An avid fan of puppets, practical movies and voice over work, Iain Maple is an unabashed child at heart. He has been trained in acting and voice over and has previously provided voice over roles for small indie features. Inspired by movies like Jurassic Park, Muppets Treasure Island, and Hellboy, Iain has a particular interest in large scale practical effects, creature suits and of course – puppets! Iain began puppeteering in March 2021. During the Covid lockdown, Iain and his wife Vanessa (Ness) started making TikTok videos with two pre-loved hand puppets - a T-rex from Jurassic Park, and the 90’s American Godzilla.
Though originally started as a personal project to cope with the isolation that lockdown presented, the pair now have over 160,000 followers on the platform, following the comedic antics of Rexy, Zilly and all of their friends. During the pandemic, Iain was introduced to the 1982 film ‘The Dark Crystal.’ This was an instant hit in the household, and Iain became particularly enamoured with the main antagonist characters of the film – the Skeksies. He decided between full-time work and TikTok that this would be his first big build. Iain began to reverse engineer the visible design of the creature to understand how he could build a one man operated, self-contained creature suit.
After working on the project for several months ‘Skek-Ness the Wise’ was debuted at Comic Con Liverpool 2021 and has since made appearances at several Comic Cons across the country; even winning the Chesterfield Comic Con Cosplay contest in February 2023. These appearances fully cemented Iain’s ‘go big or go home’ ethos. Iain’s next project was a full-sized velociraptor puppet named ‘Tango’. Originally Iain wanted to buy a pre-built version online, however after weeks of encouragement from Ness he decided to make this his next big build and over several months of trial and error the 9-foot-long raptor was born.
With modified ranger outfits, and the installation of a voice box to make sounds from the Jurassic Park movies, Tango made her debut at Manchester Comic Con 2022, placing second in the cosplay masquerade. During this convention, Tango caught the eye of a patron who directed Iain to noted puppeteer Mike Quinn; an encounter which led to an invitation to join the ‘Secrets of Puppetry’ course. Since completing the course, Iain continues to develop his skills with not only his existing puppets, but with more common hand and arm-rod puppets.
In January 2023 Iain was informed that the cast of his favourite Disney film – 1992’s Aladdin – would be present at Liverpool Comic Con that coming April. This gave Iain a very ambitious idea to build a giant Jafar puppet! In just under 4 months, Iain and Ness worked tirelessly to create a 46ft long plush cobra (adapted from an original plan) that would wrap around ‘Aladdin’ to recreate the film’s climatic ‘final showdown’ scene from the movie. With days to spare, Jafar was completed and made his debut appearance to the voices of Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) and Jasmine (Linda Larkin) who received this with great joy and admiration.
Iain aspires to become a puppeteer full-time, as well as further develop as a costumed performer and voice actor; as above he is oftentimes joined and supported by wife Ness who is a self-taught video editor/camera operator, practicing seamstress and makeup artist. You can follow the work of ‘Maple Tree Puppets’ on TikTok and YouTube, as well as follow them and get in touch via Facebook and Instagram.