5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
love of puppets- not muppets,
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This review is from: The Art of the Puppet (Hardcover)
This book is great. Bill Baird proves that not only was he the greatest puppet maker of 20th century, but that he could also write a supurb history/appreaciation of them as well. It has been pointed out many times that Baird was to puppetry just what Walt Disney was to animation.(If you don't remember him, he did the puppets in 'Sound of Music', as well as many other projects during the first half of 20th century.) The man loved puppets, both he and his wife did, & it showed in the puppets they created (after he died those puppets brought in a fortune at auction in New York.) But he loved their history too, and he shared that history in this fine book, which has many color illustrations & other drawings from throughout history, from the beginnings of civilization, up thru medeval, right on up to the great Shari Lewis & lambchop.( Baird doesn't concern himself much with ventriliquists and their dummies, fortunately for my own tastes, and I was happy also that the book was completed just before the emergence of Muppets, though Jim Henson is mentioned. The muppets took puppets in a whole different direction, a direction that made some people look at the classic puppets as being old fashioned, at least most kids did. I always hated muppets; sesame street, cookie monsters- whatever. Whenever I see fuzz on a puppet, or hear that high-pitched nasal drone of kermit the frog, my skin crawls. But thats me. And honestly, I think its only because they seemed to take over so completely, that if you wanted to do puppets after the muppets, people wanted only to see something like that, cuddley and innofensive, and funny only to a four year old. It was the MacDonalds restraunt commercials that were even more succesfull in making that trend so popular, and how could you fight something like that, something that has the power to keep half the nations children fat & unhealthy? Hamburglar my ass!)
I think the book goes up to 1964-'65 (which was at the time when Baird & his troupe were famously performing at the New York Worlds Fair), and so Bairds 'Sound of Music' puppets didn't make it. But 'Punch & Judy' sure did, and everything else that was really great about puppetry did, much that will probably have been unknown to you till now, all of it awesome.(I mean, wait till you read Bairds account of 'Papa' Agrippino Manteo and his wonderfull, ever-growing family of puppeteers and Puppets, who operated a theater on Manhattans little Italy in the early 1900s, giving performances of histories greatest puppet-plays to generations of immigrants and theater lovers, keeping the stories of the Constitine plays, or the Palidin cycle, Don Quixote, etc etc, as alive & fresh for our time as they had been in their own. Bairds love for these different troupes and styles is felt throughout the entire book)
I really love this book. It reminded me how much, and why, I loved puppets. There is no 'art' to muppets, and as a kid I had lost interest in puppets since the muppets became so overwhelmingly popular. That was a shame because I was really into them before that, and if you can relate with that, you should definately get this book. You can get it cheap used too, I got a perfect hardbound copy for $3!!!