Exploring South Africa's natural heritage through the joy of storytelling.

A celebration of South Africa’s unique natural heritage, Puppet Planet uses puppetry, music and dance to tell science-related stories.

Through an exciting collaboration between palaeontologists and local artists & performers in Cape Town, Puppet Planet has created a children’s TV show that is based on live performances using rod puppets with puppeteers shown as part of the storytelling.

Join Thandi and her magical dog Oogies, as they travel back through time to explore South Africa’s amazing past.  Meet long extinct animals, investigate ancient environments and learn how life on Earth has changed through time!

Puppet Planet
There is a wealth of evidence indicating that puppets can have a valuable impact in engaging children, and their use is already well established in many primary schools in areas such as drama and social education. The Jungle Theatre Company (Cape Town) specializes in original theatre that motivates and educates young people to care for nature, community and culture via the use of theatre and physical drama workshops.

Puppet Planet will continue to produce a series of theatrical performances that introduce young learners to often complex topics such as deep time, evolution and the history of life.
We use puppet characters as a vehicle to take learners on exciting adventures! Through the eyes of puppets and puppeteers, learners explore South African palaeontology and archaeology, as well as other topics that connect with issues such as climate change, sustainability, and conservation.

By incorporating the arts, which play a key role in the development of language skills, imagination, and creativity, our project will reach learners who are not innately interested in science.
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Our team

Meet the puppets!

Thandi Puppet Planet

Thandi

Thandi is a 9-year-old girl who lives on a farm in the Karoo with her dog Oogies. She adores Oogies and takes her on long walks. Thandi takes care of her pet, loves fossils and going on adventures.

Oogies Puppet Planet

Oogies

Oogies loves to sing and go exploring with Thandi. Together they travel through time. Oogies is a magical dog! Once back in time, she can talk with Thandi and the strange animals they meet

Lystrosaurus Puppet Planet

Lystrosaurus

Lystrosaurus is a plant-eater who lived 250 million years ago! He was really good at digging burrows to hide in. His kind lived in herds and roamed the river valleys in search of plants to eat.

Mrs Big Frog Puppet Planet

Mrs Big Frog

Ms Big Frog is a giant frog who lived during the age of dinosaurs. She looks cute, but watch out! Hiding in the bushes near water, she was a sneaky hunter who ate other animals, even baby dinosaurs!

Meet the puppets!

Thandi
Oogies
Lystrosaurus
Mrs Big Frog

Meet the puppeteers!

Meet the puppeteers!

Joce Engelbrecht

Puppeteer of Thandi

 “Like Thandi I grew up in the Karoo. I know the bush and the rocks and the heat. I feel Thandi is the child part of me.”

  • Performance certificate from Trinity College of London
  • 2001 toured SA Speaks Out About HIV /Aids
  • 2014 joined Jungle Theatre
  • Loves the use of puppets to bring stories to life and spark the imagination.

Naledi Tlailane

Puppeteer of Oogies

 “I love my own dogs – they make me feel happy – so playing Oogies comes naturally to me!”

  • 2017 JTC’s Creating Theatre with Children Program
  • 2019 JTC’s Capacity Training Program
  • TV and radio presenter
  • Passionate about theatre, film, radio and all forms of media.

Siyawandisa Badi

Puppeteer of Lystrosaurus

 “I love the way Lystrosaurus looks so Tough and yet has a soft heart. He’s so funny and awkward!”

  • 2001-2010 performing arts industry and Iqhude Theatre Productions
  • 2010 JTC’s Laduma Jungle Training Program
  • Performed in many Jungle Theatre productions
  • Loves the way children respond to magical theatre.

Zizipho Gcasamba

Puppeteer of Mrs Big Frog

 “I love the wonderful frog characters from so many African folk stories. And Mrs. Big Frog is cool because she speaks in rhymes.”

