Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Toy Theatre Blog

An Omaha group are going to be putting on some mighty interesting modern toy theatre productions. From what it sounds like, they are still in the rehearsal stages, but you can follow along as they progress...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Miniature Featured on TV Program

Ilisha from Hestia House sent out an email today about an exciting project she just finished.

Ilisha had this to say:
I wanted to let you know I have a dollhouse being featured on CBS for the "As the World Turns" Christmas special. The dollhouse is a key part of the script and it weaves through the episode as characters on the show imagine themselves in the rooms. The job was to make the rooms match/allude to the Victorian sets they were creating at the same time I was working. It was a crazy couple of weeks pulling it together, but I tried to include the work of many miniaturists so it could be a sort of collective offering to the full scale viewing public. There will be an article in "Miniature Collector" about my process of creating miniature settings for TV and the show is being listed on the National Miniatures Trust website.
You can see a video of the dollhouse and how it will be featured.

Another AMAZING creation from Hestia House!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Delightful Season's Greetings

This unique and delightful animated Christmas card came my way today from Steve Arnott and his family. Please note that to see the animation, you'll need to click on the image above and open in a separate window...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

History Toy Theatre DVD Released

A new DVD has been published by Pollocks Toy Theatres, Ltd in their toy theatre series...
A Small History of Toy Theatre

Producer Steve Arnott says that the DVD includes...

...the recollections of Norman Pollock, grandson of Benjamin
Pollock, Laurie Webb, great-grandson of W G Webb and grandson of H J Webb.

Introduced by Hugo Brown, great-great-great-grandson of J K Green and Eddy Fawdry, grandson of Marguerite Fawdry the founder of Pollock's Museum, also an interview with Robert Poulter of New Model Theatre fame.

As well as rare footage of Benjamin Pollock and his family and of H J Webb making tinsel pictures. The DVD runs for 63 minutes and contains a wealth of images and firsthand accounts that bring the history of Toy Theatre alive.
He says the cost of the DVD is £10 or $20 US and shipping is £2 or $4 US. It can be ordered from Pollock's Toy Theatres Ltd one of four ways - by mail at Number 1 Scala Street, London, W1T 2HL, UK; by phone at 44 20 7636 3452 from outside the UK or 020 7636 3452 from within the UK; in person, at the Scala Street shop, for the price of £10; and with PayPal (using as payee). Other DVDs in the series include, Ali Baba, Cinderella and Pollock's Museum Virtual Tour, all priced at £6.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Trompe l'oeil

Being a novice in toy theatre, I was thinking in response to another missive from Tony I received yesterday, that an argument could be made that toy theatre sheets - specifically backgrounds - are, at their best, a form of this...
I thought your readers might also be interested in the following: Apart from making model theatres I'm also a working theatrical scene painter. Part of a scene painter's training is in the theatrical illusion of trompe l'oeil which for four hundred and fifty years dominated stage design and interior decoration. It isn't used much in theatre anymore but lives on mainly in mural painting. In reverence to this art I started painting illusionistic pictures to hang on walls or use as firescreens. The subject range is quite wide but also includes some theatrical pieces. They use the classic formula of light and shade and cast shadows along with perspective. They have cut profiled edges which helps the illusion. The source of the Harlequin and Columbine characters are the illustrations of William West who is credited with the invention of 'pennny plain. tuppence coloured'. Here, I've given them a Commedia del Arte spin which is , of course, their origin.
Tony also mentioned that he's working on a website of his own, and hopes to get it online soon; I shall post the news as soon as I hear...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Designer of the Small

Earlier this week I heard from a gentleman named Tony Banfield. Some of you may be familiar with Tony's work, on the large or the small stage. I was thrilled to hear from him, and deeply impressed at his meticulously detailed miniature theatres he creates. Tony had this to say...
Dear Trish,

Louise Heard from Pollocks, Covent Garden, London suggested I contact you re the Victoria Model theatre which might be of interest to your readers. I have one on show at Pollocks and I've made 21 versions so far for clients in the UK, USA, Norway, Switzerland and Portugal.

The model is based on London's Old Vic Theatre as it would have appeared in 1871 and very much how it looks now having been restored in 1982.

