Just a Thought on Hard Figures vs Soft Puppets

I have been totally convinced that the measure of a good ventriloquist was to not just have great lip control but just as important is the ability to bring life to his figure. So in the now ever popular use of soft puppets by ventriloquists my question that I pose is can you really give personality to a soft puppet like you get from a hard figure.

Soft puppets are for the most part just mouth moving and facial expressions are, again for the most part, locked into the face so that it is very hard to change expression. I know what you are going to say, Edgar Bergen used Charlie McCarthy and he only had a moving mouth. This is true but Bergen was a master at manipulation and achieved what most will never do as a ventriloquist.

Hard figures can be equipped with a variety of movements that can easily change the expression they put forward so that the face is not expressionless. I always think of Paul Winchell manipulating Jerry Mahoney and his use of the winkers in Jerry’s eyes was truly remarkable and made so many different expressions for Jerry’s Character.

Am I alone on the subject of Hard figures vs. soft puppets for ventriloquist? I think that the soft figures became popular because they are easier to travel with and of course are so much more inexpensive than a hard figure. I love the soft puppet in the right setting such as small kids parties but I just love watching a ventriloquist who uses a Hard figure. To me that is true ventriloquism. I take my hat off to Jeff Dunham, Dan Horn and Terry Fator who all use soft puppets. They do what I talk about with soft puppets. Just call me biased.



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3 Responses to Just a Thought on Hard Figures vs Soft Puppets

  1. Lee Dean says:

    There’s just something about wood, I think its lasting quality. Vasa, an old Swedish ship brought up after four centuries under water, outlasted nuts, bolts, even cannons on them, and the wood stood the stress when raised.

  2. Lee Dean says:

    If the soft puppet has only some wood, like a control stick rod to operate arm or leg, or even the head like Topo Gigio mouse puppet if used, or, if hard figure works soft puppet, that would be OK.

  3. Ony Carcamo says:

    Dan, I’m also a traditionalist… and I love performing with a classic wood figure. Having said that, I thought it really doesn’t matter whether a vent uses soft or hard figure. If he’s good enough, he can bring out ANY emotions, expressions, etc. he wants from any figure he uses.

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