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The Creative Process: Developing 'Peter and the Wolf'

The Fratello Marionettes invested 14 months developing their production of ‘Peter and the Wolf'. We chose to present the story completely as written with a full symphonic recording and a narrator. We felt it was important to bring the experience of classical music to families and to schoolchildren from K-8. Although many of our presentations utilize digital recordings, we also wanted to be able to perform this production with a live Symphony Orchestra. The characters and sets were designed to take place in Russia in the 1880’s.

First, we created conceptual drawings, roughly sculpted the heads in clay and blocked the show. We then built the 7 marionettes and 3 rod puppets. We also had to design and build a custom stage and set, which included a house, pond, gate and tree. This show was designed and built to be small and compact when traveling.

Our show came together and premiered August 2003 in San Leandro, CA. Below are pictures from the different stages of development.

Sculpture of Peter's head and the wolf's head. Sculpting Heads (78 kb)
The cat's body on top of the drawing:
The core of the body is piece of 1/2" plywood with 2 inches of styrofoam that is glued to the wood on both sides. The styrofoam was shaped to the proper form and coated with 4 layers of paper maché and shellac. The legs were carved out of poplar. The legs are attached to the body using nylon cord.
Cat+Body on Drawing (64 kb)
The cat's molded head and unfinished body:
The pink material is a silicon rubber mold. Once the clay sculpture of the cat's head is finished, the clay head is molded in silicon rubber. When the silicon mold is finished, plastic resin is poured into the mold created a cast resin head. The resin dries within an hour. The picture also includes the clay model of the cat's paw before molding. (Bottom Right)
Cat Drawing, Head Mold, Unfinished body (31 kb)
Close-up of the cat's molded head and clay paw:
This view provides a close-up of the cat's paw, the cat's head and unfinished body. On the lower-right you can see the front-half of the silicon mold, which is empty. The cat's head is in the lower-left of the picture. The head is sitting in the back-half of the silicon mold. We chose to make the cat’s head solid because (1) there would be no animation inside and (2) the head would be small and it wouldn't be too heavy.
Close-up of Cat's silicon mold (74 kb)
Paper Maché Bodies with arms:
The bodies were formed by gluing 2" pieces of styrofoam together with styrofoam adhesive. The styrofoam is shaped into the character's shape. We also added the arms, which are made from wooden dowels. We run a string through the length of the dowel to attach the hands. Look closely and you will see 2 wooden balls at the end of each arm. These balls act as a wrist. At the bottom of the picture are 3 resin-duck heads, which have received 2 coats of gray primer.

Bodies From Left to Right: Short Hunter, Swimming Duck (rod puppet), Tall Hunter, Walking Duck (marionette), Peter, Angel Duck (rod puppet), Grandfather
Paper Maché Bodies (63 kb)
Tall Hunter's Body Parts + Plaster Mold:
This picture shows the paper Maché body, which has been prep'd for attaching limbs. A piece of wire is inserted into the body and is held in place with celastic and glue. We then create a loop at the end of the wire. The loop allows us to tie the limbs to the body. We use wire in 3 places.

(1) A wire loop at the neck to attach the head.

(2) At the shoulder to attach the arms to the body, and also attach the shoulder strings.

(3) A wire structure at the base of the body with a wooden ball to separate the legs when attached.
Hunter Body Parts w/ Plaster Mold (63 kb)
Anatomy of the Leg:
The upper leg is a created from a wooden dowel. The lower leg and the feet are carved out of poplar blocks. All the legs are jointed using pieces of aluminum slats.
 (55 kb)
Customing the Lower Body:
On the left, the shoes have been added to the Short Hunter. Also, notice that the legs are attached to the body by attaching a cylindrical piece of fabric to the upper leg. This fabric is threaded through the body's wiring and then sewed to the leg. The Tall Hunter has the same type of legs. The picture on the right shows the Tall Hunter's pants.

From Left to Right: Short Hunter, Tall Hunter
Costuming the Hunters (50 kb)
Wolf's Structural Components:
The body has a 1/2" piece of plywood as its structure and is surrounded by 2" styrofoam that has been shaped and covered with paper maché. Notice how the legs attach to the body with nylon cord. The upper leg and the paws were carved out of poplar. The lower leg is a wooden dowel. We use aluminum and wire to create the tongue-and-groove joints between the upper and lower legs and at the ankle.

The head was cast out of a Neoprene Rubber and received 2 coats of white primer. Unlike the cat's head, this head is hollow to allow for animation inside the head. The jaw was cut-out after casting and is hinged inside the head. The script requires a menacing wolf. The moveable jaw will help portray this trait.
Wolf's Body Parts (99 kb)

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Last Updated on March 15, 2016

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