Puppeteer Noreen Young

Noreen in 2006 at the Puppets Up International Festival.

Noreen Young is one of Canada's most acclaimed puppeteers. In addition to being one of the kindest people I know, she is also a very talented and remarkable person. Her television puppet characters played a role in the childhoods of several generations of Canadians, from the 1960's through to the 1990's. Many of her puppets have been accepted into the national collection at the Canadian Museum of History, including three from the TV series Readalong and several of her caricature puppets such as Prime Minister McDonald, President Ronald Regan, and Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. In 1995 Noreen became a Member of the Order of Canada. More recently her puppetry has been the catalyst for the creation of the annual Puppets Up International Festival in Almonte, Ontario where she resides. Noreen has served as the Artistic Director for Puppets Up since it's inaugural year in 2005. I've outlined the festival's history on a separate page of this blog: http://mikeyspuppetryblog.blogspot.ca/p/puppets-up-international-festival.html

Over the course of her career Noreen Young has done so much puppetry, has made so many puppets, and influenced so many people that it would be a full time job over several years to successfully document the full extent of her work. With this page of my blog I'm aiming to present a summary of Noreen Young's amazing puppetry career, and her memorable contributions to Canadian culture. I'd also like to share some of the photographs and memorabilia that I've had the pleasure of collecting over the years. As I have quite a bit to add here, this page will be updated from time to time so the info below is just for starters....

Meeting puppeteer Bob Stutt (left) in the late 1980's
I first met Noreen Young in 1989 or 1990 when she was working on her TV series Under the Umbrella Tree at the Ottawa CBC studio. The meeting came about after I had met Bob Stutt, puppeteer for Iggy the Iguana on Umbrella Tree. Back in the late 1980's during my teens, I was a member of the Ontario Puppetry Association which operated a small puppetry museum, The Puppet Centre, in Willowdale, Ontario (in the Toronto area). When I was sixteen I attended Bob Stutt's puppetry manipulation workshop at the Puppet Centre. The above photo was taken after the workshop. We're holding up some of my first puppets, I have Rob the Slob (right) and Bob is holding Mr.Noodlehead (left). Bob Stutt kindly invited me to visit the CBC studio in Ottawa to watch a taping of Under the Umbrella Tree. On that first of many visits to the studio I met Noreen Young as well as puppeteer Stephen Brathwaite and actress Holly Larocque. Puppeteer Kathy MacLellan from Rag and Bone Theatre was also there assisting as a puppet wrangler.

The Puppet Centre always had an exhibit on display featuring puppets from their collection or puppets that were on loan. In the above photo you can see the display case behind us has Muffy Mouse and Sam, two of Noreen Young's puppets from the TV show Today's Special. Unfortunately I didn't get a better picture of them. Ananas from Téléfrancais, another of Noreen's puppets, is also in the display case behind Bob Stutt. I remember this because I had stood in font of the display case quite zombie like for several minutes. It was the first time that I had seen any of Noreen Young's puppets for real rather than on television.

Jack in the Box, 1960's
Unfortunately I know very little about this program. I have more info in one of my files, so I'll have to update this section later on once I find it. I've noticed conflicting information about this program as some sources say it was produced at CBC while others say it was CJOH/CTV. In any case it was produced in the 1960's and may have been Noreen's very first TV show.

Here is an article by Dennis Faulkner about Noreen Young's puppetry during the 1960's that mentions the Jack in the Box TV show, as well as some live shows that Noreen performed at Café Le Hibou as part of their children's theatre series: http://lehibou.ca/children%E2%80%99s-theatre

Cartoonerville, 1961 to 1966
Ottawa's local TV station CJOH / CTV first went to air in 1961. Toronto puppeteer John Conway, creator of English Canadian television's very first puppet celebrities Uncle Chichimus and Hollyhock, had moved to Ottawa that year to begin a new TV program at CJOH called Cartoonerville. At some point in the early to mid 1960's he made contact with Noreen and asked her to build two identical puppets of his character Slimey the Frog for the program. 

Mr. Conway kept these as back ups in the event that his original Slimey puppet was stolen. A decade earlier in 1952 this is exactly what had happened to his main puppet stars, Uncle Chichimus and Hollyhock. They were stolen from his car and the theft gained national headlines. Ultimately however, Noreen's Slimey the Frog puppets were never used on the program. They are now in the national collection at the Canadian Museum of History, along with the original Slimey and John Conway's entire collection of puppets.

