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Choosing the Perfect Puppet: A Buyer's Guide

Choosing the Perfect Puppet: A Buyer's Guide

Feeling lost when it comes to choosing the most awesome puppet? Don’t worry … many feel way this because of the huge variety in puppets. With almost 4000 years of puppetry as an artform, people can feel intimidated by puppets and find choosing difficult.

We’re here to help you make that choice, and we can assure you that puppets are easy to use, fun and very effective. We can also explain the key factors to keep in mind when choosing the perfect puppet. Geppetto’s Workshop in Sassafras is Australia’s specialist retailer of genuine European marionettes, puppets of all types, and classic toys. Keep reading to learn more! 

Which Type Should You Choose?

Puppets come in a range of different types, and the perfect puppet type greatly depends on who will operate the puppet, their age, their objective, and their commitment to learning a few puppet-basics. Some of the most common types of puppets include:

  • Finger puppets
    A perfect, tiny puppet for youngsters, and an excellent resource for parents and primary teachers who can hide them within a bag, drawer or pocket. Typically, the puppet fits over a single finger, but some require several fingers to operate. They’re easy to operate and don’t have operable mouths.
  • Stage puppets
    Designed without legs, these are intended for use behind a small stage to hide the operator. Stage puppets can be more ‘sock-like’ and do not typically have stuffed bodies which make them less suitable as soft toys.
  • Hand puppets

    Designed to fit over the entire hand, the fingers are then used to operate the limbs or mouth of the puppet. They can be used behind a stage but can also appear most realistic when used on your lap or close to your body. Most have stuffed, soft bodies which makes them like soft toys that can come to life!
  • String puppets
    Called marionettes, these allow the operator to remain completely hidden by using fine strings to control the puppet below. Marionettes are a classic puppet for those interested in the art and history of puppetry and they require greater dexterity from the operator.
  • Ventriloquist puppets
    Any quality puppet with an operable mouth can be given a voice, and we believe our customers should not be too concerned with professional ventriloquy know as ‘throwing your voice’. A ventriloquist allows themselves to be visible to their audience while interacting with a puppet they control. By using redirection techniques and masking their mouth movements, they deliver the puppet’s voice in a way that deceives the audience.

What’s your Budget?

The great thing about puppets is that there’s a puppet to match every budget. Finger puppets start as low as $5, and most stage puppets at about $40. Hand puppets start at $20 for those without operable mouths. The real fun begins when your puppet can talk, and for those you’ll need to spend between $35 and $100 for most characters.

High-end human character puppets suitable for performance and professional use start at $60 with the very best at $160. These puppets have interchangeable clothes, and gloved operable hands which really bring the puppet to life.

Entry level marionettes are available between $25 and $70, while ornamental marionettes cost about $140. Geppetto’s Workshop also keeps a small range of semi-professional and collectable marionettes costing above $200. They can even commission custom marionettes and puppets which are designed and quoted according to your needs.

What’s your Objective

Always ask one question first … “Will you perform or tell stories with your puppet?” If the answer is yes, you should choose a puppet with a mouth you can operate. It doubles the effectiveness of your puppet and really helps the audience or listener engage.

If you intend to use your puppet at a distance from a small audience, like school children, a church group or in your home, choose a puppet whose features, mouth and body size are large enough to be experienced from the intended distance (perhaps 1-5 meters). If you intend to use your puppet at a greater distance, choose the largest puppet you can afford, and choose one with a mouth that’s visible to your audience.

For youngsters just starting out with toy puppets, the main thing is just to have fun and be creative! Choose puppets that have immediate appeal that suits your objective. Sometimes people choose a puppet to replace a lost pet, or to appease a child who’d like a pet but can’t have one. If the puppet will double as a soft toy, look for puppets with a full body shape and extra plush fabrics.

Professionals working one-on-one with children, in healthcare, or in aged care might need to consider puppets with very expressive mouths and faces which can express more complicated gestures and movement. You should also choose puppets that can be properly cleaned and are durable enough for more regular use.

Puppet shows usually have a story or a theme, so you’ll need to consider the characters you intend to portray and choose puppets that match best. If you’re buying for fun or building a library of puppets and don’t have a specific objective, simply choose what you fancy, or choose generic characters that are most flexible.

Geppetto’s Workshop is a destination experience for all tourists exploring the mountain village of Sassafras. Located in the heart of the Dandenong Ranges, we’re Melbourne’s finest retailer of high-quality, authentic puppets and classic toys. Visit our village store and be greeted by the sounds, sights and smells of a true European toy shop. We’ve been offering puppets and puppetry education for every level of interest for over 25 years, and we feel we’re helping to preserve this traditional artform and introduce it to new generations. Come visit the team and explore the magic of puppetry!

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