This blog post is written by Patrick Weigand, one of The Children's Museum's Interpretation Operations Coordinators—who also happens to be our resident puppetry enthusiast! You can experience Bucky Lives! weekends at 11 a.m. in January and February.
As the Operations Coordinator for Interpretation, I wear a lot of hats around the museum. One of my favorite responsibilities is being the go-to puppet guy and “Paleo-Veterinarian,” responsible for the care and feeding of Bucky the T. rex from our Bucky Lives! performance. I do everything from styling her feathers to making sure she's in good health to go out and perform. At this point, I should post a *Spoiler Alert* I am going to be revealing some of our behind the scenes secrets, so if you want to preserve the magic of Bucky Lives! Stop reading RIGHT NOW! If you’ve seen Bucky come to life and are curious about how the magic happens, go ahead and jump down to the next paragraph.
Hi there! I’m glad you're still with me. One of the questions we get a lot around here is, “Is Bucky a real dinosaur?” I wish I could say we really bring dinosaurs to life around here, but Bucky is in fact a puppet. If you look closely, you can see the puppeteer’s legs sticking out from under Bucky’s body and going in to her feet.
You may be thinking to yourself: “Wait, if the person is WEARING the dinosaur, why is it a puppet instead of a costume?” Great question! Bucky is a puppet because simply wearing her wouldn’t bring her to life. There are controls inside the dinosaur’s body that the puppeteer uses to move the head, open the mouth, blink the eyes, and move the hands. Bucky may be able to walk around without the puppeteer using those controls, but her head would just hang down and it wouldn’t look very lifelike. We also have a small camera in Bucky’s chest that feeds to a small monitor inside the body that the puppeteer uses to see where they are going.
In This Week's WOW, Josh went inside Bucky with a GoPro camera to show you exactly what it's like! Check it out...
I've been working with puppets for nearly 10 years now. I started when I was studying theatre at Butler University, trained with puppeteers from all over the world, and spent time with a nationally touring puppet theater company before coming to the museum. Actually, I started working at the museum by designing and building puppets for shows in the Lilly Theater.
While I can’t take credit for designing or building Bucky, I've done quite a bit of work on her since we got here. I helped give her feathers, and heal any “cuts or bruises,” that she gets while performing. Much like we might skin our knee when we trip, Bucky has some injuries from time to time, too. Most often, they're on her tail. The dinosaur’s skin is a rubbery, silicone-based material, so I use a special silicone glue to help seal up the cuts; like giving her stitches. We call it paleo-surgery. Usually everything is healed up overnight and Bucky is ready to go for the next morning.
I hope this may have answered some of your lingering questions and look forward to seeing you at the next performance of Bucky Lives!
Read more about Patrick's puppetry experience at The Children's Museum in his blog post, Behind the Scenes: Chinese Shadow Puppet Theatre.