Short Australian documentary: The Puppeteer

The Puppeteer posterCaboolture film maker Gabor Kukucska set himself a challenge to make 52 short documentaries in 2017. That’s one per week! These documentaries are about inspirational people. And one of these people is Queensland puppeteer Brett Hansen – founder of Larrikin Puppets.

From childhood bullying and awful workplaces to personal difficulties like unemployment and the end of his first marriage, this 13 minute film tells the whole story. Strong encouragement from his loving family helped shape Brett’s life, and eventually he met the love of his life Elissa Jenkins, whose support has meant the world to Brett in the continuing growth of Larrikin Puppets.

The film also talks about the types of bookings Larrikin Puppets receive, including puppet shows and puppetry workshops. We learn about the Small Business Development Conference in Melbourne, and Brett’s advanced training in the USA with puppeteers from The Muppets and Sesame Street.

This is the teaser trailer that was shown in the lead up to the film’s official release:

The full 13 minute film is available to see now for free at https://inspireflix.com/docos/the-puppeteer/ by creating a free (and quick) login or signing in with Facebook. The login gate is because film festivals don’t accept films with full public access on YouTube or other such video sharing sites. We would love to see this film accepted and screened at festivals around the world. But we would also love you to login and see the film here and now at the InspireFlix website (formerly My Doco Club). 

Here’s the preliminary video from Facebook starring Troggg the blue monster: https://www.facebook.com/InspireFlix/videos/1795284477458119

NOW LIVE at https://inspireflix.com/docos/the-puppeteer/ – “The Puppeteer” – Brett’s dream to become a working puppeteer, and the struggles and triumphs along the way.

The Puppeteer poster

FILM CREDITS

Brett Hansen, Elissa Jenkins, Ross Hansen, Sandra Gartner, Troggg, Freerange the Chicken, Frazzamatazz.

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Production – Buyah Media
Cinematography – Gabor Kukucska

The Puppeteer

 

 

 

2016 Recap – A puppet filled year

larrkin puppets.jpg– 2016 started with a series of school holiday and vacation care puppet show performances.

– The Richard Bell film I performed puppetry in (“5 for 35”) screened all Summer at GOMA as part of the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT8).

 

5 for 35 Richard Bell

– I provided puppetry training (and puppets) for ImproMafia’s “Not 4 Kidz” at the Brisbane Comedy Festival.

– A new puppet character, Frazzamatazz, joined the Larrikin Puppets cast in February.

– I began sewing lessons in preparation for the puppet building component of the upcoming intensive puppetry course I was enrolled in at the University of North Texas.

Interstate International Touring– I performed MC duties (hidden under a table – Troggg was the MC!) at the official Ipswich Festival media launch. Troggg got to introduce Mayor Paul Pisasale to the stage. I also performed puppet shows at the actual Ipswich Festival, and was informed by several friends in the lead up that they noticed big roadside billboards with Troggg on them!

 

 

Beyond the Sock Frazzamatazz on set

– I also performed puppet shows at the Paradise Resort in Surfers Paradise, the Redcliffe Sails Festival, a Bunnings store in Warwick, an Indian restaurant, a nursing home and several childcare centres, schools and birthday parties.

Brisbane Comedy Festival

– Elissa helped me run some puppetry workshops at a few schools, including a full week (three workshops a day) at Belmont State School.

 

 

 

Shannon, Troggg, Brett - The Puppet Workshop– We went down to Adelaide to visit Shannon Cooke at The Puppet Workshop.

– We lived in Brooklyn, New York for three months. We saw lots of live theatre in NYC – including many puppet shows for adults, improv comedy and “Avenue Q” off Broadway (with a backstage tour thanks to puppeteer contacts).

Kaufman1

– Much of my time overseas was spent networking with other puppeteers, which included frequent visits to The Puppet Kitchen for monitor puppetry sessions run by the awesome Michael Schupbach. Between there, several puppet shows/events and a few Muppet screenings at the Museum of the Moving Image it was really great to meet, perform and practice with so many great NYC puppeteers and fellow Muppet fans – including Marcelo Bottaro, Arlee Chadwick, Musa ‘Fuzzy Beard’ Bradley, David Bizzaro, Zach ‘Wackiman’ Woliner, Nicola ‘Callie & Izzy’ McEldowney, John Papovitch, Kevin Hale, Tau ‘Being Elmo’ Bennett, Christina Rodriguez Stone, Matthew Soberman, Sam ‘Mo Monster’, Tania Lopez, Tim Young, Erin Finnegan, Spencer Cohen, and so many more amazing people!