I've posted more information about John Conway on a separate page of this blog: http://mikeyspuppetryblog.blogspot.ca/p/john-conway-and-uncle-chichimus.html

Hi Diddle Day, 1969 to 1976

Gertrude Diddle from Hi Diddle Day shown where she now resides, in the home of Toronto puppeteer Ronnie Burkett. (Image Source: thestar.com, March 2014 See link below)

Hi Diddle Day is a CBC TV series that featured a cast of Noreen's puppet characters who lived in a fictional town named Crabgrass. Characters included Gertrude Diddle the Mayor of Crabgrass, her dog Basil, Durwood the Dragon, Wolfgang von Wolf, Chico the Crow, and Granny Diddle, all of whom lived together in a Victorian house. Other characters included Sebastian the Cat and Lucy Goose. In addition to Noreen, one of the shows puppeteers was Stephen Brathwaite who would later perform Jacob Blue Jay on the TV series Under the Umbrella Tree. 

(Source: Canadian Museum of History Archives, Box 5, F214 Document: CBC Press Release, Number 190, March 20, 1970)

Noreen later gave the original Gertrude Diddle puppet to acclaimed puppeteer Ronnie Burket who is a huge fan of Hi Diddle Day. Speaking with thestar.com reporter Jacque Gallant about Gertrude Diddle, Ronnie explained, "She's my muse, She can't be topped." He has put a version of the character in every one of his shows.

Here is Noreen during the production of Hi Diddle Day with some of her puppets from the program. (Image Source: lindaseccaspina website, Aug 2015 See link below) 

Linda Seccaspina is a resident of Carleton Place who states on her blog that she has lived in the Hi Diddle Day house since 1981. Unfortunately I've never seen any episodes of the program so I'm passing along this information assuming that this is the correct house. (As a researcher I usually like to get additional references before I post such information.) It would be awesome to live in the original Hi Diddle Day house, it certainly is a beautiful home! The above photo of Linda with the Elvis Presley puppet made by Noreen is from Linda's blog. The picture was taken during the Puppets Up festival in Almonte, ON. Below is a photo of Linda's house from the same blog page. A link to the blog page is provided below.

The Wikipedia page for Hi Diddle Day: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hi_Diddle_Day
The Star.com article about Ronnie Burkett with photo of Gertrude Diddle:
The Linda Seccaspina blog article about Noreen and the Hi Diddle Day house:

Binkley and Doinkel Safety Show, early 1970's - early 1980's
In the early 1970's The Binkley and Doinkel Safety Show was an initiative of the Ministry of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (CCA), a department of the federal government of Canada. First performed as a live puppet show that toured across Canada, the aim of the project was to teach children about safety. Noreen Young made all of the puppets including Binkley and Doinkel, the Mayor and an evil snake. In 1973 the National Film Board of Canada recorded one of the performances so that it could be screened in classrooms.

Shortly after, CCA produced a series of TV commercials featuring Binkley and Doinkel that were broadcast across Canada for many years. For these commercials the two aliens were joined by a dog, Sniffer, and a new villain, R. Pugsley De Pugh. Promotional material featuring the characters was given out to kids at the live performances. At least two comic books were produced in the mid 1970's. In 1982 a 12 minute video "The Adventures of Binkley and Doinkel" was produced in which the two aliens and Sniffer were portrayed as costumed characters rather than puppets. Actress Holly Larocque appears in the video as the mother of the kids who meet the aliens. She would later star in Noreen Young's TV series Under the Umbrella Tree.

(Source: RetroOntario website, "That Time When Puppets Taught Us About Danger", posted April 2013. See link below.)

This photo is from 2009 and was taken during a puppet workshop at Noreen Young's studio. I'm standing in front of Noreen's wall of puppets holding one of the aliens from the Binkley and Doinkel Safety Show. Next to me on the wall is Owl from Readalong. As a kid in the mid to late 1970's I grew up watching these puppets on TV so I was quite happy to see them. Binkley and Doinkel are my favourite Noreen Young characters. In this picture you can also see some of the colourful suit coat for the Don Cherry puppet in the top left corner.

