The Paul Ashley Puppet Collection
CELEBRATING THE PUPPETS DESIGNED AND
CREATED BY MASTER PUPPETEER, PAUL ASHLEY
Paul Ashley is an icon and inspiration to countless puppeteers world wide. His career spanned over 35 years and he established himself as a true pioneer of early children’s television. His artistic genius is evident in every puppet he created, and his ability to sculpt and capture the likeness of human subjects in his personality puppets is legendary.
The puppets have been out of public view for almost 4 decades. We hope you enjoy seeing them again after their long absence.
About the Collection
Every puppet in The Paul Ashley Puppet Collection was hand made by master puppeteer, Paul Ashley during the late 1940’s through the 1970’s. Much of today's children's programming was inspired by the innovative television shows created by Paul Ashley and his long-time partner, Chuck McCann.
The first puppets Paul Ashley created were for the Rootie Kazootie Club TV show. These puppets were pivotal because they launched his career, not only as a puppeteer but one of the most prolific and creative puppet masters in the world.
It was on that show that he invented a revolutionary technique for animating puppets. Until that time, with the exception of a handful of ventriloquist dummies, most puppets had frozen faces. The Rootie Kazootie puppets had mouths that could open and close, eyes and eyebrows that went up and down. Even Rootie's ears wriggled and Polka Dottie's braids flipped up!
Following the success of Rootie Kazootie, Ashley began creating puppets for other productions, They were frequent 'guests' on nationally syndicated variety shows, such as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show. For Paul Ashley's professional timeline, please click here.
He is probably best known for a series of shows with Chuck McCann in the New York Metropolitan TV market during the 1960's.
Where Have The Puppets Been
For The Last 40 Years?
In the mid '70's, Chuck McCann moved to Los Angeles to pursue other projects. Paul and the puppets remained In New York doing industrial films, commercials and performing at events and trade shows for major corporations.
In 1979, the Ashley's also relocated to Los Angeles so that Paul and Chuck could once again produce shows featuring the fabulous Paul Ashley Puppets. The puppets were housed in a full scale production studio within McCann's Hollywood Hills home.
Shortly after they began production on two pilots— "Tiny TV", a satirical variety puppet series and "LBS Children’s Theater", a film anthology project—Paul became too ill to work. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's which took his life just a few short years later at the age of 71. For biographical information on Paul's life please click here.
With Paul's untimely death, ownership of the collection passed to his wife, Harriet. She and Chuck entered into an agreement that ownership of the collection would remain in the family but that Chuck would have creative control and that the puppets would stay in the McCann studio until Chuck's death. Harriet passed away in 2004, leaving the collection to her daughter Victoria, their only child.
With Chuck's passing in April of 2018, it was determined that in order to properly manage the collection, the puppets should be moved to Oregon where Victoria resides. In March of 2019, the collection, which includes props, costumes and plaster molds of the puppets was inventoried and moved to the Pacific NW.
From the top: A collection of "Personallity Puppets" containing political figures and entertainers.
Middle: The complete cast of the Rootie Kazootie Club Television Show featuring Poison Zoomack, Galapoochie Pup, Polka Dottie, El Squeako Mouse and Rootie Kazootie.
Bottom: A page from one of Paul's professional brochures.
There are 182 puppets in the collection, This includes 11 Rootie Kazootie puppets and associated memorabilia acquired in the fall of 2019. Since the spring of 2020, the puppets have been undergoing much needed restorations. Go to the Restoration page of this website to see a gallery of before and after photos and a step by step restoration of one of the puppets.
Many of the images on this site are professional publicity photographs or personal family photographs. The images in the Collection Gallery and PDF inventory are quick cell phone images. Some were taken as the puppets were being prepared for the move to Oregon. Others were taken after restoration.