  • 2011 New Africa Theatre
  • Teaches art & dance
  • 2019 JTC’s Capacity
  • Training Program
  • Facilitates crative arts clubs and is the team rep for JTC’s management committee.
Thandi meets Mr. Lystrosaurus
Thandi and Oogies travel back in time to the Early Triassic Period, 250 million years ago. They meet Mr. Lystrosaurus, a distant mammal ancestor who lives in a burrow by a lazy river. He loves to snack on juicy plants that grow along the river and when it gets too hot, he sleeps in his burrow where it is nice and cool. Learn more about Lystrosaurus fossils at the link below.
See on Wikipedia
Fearsome Triassic predators
Thandi and Oogies travel back in time to the Early Triassic Period where they run into the hungry predator, Proterosuchus! This fierce meat-eater has sharp curved teeth, bony armor down its back, powerful legs, and a long tail. It can run on land and swim fast in the water! Learn more about Proterosuchus and its family of reptiles at the link below.
See on Wikipedia
Lystrosaurus skull
This is a Lystrosaurus (shovel-nosed reptile) skull found in the rocks near Bethuile in the Free State (250 million years old). Lystrosaurus' survived the great Permian-Triassic mass extinction, and were one of the most common land animals on Earth around 250 million years ago. Eventually, their kind went extinct so today we have only their bones left to study. Learn more at the link below.
See on Wikipedia
Making puppets
It take a lot of skill and hard work to create the puppets that we use in our Puppet Planet stories. They merge both art and science to come up with fun characters that bring the past to life.
Puppets and puppeteers
Our puppets come to life through the guidance of wonderful performers called puppeteers. They become the heart and soul of our puppets. The art of puppetry looks a lot easier than it really is. It takes a lot of practice and dedication to be able to become a puppeteer. Here are our four puppets and puppeteers from our first TV show, Thandi finds a fossil!
Science storytelling
Our stories come from the imagination of both scientists and artists. We work together to create our shows starting with the story idea and then making sketches of the characters. It's a long process, but is loads of fun! Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about how our puppets are made.
See on YouTube
Thandi and her fossil finds
Thandi lives on a farm in the Karoo where she loves to explore with her dog, Oogies. There they find amazing fossils of ancient animals, like this skeleton of a Lystrosaurus. Did you know that scientists from all over the world come to study South Africa's famous fossils? We have some of the most important fossils anywhere on Earth!
Age of dinosaurs
Thandi and Oogies visit the Cretaceous Period, 70 million years ago where they meet Mrs. Big Frog and other animals that lived at that time. In the background they see sauropod dinosaurs with their long necks and huge bodies. But no need to fear, they are gentle giants who only eat plants! Visit the link below to learn more about sauropod dinosaurs.
See on Wikipedia
Making puppets with Sean
To make our puppets, we worked with the well-known puppet maker, Sean Mac Pherson of The Cape Town Carnival. Sean and her team worked with us at every step to bring our characters to life!
Thandi meets Mrs. Big Frog
Thandi and Oogies travel back through time and end up in the Cretaceous Period, 70 million years ago. There they run into a giant frog, called Mrs. Big Frog. She speaks in rhymes and loves to sing! Today her kind are extinct - no longer living - so all we have are her fossil bones. Learn more about her fossils at the link below.
See on Wikipedia
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Thandi

Thandi is a 9-year-old girl who lives on a farm in the Karoo with her dog Oogies. She adores Oogies and takes her on long walks. Thandi takes care of her pet, loves fossils and going on adventures.

Oogies

Oogies loves to sing and go exploring with Thandi. Together they travel through time. Oogies is a magical dog! Once back in time, she can talk with Thandi and the strange animals they meet

Lystrosaurus

Lystrosaurus is a plant-eater who lived 250 million years ago! He was really good at digging burrows to hide in. His kind lived in herds and roamed the river valleys in search of plants to eat.

Mr Lystrosaurus taking a bath

Mrs Big Frog

Ms Big Frog is a giant frog who lived during the age of dinosaurs. She looks cute, but watch out! Hiding in the bushes near water, she was a sneaky hunter who ate other animals, even baby dinosaurs!

Mrs Big Frog