There has been much discussion as to sizes of ventriloquist figures and what constitutes a professional size figure. I really think that this is a subjective idea at best. The reason I say that is because ventriloquist figures have been made by pro figure makers in all sizes. They range in size from 18″ tall to 46″ tall. So which size is the professional size?
I think the first thing that has to be taken into consideration is the type venue in which the performance will be taking place. If it is to be on a stage in a theatre then the full size 40″ or bigger figure is best. If you were to entertain in a parlor setting then a figure of 30 to 36 inches would be perfect. If you were to do walk around entertaining at tables a small figure from 18 to 26 inches would be perfect.
All the great figure makers of the golden era made figures in all these sizes and all can be considered professional figures.
In the 1930’s, with the popularity of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, quite a number of companies started producing vent figures for the children’s market. These figures had the pull string out the back of the neck. These I consider to be exactly what they were made for TOYS. Madeline Maher was the first to take these toy figures and do conversions to make professional figures from them. The toy figures remained very popular through the 1950’s and 1960’s with Paul Winchell and Jimmy Nelson. The copies of there figures made by Juro were on the Christmas lists by almost all of us that read my blog. Into the 1970’s the popularity of Willie Tyler and Lester kept the toy figure movement alive.
Today Jeff Dunham is so popular that he announced at the 2011 ConVENTion that he is gearing up to release a figure for sale as well.
Getting back to my original thought, the size of the figure or who made the figure matters not it is the person who is performing that makes the figure a professional figure. I know that many will have different thoughts than me but I do believe that a professional figure is not one that comes from a toy but if you watch some YouTube video of Rickie Layne and Velvel my statement is disproven. Velvel was a conversion figure.
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 2011 by Dan Willinger
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32″ to 38″ figure
One additional factor that we look at is possibly the size of the Vent. Combine that with the factors that you refer to, and you can come up with a good mix. A Vent that is young or small of stature might not be a good combination with a 40″ plus charactor, while a Vent that is 6′-8″ tall and very robust might be a mismatch for a 24″ charactor. Then you still have to look at the purpose of the charactor. That can through yet another monkey wrench into the equation.
Also consider the figures character, it’s age, etc. Also human, animal, or object and how “realistic” you want the figure to be.
The size of the vent is mucho important like Steve says. I built a 40″ size version of Charlene for Melissa first go round and she was way too big for her I did a 36″ version and it was magic.
Has there been any follow up on Jeff’s dummy? Anybody heard what character(s)?
Fator performs on stage with small figures as well as Dunham. Of course Fator has a wide screen behind him and both vents have performed on TV and film where the camera can zoom in and out. Same for Chuck and Bob.
I have to agree with Dan in that if a professional is performing with it , it is a professional figure.