MoWallyTroggg– I performed my full puppet show at the Puppetry Arts Festival of Brooklyn (yes, I transported my whole puppet stage and all the puppets to America).

– Troggg guest starred in an episode of The Fuzzy Beard Show.

– We attended a convention called “Morning with the Muppets” starring Steve Whitmire (with Kermit the Frog), Eric Jacobson (with Fozzie Bear and Animal) and Peter Linz (assisting). I asked a couple of questions during the Q&A, and was lucky enough to have a brief chat with Steve Whitmire afterwards. He fluffed up Troggg’s fur as he spoke to me about a trip to Australia they were taking soon.

Fuzzy Beard01– We spent a week in Los Angeles, staying just off Hollywood Boulevard. We walked to the Jim Henson Company and checked out the big Kermit statue out the front.

– We spent a day with Henson puppeteers Grant Baciocco (whom I’d met in Brisbane a couple of years earlier during “Puppet Up!” and stayed in contact with) and Russ Walko. Troggg of course came out on all of these puppet-related excursions in both New York and Los Angeles.

Jim Henson Company 1– We spent a week in Denton, North Texas where, at the University of North Texas, I received advanced, intensive, life changing training in film & TV monitor puppetry from Henson puppeteers Marty Robinson (Telly Monster, Mr. Snuffleupagus) and Noel MacNeal (Bear in the Big Blue House), and a puppet construction component lead by Pasha Romanowski (Project Puppet, The Moe Show). Elissa came with me to all the casual nights of drinking and chatting with the puppeteers. She also attended the special performance night we did on the final day. The whole thing was an unforgettable experience. This kind of training simply doesn’t exist in Australia. I was so happy to not only get some of my existing skills validated, but also to learn so many valuable new skills, and better ways to perform my craft from the best in the business – my heroes!

Grant and Russ 1– Since returning to Australia, I performed both puppet characters in a short comedy film called “Kev”, plus shows at schools, childcare centres, festivals and parties every week!

 

 

Marty Robinson, Pasha Romanowski, Noel MacNeal– There were more shows at the Gold Coast’s Paradise Resort, and even a few shows at New Farm Cinemas, which included some Larrikin Puppets cinema advertising before screenings of “Moana” and “Sing”. I even got to perform my first puppet show at the famous Brisbane Powerhouse!

Larrikin Puppets Deja Voodoo Woodford– And we spent the final week of the year performing three shows a day, every day at one of Australia’s biggest festivals – the Woodford Folk Festival.

It’s been an absolutely huge year! Here’s to more puppet fun in 2017!

Brett Hansen

Larrikin Puppets in The Bribie Islander

Larrikin Puppets in The Bribie Islander:

Towards the end of our stay in New York, Elissa and I decided to base ourselves on Bribie Island upon our return to Australia. I wrote a post on a Bribie Island community Facebook page about our decision, and was approached via that page by a journalist in The Bribie Islander who was interested in writing a story about Larrikin Puppets and the puppet adventures we had in the USA. This is the article that was printed in the September 2016 edition of The Bribie Islander – Issue 26. Click on the article below to zoom in and read it:

The Bribie Islander - Bribie Island - Larrikin Puppets

Working as a journalist for a community paper has proven to be a wide and varied creative experience! It’s rare to have an interview with a puppeteer! Rare and magical, it immediately brings out the child in you! Brett Hansen gave us a demonstration of his incredible gifts as we watched in awe and fascination! Brett has just returned to the island from New York and was gracious enough to share his experiences with us.

Brett attended the ‘Beyond the Sock Workshop’ featuring puppetry teachers: Marty Robinson (a Jim Henson puppeteer famous for performing Telly Monster and Mr. Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street), Pasha Romanowski (puppet builder who made the characters on popular New Zealand show, The Moe Show), and Noel MacNeal (a Jim Henson puppeteer famous for performing the lead character on Bear in the Big Blue House). He held a solo puppet show at the Puppetry Arts Festival of Brooklyn – an annual festival in New York celebrating all kinds of puppetry. “I had a really big crowd on the day”. His main character Troggg (that’s Troggg with three Gs, the middle G is silent) – is pictured here posing with New York puppet troupe ‘Team Lopez’. “We attended so many night time puppet shows for adults and the theatres were packed! It’s part of the culture over there that puppets are not just for children. Grown adults flock to see these shows”. Team Lopez performs ‘improv’ comedy (known in Australia as ‘impro’ or ‘theatresports’). While we were based in New York for most of the three months, we did spend a week in Los Angeles and a week in Texas. The Beyond the Sock workshop was held at the University of North Texas. And in Los Angeles, I spent some time with some Jim Henson puppeteers over there – Grant Baciocco and Russ Walko.