At the time I had asked Noreen which alien this was, Binkley or Doinkel, and she just smiled at me for being such a puppet geek! :) Then she said that she didn't know and had never really bothered keeping track. According to the Binkley and Doinkel comic book that I have this would be Binkley, because of the green hair. His pal Doinkel has yellow hair. However, earlier versions of the Binkley and Doinkel puppets both had the same colour hair, and only their outfits were different colours. Doinkel wore the yellow outfit and Binkley's was either purple or dark pink.

This is one of the Binkley and Doinkel comic books, which I bought off of e-bay in the early 2000's. The Canadian Museum of History has a different Binkley and Doinkel comic book in their archives, therefore at least two issues were produced. The comic is made with four large pages folded to make 8 double sided comic pages including the cover, for a total of 16 pages.
Here is a look inside the comic at pages 5 and 6. Click on the image to see a larger version. The comic was produced by the Ministry of Consumer and Corporate Affairs and created by Comic Book World in 1974 or later. The only credits are on the front and back cover, and page 9 has a 1974 copyright date for the puppet craft activity shown. The front cover has the names Robin Edmiston and Owen McCarron in the bottom right corner and a logo for Comic Book World at the top right corner. Along the bottom of the back cover there is a logo for Consumer and Corporate Affairs and text, which says "Designed and Produced by Comic Book World" followed by the company's address in Halifax, N.S. and "Puppets designed by Noreen Young".

The RetroOntario website has an excellent feature about Noreen Young and the Binkley and Doinkel Safety Show complete with original footage at this link: http://www.retrontario.com/2013/04/05/that-time-when-puppets-taught-us-about-danger/

What's New, 1972 - 1990
This CBC TV series was a "current affair show for teens" that featured several of Noreen's political puppet characters such as Pierre Trudeau. (Source: TV North by Peter Kenter, published by Whitecap Books, 2001, page196) 

The Wikipedia page for What's New: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What%27s_New_(TV_series)

Readalong, mid 1970s
This TV series was produced by TV Ontario which was then known as Ontario Educational Communications Authority. When Readalong was originally broadcast in the mid 1970's I was about four or five years old. Any time this show was on I was glued to the television. I recall sitting about a foot away from the screen watching Boot, Pretty, Granny, Elephant, Owl, House, Mr. Bones (a skeleton), the Explorer, Thing, Plant, and others. The show had a very catchy theme song that I memorized, and I find myself humming it on occasion to this day. Readalong was a very important part of my childhood and I still love all of the characters from that program. Quite fittingly three of the main puppets, Boot, Pretty and Granny, are now in the national collection at the Canadian Museum of History.

These episodes of Readalong were posted on YouTube by Travis Doucette.

The Wikipedia page for Readalong: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Readalong

Pencil Box, 1976 - 1979

While working on Readalong for TV Ontario or immediately afterwards, Noreen created the CBC TV series Pencil Box and made all of the puppets. Above is Stubby Pencil, one of the many puppet stars from that program. Most of the puppets for Pencil Box were talking inanimate objects such as book or a tube of toothpaste. The series ran for at least four years in the late 1970's and was recorded at the CBC studio in Ottawa. Bob Dermer was a puppeteer on this program with Noreen. He would later perform Noreen's puppet Sam Crenshaw on Today's Special.

YouTube video:

The Wikipedia page for Pencil Box: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pencil_Box

Today's Special, 1981 - 1987
This series was produced by TV Ontario. Noreen Young made the puppet characters Muffy Mouse, Sam Crenshaw the night watch man, and Muffy's cousin Mort. Muffy was performed by Nina Keogh, Bob Dermer performed Sam, and Bob Stutt performed Mort. The show was hosted by two actors, Jeff Hyslop in the role of Jeff the Mannequin, and Nerene Virgin as Jodie the store display designer. Nikki Tilroe also made several appearances as the Mime Lady.

