4 Foam Fingers – Catherine Hicks of Pixar

Up next on 4 Foam Fingers is Catherine Hicks. She’s a Pixar animator who has worked on some blockbusters like ‘The Good Dinosaur’ and has an undying passion for puppetry.

Take a few moments to learn more about Catherine and her work here in the Q&A below. You can find all of our interviews for 4 Foam Fingers by clicking the link here.

As for my personal details:

I am an animator by day and puppet builder by night. Earlier this year I completed work on Inside Out and am currently working on The Good Dinosaur at Pixar. At home I was recently able to upgrade my puppet workshop into a bigger space and am looking forward to being able to work more efficiently. I’ve started two new monsters builds to break in the new space. My Twitter is @CatHicks and I post puppet work there from time to time.

1 – Where did you get your start in Puppetry? Was there a moment where you knew puppets would consume your life?

I’ve had an interest in puppetry since I was a young child and was influenced by the practical special effects in films such as Never-ending Story and ET, as well as children’s puppetry shows like Eureka’s Castle and Bear in the Big Blue House. Though I built stuffed animals and small puppets from time to time growing up I started “seriously” building puppets in 2013. I am an animator by profession, and find the real-time results of preforming with actual puppets as opposed to digital puppets refreshing and challenging.

2 – Do you have a favorite moment in your career, or a project that you feel defines your body of work?

My favorite puppet that I have made is a simple dog puppet named Boomer. Thought I have created more complicated puppets since then, Boomer is always a puppet that I like to return to. That build really defines my simple design ascetics. I like making animal puppets because I find their shapes more appealing and also their fur offers a lot more forgiveness during construction. I feel like animals and monsters are my go-to’s and are usually the characters that I am the most driven to work on.

3 – Where do you draw character inspiration from? Do you have a set way of creating or do you allow spontaneity to take over?

I find inspiration all over the place. I “steal” ideas from my profession all the time. I have learned so much about appeal, shape and design (not to mention performance) as an animator that it influences every aspect of my creative work, including my puppet builds. Sometimes I go to a fabric store and use what I see to inspire new characters. Other times I draw out what I want in my head and hunt for the perfect materials to realize that vision. I recently returned from a safari in Africa that has inspired some upcoming puppets. Inspriation is everywhere.

4 – Name one tip you would give an aspiring puppet builder / performer?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Try to solve your problems creatively so that you can keep moving forward. If you screw something up, you’ll know better for the next puppet. You’ll learn more by creating several puppets in a summer than you would working on only one for that entire time. If it really needs to be perfect, know that nothing too precious to be torn off and redone. As for preforming, practice makes perfect. I like to preform the puppet in front of the mirror as I lipsync and and improv to what I hear on the tv in the other room. Try not to always fall back on the same puppet mannerisms over and over again. Push yourself to think of new ideas quickly. Improv classes help with learning to think fast and choose the best acting choice on a dime.

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