My first experience of theatre was aged five or so. I recall being taken to an immense building, climbing hundreds of stairs and emerging into a fantastical palace of red plush and gilt. I was hooked - a victim of the “red and gold disease”. Way below an orchestra was tuning and footlights had set the gorgeous velvet curtain aglow. When Peter Pan flew through the air it was no surprise. In such a place anything was possible.

Next day I made a theatre out of an old shoe box. In time this was replaced by a hand-me-down Pollock’s cardboard theatre where I discovered the delights of “penny plain, tuppence coloured”. Eventually I had built a rickety theatre with fly-tower, revolving stage and fan shaped auditorium. Like so many real theatres of the day I converted mine into a cinema and then I grew up....but not quite.

Years later I had become a set and costume designer and in between design jobs decided to use my set design model making skills to make the model theatre I had always dreamed of as a child. I soon found I need new skills and entered into the astonishing world of the miniaturist model maker. In nine months I had the prototype and soon found that other kindred spirits wanted it too. Since then I have made 21 versions for clients in the UK, Europe and USA. Each model is signed and dated.

Congratulations on a fascinating website. What a find !

All the best
Tony Banfield
Tony included the following details about this particular theatre he makes (he makes others):
This is a fully working scale model based on London's famous Old Vic Theatre as it would have appeared in 1871 and very similar to the present day restorations. The decorative auditorium is housed in one of three cabinet designs. The simple version has an open front and stage area with a framework grid to support scenery. The intermediate version is the same but has a semi enclosed stage with fly tower and flying system with around 18 bars from which to hang scenery and perform magical scene changes. The full cabinet version is enclosed like a dolls house with an exterior decorated with an architectural rendering of the 1871 theatre. Optional extras include a revolving stage, working stage trap, special front curtain based on that at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and a miniature lighting rig with around 150 lamps and a lap-top control board with up to 30 dimmers. This operates house lights, footlights and overhead battens in three colours and sets of spotlights. Each model is signed and dated and there are 21 versions so far in the UK, USA & Europe.
And I thought my lighting setup was complex!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Miniature Masterpieces

Ilisha Helfman at Hestia House has done it again.

Ilisha has many talents as an artist, but the one I appreciate the most is her love of paper. She has created three miniature toy theatres that are exquisite in their detail and design. They would be an amazing addition to anyone's collection, and a delight as a gift to a little boy or girl this Christmas...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Sita Sings the Blues

An animated classic-in-the-making, Sita Sings the Blues is heading towards the finish line. I've been watching the artist create this over the past few years, and it's been an amazing story in and of itself...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New Play Adaption: House of the Baskervilles

There is now a new Sherlock Holmes play available, a new adaption for the toy theatre of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Hound of the Baskervilles"!

The author of the play, Steve Arnott, writes:
It can be purchased from both Pollock's of Scala Street and Benjamin Pollock's Toy Shop in Covent Garden or from myself at; The price is £12 in person or £15 with postage, which is about $30 US...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

High-End Collectors, Attend!

"Leading international dealers in
antiquarian books, ephemera, and autographs
specializing in 18th- and 19th-century
performing arts and popular amusements"

Dramatis Personae Booksellers just posted their catalogue online today. Some very nice toy theatre related items. Not cheap, but definitely for the discriminating collector.

Only my bank account prevents me from being one, alas!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Incommunicado No More

My deep apologies to readers of this blog for my long absence over the latter part of this summer and early autumn. You can blame another obsession of history. Along with that is my ongoing research into my hometown village, which I always knew had a fascinating history, but only since starting the journey of purposeful investigation have I realize just how fascinating.

But back to the juvenile stage. Earlier this summer, a friend graciously offering to machine or mill (not sure of the correct term here) some footlight fixtures for me. This is a busy person, and the task is not easy. It is more than a kind offer, of which I am a humble beneficiary of. Recently he contacted me regarding his progress; the project if about half completed. To say I am excited would be an understatement! I have all the lighting and wiring, etc. ready and awaiting the final ingredient, his hardware, the part that will be seen by the audience. Going by his example images, they will be an amazing addition to my first toy theatre...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Puppet Rampage Diaries!