The above photo shows the original Muffy Mouse puppet with (L to R) Jeff Hyslop who played Jeff the mannequin, series creator and director Clive VanderBurgh, and puppeteer Nina Keogh who performed Muffy. The photo is from Nina Keogh's website: http://www.ninakeogh.com/

Here is an awesome Today's Special collectable that I found at a thrift store years ago. This is an extremely rare toy puppet of Muffy Mouse in mint condition. The tag has a copyright date of 1990 and it says "Imported exclusively for TV Ontario". The dress is removable, and the body is stuffed just like a plush toy. I corresponded with Nina Keogh and confirmed that Muffy was the only character from the show to be made as a toy puppet. Some of the other Today's Special collectables included a child's wrist watch, a record album, and a set of six VHS videos. The back view of the puppet is shown below.

YouTube videos:
Today's Special opening theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cxLfIs051c
Today's Special, Episode 1 "Hats": (this video was taken offline)
Today's Special, Episode "Fun": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Im6VOnXH60o 
Today's Special, Episode "Smiles": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2hBwHu0k6o
Today's Special, Episode "Trash": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EejQGwbuWEw
Today's Special, Episode "Our Story": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jtq34NKsFo 
Today's Special, Episode "Stuffies", Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWgTklmAdCg
Today's Special, Episode "Stuffies", Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jX1S17r8K4Y
Today's Special, Episode "Stuffies", Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6hXAa5sOQM 

Travis Doucette's You Tube Channel has interviews with puppeteers Bob Dermer and Nina Keogh as well as show creator Clive VanderBurgh: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxXqw_X7vWJGU_4v5ibuwdQ

The Wikipedia page for Today's Special: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Today%27s_Special

Calling All Safety Scouts, 1982
This series was produced by TV Ontario and featured T-Booth, a talking public telephone.

Here is a large monster puppet character named Kinsley from Calling All Safety Scouts. On the show Kinsley doesn't speak or make any noise.

YouTube videos:
Calling All Safety Scouts "Safety at School", Part 1: (this video has been taken offline)
Calling All Safety Scouts "Safety at School", Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTR9gafvQnA
Calling All Safety Scouts "Safety in the Water", Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OasOjhCX58k
Calling All Safety Scouts "Safety in the Water", Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9vxvv4X6ig

Calling All Safety Scouts "Safety on Wheels", Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZh_X4dnlcM
Calling All Safety Scouts "Safety on Wheels", Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nypUynC3oLM
Calling All Safety Scouts "Safety at Play": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o614rXCUY8k
Here's another posting of the same episode:
Calling All Safety Scouts "Safety at Play", part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qd3ffOgHxs4
Calling All Safety Scouts "Safety at Play", part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJJmiHvj72k

Téléfrancais!, 1984 - 1986
This TV series was produced by the Ministry of Education. It featured a talking pineapple named Ananas.

YouTube videos:
Téléfrancais! Episode 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBSflK1FTSY 
Téléfrancais! Episode 10: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7pR6rpGzow

Téléfrancais! Episode 11: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4hyJZO5J-k 
Téléfrancais! Episode 12: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Vkv_sAEWTE

The Wikipedia page about Téléfrancais!:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C3%A9l%C3%A9fran%C3%A7ais

Under the Umbrella Tree, 1986 - 1993
This TV series starred actress Holly Larocque as Holly who, naturally, lived with three anamorphic, talking animals, namely Iggy the Iguana, Jacob Blue Jay and Gloria Gopher. The show was produced by Noreen Young Productions and broadcast on CBC and the Disney Channel. The series gets it's title from a large Umbrella Tree plant inside Holly's apartment, under which Gloria Gopher lived. It was also the centrepiece of the studio set.

The three main puppet characters from Under the Umbrella Tree: Jacob, Iggy and Gloria. This is an online photo that I had saved some time ago. If I'm not mistaken, the image was used to promote the DVD series.
Another puppet character is Mrs. McMertree, who visited the gang on occasion.

Gloria Gopher and Mrs. McMertree were performed by Noreen Young who made all of the puppets, costumes and props for the series. Jacob Blue Jay was performed by puppeteer Stephen Brathwaite, while puppeteer Bob Stutt performed Iggy and also wrote many of the episodes. Among the many awards this series received was an Actra award for Best Children's Programme.

Noreen Young, Bob Stutt and Stephen Brathwaite with their puppet alter egos Gloria Gopher, Iggy Iguana, and Jacob Blue Jay. This photo was taken at the Puppets Up International Festival in 2006.