Brett’s business Larrikin Puppets is available for bookings locally. He is available to perform puppet shows for birthday parties, childcare centres, libraries, fetes and festivals, seniors clubs and nursing homes, and primary and high schools. Schools are also able to book him for Puppetry Workshops. He is also available to perform as a Puppet M.C. for wedding receptions, film festivals, product launches, talent nights, gala dinners and media launches. So if you want your event to stand out from the crowd, you can contact Brett for bookings.

Article by Kellyanne O’Hare in The Bribie Islander. Issue 26, September 2016.

The Bribie Islander website – https://issuu.com/thebribieislander

The Bribie Islander Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/thebribieislander/

Puppetry Arts Festival of Brooklyn

Puppetry Arts Festival of BrooklynOn Saturday, June 25 2016, Troggg and friends performed for the people of New York at the Puppetry Arts Festival of Brooklyn. A full festival dedicated to all styles of puppetry.

As you can see from the photo, we had a nice big crowd of families enjoying the show, and interacting with the puppets during the jokes, games and songs.

Frizzby and Flossy discussed the difference between Australian and American English:

And Troggg argued with the crowd about what kind of animal this is:

Troggg and I also hung out with puppeteer Tau Bennett (from the film, “Being Elmo”) and Moses, who performs a character called ‘Fuzzy Beard’:

In addition to the Larrikin Puppets show, Troggg also joined in as part of the Fuzzy Beard Show:

And I also performed my new chicken puppet (made at the ‘Beyond the Sock’ puppet workshop) during this awesome rap song from the Fuzzy Beard Show:

Good times had by all at the Puppetry Arts Festival of Brooklyn!

New York is a great place for puppeteers to mingle, meet, train and perform with other likeminded people.

Puppetry Arts Festival of Brooklyn

Puppetry Arts Festival of Brooklyn

Brett

 

Formal Training at ‘Beyond the Sock’ Puppetry Workshop

BeyondTheSock_PerformanceBeyond the Sock Learning with MartyIn June 2016, I was a student of the intensive puppetry workshop called “Beyond the Sock” at the University of North Texas. There, we were taught many of the advanced monitor puppetry techniques used on professional film and TV productions such as Sesame Street, The Muppets and Fraggle Rock.

Beyond the Sock chickensWe also learned how to construct our own puppets using a professional pattern for a chicken puppet. Our teachers were high profile Henson puppeteers Marty Robinson (The Jim Henson Company, Sesame Street; performer of Telly Monster and Mr. Snuffleupagus) and Noel MacNeal (Sesame Street, Bear in the Big Blue House; performer of Bear) for the puppetry performance lessons, with puppet construction training from master puppet builder Pasha Romanowski (Project Puppet, The Moe Show). Marty Robinson has been a Henson puppeteer since 1981, and has trained most of the puppeteers of The Muppets and Sesame Street since the early 1990s. He also trains puppeteers for international co-productions of Sesame Street. Beyond the Sock Marty and NoelSo it was very special to be able to train under Marty, Noel and Pasha. Who better than the top masters of this craft to receive some very valuable, professional training?

Beyond the Sock Noel and Marty 2Here are a few photos from this inspiring week!

I took the Beyond the Sock course as part of my three months of professional development in the USA, which included some informal training and rehearsing at The Puppet Kitchen in New York, as well as meeting and performing with American puppeteers of all levels around New York, Los Angeles, and Denton, Texas.

Beyond the Sock Noel and Brett

Beyond the Sock Brett with Chicken1

Beyond the Sock Brett with Chicken2

Beyond the Sock Frazzamatazz on set

Beyond the Sock Noel and Marty with Pasha puppet

Noel with Frazzamatazz

Beyond the Sock Mike and Brett2

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.30.13 PM

Beyond the Sock Group song

Marty Robinson, Pasha Romanowski, Noel MacNeal

And now have a look at these lovely short videos showcasing the five days of Beyond the Sock 2016. It was a great adventure and well worth the trip if you’re interested in taking part. These videos will surely inspire anyone interested in pursuing professional puppetry to enrol in future Beyond the Sock workshops. It is the highlight of my puppetry career so far, and an experience I will never forget.

