Big Mouth Puppets Behind The Scenes

Part of Big Mouth season 5 was creating a live action puppets version of our characters – it was a lot of fun (and stress) to produce during Covid, but totally worth it!  Here’s a few behind the scenes stories / trivia about how we produced the puppet sequence from “A Very Big Mouth Christmas” episode.

99% of the planning was done remotely over zoom, without seeing anything in person, which was crazy!  We didn’t know how anything would come together until we were physically at the shooting location.

Checking puppets before a shot

The Director of the shoot, Tanner, was pushing us to use a snow machine early in our planning.  I’m glad we went with his idea because seeing the snow falling outside of each shot with the window looked amazing!  It really adds depth and immersion to the shots.

When you watch the very beginning of the episode, Maury was never supposed to drop the tree beads strand at the beginning (that was an accident), but it was the best take and there was something kind of funny about him dropping the beads so we kept it in.  It was tough to get the puppeteers to have Maury hang those beads on the tree – did a few takes of that to try and get it right.

Another take that was difficult for the puppets was Connie throwing her glass.  We did that take A LOT.  It’s not easy to have puppets physically throw items, so we really had to work at it.  The poor props department had to get glasses ready with her “drink” in it (which was little shreds of red mylar) and the puppet would throw it and they’d have to get the next prop out. There was red mylar shreds all over the ground below the puppeteers from pouring the “drink” out over and over.

If you look closely, you’ll see there are all kinds of penis and vagina themed cookies and ornaments.  Props department had a field day there.

Most people watching probably won’t notice, but if you look for it, you will see these puppets blink!  Ok here’s the secret – it’s not actually part of the puppet rig.  We did all that in post.  The compositors did a lot of beautiful work on these sequences. It really brings life to those characters and it’s super subtle (that was one of Anthony Lioi’s many ideas on the puppets sequence).

Puppet Wrangler (Rachel) getting Rick covered with ‘soot’ and ready for the shot

Some other stuff the compositors did:  adding smoke fx to Rick coming out of the fireplace, putting the reflection on the penis sword, removing the puppeteer rod from the penis sword (so it looks like Maury is actually holding it), and removing all the wires / rigs from when the Shame Wizard flies away offscreen.

The Vader Johan was actually a big laser cutout piece just strapped to a baker’s rack so we could roll him past the window.  The art department came up with the idea to light up his eye at the shoot, so they modded him and put an LED behind some red plastic.  It looked great!

The DP (Yuki) checking the lighting on the stand in puppet

It was a great shoot and wild to do early in the pandemic.  Hopefully we get to do some more Big Mouth puppets in the future too.

Author: Nate Funaro

Animation producer / dog rescuer / cocktail maker based in Los Angeles

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