When is it too much? This is something I am asked all the time about functions on ventriloquist figures and this subject certainly has been covered before but since I was asked I thought I would chime in on the subject.
The earliest of figures, knee figures, had more than just the mouth movement. Figures in the 19th century had moving eyes flip wigs and winkers. I have both LeMare figures from England and Shaw and Grannat from the US and these makers are from the 19th century to prove this fact. The working of these added functions on the early figures was there but primitive.
As time marches forward so does the quality of the mechanics. This is seen in the number of functions that were installed by the golden era makers such as Marshall, Spencer and the McElroy Brothers.
Were all of these extra movements beside the mouth needed? Of course not but from the builder’s perspective it was a great way to make more money. The more it does the more it cost. The same is true today. Do the added function mean you will be a better ventriloquist? Of course not but they certainly are a lot of fun to play with.
Edgar Bergen was a master manipulator and his figures Charlie, Mortimer and Effie only had mouth movement and in his hands that is all that was needed for him to bring them to life. Paul Winchell and Jimmy Nelson also in my humble opinion were and are the best ventriloquists and the had figure with minimal functions yet oh how they brought and bring their characters to life.
All the added toys are great but you must be able to find the right material for them to work. Think about this how many times in a routine would you flap the figures ears, cross its eyes or stick out the tongue or flip up its hair? Maybe once and if you were able to come up with a routine to use all those functions I think you may have to be on stage for a few hours.
Well this is my take on multiple functions. You know as a collector the more functions the better but for the performer……well I don’t know.
Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2010 by Dan Willinger
NOTE: You may use this blog article provided you run it with the bio box intact. Please email a copy of your publication with the blog article in it to: firstname.lastname@example.org