While it can take on a variety of different forms, puppetry involves creating animation from inanimate objects, with the purpose of telling a story. Puppetry has been used for thousands of years to communicate ideas theatrically, whether in a comedic, dramatic, political or tragic fashion.
World Puppetry Day is here to celebrate the creativity, art and impact that puppeteers and puppetry can have on humankind!
History of World Puppetry Day
Puppetry can find its roots as far back as 500 BC when Ancient Greeks would use a form of puppetry, but some historians believe it might date even further back – to 2000 BC or longer. Some evidence suggests that Ancient Egyptians made wooden puppets that were animated with strings, or made them from clay or ivory and moved them with the use of wires.
Puppets have often been used to not only simply tell stories to children, but they have been used as a form of theater to address the ideas, needs and interests of societies around the world. Whether through hand puppets, marionettes, water puppets, stick puppets, or even shadow puppets, puppetry is a unique way for writers and puppeteers to express themselves through story.
Throughout the years and in modern times, puppets have ranged from rudimentary (think sock puppets) to extremely complicated. For instance, Indonesian wayang theater includes intricately formed sticks that work to tell stories through shadow puppetry, while India has a rich tradition of string puppetry.
One of the most famous stories of a puppet, The Adventures of Pinocchio, was written by Italian author Carlo Collodi from Florence, Tuscany. The story from 1883 is about a puppeteer who makes a marionette puppet out of magic wood and it comes to life.
Although puppetry is an ancient art form that can be traced back thousands of years, World Puppetry Day is a much more recent event that started in this century. The original idea for World Puppetry Day came from an artist in the puppet theaters of Iran, named Javad Zolfaghari. The idea came about in 2000 but it took a little while to develop and implement the plan.
The first World Puppetry Day event took place in 2003. The day is sponsored by the Union Internationale de la Marionette (UNIMA), which is a charity that is affiliated with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Today, World Puppetry Day is here to encourage appreciation for the art of puppetry, as well as the storytellers, puppeteers, script writers and puppet makers behind this style of theater!
How to Celebrate World Puppetry Day
Get involved and have tons of fun for World Puppetry Day! Celebrating this day can be filled with all sorts of fun activities and plans that pay honor and respect to the world of puppetry. Get started with some of these ideas:
Make a Puppet Show with Kids
Whether teachers, parents or community leaders, those who are involved with kids can certainly encourage the celebration of and participation with World Puppetry Day. It could be something as simple as letting a group of kids create sock puppets, write a script and put on a show. (Don’t forget to make a video so the puppeteers can see how well they did!) Or it could be something more elaborate that takes many months to prepare and the show is performed on World Puppetry Day.
Learn How to Be a Puppeteer
Those who enjoy drama and theater but who don’t necessarily want to be the center of attention or on stage, might want to consider learning how to become a puppeteer. It’s a bit of a niche career and may work just as well as a hobby, but the world of puppetry is still alive and well in many communities around the world.
Get involved with World Puppetry Day by signing up for a course at an arts college, or do some online research to find a mentor that can help with developing the skills needed for mastering the art of puppetry. New York City is a great place to be able to gain access to all sorts of different versions of puppetry.
Puppetry is an extremely labor intensive art form. Some important factors involved in puppetry are good hand-eye coordination, physical stamina, creativity and passion. Some puppeteers even develop their own character personas or write their own scripts. It’s a fun and interesting aspect of the arts to be involved with.
Watch Puppets on Film
It’s no surprise that the art of puppetry also made the transition from live theater to film in the early 1900s. Over more than a century, the art form of puppetry has often been captured on film and video so that it can be shared with people all over the world. Have fun celebrating World Puppetry Day with some of these:
- The Muppet Movie (1979). Muppets, created by Jim Henson, are a combination of “marionettes” and “puppets”. From their debut on Sesame Street to The Muppet Show to many box office hits, the Muppets offer a beloved cast of characters with tons of humorous and learning adventures.
- Labyrinth (1986). This fantasy and adventure film stars live actors Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie (who also composed much of the music), as well as a wide variety of amazing muppets by Jim Henson.
- Lamb Chop’s Special Chanukah (1995). Beloved television entertainer and ventriloquist, Shari Lewis, was most famous for her puppet friend, Lamb Chop, and this made-for-television holiday movie is a delight.
- The Dark Crystal (1982). Another Jim Henson and Frank Oz fan favorite, this fantasy adventure follows two puppets on their quest to overthrow evil and bring the world back into balance.
Attend a World Puppetry Day Puppet Show
While not all communities offer access to puppet theaters, many of them do! Check at the local library or in an online community calendar to see what kinds of puppetry events are on throughout the year. Then book tickets to go see a puppet show with friends and family just for fun!
World Puppetry Day FAQs
What is puppetry?
Puppetry is simply the art and skill of operating puppets. 
How to get into puppetry?
Puppeteers need hand-eye coordination and a lot of hard work, then they can enter into a school or an apprenticeship for puppetry.
When did puppetry start?
Puppetry is an ancient form of entertainment dating back to the 5th century BC. 
Where did puppetry originate?
The first versions of puppetry in theater can be traced back to Ancient Greece. 
What is water puppetry?
Water puppetry is a traditional Vietnamese form of theater performed with wooden puppets on water.