My son Daniel has a bunch of stuffed animals. They were an easy present for grandparents and other relations… at least until he got interested in Hot Wheels cars. Generally, at night, Meka reads to Daniel before he goes to bed. But – even today – I get requests from my son to come in and “make the animals talk”.
I’m not a ventriloquist; I don’t try to hide my mouth as I twist the animals around. However, I think he enjoys it because I’m good at it; I’ve had a lot of practice. The “MM” in MMP Video stands for Munchie Monster, my hand puppet alter ego from elementary school. I try to give each animal its own distinct personality.
Fluffy Duck: Fluffy Duck started out with the personality of a miscellaneous evil villain from a James Bond movie. However, after some dirty looks from my wife, he had a change of personality. These days, he’s the Maestro, master of the Fluffy Duck Dance. He approaches the stage (Daniel’s bed) and waits for the applause that he so richly deserves. It cuts instantly with the merest flick of a fuzzy wing. He does his dance and bows curtly to the audience and leaves the cheering masses as they throw roses in his wake.
Mr. Tweet: Mr. Tweet is a stuffed black capped chickadee who – Daniel reported to us one day – is 34 years old. Now, I’m not an expert, but that seems to be pretty old for a black capped chickadee, so I figured he didn’t get that far along without some connections. Mr. Tweet resembles The Godfather in mannerisms and shares similarities with Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction. Mr. Tweet is calm, cool and – for some reason – quietly terrifies everyone around him.
Woof: Woof is a stuffed grey wolf and possesses a superior attitude about his position on the food chain. Imagine Sam Eagle from The Muppet Show with an even bigger chip on his shoulder. Woof is pompous. He believes he has to stoop below his social level in order to eat one of his fellow stuffed animals. He usually begins sentences with “I’ll have you know…” and ends with the declaration, “You are odd.”
On most nights, I’d come in and pluck a random stuffed animal from the flock on the floor and Daniel would talk – and argue – with them as if they were real. Lately, Daniel has been getting in on the act. Instead of directly speaking to Woof or Mr. Tweet, he has his own intermediaries.
Dump Truck Pillow: Dump Truck Pillow is just that; a pillow shaped like a truck. Originally I just gave him a dance to do – his theme song was “Cat Scratch Fever” replaced by “Dump Truck Pillow”. However, Daniel has added extra mannerisms. Now, he beeps his disapproval of things and occasionally runs over the other animals that are bothering him.
Snake duPere: One of Daniel’s many stuffed snakes who is a frequent foil for Woof. He’s a fantastic reactor; like the head elf in the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Christmas Special. He even says, “Whaaaat?!”
Oscar: Oscar is a very young blue dog and curious about the world around him. He goes almost everywhere with Daniel and Daniel has to explain everything to him from the back story of Sponge Bob Square Pants to the rules of basketball.
I don’t know exactly where this is heading. I think this sparks his creativity. I think it’s good practice for dealing with people; I’ve known people like Woof and Snake duPere. On the other hand, Daniel took Woof to school for show and tell.
“Woof kept telling everyone they were odd,” reported Daniel after I picked him up. I cringed internally at the all-too-vivid mental image of Daniel and Woof in a circle of first graders who are staring gape-mouthed at this act. We got to the car and he added, “But the girls thought Woof was cute and wanted to hug him.”
So while the jury’s still out at this point, there are signs that Daniel might be able to use his developing skills with stuffed animals to entertain his own kids someday.