Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Where have all the puppets gone?

I'm a huge advocate of quality, live-action television. I love me some animation, but there's something about the human connection made between characters on-screen and young viewers at home. I briefly discussed this issue in my Master's thesis and considered a research study conducted by Longo and Bertenthal (2009). They measured children's imitations to a human hand and a non-human (computer generated) hand. They found that "the amount of mirroring is reduced-but is not eliminated-for non-human actors" (2009, p. 742). When considering imitation, it seems as if children are more likely to imitate a human on-screen rather than an animated character.

I wonder if Longo and Bertenthal would consider live puppets as "non-human" or "human?" This would be a study in and of itself, and learning how children respond to animation vs. live-action would take a great deal of research.

For now, I ask, "Where have all the puppets gone?" I could rattle off a list of programs with puppets that I watched as a child. Below is my brainstormed list of current puppetry programs broadcast for children in the US. Please feel free to add on in the comments section!

1-Sesame Street

That's all I got, people. So where are the puppets? It's possible that the expense of making puppets is discouraging for producers and broadcasters. Happily, it seems like puppeteer Noel MacNeal is working on a new program for PBS. This gossip is straight from some vague details on his Twitter feed. Let's hope this new program brings more puppetry back to television.

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