No matter how much we grow, our inner child never really dies. They are always with us, sometimes coming alive when we dance, sing, laugh or dream.
For Granbury resident Rod Butler, his inner child constantly comes out to play at his puppet shows.
Known as Rod The Puppet Guy, Butler, 66, has been performing live puppet shows for over 40 years, lending his vocal talent and puppeteering skills to national workshops, TV commercials, seminars, hospitals, churches, schools and libraries.
Most recently, on March 23, he performed at the Hood County Library.
Butler followed in the footsteps of his late father, John K. Butler, a pulp fiction writer who went on to write for Republic Pictures in 1942, during which time he created several screenplays for Roy Rogers.
Growing up with his famous father in Southern California, Rod dabbled in writing and started performing in high school. Later, he decided to try his hand at dubbing.
Rod continued to use his creativity in several different mediums. He wrote over 200 episodes for “The Brilliant Adventures of Captain Flashlight” on national radio, published several articles for Integrity Music, and wrote the script for the video game “Attack of the Tune Twister” for Integrity Music. Her poetry book is due out later this year.
During his radio career, Rod spent 24 years creating, writing, producing and voicing characters for his original children’s radio shows: FunLight Radio, KidZone Radio and the Coconut Hut radio show airing on the national scale.
Rod is best known for his work as a puppeteer. He’s even appeared on several TV channels, including Nickelodeon, Trinity Broadcasting Network, Via Transportation, La Quinta, and White Lion Pictograph.
“I saw them making puppets in college and I was like, ‘Why didn’t I try that?'” he said. “It was a good choice for me as a solo performer. It works for me because I can generate all these characters and it makes the kids laugh. If they stopped laughing, I’d put them away. I don’t think I could do it if there was no laughter afterwards.
When he started his career as a puppeteer, Rod used store-bought puppets, but while attending world puppet festivals in Europe and Japan, he realized that puppetry was very different in other countries. .
“You see these big characters that are in full body costumes. Seeing these performers isn’t just birthday party entertainment; they are artists. It opened up a world for me,” he said.
Rod realized that it would make his characters more likable if he created them himself, so he started building puppets out of everyday objects like a hand towel, pool noodles and polystyrene balls.
“Now you inhabit this character that you created, so it’s a very personalized medium,” he said.
He said he invented his characters by simply playing with household items.
One of Rod’s favorite – and most popular – skits is “Don’t Touch the Vacuum Cleaner”, featuring a character constantly chanting the phrase “don’t touch the vacuum cleaner”, until he accidentally hits the “vacuum cleaner”. – leading to a comedic ending that always makes kids laugh.
“I saw my dryer hose and I remember thinking, ‘Hey, I could put my arm in it. Then you notice he’s moving like he’s hungry. You can do it like a worm that needs to eat things, but that’s how it is, just play and fail,” he said.
Rod’s skits have been bringing joy and laughter to children since he began his career as a puppeteer in 1978. Throughout his decades-long career, Rod has created approximately 200 puppets.
“I love the idea that these characters can be unique to you as a performer like a painting is unique to an artist,” he said.
Some might wonder why a grown man in his 60s still finds joy in playing with puppets, but for Rod, it’s all about kids.
“I never grew up, really,” he said. “I’m just charmed by the simple things that bring out the child in a person. We live in a very weird world and these are tough times, so to unleash a flood of laughter and bring it out into a children’s room is so rewarding.
After his shows, Rod sometimes leads workshops, where children in the audience learn how to make their own puppet.
“They need to laugh. We all need to laugh,” he said. “Let them see if they can make their parents laugh. The kid leaves ready to do whatever Rod The Puppet Guy comes to do; it’s like the empowerment of a child. They’re not going to walk away thinking, ‘I’m not funny.’ »
When Rod isn’t playing with puppets, he works for Responsive Education Solutions in Lewisville, a charter school district with approximately 40 schools, including Premier High School in Granbury. He writes and narrates scripts for animated videos in each district’s program.
He moved to Granbury at the end of 2021 from the DFW area and is currently building a house in Glen Rose.