Posted by: MiniMonets | June 18, 2018

Tom and Jerry Finger Puppets

Greetings Parents,

For our first experience working in 3 dimensions, I like to pick a project where students learn about pinching and pulling clay. Some of the oldest forms of pottery are known as pinch pots. They are exactly what their name suggests, pots made by pinching and pulling clay into a desired shape to hold water, nuts, seeds, arrowheads, or whatever the hunter/gatherers and early farmers needed. Instead of making pinch pots, I like to create something different that still encompasses pinching and pulling clay into a desired form. This year, I chose the MGM and Hanna Barbera characters Tom and Jerry.

MGM Studios hired William Hanna and Joseph Barbera in 1940 to create a cartoon that could rival and surpass Walt Disney Animation Studios. Their solution was Tom and Jerry, a series based on the cat, Tom, and mouse, Jerry, rivalry that used slap stick humor to engage their audience. Their short animations used limited dialogue to tell a story and audiences responded so favorable to these two characters that they are still animated over 70 years later. I introduced Tom and Jerry by showing video clips of the original MGM/Hanna Barbera cartoon. All the artists were excited to recreate these two characters by making them as finger puppets.

We started off creating Jerry as you would start to create a pinch pot. We used Crayola Model Magic for our first project because it has great durability for pinching, pulling, squashing, and the stretching we would be doing to create Tom and Jerry. To start, we rolled the clay into a loosely shaped ball that we stuck part of our thumb into. Instead of taking that opening and stretching into a pot, we flipped it over to be the thumbhole for our puppet. Once upside down, the artists were able to decide how much they would pinch and pull the clay to create a mouse. Big ears, long nose, curled tales were all options for creating Jerry. Tom was made in a similar way. The artists gently rolled the clay into a loose cylinder shape before pressing a finger into one side and tapping on the table to create a flat bottom. And just like Jerry, the artists pinched ears, noses, and tails. For my older classes, we added arms and pressed on eyes, noses, and eyebrows (a signature character design that was later enhanced by Chuck Jones).

For the second class, once our Tom and Jerry’s were dry, we began to paint them as they really looked in the cartoon. Again, I showed cartoon clips from Hanna Barbera Tom and Jerry, but I also showed how Chuck Jones changed the characters when he took over Tom and Jerry in the 1960s. I reminded them, that even though they are the same character, different artists would always have their own touch to add. I encouraged this among them and that created some create renditions of these two characters.

The objective of this lesson is to learn pinching and pulling in clay to create a three dimensional character.

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