Here are three promotional postcards. The first two on the left were given to me on different occasions during my visits to the studio in the 1990s. The back of the cards have the Under the Umbrella Tree logo and lists the show times as "CBC 10:15 A.M. Monday, Wednesday & Friday" followed by the address for Noreen Young Productions in Almonte, ON. As I was in high school at the time I had taped these postcards up in my locker! :)
The third postcard on the right, with the gang standing on the stairs, was sent to me from puppeteer Bob Stutt in 1990. Below is what he wrote on the back. I was about to begin a run of performances for an original 45 minute puppet play that I had mounted through the drama department of my high school, so he sent this to wish me well. Very awesome to get a postcard from Iggy! 

Here is a very cool souvenir from the late 1980's or early 1990's. During the late summer in August there used to be a large fair in Ottawa each year at Lansdowne Park called Super Ex (also known as the Ottawa Exhibition). One year, possibly in 1989 or 1990, the CBC had a booth there to promote their programming schedule. While attending the Ex with a friend I came upon the booth when just by chance all three of the Umbrella Tree puppeteers, Noreen Young, Stephen Brathwaite and Bob Stutt, were there promoting the show. They each had their puppet characters with them and were doing free photos with people.
I recall that their was a long line up of kids who were fans of the show waiting to get their picture taken. Even though I was about 15 or 16 at the time I got into line anyways to get a photo 'cause well I'm a puppet geek! :) That's Jacob Blue Jay (aka Stephen Brathwaite) and I in the picture. Unfortunately the type of photo paper the CBC used for this promo is just like a receipt which fades after a while (it was free after all!), so I was surprise to find it in my file folder still showing some sort of an image. I scanned it right away to preserve what was left! Very happy to have saved this picture!
Here is an original Under the Umbrella Tree script. It was given to me during one of my visits to the studio to watch as the show was recorded. This is script number 234, "Singing Telegrams" written by Bob Stutt. It was originally just stapled in one corner so I put it into the binder for safe keeping. The scripts were torn apart during production so that the required pages could be taped up where the performers could see them. I suspect it would be rare to have one that's complete.

This is a page that I tore out of a TV Guide magazine. It's an article about Under the Umbrella Tree from January 5, 1991. Click on the image to read the article.

In the early 1990's computers had not yet become as common in households as they are today. While corresponding with Noreen by post in June 1991, the reply letter she sent me was on Noreen Young Productions paper that had the Under the Umbrella Tree logo as the letterhead, shown above.

This is an Under the Umbrella Tree VHS tape produced by Astral Video in 1996. This is Volume 1 "Summertime Fun". There's actually a mix up in either the packaging or the video recording for this VHS video. There are three episodes listed on the back but only two of them are on the tape with a third episode that isn't listed. I forget exactly which episodes are involved in the mix up.

In the mid to late 2000's Cinerio Entertainment released a series of at least eight Under the Umbrella Tree DVDs. Shown above is the first set of DVDs to be offered, Volumes 1 to 4. The first three DVDs each have five episodes and the fourth one has three episodes and the Back to School special. The cover for the first DVD (the purple one) uses the same image as one of the postcards shown above.

The remaining Umbrella Tree merchandise in my collection includes a puzzle, a poster, and a T-shirt, all of which I'll post pictures of soon.

Here's the official Under the Umbrella Tree You Tube channel:

More from YouTube:
Under the Umbrella Tree theme song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkBkR5jb6u0
Under the Umbrella Tree, Episode "The Best Hiding Place Ever": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIHkaspx-2s
Under the Umbrella Tree, Episode "Going Bananas": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WTb5OujN0k

Under the Umbrella Tree, Episode "Hamster Hullabaloo": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogIhwj25gR4
Under the Umbrella Tree, Episode "Chez Iggy": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhwUaELZHXQ
Under the Umbrella Tree, Episode "Gingerbread House": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykYF2lnhO4M
Under the Umbrella Tree, Episode "Hanky Panky": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3O1YcY1cjXk
Under the Umbrella Tree, Episode "Birdbrain": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFNWkHyW64w
Under the Umbrella Tree, Baseball Episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk-UcDHtWhs

The Wikipedia page for Under the Umbrella Tree: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_the_Umbrella_Tree

The Young Awards Foundation, mid 1990's - c.2015
In the mid 1990's Noreen initiated her Bursary Award to foster the arts among youth in Almonte and Mississippi Mills. The Noreen Young Bursary and Awards Dinner was held annually over a period of thirteen years. This later became The Young Awards Foundation. The website has since been taken offline.

