Here’s the bottom line so readers can get on with their hyperbusy lives. Puppet Pals is a cool toy for kids or a chance for adults to make that movie they always knew they could make but lacked the talent to complete. So long as the movie is short and stars puppets.
- Offers hours of inventive play
- Allows you to record your productions for posterity
Puppet Pals also
- Contains hidden fees
- Doesn’t allow you to edit your takes
- Doesn’t let your share your shows with other iPads
In addition, I discuss reasons why you will almost never avoid learning the score of a game you recorded, explain why television writers are so predictable, and relate to readers why experiencing the music as it was “originally performed for audiences” might not be as rewarding as it sounds.
Last week Carol and I were watching the premiere of some new show with Angie Harmon because it followed The Closer, which we never miss. It has a couple’s name like Thelma and Louise or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but I wasn’t really paying attention because I was typing a blog to catch up on my posts.
I took last Sunday off to watch the World Cup finals and go to an opera, which the Austin Lyric Opera (ALO) scheduled in the second half of the game. I personally thought this was stupid because if there was one sporting event on TV opera lovers would miss the opera for, it would be the World Cup. Soccer appeals to a different sort of (elitist) sports fan the way opera appeals to elitist music fans. There, it’s out in the open.
Since we have season tickets, which means I paid for the opera whether I went to see it or not, I attended the performance and recorded the second half of the game. Of course, we had to drive home with the radio off and not look at any news programs on TV until we finished the game.
Then, while I was watching the overtime play I experienced one of those soon-to-be-senior moments I am assured I will be experiencing more and more. I thought to myself, since I’m going to be reviewing ESPN for the iPad, I might as well log on and see if I can follow the game live the way I could when I used my laptop and Flash enabled web browser.
You see, Steve Jobs swore developers would no longer need Flash now that the iPad arrived. So I thought, let’s see if ESPN was able to find a Flash alternative for their live updates. (In soccer, you see the field and whenever someone takes a shot on goal you see an line for the shot and an x where the kick was made; that is, if you have Flash).
Silly me. As soon as I entered the ESPN iPad website I saw the headline, “Spain wins.” This was about 30 seconds before I watched the winning goal go in with only a couple of minutes to go, a goal I already knew would happen because I stupidly went to the ESPN site to see if they were updating the game live.
Which, of course, they wouldn’t have been because the game was actually over about the time the character of Dr. S was singing to Dr. And Mrs. P that the patient, Dr. P, would always mistake her for a hat, in triplets with a chamber orchestra bowing their strings softly (this was a modern chamber opera).
I assume that’s what he’d been singing because the ALO director decided we should experience a chamber opera in a church they way audiences had in the beginning when the acoustics were so bad no one could hear the lyrics anyway. And yes, we did experience it as sixteenth century audiences would have, and, no, we didn’t understand more than a handful of lyrics.
What does all this have to do with Angie Harmon?
In an equally boneheaded move, her character (an experienced, savvy detective) followed a man in uniform, who she didn’t know and who didn’t show her his badge, into the back of an unmarked van.
Even though I was actually typing a blog and not even paying attention, I knew enough to know she would find herself locked in a van with, not one, but two vicious serial killers looking to carve her into little pieces. How could a guy who wasn’t even paying attention know she was in danger?
Because, as an experienced writer I knew her character’s job wasn’t to stay out of trouble. It was to do something stupid to get herself into trouble so she could kill the bad guys the way Milla Jovovich kills zombies. Then she and her partner could resolve their quirky little differences and bond girl style because this show was definitely not written for men. The show was written for women to have their female bonding moments watching, and only added a lot of blood spatter at the end because network executives didn’t want their husbands to roll their eyes and change to the Bruce Willis movie on Cinemax.
I also knew that Angie Harmon’s older cop buddy would get stabbed as soon as he got out of the car to take a leak while they were staking out the crime scene. Come on, that’s obvious. And that the male FBI guy would never be man enough to catch the eye of a strong female Italian character like Angie Harmon’s (at least not in episode 1, which is another important element of the TV cop formula—never let both male and female characters know they’re attracted to each other until you know the network commits to the full 16 episodes).
They also cast Chaz Palmenteri as Angie Harmon’s dad, so male viewers would at least hang out to see what a little testosterone brought to the show. The show needed a little testosterone because the other male characters acted like scared little women in men’s clothing. But Chaz never showed up, probably because he knew better than to walk onto a set crowded by women pumping that much estrogen.
