Noel MacNeal has been a fan of puppets for a long time. As a boy, his fascination with Shari Lewis and Kukla, Fran and Ollie led him to create his first puppet, a bunny made of felt, which his grandmother helped him sew. His “Aha” moment came in high school, when The Muppet Show was at its peak. “If Jim Henson can do it,” MacNeal thought, “why not me?
Why not, indeed.
Since his first job in puppetry — doing commercials for a bouillon cube company in France — MacNeal has come a long way. The author of 10-Minute Puppets has performed puppets for Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, Disney (as the voice of Bear for Bear in the Big Blue House), and PBS’ Between the Lions. He also appears as an author/puppeteer at his 5-year-old son, Mattie’s, Brooklyn school.
Kids should be encouraged to pursue any kind of creative endeavor, MacNeal says, but puppetry offers benefits other art forms may not. “Puppetry is very tactile, very hands on,” he says. “When kids make puppets, they are bringing stories — sometimes their own — to life.”
Puppets can be made with almost anything — or nothing — anytime and anywhere, MacNeal says. The absolute easiest one to make is a puppet he calls “The Fabulous Five,” which simply involves drawing a face with marker on each finger on your hand. “Even babies, who are fascinated by fingers, love this. A game like ‘Where Is Thumbkin?’ is a lot more fun when you’ve got faces on your fingers.”
From 10-Minute Puppets, © 2010 by Noel MacNeal. Photographs by Evan Sklar. Published by Workman Publishing.