For those of us who can't be there (sigh), or for those that are and just want to remember, be sure and check out the Puppet Rampage Festival video diaries and blog! Sounds like they are having a blast in Minnesota this weekend!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Automatic Organs

Remember the sawdust? The cotton candy? And remember the carousel organ?

Hear it again...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Digitized Magic Lantern Slideshows

Thanks to the Victorian Peeper, I learned that there has been a project to digitize some magic lantern shows put online.

Turn off your lights, and you'll almost be able to imagine what it was like to see a magic lantern show over a century ago...

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Latest Toy Theatre Newsletter

Harry O. has a new toy theatre newsletter out, and a very special - and moving, might I add - section called 1963...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

More Amazing Photos from Fishmarket!

I wonder who these two are...?!
More amazing photos from the recent festival (courtesy Rainer and Marliss Sennewald)

If you would like to try translating to another language, try this...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Query Request

Originally uploaded by morganthemoth
Kent from San Francisco wrote to say...

I came across your site while looking for more information about Peter Baldwin. I was just recently in London where I spent a rainy afternoon in Pollock's Toy Museum, and in Dusseldorff where I saw a marionette performance of Krabat. I've learned so much on your site about Dante, The Seven Deadly Sins in marionette form...I will be returning often.

On a related note, on a recent art-scavenging mission I came across a complete punch-out set for "The Three Musketeers" drawn by an artist named Hillenbrand (no copyright date, but the sets say "Hillenbrand '43"). I'm wondering if you know anything about this artist. I had thought of using it in an art piece, but I may just create a facsimile, as I wouldn't want to alter anything of historical significance if it is historically significant. If it's a dime-a-dozen, I won't worry and I'll make art with impunity.

There is a stamp on the inside cover that says:

Diggon-Hibben Ltd.
Victoria, BC

best regards,


Friday, May 25, 2007

Fishmarket Post-Festival UPDATE

The website for the recent International Toy Theatre Festival at Fishmarket has just been updated!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Seven Deadly Sins, Puppet Style

Erik Sanko is a very talented artist, who happens to have a passion for puppets...well, marionettes to be exact. His latest production, The Fortune Teller, played in New York to enthusiastic audiences.

I REALLY love the video below where they show more of the 'behind the scenes'!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Robert Poulter NEW Website

Thanks to tip from Gigi Sandberg, I learned today of a new website put up by the amazing Robert Poulter. Be sure and check it out!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

TT Film Well Received at Festivals

Dante's Inferno is making the rounds on the film festival circuit, and doing quite well. I can hardly wait until it is released on DVD!

When it comes to punishment, though, nothing takes the place of the classics. What served T.S. Eliot well enough also inspires director Sean Meredith in DANTE’S INFERNO (2007; Brattle March 23 at 7:30 pm, with Meredith). Updated in setting if charmingly retro in technique — a crude but effective Victorian cardboard puppet theater — Inferno remains faithful to the original while cleverly revising it for the present day. Here Dante finds himself in the middle of his life hung over and in despair, broke and with a non-functioning cellphone, passed out in an alley. Virgil emerges from the shadows with a mission to redeem him for the sake of the deceased and beloved Beatrice, and off they go into a 2-D hell of a distinctly 21st-century cast.

Dante himself had no qualms about settling political grudges in his epic, and Meredith also indulges in an agenda, though it’s not so easy to peg. Ronald Reagan and even a pre-mortem Dick Cheney figure among the damned, but so too does JFK (lust got him), and the religious right will be glad to know that there’s a special place in Hell for gays, at least in Meredith’s version. Although its slapstick sometimes overshadows its ingenuity, there’s enough of the divinely comic in this Inferno to justify a pair of sequels. - Peter Keough [Boston Phoenix]

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Puppet Rampage 2007

An amazing festival and it'll be right down the road from me - I had darn well better find a way to get there!

More performances than a person could take all in.

...and there will be a strong toy theatre presence.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

From Harry Oudekerk...

So I guess it is time for an update on the international Toy Theatre Festival in Harderwijk, The Netherlands.

