Sunday, April 20, 2008

Puppetry and Me

My buddy Eric did a post on ventriloquist Shari Lewis that you can read here:

Beautiful Shari Lewis with Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse

It made me appreciate my childhood and the things I experienced that have now become obscured or forgotten.

In the early days of television, before c.g. and limited animation became the norm, puppetry and ventriloquism were viable entertainments that variety shows, commercials and network programming offered.

The Marionette driven Howdy Dowdy was so popular that the only thing dethroning him was Disneys’ “Mickey Mouse Club” featured in the same time slot of a competing network.

Howdy Doody & Buffalo Bob

Ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson with Danny O’Day and Farfel the dog pitched Nestles Quik in commercials. Actor and voice talent, (Tigger, and others), Paul Winchell hosted a show with Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smith, as well as Shari Lewis with her Lamp Chop and crew.

Jimmy Neslon with Danny, Farfel and unknown

Paul Winchell, Jerry and Knucklehead

Puppeteers were features in commercials, educational films, and network shows such as animator/director Bob Clampettes' original “The Beany and Cecil Show”. The Bil Baird Marionettes did commercials, industrial films and entertainment. They also appeared on shows like Ed Sullivan who presented the little Italian mouse Topo Gigio as well as introduced Jim Hensons’ Muppets to television viewers.

Bob Clampettes' Beany & Cecil

Cora and Bil Baird

Bairds'"Party Lines" (color, 15 min., 1946) was produced for the Bell Phone Co.

Topo Gigio

Ed Sullivan with Topo:

Jim Henson and Kermit

You can still find information on these guys on the Internet but it was wonderful having them as part of my regular viewing pleasure as a kid. Their influence was one of the reasons I’m in animation today.

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