Which Kind Of Ventriloquist Figure Is Best?

This topic has been hashed over many times on many discussion sites but I actually got an email from a relative new comer to the vent world and of course he wanted to know which was best a wooden figure or a Fiberglass figure. I had to laugh when I saw him ask about fiberglass because it seems that that is one of the materials that has really gone to the wayside with the many resins that are now available to produce the cast heads.

Now as everyone knows I myself love wood figures, and it especially tickles my funny bone when I see ventriloquists using a cast figure and talk about it as being wood or their wooden friend. I will mention no names but it is rampant. Why on earth would they not use a real wooden figure before saying those things? Your guess is a good as mine.

There is nothing wrong with cast figures and they certainly have a place in the market and actually more so than wood because there are so few makers doing wood today.

I did in fact tell this fellow what I always say. Find your character first. Make sure you know the characters personality and you can do the voice and once you have this down you can go and find the figure that fills the bill and it really doesn’t make any difference what it is constructed from. It can be wood or resin or even a sock as long as it has the character and voice.

What are your thoughts?

(Please make your comments below)


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Ventriloquist Central is the brainchild of Dan Willinger and Steve Hurst. Dan 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. Steve is a ventriloquist as well as builder of ventriloquist figures. He also has a background in sales, marketing, building websites and computers. Because they both love the art of ventriloquism, the website Ventriloquist Central was born. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com

Copyright 2013 by Dan Willinger and Steve Hurst

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5 Responses to Which Kind Of Ventriloquist Figure Is Best?

  1. Gary Willner says:

    How come nobody ever talks about acting when it comes
    to Ventriloquism? Once you learn the technical
    skills you need to be a competent ventriloquist, acting
    is the next thing to master. Acting and material
    are everything. The vent figure is the fourth or fifth
    most important thing in the scheme of it all.
    Take an acting class!

  2. David Boiano says:

    Your advice on this matter is right on the money Dan, finding a figure that fits the character you’ve developed is what’s important, no matter what it is made of. In fact, if someone decides that they only want figures made out of a specific material, the search for a figure to fit the character would be more limiting and difficult unless they could find and pay someone to make a custom figure for them out of whatever material.

  3. Ben Veenkamp says:

    I can’t agree more with your advice Dan. So many people buy a figure based on the apparent popularity of the builder or because they saw a vent perform with one and decided they liked it and had to have one too.

    That being said my personal preference, having experienced both a cast and a wooden figure, is wood. Like Jimmy Nelson has said time and again “There’s nothing like a wood figure”

    Although if someone intends on investing in a wooden figure they should be absolutely committed to that character and it’s appearance otherwise they’re just throwing money down the drain and, in my opinion, not really taking the art of ventriloquism that seriously.

  4. LeeDean says:

    A synonym for character is spirit, and I would guess that the word inspire is tied in with the character/spirit idea. If I were just starting out and learning about the early vents and their wooden dummies, I would be inclined toward wanting one of those. I would most definitely be inspired by a Marshall or a Petee figure, and had a chance to own some early ones through Lee A. Estes. I went to Vent Haven and saw a Davenport figure by Insull, there for the taking, and took it, but not satisfied until I got a Marshall for a little more. If I had had chance for the one of the two Guylls made before he broke the mold I most definitely would have wanted it, the one you have. Anyway, it’s what you look at and like for a character that suits you, regardless of what it’s made, and inspires you to go buy some suitable clothes as in your last piece.

  5. Ted Nunes says:

    The answer to this kind of question is always “it depends…” since everything about a choice like this is subjective. A way to be slightly less bamboozled by the variety of choices is to first simplify the question to this: “will my character be better as a hard or soft figure?” Then you can worry about materials and functional features.

    Getting to the answer is tricky. I prefer hard figures in general and that tends to steer my thinking in that direction by default, but have been surprised a couple of times when a soft puppet has stepped into the role. You have to play around a lot. (of course, it’s easier to come across soft puppets to experiment with.)

    As for referring to any hard figure as “wood,” I think that’s just showbiz; playing up the established mystique of the ventriloquist. To the extent that people are still familiar with ventriloquism, it is “common knowledge” that dummies are made out of wood. (even though most of them aren’t, anymore.)

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