Harderwijk is an old fishing town on the border of the former Suydersea. The town is almost 800 years old and the oldest part is the region called the "Vischmarktbuurt". Quaint old houses, a monumental gate which also "still" functions as a lighthouse, citywalls, an old, former, synagoque, and nice rstaurants in various price brackets.

This is the background for the first of, we hope, a long series of toy theatre festivals.

The festival will be held from Wednesday May 16 in the evening till Friday May 18 late in the afternoon. This is around Ascension Day.

What makes this festival special, are not only the guests, but the enormous enthusiasm with which the neighbourhood adopted the idea of the festival and gave it its support.

Harderwijk SynagogueThe old synagogue will be our "livingroom". Here tickets will be sold, and meals served for the performers. Other guests can drink coffee and such here but are adviced to have their meals at one of the 4 restaurants around the Vischmarkt square that will offer special festival arrangements. Two theatres will be performing on the first and second floor of the synagogue and Dirk Reimers will be selling stuff from his toy theatre shop. In the gate properly called the "Vischpoort" or "Fishgate" there will be an exhibition of theatres from the collection of the famous Ab Vissers a toy theatre collector and performer of long, international, standing. He will be selling too! For children there will be a toy theatre workshop. If you want to come and stay for a few days I can still offer some double bedrooms with breakfast in a nice hotel at the waterside for the duration of the festival at €180.

Advance tickets will be sold from May 1st at €4 per show, 4 tickets at once will cost you €15. Tickets for the whole festival, 12 shows, will be €37.50. During the festival single tickets will be €4 and €4.50 for respectively for children up to 12 and adults.

For more information, take a look at the English website...

Enthusiast: Ab Vissers

Thanks to Harry Oudekerk, I have found out about an amazing toy theatre enthusiast named Ab Vissers.

Anyone that puts a permanent toy theatre for performance in their home is alright with me!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Film Director & His Toy Theatre

A tiny toy theater, measuring not more than 3 feet high, 2 feet wide and 18 inches deep, has been discovered at the D. W. Griffith studios at Mamaroneck, N. Y. The Purpose of the little play house reveals the infinite care observed in the preparations of the Griffith Photoplays such as "Way Down East."

- From D. W.'s Toy Theater, The Washington Post (1877-1954), Dec 4, 1921

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Update from Pollock's Toy Museum

From Paul J. Weighell at Pollock's Toy Museum comes this update...
Just a quick message to the main Pollocks addicts!

new website is now up and running. It will no doubt change and grow! The plan is to add a shop and sell Hugo's and Steve's output if they wish, as well as Pollock's stuff and hopefully all things TT. I have already added a links page to Hugo and Trish and other good sites. If you have a TT links page then perhaps you might update it to point to the new site not the old one?

Steve has finished the Cinderella DVD and it's good and I hope Hugo won't mind me mentioning that he is working on a release of Waterloo to add to his other fine titles.

Believe it or not, 2 new cellars have been found under the building!! They go out right under the road in front of the shop and they are quite large and very very wet. But, they will make a good spot for me to set up a few fish tanks and bubbling apparatus to chemically treat the printing plates and remove the corrosion. Hugo may have offered to photograph / scan the results... Rumours that I will be making a TT Frankenstein down there are sheer nonsense (not enough electricity for one thing...)

The new TT clubroom at the top of the museum is coming on and all the sheets and so on are already up there. Non-TT stuff has been banished! Dolls and Bears have been seen escaping to good homes as more space for TT is found in other rooms as well. The aim is to have all the TT stuff on display in the general museum and then the the club room has space for fixing up theatres, sorting sheets and so on. It may even be used again for holding performances as that was what is was used for in the 60s.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

What can I say...I adore Peter O'Toole, and this made me laugh my *ss off...and,'s puppets!!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

From Professor Will...

From Professor Will comes this fascinating information on toy theatre special effects, a result of a recent thread about the subject on the Toy Theatre Yahoo Group:
Lycopodium is a club moss spore; if you can identify the moss, you can collect it in the woods at the right time of year. It produces a flash because it's so fine that it "burns" when blown into in the air and ignited by a flame or spark (like a flour explosion). There are no oils involved. Finely powdered resin will do the same but is more dangerous (and smelly) Colored "fires" were frequently coarse resin combined with metal salts. They are technically a firework and appropriate regulations apply.