Fifty-Five Plus Magazine, 2001

Noreen Young has been featured in countless news articles. One of the more notable is her cover story for the November 2001 issue of Fifty-Five plus Magazine, shown above. Noreen is pictured with her puppets of Prime Minister McDonald and Prime Minister Chretien which are now in the national collection at the Canadian Museum of History.

Prior to the publication of this issue I had attended a puppet workshop at Noreen's studio. Including myself there were about ten students in the class, and she was teaching it on her own without any assistance. At that point in time Noreen had a rather large two story studio space in her home. During the workshop she mentioned that she had another project on the go upstairs, and at certain times when everyone was busy working away at their puppets Noreen would take a moment to go upstairs and check on the progress. She later explained that a photographer was there to do some pictures. If I recall correctly, it was the photo shoot for this cover article that was taking place though I didn't realize it until after the magazine was published. That Noreen could multi-task and teach a puppet workshop of ten students while doing a magazine cover photo shoot just amazes me! I've always been impressed with how she is able to manage her time so well. She is always so incredibly organized!

Puppets Up International Festival, 2005 - present

The Puppets Up International Festival has taken place annually since 2005. It is located in Almonte Ontario, within the town of Mississippi Mills. Noreen is the festival's Artistic Director and has invited puppeteers from all over the world to participate. In 2006 I performed at the festival with my superhero puppets in the show Heroes Past and Present. Above is the festival's logo illustrated by Noreen Young. This is also the festival's mascot, Nick the Mascot. Shown below is the full costumed character of Nick that was built by Noreen Young for the inaugural festival. Nick has become a well known character which pops up at events in Ottawa.

Here is an excellent article from the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, March 28, 2016, about Noreen and the Puppets Up festival: http://www.pressreader.com/canada/ottawa-citizen/20160328/282308204235601/textview

Here is an excellent video that was posted on the Puppets Up website showing some of the street entertainment and puppet parade from last years festival (2015): http://puppetsup.ca/2015/08/17/dinosaurs-puppets-and-buskers-oh-my/

As part of the marketing for the Puppets Up Festival each year, a new poster and book mark is produced. I have at least one of the festival posters from 2005 to 2015, and most of the bookmarks. Above is the bookmark from the inaugural festival in 2005 showing an earlier version of the illustrated jester logo that was replaced in 2006 with the current logo (seen at the top of this section).

I've presented the history of the festival on a separate page of this blog, at this link: http://mikeyspuppetryblog.blogspot.ca/p/puppets-up-international-festival.html

This is Creepy Baby, one of Noreen Young's puppets, which is performed at the festival by Jamie Douglas during the Balcony Puppeteers puppet shows. Here is a YouTube video featuring Creepy Baby: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yst2UTcvC1k

Puppeteer Jamie Douglas in either 2006 or 2007 with one of Noreen Young's mice puppets. Jamie is a very funny puppeteer.
Stephen Brathwaite performs Jacob Blue Jay in the Puppets Up parade, 2013.

Making Lifelike Puppets with Noreen Young, 2004

In 2004 Noreen partnered with Lee Valley Tools to produce an instructional DVD titled Making Lifelike Puppets (below left). This DVD was sold with a 10 page booklet that presented the puppet making process in easy to follow steps, including photos and diagrams. In the late 2000's the DVD was re-released by Cinerio Entertainment (below right) which had previously released a set of Under the Umbrella Tree DVDs (shown above on this page). The reissued DVD did not include the booklet.

Hosted and instructed by Noreen Young, this DVD is the holy grail of puppetry videos!

In this movie length, 90 minute video Noreen explains her puppet making technique and the entire process is covered in excellent, easy to follow detail. Steps include sculpting the puppet head in clay, casting in plaster, pouring and pulling out a latex mould, painting the face, and finishing the final puppet. The DVD also includes patterns and instructions that can be printed out from a home computer. After Noreen completes the puppet that she is making in this video, she teaches an introduction to puppet manipulation as well as how to make a simple puppet theatre performance stage!

