Preparing for Aladdin (or: How to Make a Puppet)

 

In our production of Aladdin, directed by Ben Smallen, the part of Iago (Jafar's parrot) is played by a puppet, controlled by Jafar.  Our fabulous costume designer Scott Anderson took on the project of making a puppet that looks like the cartoon version, can be operated with one hand - all on a miniscule budget.  Read on to see how he did it!

This might surprise you, but Iago was built from supplies found in the children’s aisle at most local craft stores.   The materials were little more than extra thick foam sheets, an adhesive with a high elasticity (E6000 in this case), approximately 2 yards of felt in varying colors, a package of quilter’s batting, Crayola’s Model Magic in white and paint (red, yellow, black and white).   After acquiring these building blocks it was time to start building Iago’s “skeleton”. 

Even the most complicated of forms can be broken down into simpler shapes and that’s a good thing given how many compound curves Disney gave this character.   In their simplest forms, Iago’s upper and lower beaks are elongated triangles that were modified to give that telltale curvature.  The main part of the skull was broken down into a truncated tetrakaidecagon (a polygon with 14 sides and 14 angles) large enough to accommodate the puppeteer’s fist and the front of the face is merely an augmented box.  After attaching all three pieces together and allowing for enough drying time, the skull was primed with white paint and then painted Iago’s distinct colors.   The main body was built much like the head; however this polygonal shape was far more elongated.   After construction, the body was padded out to hide the hard edges and augment the shape.  The body was then covered in hand cut felt feathers of various shades of red.  At this point, head and body were then attached at the neck by a felt flange that would allow the puppeteer a wide range of motion and then covered with feathers to hide the join. 

Although the materials are simple enough to find, the real artistry in this piece comes from the likeness to the on screen inspiration and the character that the puppeteer, Adam Danoff, will eventually flush out during the rehearsal process.  After 60 cumulative hours of construction time and weeks of resealing, Iago will soon be making his stage debut in Aladdin.  

--Scott Anderson, Aladdin Costume Designer

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