Monday, June 13, 2011

War Horse: A Horse and His Boy

via luciolepress

via The Telegraph

What caught the corner of my eye during the Tony awards last night was a glimpse of this amazing horse "puppet" created by the Handspring Puppet Company for the play War Horse, which won the Tony for Best Play. It's based on a children's book by Michael Morpurgo, which was published in 1982 and is about WWI as seen through the eyes of a boy's horse. I never read it, as that was well past my horse phase and I hadn't had children yet, but it's a Black Beauty kind of horse story. Black Beauty was one of the books I read over and over again as a girl, along with lots of other horse stories ... My Friend FlickaThe Black Stallion and all of the books in those series.
Anyway, about the puppet. Puppet just seems like such a small, scrawny kind of word for a creation this magnificent. In an interview with the puppeteers in the New York Times, it's revealed that it takes three people to operate each horse (two of them carrying the weight) which weighs between approximately 70 to 85 pounds. The puppeteers inside also have to carry a rider (another 130 to 150 pounds). The puppeteers provide the horse noises, and it takes a coordinated effort to produce the breath sounds -- one person starts, the second person continues, and the third person finishes the sound. This is all in concert with movements that cause the horse's ribcage to rise and fall and the horse's movements. The third person does the head movements, including the eyes and ears and tail. 
It takes ten months to make all the puppets for the show; nine horses, soldier puppets, and various birds. 

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