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PuppetMaster: An app to inspire animated storytelling

I’ve been exploring the new PuppetMaster app and I am enchanted. I see serious potential for this free, intuitive, open-ended tool to encourage creativity across a wide range of ages, from pre-school to adult!

PuppetMaster allows children to animate anything and to record their action and sound to create movies. It encourages the creation of visual art in any medium and it encourages active storytelling and sharing. And the learning curve is tiny!

Kids simply open the app, select or import a background and a character and narrate as they move their characters around. Because it is designed for elementary, children do not need to set up accounts. Their creations are saved to the camera roll on either their iPhone or iPad.

What can you animate?  You may choose to work with PuppetMaster’s available characters and backgrounds. Or you can import your own photos or drawings as background settings. As for your characters, you can animate your own drawings or collages or clay sculpture, or your photos of toys, stuffed animals, pets, historical or fictional people, yourself, your friends or your family. You can mix and match your own creations with the puppets and background art that comes with the app.

Then bring your characters to life by either moving them around with your fingers on your iPad or by physically acting them out on the screen while you narrate or include music and sounds. (Tip: For physical animation, step back and work against a plain background.)

Here are PuppetMaster features as listed in the App Store:

* Motion capture – intuitively animate characters just by moving your body in front of the device camera.
* Alternatively, animate with multi-touch, dragging the puppet and its body parts on the screen.
* Create your own puppets and backgrounds – Bring to life your artwork, your toys, or anything you like! Use a painting you made, a diorama, or any interesting place as your background.
* Choose from our designs – We have lots of designs for you to choose from, for puppets and backgrounds.
* Export videos with audio – Export a video of your puppet show, complete with the audio of your performance

PuppetMaster is a wonderful tool for encouraging children to explore a variety of visual art forms, to inspire writing and storytelling in both formal and informal learning setting. In the library or classroom, I can see using it to explore perspective and empathy in fiction, for sharing biographical narrative, for retelling historical events,  for reflecting on work, for sharing original stories. It is also perfect for creative fun at home on a rainy/snowy day.

PuppetMaster was developed by Michal Finegold, a programmer, and computer animation professional with a visual arts background, who is also the mom of a two-year-old little girl. (Her previous projects include Happy Feet TwoThe Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and Captain America: The First Avenger.)  This demo delightfully shows the interaction between Michal and her daughter as they explore animation together.

Michal is currently working on a curriculum of lesson plans “to teach kids any subject through guided art and animation projects,” inspired by her art and animation workshops at schools and after-school programs.

Here’s an example of one already posted lesson plan that engages kiddos in retelling a familiar fable using a character built using collage.

The plan is to grow this app in response to parent, teacher and librarian needs. The lesson plan and art instruction library will grow. Michal hopes to add props, special effects, music and titles and to grow the background and character libraries. She is also planning to enable users to animate backgrounds, animate multiple puppets together and include live action in their productions. And Michal hopes to make the app available on more platforms.

Check out the crowdfunding campaign if you are interested in helping. You can also reach Michal, offer feedback, and suggest additional lesson plan ideas at

I had the pleasure of chatting with Michal about the app, its background, and her vision. Here’s a peek behind the PuppetMaster curtain.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


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