the new stuff.

About the Sesame Street idea, I don't have much of an interest in education ...especially on the preschool level. It was suggested many times that I dumb the Wannabe Pirates down to go for a children's market, but I just couldn't get excited about doing that.

Specifically with Sesame Street, you aren't dealing with Jim Henson Studios (which is owned by Disney), but the Sesame Workshop (formerly the Children's Television Workshop), which is its own entity out of New York and a non-profit. They would happily sue my ass off if I gave them even the slightest impression that I wanted to enter their space. :-)

Ironically, McCrary and I discussed pitching the Wannabe Pirates to Henson Studios about a year ago and what info I was able to find made it unlikely that any inroads would be possible. Essentially, they can't even get most of their own properties into production, so they aren't looking for outside ideas.

I am excited that you get dollar signs in your eyes when you look at the images, though, since maybe that means I might be on track to figuring out how to make something successful this time. :-)

Love Captain America!
Well I am sorry to hear that. But I do respect your take on it. I think you are on the right track with the parodies keep up the good work. How much would you charge to purchase some custom made puppet models?

We could still pursue this and your work could be for the initial 2 simple segments. After words you could stay on as a consultent. I could hire a team from the Hash community including myself to produce future segments.

I have a few contacts for some children's shows. The puppets look like muppets to me but perhaps as long as they are new characters I could pitch the idea to these other children's shows.

I really feel we have gold here.
Thanks, Gene!

Hey Jason, I'll get in touch with you next week after the holiday and we can discuss. I think I could be interested in something at that level of involvement.
Found some pictures for reference.

Also I think it might be interesting to explore less humanoid puppets like cookie monster and to the extreme mr. snufalopiguse.

Like the early days I think it would be cool to hide below the waist parts of puppets who have arms up their back.

Or in cases like Kermit where he sits almost motionless on a wall.

That will save us a lot of time in animating.
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