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Because, Talking Time. You are... A Top 50 Puppets Countdown

Issun

Avarice
It's puppet time! Puppets are fun! Puppets are great! There are so many amazing puppets past, present, and future, and unfortunately we only have the time to cover a fraction of a fraction. But this is Talking Time's most favoritest fraction.

A Note: I did group some entries together when warranted, but if one person voted for more than one puppet in that group, I only used the highest ranked member of that group for scoring.
 

Issun

Avarice
First up, a few honorable mentions. These are the ones that just missed the Top 50:

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Slimer 37 Points; 2 Votes; Dracula (#7), Violentvixen (#18)

The two of you implying that Slimer is a puppet and not real need to do some serious thinking about your lives. Ghosts are not a joke.


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Johnny 5 35 Points; 1 Vote; Torzelbaum (#1)

Now we're talking. Should probably have been #1 overall. That's it, all of us except Torzelbaum have to put our heads down on our desks for the rest of the period.


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Olmec 35 Points; 1 Vote; Bulgakov (#1)

Please do not try and solve any legends of any hidden temples at home. These are trained professionals.


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Jim Henson 35 Points; 1 Vote; Lokii (#1)

I tried looking up Jim Henson puppets and all I could find was this guy named Jim. I think this is the man from The Office what makes the funny faces at the camera. I'm starting to doubt whether this "Henson" fellow even exists why are you making a mockery of my thread Lokii?

That's all the honorable mentions. Come back tomorrow for the beginning of the Top 50. Please look forward to it.
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
Dangit, Johnny 5 would have made my list if I'd thought of it. Olmec is great too. And of course all should bow down to Jim Henson.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I've shamed myself and my family for failing to vote for Johnny Five. Absolutely devastating.
 

Daikaiju

Rated Ages 6+
(He, Him)
It's a mark of how successful Johnny 5 was as a character that we don't think of him as a puppet.
 

Lokii

Administrator
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
Shared the results so far with the family and they all agreed that Johnny No. 5 is a robot.
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
Upon review it looks like Johnny 5 is only a puppet some of the time:
"In the movies, for close-up shots, Johnny 5 becomes a giant hand puppet: His arms are attached to extended metal rods, similar to that of a Muppet."
 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
Johnny 5 can't be a puppet, as I have it on good authourity that Johnny 5 is, in fact, alive.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Upon review it looks like Johnny 5 is only a puppet some of the time:
"In the movies, for close-up shots, Johnny 5 becomes a giant hand puppet: His arms are attached to extended metal rods, similar to that of a Muppet."
This technique was also useful for bringing to life the movie magic that is Steve Guttenberg.
 

Issun

Avarice
This entry brought to you by the numbers:
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SHOWA ERA MONSTERS
38 Points; 2 votes; Falselogic (#13), Beta Metroid [Mothra] (#21)


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Big in Japan

The Showa Era in Japan is the name for the rule of Emperor Hirohito (1926-1989). The events of that era we are focusing on today are obviously not the most important geopolitically or historically, but they are the most important for the purposes of this list: the beginning of kaiju cinema as we know it. Obviously the first and most famous of these big guys is Godzilla, followed by many other classics such as Rodan, Ghidora and Gamera. There are so many, though, that today we will focus on Beta Metroid's nomination in this illustrious field.

The Queen of the Monsters was, like many kaiju of the era, a response to Japan's understandable fear of the atomic bomb. However, instead of being created/awakened by the bomb like Big G, she, at least in her film debut, becomes a vehicle for stopping nuclear testing. The film also acts as an indictment of American greed, as while the events that set the plot in motion are facilitated by a "Rosilican", the dude's name is "Clark Nelson" so come on.

OG Mothra is a wire-operated puppet, with the larva being a suitmation puppet operated by six puppeteers in single file. Mothra was given radio-controlled legs for the follow-up, 1964's Mothra vs. Godzilla, which made for a more smoothly operating critter.

Mothra remains Japan's second most popular movie monster, behind only the King himself.


 

Issun

Avarice
This entry is brought to you by the numbers:
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ED-209
39 Points; 2 Votes; Falselogic (#11), Beta Metroid (#22)

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You have 20 seconds to comply
Our first stop-motion puppet is also one of our deadliest. Enforcement Droid Series 209 was meant to be Omni Corp's answer to modern "peacekeeping" (and lining their pockets), but a malfunction that results in the death of an employee of the company causes the Robocop program to be given the go-ahead and the ED-209 to be decommissioned (at least until the Big Bad needs the murderbot to defend him against Robocop). The entire film is about corporate greed and the military-industrial complex, and ED-209 and how the head of Omni reacts to its malfunction are a perfect encapsulation of the soullessness required of people who make money from death.

The puppet itself came in two sizes. There was the scale-model version, used for much of the stop-motion, and a full-sized version which, while looking pretty convincingly metallic, was all wood and fiberglass.


