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Folksy and Formidable: Folkmanis has a way of making puppets come alive! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephanie Finnegan   
Thursday, 26 July 2012 09:51
If you can visualize it, Folkmanis can construct it! Their stage puppets are in a class by themselves.
Measuring 9 inches long, the new alligator hand puppet is a tiny creature, but it’s big on personality.
When it’s perched on a finger, the Folkmanis bat seems to take flight!
It’s impossible NOT to tap into your inner Shari Lewis when the Folkmanis creations are on hand! (Or, on your hand.)
Craig Ferguson is a well-known devotee of puppetry and gadgets. He’s shown here with his robot sidekick, Geoff.
Forget about “Happy Feet”! The penguin puppets cause a case of happy hands!
For the crafty puppet fancier, Folkmanis also offers how-to kits. This kit lets you build your own kitty cat.
If you can visualize it, Folkmanis can construct it! Their stage puppets are in a class by themselves.
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So, let me tell you what it feels like to look fear in the face: it’s exhilarating and liberating, and also a tad terrifying and titillating.

 

Nope, I didn’t go sky-diving or bungee-jumping or rock-climbing. I’m not brave enough yet to attempt those personal demons and fears. Rather, I went to the zoo—a simple enough excursion—and walked past an unsupervised pit of alligators. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, there was a pit filled with a wading pool’s worth of water that had two live gators floating in it. The only barrier separating me from the breathing “crocs” was a slope of sand and a roped-off fence. No barbed wire, no electrical feeds, no glass, and no protection. Trust me, it was scary.

 

Now, when you go to a place that declares itself to be “reptiland,” what else could I have expected? I don’t know why, but when I saw the boas, the turtles, the lizards, and the crustaceans behind glass or in tanks, I felt safer and more confident. Left in the wide open, the sleeping alligators seemed too real and too menacing. (Plus, a reptile keeper later told me that these critters are as smart as dogs!) Imagine being pursued by a prehistoric-looking beast with the intellect of Lassie! Heaven forbid.

 

Alligators are not necessarily the most attractive of God’s creatures, but they do have an undeniable allure. Once your eye settles on one—trust me—it’s hard to move your vision anywhere else. Like Captain Hook who was pursued evermore by a ticking croc, with a clock in its tummy, I have been thinking a lot about those lounging “lizards” these days.

 

One of my favorite stuffed-animal/puppet companies is Folkmanis, and they bring a loving, painstaking charm to all of their clever creations: whether they are wildlife realistic or animated adorable. (http://www.folkmanis.com/Content/17.htm)

 

While perusing the Web recently, I came across some of their new 2012 releases, and one was a smiling, teeth-baring alligator/crocodile. (My apologies to the late Steve Irwin, but I can’t tell one from another while I’m trembling in terror.) The Folkmanis version has the definite outline of my nature-preserve nemesis, but there is something friendly about its wide-open mouth. It’s as if it’s grinning, rather than getting ready to grab and chomp.

 

That’s what I really like about Folkmanis: so many of their characters have the appearance of an encyclopedia illustration, but there is a soul of sorts in the presentation as well. They effortlessly blend anatomy with adorability. (Is that a word? It should be!)

 

I’m not the only one who is gaga for Folkmanis. One of my favorite performers of all time—Craig Ferguson, whom I’ve seen in concert and he’s hilarious—is smitten by this gang of finger puppets, hand puppets, stage puppets, and little puppets. (http://www.folkmanis.com/44/late-late-show-puppets.htm) He has featured them on his late-night talk show, starring them in elaborately produced and executed musical numbers. Some of the performances are very family-friendly; others are slightly risqué (after all, his show is on at 12:30 a.m., East Coast time).

 

Folkmanis holds sway over Ferguson and over me because they make you want to touch them and use them. Unlike many other collectibles that demand to remain in their boxes or on the shelf, a puppet is just an unemployed doll or a lazy stuffed animal when it’s not being handled. It was brought into this world to entertain and to interact, and Folkmanis makes sure that their products are easy to handle and easy to afford!

 

I have three little Folkmanis puppets at home, and I love it when my kids pick them up and put on an impromptu show. (Let’s face it, as soon as the puppet slips over one’s arm or on one’s fingers, it’s hard NOT to channel Shari Lewis.)

 

At the moment, I’m studying the mini alligator for sale (9 inches long, 5 inches wide, 3 inches tall) and I’m calculating if I’m woman enough to bring that plush Alligator mississippiensis home with me. My heart says yes; my courage says no.

 

I guess I’ll have to decide if I’m willing to put my fears on my fingertips and leave the crocodile tears of terror behind me. Hope I am!