He Created S’pore Mascots Like Sharity Elephant, Bag Down Benny

Stepping into Frankie Yeo’s workspace is almost like stepping into a whole other world.

Located in an indescribable industrial area in MacPherson, the Mascot and Puppet Specialists office is crowded from floor to ceiling with mascots and puppets.

They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and are born out of years of hard work by Frankie and his three-man team.

Most of the mascots Frankie created are well recognized by generations of Singaporeans.

mascot and puppet specialists
Image Credit: Mascot and Puppet Specialists via Facebook

After all, Frankie brought mascots like Sharity Elephant, Bag-Down Benny, and Hush-Hush Hannah to life.

Sharity is the cuddly pink elephant that inspired local school kids to be considerate, while we typically see the latter printed on public transport posters.

Improbable debut for S’pore’s only commercial puppet producer

mascot and puppet specialists
Office of Mascot and Puppet Specialists / Image credit: Vulcan Post

Frankie started making puppets as a hobby after spending seven years in the Air Force.

The 57-year-old said he wanted to be a magician when he was younger, but magicians are “a dime a dozen in Singapore”.

Instead of fighting for “a piece of the same pie,” he decided to venture into something new. He realized that no one was doing puppets at the time and decided to go to space.

He started experimenting with puppetry in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that he began to put his heart into the craft.

Frankie brought his wife – who is the co-owner of the business, along with two other friends – to work on these projects together.

Yet Frankie said he “never intended for it to become a business then” and primarily used puppets on mission trips as a means of communication.

Sometimes the team created and put on puppet shows for birthdays, but nothing more.

Frankie hit his big break when a producer spotted them one day and asked if they could do a 30-minute show. Even though they were poorly equipped, they agreed and created everything for the show within a week.

“From there it snowballed and became a business,” Frankie thought to himself.

That was in 2000. Since then Frankie has built a strong brand for himself, his puppets and the company.

According to the puppeteer, the mascot and puppet specialist is the only commercial puppet producer in Singapore.

His “babies” have won awards and honors

Frankie mascot and puppet specialist
Frankie, co-founder of the mascot and puppet specialist / Image credit: Vulcan Post

Frankie talks about his puppets, puppets and mascots with deep passion. He calls them his “babies”, and rightly so.

The craftsman made most of them by hand and breathed life into them through performances and acts.

“It’s so hard to choose,” Frankie remarked when asked to choose a favorite puppet.

mascot and puppet specialists
One of Frankie’s favorite puppets / Image Credit: Mascot and Puppet Specialists via Facebook

He settled on the red clown with a balloon, as it was one of the puppets from his first hit puppet batch.

I created it because I wanted a puppet that blows a balloon. I started sculpting, and it took me two years to bring it to this state.

The clown wishes to fly, that’s why he blows up the balloon. But after floating in the air for a while, the balloon bursts and his dreams are shattered. This story actually touches many people, from children to adults.

Frankie Yeo, co-founder of the mascot and puppet specialists

According to Frankie, when the clown finally entered the scene, audience members were crying after watching his act.

Over the years, Frankie’s puppets have been used in numerous productions, from a Chinese TV show to Little Shop of Horrors (a theatrical production) and a Hong Kong film.

His puppet was once nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award, which was the first time in history that a puppet was chosen.

Frankie’s puppets have indeed won numerous awards and accolades, so much so that he has a shelf full of them.

His mascots have also made appearances at theme parks, and he shared that he did various shows for Universal Studios Singapore’s annual Halloween Horror Night.

Leaving a legacy: more than just inanimate objects

Frankie’s goal is to bring joy and impart knowledge to his audience, and he has managed to do this through his shows over the years.

There have been many instances where people come to me and say, “Hey, I remember you! You came to my school when I was a kid ”, and you told me about the characters we played.

People remember it… It’s amazing. I am happy that our shows have been imprinted on the minds and hearts of people.

Frankie Yeo, co-founder of the mascot and puppet specialists

One of Frankie’s goals is to create a permanent puppet theater and museum, where he can continue to pass on his skills, knowledge and experiences to the next generation.

The craftsman shared with Vulcan Post that his puppets are more than just a tool for entertainment.

For example, he worked with A * STAR to develop puppets with built-in sensors for medical purposes. He also created puppets to take on the role of surrogate parents for animals near extinction.

However, times are tough for the puppeteer.

It was recently reported that Frankie was selling some of his puppets to pay the bills, as live performances remain impossible during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite this, he remains optimistic. Besides puppets and mascots, the team has also recently been working on installations for attractions such as Gardens By The Bay.

“There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, we can use our past to be better equipped for the future,” Frankie told Vulcan Post.

“We innovate or we evaporate.”

Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post, Mascot and puppet specialists

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Jothi Venkat

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