King Kong (musical) debuted in October 2018 on Broadway starring a 20-foot tall, 2000-pound gorilla puppet that is operated by 10 onstage performers and 3 behind the scenes.

In this example, the performers are controlling a majority of the robot, yet it is not entirely a puppet due to the fact that a majority of its expressions and actions are not controlled directly by a performer. The three backstage performers use joysticks and controllers to perform in a natural way that is translated by the robot inside the puppet into the gorilla’s movements. But since all movements are performed live by the puppeteers, the autonomy lies almost entirely in their hands. The gorilla puppet is reacting to the actors on stage in real time which causes most of its movements to be placed in the hands of the performers behind it.

Because a lot of the movement of the puppet is controlled behind the scenes there is still some illusion of the puppet’s autonomy as even how the onstage performers interact with it, it appears as if they are being pulled around by it rather than they are pulling it around. It enhances the effect of an out-of-control King Kong rather than a puppet controlled by humans.

The part-puppet-part-robot aspect of this artwork could be considered in this class as we think about hybrid kinetic sculptures. For a performance, a part of a puppet or sculpture could be automated, while the rest is controlled by a human. For example, if they took out the backstage actors and instead automated those parts of the gorilla, they would be an interesting push and pull between the robot and the onstage performers as they could change what they do, and the robot couldn’t.