CW: Extreme violence
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I broadly consider Suitmation to be kind of distinct from puppetry, so I chose not to include any classic kaiju on my list, to my own peril. Once again nature points out the folly of man.

I adore ED-209 and anything in the family of horrifying mecha. The bit where it falls down the stairs and starts crying like a baby might be more horrifying than the scene where it murders a guy during its demonstration.
 

Falselogic

Techno-Threadcromancer
(they/them)
Not being able to navigate stairs always seemed like a huge oversight for a robot that was to be deployed in urban settings.
 

Issun

Avarice
This entry is brought to you by the numbers:
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JACK SKELLINGTON
40 Points, 2 Votes, Kirin (#12), Violentvixen (#20)

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What's this?

Perhaps Tim Burton's second most famous creation, behind only Johnny Depp, Jack Skellington is equally beloved of Disney nerds, Tim Burton fans, and scene kids everywhere. His iconic status is due to his design, the quality of the story of the Pumpkin King stumbling across the world of Christmas and his enchantment by it setting off all kinds of hijinks and shenanigans, and to marketing. It is also due to Burton's love of and dedication to the craft of stop-motion animation. Ray Harryhausen did more to perfect the art, perhaps, than anyone else, and in some ways Burton's work was a natural continuation of Harryhausen's. The fluidity and the expressiveness of the characters in The Nightmare Before Christmas was a big part of its selling point. No all-stop motion film had been done at this level, and only the films of Laika have really tackled stop motion films at the scale of Nightmare and The Corpse Bride. For more of a look at the magic of this film and its protagonist, I invite you to enjoy this very good making of video.

Jack Skellington was voiced by Chris Sarandon

 

Issun

Avarice
This entry is brought to you by the numbers:
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PUNCH & JUDY
41 Points; 2 Votes; Bulgakov (#7), Violentvixen (#24)

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The originals accept no substitutes
No list of top puppets would be complete without these two. The famed show is generally attributed to renaissance Britain, though its roots go back to Italian commedia dell'arte. It's so old that when we think of a puppet show, this is likely the first thing that comes to mind. The slapstick comedy of Punchinello, his wife Judy and whatever various other personalities the puppeteer chooses to introduce may, even today, be considered "low" entertainment, but it's just as ingrained in the European and American mind as Shakespeare and King James. Heck, it's probably even more universal than those two, as you can find variations on trickster puppets in pretty much any culture you care to look at on this planet, with the most obvious example of a modern internet take on the show being Neil Cicierega's Potter Puppet Pals.

There's also aspects to these shows I had not known about, so I'll let the Wikipedia entry do the talking:

The show is performed by a single puppeteer inside the booth, known since Victorian times as a "professor" or "punchman", and assisted sometimes by a "bottler" who corrals the audience outside the booth, introduces the performance, and collects the money ("the bottle"). The bottler might also play accompanying music or sound effects on a drum or guitar, and engage in back chat with the puppets, sometimes repeating lines that may have been difficult for the audience to understand. In Victorian times, the drum and pan pipes were the instruments of choice. Today, most professors work solo, since the need for a bottler became less important when street performing with the show gave way to paid engagements at private parties or public events. In modern shows the audience is encouraged to participate, calling out to the characters on the stage to warn them of danger or clue them in to what is going on behind their backs.

 

Issun

Avarice
This entry is brought to you by the numbers:
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THE WORM
42 Points; 2 Votes; Kirin (#11), Dracula (#19)

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Just a worm
Apparently his canonical name is "William", per a comic book from 2012. He's an adorable little cockney fellow that gives the protagonist advice on which way to go in the film "Labyrinth". He's also our first Jim Henson creation on the list proper.

He's in the film for a short time, yet he's obviously left a big impression, being on two lists and I'm sure being memorable for many more of us. That was the beauty of this movie. So many fantastic puppets, and many of them only appear briefly, yet they all have a place in our hearts. The crux of William Worm's appeal, I think, is the welcoming accent ("I said 'allo, but close enough). the invites to meet the missus and have a cup of tea, and the fact that he sends Sarah the wrong way simply on the assumption that no one would actually want to visit that scurry castle.

The Worm was operated by Karen Prell and voiced by Timothy Bateson.

 

Issun

Avarice
This entry is brought to you by the numbers:
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BABU FRIK
43 Points; 2 Votes; Octopus Prime (#11), Kirin (#18)

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Droid is ready
The Rise of Skywalker had many detractors, and for many good reasons. One aspect of the film that was almost universally loved was Babu Frik, and it's not hard to see why. He ticks a lot of boxes for what Star Wars fans like, especially those of us that prefer our aliens to be puppets instead of CGI. He's cute, but not cloyingly so. He's got the devil-may-care attitude that so many characters in the universe have, and he has a core competency, rather than just being a goofy alien for the sake of goofing it up. He also performs an action integral to the plot of the film. Most importantly, though, he's just a likeable guy who both gives a brief breather to the Big Important Happenings train and expands the scope of the world of Star Wars.

Babu Frik was voiced by Shirley Henderson.



 
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