Rizzoli and Isles. That’s the name of the show.
No wonder I couldn’t remember the name. It sounds like an Italian/Irish restaurant.
This brings me to the real point of today’s blog. Would you like to know how to predict everything that’s about to happen in a TV show? It takes practice, and a lot of patience. And you have to script a few scenarios of your own to realize how easy it is to write a bad teleplay.
Puppet Pals is a simple app to push you in the direction of becoming a major TV producer. The developer would never make such claims, but you have to start somewhere and this would be the place to start.
Play out the movie in your head
Puppet Pals gives you the tools to play out that movie in your head and replay it for friends and family. Sadly, the movie needs to be about pirates or cowboys or aliens, and not something out of Woody Allen or Ingmar Bergman. But we’ll get into the limitations later.
Puppet Pals provides you with a stage, a backdrop and the ability to produce a puppet show with as many as eight characters at a time. You have the choice of a number of characters—including cowboys, fairies, monsters and talk show hosts. You can constrain your puppet show to one genre, or you can mix characters from any category for an extravaganza.
You can add as many as eight characters to your stage
The characters are puppets, or at least the two-dimensional digital equivalent. Their mouths don’t move and their limbs don’t bend; they don’t even have Barbie’s limited range. But that’s the point of puppets. You focus on the story and not the technical details of animation.
You can move your characters onto stage, off stage, scale them. flip them and rotate them. You can ever add your own dialogue using the iPad’s built-in microphone. For the low price of the app, you get something a little more sophisticated than the Ken and Barbie or GI Joe dramas you used to play as kids (except you could bend GI Joe’s leg).
You can move your players on and off the stage
Unlike those shows, you don’t have to pause the playback for costume changes because these characters keep the costumes they came in.
Hours of inventive play
For you, or the screaming child you want to distract with the iPad.
The instructions are simple, you don’t have to leave the screen to find them, and once you’ve mastered the details it’s pretty easy to record your show. You can improvise with the mic and camera on, or you can script and storyboard your dramas.
You can record your shows
Once you’ve rehearsed your shows and have your performances down pat, click the record button to capture your show. You can do anything with the characters as you record that you did when practicing—scale, flip, move and remove characters from the stage.
You can save your recorded shows and play them back at anytime.
Before you decide this app is for you, you should be aware of a couple of drawbacks. I can’t really call them criticisms because the app is so cheap I understand why they weren’t addressed. But they do exist.
Be aware that Puppet Pals is one of the new breed of Apple apps that provides you with the bare framework on download and requires you to pay to expand features when you need them. In the case of Puppet Pals, you have to buy all but a handful of characters.
The app downloads with seven characters and three backdrops, all of them from the wild west. Any props are included among the cast, in this case, a tumbleweed. You can get a pirate set for a dollar, and the remaining characters cost $3.99 a set.
Actors aren’t cheap and you have to pay union scale
I’m not all that impressed with the characters you pay for either. Other than the western set, the only good human actors come in the politician and talk show sets. A couple are really awful. Then again, I’m speaking as an adult.
If I was in eighth grade I would probably think the character sets were cool and would be doing anything I could to get my parent’s password so i could download the sets.
You have to capture your show live in one take. You can’t stop, remove part of the performance, and start from a point in the middle of the tape. You have to get your show right the first time, or shoot as many takes as you need to get it right.
Fortunately, Puppet Pals doesn’t save your show unless you want to.
The developer intended for these puppet shows to be played back on the iPad you recorded them on. The app doesn’t share movies with other iPads or devices. This doesn’t really bother me. If I want to do a professional show for public distribution, I’ll do a Flash animation (sorry, Steve) or produce a real video.
But I can imagine that some users would like the opportunity to share their shows on YouTube or over the internet.
You could probably use the video out adapter to capture the playback on another device, but it seems like a lot of trouble and I haven’t seen an iPad successfully broadcast to another device by cable.
Puppet Pals is a toy, no more, no less. If you’ve never made a cartoon or animation this is a quick and easy way to try a couple. And I’m sure kids would love to create their own puppet shows complete with fart and belch noises.
Oh, and even though I didn’t give it a headline, Jenny wants readers to know that she didn’t see any cat characters. Chipmunks, dragons and werewolves, but no cats.
Jenny Manytoes rates Puppet Pals
Jenny Manytoes takes a nap whenever I launch Puppet Pals.