“Planet Hopping” is an exciting new collaboration between puppetry duo Belle et Bête and the acclaimed kindie rock band, Lunch Money. Using original live music and various puppetry techniques, including hand puppets, marionettes, and elaborate video projections featuring actual NASA footage, “Planet Hopping” is the story of a young pilot and her robot sidekick as they travel through the solar system. “Planet Hopping” will take the audience on a rocket ship voyage from earth to the stars, exploring the mysteries of the planets and the importance of friendship and family. The show mixes elements of sci-fi and intergalactic rock and roll with real lessons about our solar system.
After a successful world premiere in their home town of Columbia, South Carolina, Lunch Money and Belle et Bête will present the NYC debut of “Planet Hopping” at Symphony Space on January 5th. We wondered how the puppets were crafted, so we chatted with Lyon Hill from Belle et Bête:
How did you get into the career of puppet-making?
It seemed to happen organically, almost without me realizing it. Growing up, I loved comic books, illustrated books, and animated films and I wanted to make them. While in school, I began building sculptures and dolls to help tell the stories I was illustrating. For one story, I posed my dolls and photographed them. It occurred to me then to try to make them move – I wanted to make a puppet. I went to the Columbia Marionette Theatre one day to learn more and they hired me on the spot. From there, I became increasingly hooked with the art form. Kimi (Maeda), and I forged our working relationship at CMT, and we have been collaborating on projects ever since.
What kinds of puppets do you make?
I’ve made many different styles of puppet over the years. My concentration has been with marionettes (puppets on strings), but I love shadow puppets, too. I’ve done a lot with simple paper puppets for film as well. The puppets in “Planet Hopping” are a variation of the hand puppet, using the puppeteer’s arm as the character’s, and marionettes. The puppeteer s are visible throughout the show, but usually the audience forgets we are there.
What materials do you use?
I’ve gone through phases – sculpted neoprene, carved wood, reinforced foam. I decide on the materials based on the look and scale of the show and I’m always experimenting. The puppets in this show are mostly foam for the larger characters, and wood for the smaller marionettes. Kimi used a variety of materials in creating the models and props. You might spot feathers, drinking straws, and even a tomato cage.
We worked hard to establish a coherent look for the show. We designed the ships, the robot, the costumes, even the logic behind our invented “Planet Hopping” technology before anything was constructed. Another challenge was the scale. A request of one of our sponsors was that they be big and read well in a large theater. At the same time, in making a show to travel, we would need to be able to perform in smaller venues as well. It took a long time to figure out what scale to create our main characters. We settled on life size, and since the puppeteer’s body completes the character, the puppets themselves are not too big and bulky. Video projections are a big part of the show as well, and for these we created special models, animations, and incorporated actual NASA footage.
What can families expect from the debut NYC performance of “Planet Hopping”?
This show spawned from our shared interest in the cosmos and we are trying to convey that enthusiasm. The beauty of our solar system, the vastness of space, and the possibility of life on other planets are just a few of the ideas that we touch on. The story takes place aboard a futuristic cruise ship that takes us from planet to planet. It is piloted by a brilliant young scientist named Stella Spark; assisted by her robo-rabbit sidekick, Jack. We also meet Mollinda the one time future-pop star and host, and PJ an enthusiastic new crew member. What begins as leisurely cruise takes a sudden turn when Stella intercepts strange transmissions on the planet Mars and decides to investigate.
Image Source:// All Images From Symphony Space