– Brett Hansen

 

3 Days of Fun with NYC Puppets

NYC PuppetsFor three days in a row, Troggg, Brett and Elissa immersed themselves in New York’s puppet culture. In NYC puppets are all the rage! From professional film and TV puppeteers to small businesses to hobbyists – everybody loves puppets!

NYC PuppetsOn Friday night, (20 May, 2016) we went to see “Team Lopez” – a puppet improv troupe – at Broadway Comedy Club in the theater district. They were part of a big night of improv comedy called “Pre Game Happy Hour Improv Comedy”. After the show, Troggg got a photo with the puppets, then we all went out for drinks.

NYC PuppetsOn Saturday morning (21 May, 2016) we attended “Morning with The Muppets” as part of the Vulture Festival at Milk Studios in Chelsea. We got to see a panel discussion starring Muppet performers Steve Whitmire (Kermit, Ernie, Wembley Fraggle, Rizzo, etc), Eric Jacobson (Fozzie, Piggy, Bert, Grover) and Peter Linz (Walter from the recent Muppets films), and of course the superstars themselves Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear and Animal.

NYC PuppetsBrett asked a question of Steve Whitmire during the Q&A session about the difference in atmosphere between working with the original team of puppeteers (Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, etc) and the team of the last 25 years (incl. Matt Vogel, David Rudman, Peter Linz, Eric Jacobson, etc). He gave an amazing, heartfelt answer reflecting on the magic of being surrounded by those amazing people in the early days. NYC Puppets

Afterwards, Steve had a quick little examination of Troggg, and mentioned that they will be visiting Australia in a few months! He was whisked away before we could find out where and why. Maybe a Supanova or Oz Comic Con?

NYC PuppetsBrett and Troggg also got to meet a few fellow puppeteers and Muppet enthusiasts, including Zach Woliner (with Wally Wackiman) and Sam (with Mo Monster from web series The Mo Show). NYC Puppets

NYC PuppetsOn Sunday (22 May, 2016) we went to Kaufman Astoria Studios, where Sesame Street is filmed! Yes – Troggg found his way to Sesame Street! Sadly the Sesame Street Muppets are all on Summer vacation. But the studio lot was open for a street fair. So Troggg spent time entertaining the families and posing for photos.

NYC Puppets

NYC PuppetsNext door to the Kaufman Astoria Studio is the Museum of the Moving Image, where Craig Shemin (President of the Jim Henson Legacy) and Karen Falk (the Head Archivist of the Jim Henson Company) hosted a special compilation screening of some old and rare films by Jim Henson from the 1950s and 60s that had been restored. The event was called, “Henson in High Definition: The Early Years”. Troggg of course attended and met some new friends. While we waited for the presentation to start, a small crew from a New York marketing company asked if Troggg could appear in a quick video for them. NYC Puppets

After the screening, Brett and Troggg met up with John Papovitch and Milo J. Monster-Smith in the foyer. Many people posed for photos with the two monsters. Brett also spoke briefly with another Henson puppeteer, Noel MacNeal, who will be one of his teachers at the upcoming ‘Beyond the Sock’ puppetry workshop in Texas. Noel is most famous for performing Bear in “Bear in the Big Blue House”.

Squad Photo

NYC Puppets

A great weekend of puppets and Muppet fun in New York City!

NYC Puppets

 

Troggg’s Jim Henson Tribute in NYC

Jim Henson Memorial

May 16, 2016 – 26 years since Jim Henson (creator of characters from The Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock and more) tragically passed away at the age of 53. His memorial service was held here at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Manhattan, New York City.

Jim Henson Memorial

Our very own Troggg decided to visit the church and pay his respects to Jim Henson. After all, he is a major influence on Larrikin Puppets. Brett and Elissa came along too, and were very much in awe of the spectacular gothic style buildings.

See Troggg’s video tribute below:

Many of Troggg’s Muppet heroes sung at this glorious old church at that Jim Henson Memorial Service – Scooter, Wembley Fraggle, Gobo Fraggle, Oscar the Grouch, Fozzie Bear, Big Bird, Gonzo, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, everyone! So even though Troggg is 26 years late to the memorial, he’s very glad to be following in those legendary footsteps with his little talk and song here today.

