Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Another Pair of Eyes

One day Josh Selig had an idea. I'm pretty sure this happens a lot. Selig is the President of one of my favorite production companies, Little Airplane Productions, with a bundle of Emmy-awards for his writing on Sesame Street. In addition, he's created a bunch of children's programs including The Wonder Pets and 3rd and Bird.

In 2004, Selig's show Oobi debuted on Noggin (Nick Jr.). The show's characters are all bare-hand puppets. The origin of these puppets is the set of practice eyes that Muppeteers use to rehearse scenes. Those darn Muppets are way too heavy to practice with for hours on end, so simple eyes were created to be placed on one's hand. I can almost see Selig come up with the idea for Oobi as he watched performers rehearse scenes on Sesame Street.

I've seen these eyes created in three different ways:
1- Two ping pong balls with holes punched through for a piece of elastic to slide through and be wrapped around the palm. Eye pupils are drawn on with marker. I've been told this is the authentic Muppeteer way of doing it.
2- Two small styrofoam balls held together with a toothpick, which has a rubber band on either end so you can slide your hand through. Eye pupils for these are dark dot stickers. These are a Spica Wobbe classic!
3- Plastic eyes just like the ones on Oobi. These are worn like a ring on your middle finger.

Pupil placement is super important because it can impact the rehearsal of puppet focus in the camera. You have to make sure the placement is just right or intentionally off!

I was introduced to the plastic Oobi eyes by one of my favorite people, Sabrina. Through her I discovered where you can purchase many different eyes and accessories. I have spent hours practicing with the eyes and keep them on my desk as inspiration and to fill "in-between" moments. I have several pairs and love giving them as gifts!

There's something so simplistically beautiful about Oobi as a television show and the process of using the eyes to practice and play. I encourage you to look up clips of the program if you're not familiar with it!

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