Halfland's Smallest Puppets:
The Marching Ant* Mechanism

The main character Rana will be the largest puppet in Halfland I think. She's about 13 inches (33.02 cm) tall. The Writing Mouse puppet is super tiny for a mouse at only an inch long in the body. But The Marching Ants will have to be regarded officially as the smallest ones built.

I started with tiny 1/2 inch HA! (1.27 cm) black plastic toy ants, normally used for funny picnic table decoration (seen center bottom of the Raschs visit). Using them as a base allows me to keep the entire row of them pretty uniform in size. I tried several ideas, but what is working for me now is to attach 3 pieces of 34 gauge fine black wire to each pair of insect legs, one wire running across the body at each pair of legs. A little, and I mean little, drop of glue to start, and then securing the wire to the toys by tightly winding with black sewing thread until the entire bug is covered well.

These bases will likely be finished with black iron paint and a touch of rust solution, kept fully flexible by mixing with heavy gloss medium, to reinforce their industrious industrial natures.

I plan on having about 10 of them made for a row. In order to animate all of their 60 tiny legs--in unison!--I devised a technique of attaching the long ends of the wires through balsa floorboards to be installed in the cottage. Each Ant will be firmly secured (tied down, attached) at intervals across three separate slats, all right front and right rear legs on one plank, center legs on the second, left set on a third. By alternating each plank forward a bit in turn the ants should hopefully appear (enough anyway) to "march" forward together.

Here's a little preliminary test video to check whether the feet sort of march as I push the floorboards in sequence. A row of finished ant puppets, attached to the slats in the same way can be animated all at once at floor level this way, hopefully, as I get more adept at it. I'll be sliding the slats through a guide to keep them flush to the surface later.

*Extra points to anyone who gets the joke in their being called that!


  1. Love the boards to control all the ant legs together.
    I did a single walking spider as small as that puppet, but there was only one of it!

    And what gorgeous images of the frog belly in the previous post - beautiful layered effects!

  2. m_) absolutely the most amazing approach to microscopic phenomena ....

    m_) Ah, so finallly a puppet in Halfland, huh? Or is it just me the one who is witnessing one. And who would think that they would come in such a small size....!!

    m_) Very amazed at your technology with miniatures. Just another big step in the life of Shelley Noble.

    Thank you, Shell! Thank you again.

  3. Hi ya, Nick! How did you rig the spider? On boards too?

    Thank you thank you. Working on a koi now too, too much fun for words. You might say... I'm playing Koi!

    Thanks, Dan. Puppet work is well underway. Four puppets are the main characters, then a few are supporting characters, then several are not so much characters as background presences. These ants are like that. Just little creatures going about there business in Halfland without names or explanation. The dust bunnies are like that too.

    I like that one small step for ants, one big step for Shelley. :^)

  4. I think now it has been 3 times that I've checked your blog and had my husband lean over my shoulder for a look and declare "She is INSANE!" and then continue on to the dishes...
    We are all in awe!!

    Sending our best and rooting for your march!!!

  5. Insanely genius you mean! Heh heh.

    Your husband only figured me out now?! Jeeze.

    I guess "crazy" is relative...to me, crazy would be ONE HUNDRED ant puppets made at half this size! Now that'd be Officially Quaaaazie!

    Thanks for the cheers, Karima and her Beau.

  6. Unbelievable and oh so clever!
    Wish I had a few of those floor-boards to attach my feet to once in a while...

  7. One little tiny foot in front of the other, Miss Ulla! You can do it! xoxox

  8. i'm in love...liked your stuff on vimeo but this is great...so excited to watch more progress ( and the ants...well i won't get the extra points but i love the ants

  9. Thank you, Hollie! I'll have to go check out your work. Maybe I'm in love with you too!

    PS: The Marching Ants are named that after the name of something in the almighty photo editing software application by Adobe called Photoshop. When you make a "selection" of an area to edit in Photoshop, the outline appears as a tiny blinking line that users have dubbed "Marching Ants"!

    Photoshop was a revelation in my life when I first used it in (v.2) in 1993. I never learned how to draw or make art and felt I could never do that. But when I got my mitts on Photoshop, it was as if I magically had the powers to create anything I could imagine.

    These Marching Ant puppets are not only a nice insect touch in Halfland's world, but also a small tribute to Photoshop as a means of mighty artistic empowerment.

  10. This was my favorite piece I could see of yours. So cool.

    Lovely to meet you, Hollie.

  11. Hooray!!!!

    I'm Officially a genius!!!
    (I felt a little like one when I thought of using the slats!)

    hee hee.

    Thanks, Mikeee! xooxo

  12. Congratulations, Shelley! You did a terrific job! - Again!

    I sometimes find myself sitting in front of my computer and cheering about what's possible in Halfland! It's always a pleasure... congrats again!

  13. Anonymous5:57 PM

    The ants go marching one by one hurrah, HURRAH!!! And just like that, the song is stuck on my brain pan. Love them.

  14. WOW!

    What a great puppeteeriging.

    This is an awesome post...I loved the video.


  15. Shelley,
    I took a totally different approach to my spider, and other ultra-mini puppets. I put a pin through the spider's back so it pointed down. A row of tiny 1mm holes were drilled in the set, and I placed the pin in the first hole and took the shot. Then I removed the spider and changed the position of each leg, up close where I could see what I was doing, and placed it in the second hole. And so on. (For closeups there was a much bigger spider, which required 2 animators to make it walk. )
    The same trick worked for 3 cats at 1:24 scale, running along the road - they were supported by a pin, not by the legs.
    But with a whole row of ants, it's an order of magnitude more difficult to wrangle all them little legs!

  16. saw this video on flickr. brilliant idea Shelley.

    I love your description "industrious industrial natures"

  17. I cheer you too, Jessica! Thank you!

    Soldering on, Peggy! Thank you!

    The Riggitymiester himself loving it, hooray! Thanks, Justin!~

    Love the body pin idea, Nick! Duly noted for the right pupp. Thank You!

    I do actually admire ants, Rich! Thanks for the idea appreciation!

    W00p to all!

  18. Hi Shelley!
    Wowee, and wowee again,,,very kewl, I am glad they are ants and not spideys,,,hate spideys,,,you are amazing. Thanks for your comment on my blog, I am glad the pods are working out. Cant wait to see.

  19. I've got so much less squeamish since building these creatures in Halfland, Marcie. the spiders, the snail, the turtle, the fish, butterflies, etc. Building them makes me study them which is different that finding by surprise!

    Hey wait!!-- you're the one who sent me REAL insect wings!!! I have trouble touching real insecties!


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