James Wojtal is a talented puppet designer and builder. During his career he has worked on projects like Avenue Q, Bear in the Big Blue House, Crank Yankers, Saturday Night Live, Sesame Street (the American and various internationl versions), Mop-a-Top's Shop, Kermit's Swamp Years, Animal Jam, and more. In this interview I asked him to share his thoughts about puppet building.
SJ: You mention on your web site that the most challenging and rewarding job while at The Jim Henson Company was rebuilding Bear. Can you tell me about the challenges you faced?
JW: Perhaps the biggest challenge when rebuilding a puppet is capturing the character that people have come to expect. it's more than just a pattern when you rebuild an older established puppet. Now you have to capture all the wear and tear that the puppet has gotten because it has become part of what the puppet is. You have to distress the fur a bit, you have to trim it to the right length, match the number of hairs in the eyebrows, etc.
When you get new fur its all fluffy - but take a good look at an old stuffed animal, or doll, and you will see all the wear playing with it has caused. If you look closely at Bear from his first show of the season to Bear at the end of the second season you will see the wear start to show. That's the puppet you are really matching - not the brand new clean original, but the well worn Bear (I really hope that all made sense).