Have a look at this moving footage of all of Jim’s puppeteer friends (with all of their Muppets) at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine performing an epic rendition of “Just One Person” at his memorial service. Music by Larry Grossman. Lyrics by Hal Hackady:

Here are some more photos of Troggg exploring this grand old cathedral:

Jim Henson Memorial Jim Henson Memorial Jim Henson Memorial Jim Henson Memorial Jim Henson Memorial

Jim Henson Memorial Jim Henson Memorial Jim Henson Memorial

In loving memory of the great Jim Henson. It was a lovely landmark to see. We’ll be taking a look at some more Muppet-related locations, visiting some conventions, workshops and meeting some more puppeteers as well. So stay tuned.

For more photos of Larrikin Puppets in the USA, please have a look at the ever growing album of images on our Facebook page. Click ‘Like’ while you’re there!

We’ll leave you with another video from the memorial service at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in 1990. It’s Big Bird singing, “Being Green”. We miss you, Jim!

Beyond the Sock Puppetry Workshop in Texas, USA

As part of his professional development overseas, Larrikin Puppets’ own Brett Hansen is enrolled in Beyond the Sock Puppetry for Television and Film Workshop 2016 at the University of North Texas. The instructors are Peter Linz (The Muppets, Sesame Street), Noel MacNeal (Bear in the Big Blue House, Sesame Street), and Pasha Romanowski (The Moe Show). Brett and Elissa head to the USA in May 2016.

Still plenty of time to book a puppet show for your party or event in Brisbane before then via www.larrikinpuppets.com.au

beyond-the-sock-logo

4BC interview: ‘I Am Big Bird’ – Raising funds for cancer research

4BC radio interview – ‘I Am Big Bird’ – Raising funds for cancer research

September 2, 2015

Nick King

4BC radio interview

Troggg, Clare Blake and Brett Hansen in the 4BC Studio

 

 

4BC Afternoons would like to introduce you to Brett Hansen and Troggg.

And just to clarify Troggg is the blue one and yes, the middle ‘g’ is silent!

Both Brett and Troggg are from Larrikin Puppets and they dropped by to tell Clare Blake all about an upcoming film screening that will raise money for a very good cause.

The award winning film ‘I Am Big Bird: The Carroll Spinney Story’ documents the man who has played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street since 1969 and understandably is very close to the hearts of both Brett and Troggg.

The screening aims to not only provide a night of entertainment but also to raise funds for The Queensland Centre for Gynecological Cancer Research.

A worthy cause which has touched Brett on a very personal level.

“My mum passed away in 2010, She had a very short battle with ovarian cancer, she went to the doctors with a sore tummy and by that time it was too late.”

“There isn’t any early detection methods and she had nine months from that diagnosis of ovarian cancer.”

This special screening will be hosted by Troggg (and Brett) and will be dedicated to the memory of Helen Jean Hansen.

                  Larrikin Puppets Presents ‘I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

                                              7pm, Monday 14th September

                                 Event Cinemas, Myer Centre Brisbane City

                      Tickets are pre-purchase only and available by clicking here

Listen to the full interview with Clare Blake on 4BC Afternoons here.

I Am Big Bird: Brisbane’s only Screening!

I Am Big Bird Comes to Brisbane for One Night Only to help with Ovarian Cancer Research and Awareness

I Am Big Bird Brisbane

Larrikin Puppets presents Brisbane’s only screening of the award winning, “I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story”. This heartwarming film chronicles the life of Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who has performed Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since 1969.Where: Event Cinemas Myer Centre – Level 3 Myer Centre, 91 Elizabeth St, Brisbane.
When: 7pm, Monday 14 September 2015.

Tickets: $20. Only online at https://www.tugg.com/events/40270. There are currently 71 tickets remaining, and less than two weeks to secure those seats!

Funds being raised for ovarian cancer research and awareness through a raffle prize and 5% of ticket sales. The event is held in loving memory of Helen Jean Hansen (Brett’s Mum), who lost her very short battle with ovarian cancer in 2010. Chosen charity: QLD Centre for Gynaecological Cancer Research.

MC: Troggg (Brisbane’s own ‘Muppet’). He’s honoured to introduce this film about his heroes Big Bird and Oscar. Troggg’s handler (puppeteer Brett Hansen) is the eldest son of Helen.

For over 4 decades, Caroll’s characters have been cherished by generations of children. At 81 years old, the tenacious and enthusiastic performer has no intention of slowing down. I AM BIG BIRD features incredible footage of Spinney’s earliest collaborations with Jim Henson as it traces Caroll’s journey from bullied child to celebrated performer. This loving portrait peels away the instances that inspired his creation of Big Bird and as the yellow feathers give way to grey hair, it is the man, not the puppet, who will steal your heart.