This puppy puppet was made using the same technique that is taught on the Making Lifelike Puppets DVD. 
Over the years I've attended a few of Noreen's puppet making workshops. I made this puppy puppet at one of her workshops in the early to mid 2000's, and purposefully mimicked the style of a Noreen Young puppet. She even showed me how to do the eyes and painted them herself! Noreen also gave me the matching fur fabric for the ears and hands. (Photo by Graham Soul)

Instructed by one of Canada's most acclaimed puppeteers, this excellent DVD is a must have for any puppet makers, theatre companies, or individuals who would like to become a puppeteer.

Caricature Puppets
Throughout her career Noreen Young has made hundreds of puppets in the likeness of various people and famous celebrities. All of these incredible puppets are skillful works of art sculpted in Noreen's distinctive style. Many of the business owners and residence in Almonte have an original Noreen Young puppet likeness and proudly display or carry them around during the festival. Her puppet creations based on politicians and celebrities were seen on TV in various programs from the 1960's through to the 1990's. Today Noreen's caricature puppets have become instantly recognizable to Canadians throughout the country. Here are a few:

Here is another photo of Noreen with her puppets of Prime Minister McDonald and Prime Minister Chretien. I found this photo online in the late 1990's or early 2000's.

Prime Minister Harper and a lamb.

Max Keeping and J.J. Clarke from Ottawa's CJOH / CTV News.

Don Cherry from Hockey Night in Canada. It takes two puppeteers to perform this puppet. The hands are gloves worn by the puppeteers.

Prince Charles and Queen Victoria.

A lady puppet with politician Preston Manning.

Wayne Rostad with his Noreen Young puppet likeness.

Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and her husband, philosopher and
essayist John Ralston Saul.

James Naismith, the inventor of Basketball.

I've saved the best for last!.....

It's the Fonz! Ayyyy!!! 

Noreen Young made this puppet head of Henry Winkler's character the Fonz, from the TV series Happy Days, during the late 1970's or early 1980's. During the mid to late 1990's, I attended several of Noreen's puppet workshops that were held at her studio in Almonte, ON. This puppet head was always prominently displayed on a small shelf along with a similar sized puppet head of Jean Chretien. Noreen told me that this Fonz puppet had been used on a TV show in the 1970's or 1980's which had featured many of her caricature puppets. I suspect it was used on the program What's New in a brief cameo. Noreen also said that she had made a puppet sized leather jacket to go with it, but I made the one that's shown above and added the Puppets Up T-shirt! The body was made by my mother Peggy at one of Noreen's puppet workshops. It would be awesome to find the footage of the TV show in order to see the Fonz puppet in action!

Around 2010, sometime after Noreen had moved her puppet workshop to a different space, I asked Noreen if she still had this puppet head and she said that she would look for it. Shortly afterwards she had stopped by my house to drop off some puppets that I had loaned for a Puppets Up display, which had been presented at the Almonte Public Library. Along with my puppets she brought the Fonz puppet head. I was amazed to see it, not only because the last time that I had seen it was back in the 1990's, but because Noreen is an incredibly busy person. The Puppets Up Festival and her many other interests keep her on the go. She is always working on an epic project of some kind whenever I see her. For Noreen to even remember to find this puppet and then take the time to look for it, meant a lot to me. When she said that I could have it I was completely speechless.
Today, I keep this Fonz puppet on a shelf prominently displayed near my workspace and it reminds me of the wonderful times that I spent at Noreen's studio making puppets during her workshops, while surrounded by all of her puppets. I adore Noreen's puppets, and I adore Noreen. She is truly a special lady.

Additional Information
Here is a link to the Canadian Museum of History page about Noreen Young from the online exhibit Art of Puppetry. Once on the museum's page, scroll down to the bottom to see the links for more of Noreen's puppets and for archival documents: http://theatre.historymuseum.ca/narratives/details.php?lvl2=4810&lvl3=4819&lvl4=5331&language=English

Travis Doucette's You Tube interview with Noreen Young: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0c44wPHsGBU

Noreen's Order of Canada citation: http://archive.gg.ca/honours/search-recherche/honours-desc.asp?lang=e&TypeID=orc&id=3325

The Wikipedia page about Noreen Young: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noreen_Young

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Text and original photos © Mike Artelle

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