The Biological Plausibility of (Puppet) Dragons


My fellow labbers would have you believe that Dragons are biologically implausible, but I’m here to say that (Puppet) Dragons are not only plausible, they’re real.

I start off using a Project Puppet pattern as the basis for a lot of my puppets. They are good and simple patterns, that I’m really comfortable with and can tweak around the edges and know I’m still going to end up with a functional puppet. That said, it was Gordon Smuder of Transylvania TV that tipped me off to the idea of using their Glorified Sock Puppet pattern as the basis for a dragon when he showed one off at Dragon*Con (coincidence? I think not!). I thought I’d step you through the process as well, because everybody needs a dragon puppet to take with them to The Hobbit right?

Some puppet builders work from a foam structure out, but as often as not I’ve learned to work from a fabric skin back in, and the Glorified Sock Puppet pattern doesn’t even end up with a foam skeleton anyway.  We start off by cutting out the two sides of the head, the front and back of the body, and a tail for good measure.

All the pretty fabric
Fleece is a very common body type in the puppet kingdom


When stitching together the head you just start off by sewing the darts closed and then the two halves of the head together (hopefully lining up the darts).

To give the appearance of a scaled/sectioned body I just ran some stitches along the lighter colored “belly” side of the body and then stitched the body pieces together and the head to the body. I’ve made more than a few dozen puppets based on these patterns so *now* I know how to have the head turned right side out and stuffed inside the body inside out when sewing to get everything turned the right way.

The work of an only semi-intelligent designer?

After stitching in some sections for the tail, I cut some basic wing shapes and stitched them together (with a bit of poly-fill in there as filler, as well as some wire for support). You can also see the black felt mouth piece there that gets hand stitched into the head.

Pieces coming together
Dragon vivisection is frowned upon by some people, but in the interest of science we’re willing to risk the wrath of those people.

I’ve tried attaching arms/wings a number of ways over the years, but the way that I think works best for me at the moment is to break out the seam ripper and cut a few stitches out before putting the appendage inside the broken seam and stitching back across it with the sewing machine.

Here you can see the dragon with his eyes installed, and just a bit of stiffened felt waiting to be glued on the side of his head.

The eyes were the tricky part of this build. I’m pretty sure it’s the logical conclusion to reach when you know you can’t install a flame thrower in your puppet (blah blah safety) is to make it have glowing eyes.  Well, I’m not sure if it’s the logical conclusion, but it’s the one I reached anyway.  I had recently acquired a number of small finger LED flashlights and have access to an abnormally large number of bouncy-balls (don’t ask), so the solution was clear.  After cutting a large yellow bouncy-ball in half I took a Dremel and carved out the middle of it so I could mount my little flashlight behind it.

The week after I built The Green Dragon, I made a Smaug so I’d have a set to bring with me to see The Hobbit.  I think I like Smaug a little better. He doesn’t have the wire in his wings, but has some prettier detail stitching on the wings so they look better.


In her detailed post Elizabeth discussed why the four leg and two wing body pattern is problematic biologically, but I think the main reason it’s implausible as a body plan is because it would take another puppeteer (or two) if you were trying to move hands and wings and feet on a dragon.


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