A Cute FCG Marionette for Kids

For families with young children - or for a children's attraction - this version of the marionette is suggested. It's much easier to build than the standard armature, lends itself to improvisation on the part of the builder, and visually telegraphs 'Happy Halloween' to everyone who sees it. If there's a craft hobbyist in your family, this is the perfect project for them.

The cat shown in the picture rises and then ducks behind the fence as the ghost moves. It's just a bit of fake fur covering a cardboard cutout. The front legs of the cat attach to the fence and the cutout, and serve to keep the prop in place as it moves. Holes have been cut on the fur to allow the painted-on eyes and mouth to show through.

The motive power for the cat comes from the FCG motor platform. A single extra line leads from the crank pivot, passes through its own pulley (your choice of position), then downward to the cat's head, which is slightly weighted for stability. To achieve this, you'll need to drill a fourth hole in that fender washer on the crank pivot, and find a place to suspend your pulley on the same plane with the crank. In other words, attaching the cat to the system is like having an extra left (or right) arm on the marionette. (Don't worry - all of the mechanical details will be clarified in the main FCG instructions, so print this page and keep reading!)

There are many other possible applications of this technique. One builder used the counterweight line for his ghost to move the arm of a skeleton up and down, elsewhere in his scene. You might consider animating a 'baby ghost' emerging from a container, or even a spider. In fact, a large spider could be used as the main marionette instead of a ghost, with its front legs attached to the arm lines.

Yes, you can easily atach more arms and pulleys to the frame. Just make sure the weights of the attachments balance each other, and that the crank does not catch on the extra pulleys. The FCG motor platform is a universal mover for hanging props, and the possibilites are limitless. Put your imagination to work - that's what Phantasmechanics is all about!

The Cartoon Ghost: Simplicity Itself
As shown at right, the form for this ghost consists of three styrofoam balls with one surface of each flattened, glued together in a pyramidal arrangement. A fourth smaller ball forms the figure's nose and is set into the recess formed by the intersection of the large balls. The flattening may be achieved without a knife by using a warm wire styro cutter, or by simply pressing the sections flat with your fingers. The balls may be of any size you choose, so long as they fit the scale of your ghost. (We recommend you begin with 6" balls for a life-size figure.) Assemble the balls with glue as described below, and allow to dry overnight before draping.

The pyramid assembly is then covered with an ordinary white twin bed sheet, which will typically glow brilliantly under blacklight without painting, thus avoiding the expense and mess of fluorescent spray paint. If your sheet doesn't glow (which is unlikely) you can wash it in blueing, or any detergent that contains it - and most popular brands do. The sheet is draped and glued over the ball form after the balls have dried. The center of the sheet should be placed over the top ball, and a small peak (as shown in the pictures) should be left hanging above it. Pull a bit of excess fabric up to form this. The pointed corners of the sheet will form arms on the left and right of the head, so position the sheet accordingly before glueing. The other two corners will obviously center in front and in back of the ghost.

Tacky - a thick, strong craft glue which is widely available at hobby stores - is recommended over Elmers, but any water-based craft glue will work for attaching the balls to each other, and for glueing the sheet over them. For attaching the sheet, dilute the Tacky slightly so that it will soak through the fabric, and apply it directly to the pyramid's surfaces. If you use Elmer's for this, it may be applied full-strength.

We've used a bit of Tacky to stiffen the folded side corners of the sheet into little hand-like shapes. The corners were soaked in glue, folded over into the shape shown in the picture, and allowed to dry. If you like, you can insert paper forms (as with the standard marionette described in the main instructions) which will allow you to shape the hands as desired.

After your ghost is completely dry, you are ready to add facial features. You may use those shown in the pictures, or be creative and invent your own. We used black craft felt for the eyes and mouth shown here, and simply glued the cutouts on the face. (For airbrush artists there is a lot of possibility inherent in such a facial shape.)

Young children should really enjoy this project, and may even grow attached to the marionette as they help to create it. Participation will also lessen the chance that they will be frightened by the ghost when it is flying in blacklight with an eerie glow. Familiarity may also be increased by letting them give the creation a name. Every family needs a friendly ghost!

Involve your kids in the creation of all your Halloween decor. This will be an invaluable experience for them, as they will learn mechanical and artistic skills that will benefit them in years to come. The FCG platform is an education in the use of simple mechanisms, and a working example is worth thousands of words and still pictures. (Remember Lego - and possibly your old Erector Set?)

Back to the FCG instructions...