Bert, the Farting Hippo

30 05 2010

A few entries back I told you about my NCIS cup with the Caf-Pow label.  At the end of that entry I mentioned I’d tell you about Bert the farting hippo.

Abby Sciuto has a stuffed companion which makes an appearance in some of the episodes, and it was quite the challenge to put him together.  Doing all the prop stuff is fun, no doubt, but people certainly look at you funny when you tell them you collect various objects.  This time though, I’m off the hook.

This one’s for my old ma.

I don’t even really watch NCIS all the time, to be honest.  Sometimes I put it on when I come home from work, but I probably haven’t ever sat down and watched a full episode.  Mum, however, loves it and so for Mother’s Day I wanted to get her something special.   Bert had been done by others before, both on the RPF and elsewhere.  There’s even a website called Farting Hippo which sells a whole bunch of them. They’re ok, but none of them are accurate.

My research into Bert took me to many web sites and forums, but people claimed to have ‘the exact type’ used in the show.  In fact I don’t think I found any that were the accurate hippo. I wasn’t too bothered about the farting noise at the time, because I saw several tutorials on how to make a farting mechanism on Youtube and other fan sites.  Getting that done would be pretty easy.  I needed the proper hippo though.

After weeks of searching I found one that was very close.  One member on the RPF had also done a lot of research and was telling people this was ‘the one’ used in the show.  (See Image 1)  It was a mother and baby hippo which were loosely stitched, and he had converted it to fit.  Others were insisting that it was a hippo purchased only at IKEA as decoration for a child’s room. (See Image 2)  There were many others that were obviously wrong.

Eventually I decided on the mother/baby hippo.  There were certain characteristics that matched the one on the show, but the feet were wrong and it had the wrong eyes.  I was running out of time though, but something stopped me from putting down the money.

Then, I found this-

If you watch from about 3:30 Pauley Perrette confirms he’s not a plush exactly, but a puppet.   This was a major breakthrough in finding the proper hippo because it cut out the ones I’d already found out of the equation immediately.  Doing a google search for “Hippo Puppet” I came across the Folkmanis range of puppets.  Incidentally they’re also the ones who provide all the puppets for the Craig Ferguson Late Late Show of which I am also a massive fan.

Sure enough, they had the right puppet.  So I went to Ebay and lay my money down on a puppet, and a cheap whoopee cushion for about $5 from Hong Kong (See Image 3) to insert inside.

After a week or two Bert arrived and Mum loved it.  I didn’t have a collar yet, and hadn’t stitched in the whoopee cushion, but she managed to track a good collar down pretty fast.  She seemed reluctant to do the whoopee interior, and for some reason I was too.

You see, in the show, he farts a lot.  Well, the puppet doesn’t, they add it in as an audio effect in post production.  Still, as Bert he should fart. People who’ve made their own Bert have used a combination of whoopee cushion with a cardboard surround to get the sound effect.   Had I done so though, he would have become much harder and less comfortable to hold.  You also have to get the cushion at just the right angle, and since Mum is getting on in years, she had trouble squeezing the cushion in the first place.

Back to Ebay I went, and found an electronic fart machine with a remote control (See Image 4).  It was small enough to slip into the ‘hand grip’ part of the puppet and also had the bonus of having the remote.  It was also loud, and had 13 different sounds.   It was MUCH better than a whoopee cushion and I recommend you go that way instead of surgery on your puppet.

After a few weeks Bert was complete.  Mum sits with him at the foot of her recliner, and when she goes to bed at night, she wraps him in a blanket so he won’t get cold.

I guess I could have bought any old hippo, and she wouldn’t have noticed.  She’d have been happy with the plush toy and the extra farting amusement from time to time.  I’m glad I put in the extra effort though.  Sometimes the hunt is what makes it all worthwhile.  Plus I like hearing the old girl laugh every single time Bert breaks wind.

Image 1 (Mother & Baby)

Image 2 (IKEA Hippo)

Image 3 (Self Inflating Whoopee Cushion)

Image 4 (Fart Machine)

Mum's Bert

Folkmanis Label

Here’s a short video clip of Mum’s Bert in action.

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