"Flash" paper, cotton, silk, etc. are forms of nitro cellulose, best acquired for a reputable magic supplier. Must be kept dry. They burn at a very low temperature (unlike magnesium!) Safest igniter is a model airplane glow plug hooked up to 12 volt battery. There's a slight delay which needs to be compensated for in performance. Small igniters that work with a 9 volt battery are available.
I found information about something called a flambol which is " apparatus, which is used to make a fire from a flambol with on a stage of a theatre." I have no idea how practial it might be, but thought I'd pass it on here for those that might be interested. This also sounds like a LOT of fun for those scientifically-minded - think of the possibilities!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Toy Theatre Goes to Court

88 F.2d 97
No. 10748.
Circuit Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
February 17, 1937.

Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of Iowa; Charles A. Dewey, Judge.

Action at law by Guy Young against the Ralston-Purina Company. From a judgment of dismissal, plaintiff appeals.


Allen A. Herrick and Herschel G. Langdon, both of Des Moines, Iowa (D. Cole McMartin, of Des Moines, Iowa, on the brief), for appellant.

William Hossfeld, of Des Moines, Iowa (F. W. Lehmann, Jr., and W. B. Hurlburt, both of Des Moines, Iowa, on the brief), for appellee.

Before SANBORN, WOODROUGH, and BOOTH, Circuit Judges.
WOODROUGH, Circuit Judge.

The petition in this case presented a cause of action at law in two counts within the federal jurisdiction because of diverse citizenship of the parties. In the first count the plaintiff alleged that he had invented a certain toy movie theater for which he had a patent pending during the summer of 1934 and that during that summer he entered into negotiations with defendant to sell the use of the invention to the defendant; that defendant stated it was interested in utilizing plaintiff's idea on the basis of paying plaintiff a royalty on each toy theater used; that at defendant's request plaintiff disclosed all the details of his invention to defendant, and the defendant thereupon utilized the plaintiff's idea and invention and produced and distributed one million of said toy theaters and became thereby indebted to plaintiff for a reasonable royalty, figured at $12,500.

In the second count the allegations were "that on or about October 22, 1934, the defendant offered to purchase the use of plaintiff's invention to use said toy theatre idea" at a certain royalty price; that the plaintiff accepted the offer; and that the "defendant did produce and utilize * * * one million of said toy theatres and thereby became indebted to plaintiff in the sum of $12,500.00."

There was a prayer for judgment in the sum of $12,500, with interest and costs.

The defendant answered that it did cause toy movie theaters to be made and distributed as a premium during the latter part of 1934 and the early part of 1935, but the toys did not embody the plaintiff's invention and they were not made or distributed pursuant to any contract express or implied between plaintiff and defendant; that the structure of the toy movie picture theater was old and well-known to the public prior to plaintiff's alleged invention; and that the structure of those made and distributed by defendant was fully illustrated and described in six...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


From Hugo Brown's wonderful website, comes this great old newsreel!

It shows a printmaker from the 1920's making up toy theatre sheets, preparing them for a show, and a bit of a show itself.

An amazing find, Hugo!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Upcoming Performance

Thanks to the toy theatre list, I read about an upcoming toy theatre performance in that readers in the UK might want to take in; see more about it here...

Friday, January 05, 2007

8th Int'l Toy Theatre Festival - Summer 2008

The 8th International Toy Theater Festival & Temporary Toy Theater Museum is planned for Summer 2008, according to Great Small Work's newly-designed website.

They were recently awarded a well-deserved NEA grant towards developing and producing the festival, which is highly-regarded among those in the theatre and puppetry world.

Toy Theatre Influenced Rossetti

The Rossetti Archive has some wonderful examples of toy theatre art.

The site says that "...Nearly all of DGR's artistic juvenilia are drawn in the style of this popular art form that occupied the attention of the entire Rossetti household when DGR [Dante Gabriel Rossetti] was a boy."

Pollocks Trust Exhibition/Benefit

I missed this until stumbling on it today - the day after it closed! Profuse apologies to one and all. Hopefully those of you who may read this and are near enough to have taken it in, already knew about it anyways...