The Very Hungry Caterpillar with Jonathan Rockefeller

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by author / illustrator Eric Carle has delighted generations of readers since it was first published in 1969 selling more than 43 million copies worldwide.

Eric’s well-known books captivated readers with his iconic colourful hand painted tissue paper collage illustrations and distinctively simple stories, introducing generations of children to a bigger, brighter world – and to their first experience of reading itself.

Now the timeless classic makes its way off the page and onto the stage.  Created by Jonathan Rockefeller, the critically acclaimed production of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show’ features a menagerie of 75 lovable puppets, faithfully adapting four of Eric Carle’s stories.  The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, Mister Seahorse, The Very Lonely Firefly and of course The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Read our chat below with Jonathan to find out more about the show, Eric Carle, puppets and more!

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When and how did you first get involved with The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show?

In 2012 I had a crazy idea that these wonderful, simple picture books that the entire world grew up on (132 million copies sold) would make a great visual show. And so I sat down with my sketchbook and began. Getting Eric Carle on board is a whole other story…

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Photography: Pamela Raith Photography

How did you and the creative team approach translating Eric Carle’s iconic illustrations into the 3D world of theatre?

It was a challenge to translate these books into the 3D world of theatre because all of Eric Carle’s iconic illustrations are flat and seen from one angle, so we had to imagine what it was like to see the same object from ALL angles. The second challenge we had was each animal needed to move seamlessly as it would in the real world. The colours were the third challenge to get exactly right to – bringing his painted tissue paper collage to life on a large scale. But it took a lot of trial and error and revising scale and building patterns, and adapting our techniques – using industrial fabrics from construction sites instead of paper, and broomsticks as paintbrushes.

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Photography: Pamela Raith Photography

Have you met Eric Carle, and has he seen the show?

It was a long journey to bring the show to the stage, and took the collaborative work of my team and Eric’s team to ensure everything was perfect when compared to Eric illustrations. Eric has been so complimentary throughout the journey – he’s so witty and charming. Eric wasn’t able to see the show’s debut in Australia, but he came to the New York premiere with all his family and friends. Aside from the excited children sitting around the group, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. Although everyone had been part of the journey, finally seeing Eric’s life work have a life of its own was moving for everyone. It was truly special.

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Photography: Pamela Raith Photography

Do you have a favourite story in the show?

Aside from our ‘little green friend’ (which is the big climax in the end) I like the story ‘I Am and Artist’. It’s a story about an artist painting animals in unusual colours like a yellow cow, and a pink rabbit – and then he is surprised when his artistic creations interact with him and the audience.

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Photography: Pamela Raith Photography

Do you have a favourite puppet in the show?

It’s hard to pick a favourite – there are so many to like! Lions, polka-dotted donkeys… the caterpillar!

Actually, I think my favourite puppet in the show is the lionfish from the story Mister Seahorse that is the second story we tell in this show. He has a bonkers expression on his face but fantastic long fins that are quite mesmerizing.

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Photography: Pamela Raith Photography

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is a great first introduction to theatre for young children. Why do you think this is?

Eric Carle’s work has delighted young readers for generations. For so many children it is almost a right of passage to be introduced to reading from this book – and it is the perfect introduction to the theatre with 75 incredible puppets coming to life in front of their eyes!

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Photography: Pamela Raith Photography

Why should families come and see the show?

 I asked a four-year coming out of the show why people should come and see it. He told me “It was the best-est most amazing, incredible show he had ever seen in his entire life, and I can not wait to see it again”. Coming from a four year old that’s the highest possible praise and why we do this show.

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Photography: Pamela Raith Photography

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar will be at the Wyvern Theatre  on Sunday 21st May at 1.30pm and 3.30pm

For more information and to buy tickets please visit: http://bit.ly/VeryHungryCaterpillarWT

Follow Jonathan Rockefeller on Facebook & Instagram and follow The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show on Facebook.

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