ENT3310 Monster Shop, FA2015

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  • Horse Puppet from War Horse
  • #32284


    For the Machine Research assignment I wanted to find a mechanical sculpture because I think they are commendable machines. I looked through various ones, in past exhibitions in museums such as Mattress Factory to archives and artistic journals. But I looked back to my past high school stagecraft organization when our school stage manager showed us a video of a puppet horse for the National Theatre play “War Horse.” I found the puppet beautiful, its movements expressing similar emotions that to a real horse but chosen by the actors.

    I looked further to find information on how the puppet actually worked. I couldn’t find a website or an academic journal but I searched further and found found multiple videos from the productions including one on how the puppet works.


    The puppet contains three simple machines: lever, wheel & axle, and a pulley. The horse is operated by three actors. Each actor is responsible for a body section; they are the head puppeteer, the heart puppeteer, and the hind puppeteer. The head puppeteer holds unto the head with one hand and operates its ears and head motion from the other. There is a rod connected to the head that contains three levers. The actor uses their other hand to either move the rod to express head and neck motion, or pull one lever to move the head up and down, or pull on one of the two other levers that control the ear motion. Each lever in the horse is connected with bike brake wires that work as pulley systems. The heart and hind puppeteer for example use the wires to move the hoofs of the horse and the knee is the pulley of the system.

    The heart and hind puppeteer have a aluminum frame over their shoulders. Through the movement of their knees the puppeteers can express breathing of the horse. The tail is also connected by wire and levers that is controlled by the hind puppeteer.

    The back legs of the horse, as I saw from the videos, operate as a wheel & axle. The thigh of the legs work as a wheel with the center connected as perpendicular axle to the body.

    All these simple machines created a complex puppet that imitated the emotions and thoughts of a horse through the dynamics of its body parts controlled by live actors. No electronic devices were added to the puppet. It’s emotions were able to collaborate with the seriousness of the production that touched many audiences.

    Charlie Oniszczuk

    • This topic was modified 8 years ago by Charlie. Reason: Fixing one link

    John McCullough

    Puppets are a special kind of machine because a talented puppeteer can make them seem alive.

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