Sweet Corn Productions is devoted to highly entertaining
presentations that affirm self-esteem and social equality.

Services - Digital Production || Image Retouching || Puppet Productions || Script Doctor || Web Programming || Shop
Video Galleries - Sweet Corn || Vimeo || YouTube || Photography Galleries - Image Galleries
Demian’s Résumés: || About Sweet Corn || Directing || Writing || Visual || Acting

Puppet Projects
Puppets are People
by Demian
Yes they are. And to prove it, here is a shot of me — the director — having a calm, rational discussion with the puppet star of UBU:

Demian, King Ubu
photo: Demian
Since this gentlemanly rapport took place in 1971, I do not recall for sure, however, the talk may have had something to do with salaries, the name order on the playbill, the cramped dressing room, as well as the insignificant, very tiny worms that got into the craft services’ puddings.

Ubu, Demian
photo: Demian
Of course, all the complaints and disagreements were quickly and gracefully resolved.

Just like real people.

—— Demian’s Puppet Work

My use of puppets started — when I was about eight years old — with a Jerry Mahoney plaster head doll that had a movable mouth, as did my Howdy Doody marionette. I also periodically strung up dolls, as well as made my own hand and rod figures.

In April 1968, I joined a northeastern states tour with the Nicolo Marionettes out of New York City. The show was “Hiawatha,” based ever so loosely on the Longfellow poem. The figures were Sicilian style, one-third life-size, expertly made by Nick Coppola.

Racing from town-to-town, and from state-to-state, three of us ran the show. John Cunningham and Olga Felgemacher were excellent actors and puppeteers. Both did great character voices and were at ease improvising when strings tangled, or during other emergencies — such as the time when John had his hands full working puppets and his pants fell down.

Olga Felgemacher, John Cunningham
My co-puppeteers, after another joyous show
and another 500 miles. April 1968
photo: Demian
John drove the rattletrap van to all our engagements with the radio on full blast to keep awake on the long drives. I learned to catch up on sleep during these times — lying between John and Olga — with my butt on the motor, my back lying on the storage trunks and flats, and my feet hanging behind the clutch. Not exactly a “Magic Fingers”-type of bed.

For more touring adventure click here for:
The Marionette Tour - 1968

—— Demian’s Puppet Creations

Here is a photo of “Little One,” from the show The Voice of an Angel: A Castrato Remembers. It was shot at the combined ASIFA-NW (animator’s association, now ASIFA-Seattle) and Puppeteers of Puget Sound meeting, May 21, 2004.

Little One (graciously accepting audience appreciation) || Demian
photo: Wendy J. Hall

The following list is of puppets that I have made for my own and other productions.

  • Scaredy-Kate and the Monsters - or - How to Pay the Rent (Demian)
       Created all the marionettes in this opera set to Haydn’s music.
       Premiered at Bumbershoot Festival, 1982. Re-visioned as a video project, 2011.
  • Once Upon a Mattress (Barer, Thompson, Fuller)
       Created and operated the puppets for the opening song, 1999.
  • The Voice of an Angel: A Castrato Remembers (Demian)
       Created the puppet for this one-man, one-marionette musical.
       Voted “Best of the Week” New City Theater Director’s Festival, 1986.
  • Alice in Wonderland (adapted from Lewis Carroll)
       Created, voiced and operated the Humpty Dumpty puppet, 1973.
  • UBU (Alfred Jarry)
       Directed and created puppets for the First U.S. puppet production
       of Jarry’s satire. Toured Massachusetts, 1971.

Demian’s Puppet Heros

My interest in puppets began with 50s TV children’s programming. I was infected by such shows as “Howdy Doody,” which always struck me as being noisy and rude. Other shows had greater use of imagination, such as “Time for Beany” (by Looney Toon animator Bob Clampett), “Kukla, Fran and Ollie,” “Foodini the Great” (and Pinhead), “Johnny Jupiter,” and “Rootie Kazootie” (actually another rude one).

Morey Bunin
photo: Demian
During 1967-8, my friend Bill Skirski and I ran around New York City with our portfolios; me with my photography and films, Bill with his illustrations. On December 13, 1967, as we looked at an office building’s list of businesses, Bill recognized one of the names, Morey Bunin, as the creator of Foodini.

Remembering one of my childhood favorite shows, I got all excited and said we should try and meet him. Bill thought he wouldn’t want to be disturbed, however, I talked him into going with me.

Once in Morey Bunin’s office, I asked, “Are you the guy who made Foodini and Pinhead?” He was, indeed. Morey was very happy to find fans who remembered, and cherished his show. He graciously showed us Foodini, who, according to Morey, “does nothing but hang in the closet all day.”

We also got a tour of the office and workshop. We not only saw the original hand puppets, we saw the secret workings of a video process that Morey had created, called “Aniforms.” It allowed a TV cartoon line image to respond directly, and personally, to an audience.

Morey allowed me to work some of his wonderful puppets, which is heaven for a puppeteer.

Morey told us that his company intended to take the Aniforms process as a show to shopping malls and the like. I read later that it was used on various children’s TV shows such as “Captain Kangaroo,” and “The Surprise Show.”

In 1932, Morey and his brother Lou had worked for Bil Baird operating marionettes in Macy’s department store windows. The brothers also produced shows using string, rod, hand, and shadow puppets.

In the 50s, Morey Bunin collaborated with David Seville to produce the puppets of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

According to my correspondence with the daughter of Lou Bunin, Amy Bunin Kaiman, Lou made puppets that appear on the opening credits of the Ziegfeld Follies (MGM 1946). He also did many characters for early television commercials such as ‘Bucky Beaver’ for Ipana toothpaste.

Almost all puppet work I saw in my youth was through TV and film. I recall only one, live, professional puppet show, sometime in the 50s in Brookline, Massachusetts, that featured a wonderful interpretation of Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” It utilized black light and bubbles (for underwater), which are effects I have since used in many of my own shows.

My favorite vents were Shari Lewis (with Lambchop and Charlie Horse), and the incomparable Paul Winchell (with Jerry Mahoney).

In the world of marionettes, the top-of-the-line was Bil and Cora Baird. Their work graced various TV specials, and were used in many of the Bell Telephone Science Film Series shown in many public schools.

Decades later, the work of Jim Henson, Frank Oz and company, captured my attention.

The most sublime puppeteer’s work I ever saw was done by Kukla and Ollie’s creator and operator Burr Tilstrum. In the 60s on “That Was the Week that Was,” a satirical news review, he did a silent portrayal of a news event — the brief lowering of the Berlin Wall — all performed with just his hands. Burr depicted the pain of relatives being ripped apart by the institution of the wall, the ecstasy of re-uniting, and the horror of being forcibly separated once again. By the end of the piece I was sobbing.

Sweet Corn Productions || 206-935-1206 || demian@buddybuddy.com
sweetcornmedia.com || Seattle, WA || Founded 1971

All contents © 2017, Demian, Sweet Corn Productions