Meet the pup­pet maker and his wife who bring Christ­mas cheer to mil­lions of peo­ple around the world, all from a fac­tory in Noosav­ille

Life & Style Weekend - - FRONT PAGE -

Who can tell what strange oc­cur­rences can lead you on a path to busi­ness success and life sat­is­fac­tion?

In the case of David Poulton, it was a child­hood stam­mer and a near-death ex­pe­ri­ence in an Asian ho­tel.

With his wife Sally, David owns and op­er­ates Pro­mo­tions in Mo­tion, a com­pany that keeps a low-pro­file in a fac­tory in Noosav­ille, yet pro­duces in­stal­la­tions that are dis­played all around the world and have been reg­u­larly named (by the Huff­in­g­ton Post) in the Top Ten Win­dows of the World.

David de­signs, cre­ates and builds enor­mous and spec­tac­u­lar Christ­mas window dis­plays for high-end de­part­ment stores and streetscap­es.

With just a small team of seven per­ma­nent staff in the Noosav­ille out­let, the team cre­ates mag­i­cal Christ­mas sto­ry­book scenes to be en­joyed by mil­lions of peo­ple ev­ery fes­tive sea­son.

A mas­ter pup­pet-maker and pup­peteer, David’s des­tiny be­gan with a child­hood stut­ter.

“My par­ents em­i­grated from Eng­land, and at school I de­vel­oped a very bad stam­mer,” he said.

“I got teased so ter­ri­bly I de­cided not to speak. For two years I did not say a word in pub­lic.

“Then I had a (new) teacher who was told she had a child who did not speak.

“She brought a pup­pet to school and asked the pup­pet to give a morn­ing talk.

“The pup­pet spoke in a big loud voice. That was the be­gin­ning of my love of pup­pets.”

David’s par­ents en­cour­aged his pup­pet pas­sion which even­tu­ally helped him over­come his stam­mer and later gave him the con­fi­dence to stage pup­pet shows which led him into adult­hood where he turned his hobby into a ca­reer, and with his wife Sally toured the world stag­ing pup­pet shows.

“We had the largest pup­pet com­pany in Aus­tralia,” he said. “We had four or five shows on the road at any one time: in Canada, Tai­wan, and Malaysia.

‘‘ We put about $500,000 into the Sun­shine Coast com­mu­nity by wages. We don’t buy any­thing on the in­ter­net, it is all bought lo­cally.

“I would per­form at fes­ti­vals in Europe. Then about 13 years ago, I was alone in a ho­tel room in Tai­wan when there was a ma­jor earth­quake. Two hun­dred peo­ple were killed.

“At that mo­ment I had a light­ning bolt. I knew I did not want to go to Asia again in a work sit­u­a­tion. I had a wife and a home in Noosa so I thought hard about what I could do there (for work) that did not in­volve travel.”

A busi­ness re­ly­ing on pup­pet shows was ob­vi­ously not go­ing to be sus­tain­able in a re­gional Aus­tralian town so David and Sally had to think out­side the box.

David be­gan sketch­ing and de­sign­ing pup­pets for window dis­plays, espe­cially Christ­mas scenes, and with Sally, he grew the busi­ness to a stage where in­ter­est came from all over Aus­tralia and then from over­seas.

This Christ­mas, his big­gest dis­play is in the Smith & Caughey de­part­ment store in Auck­land.

“It is a spe­cial one-off de­part­ment store run by one fam­ily, very high class, way above all oth­ers,” David said.

“They are highly suc­cess­ful, 135 years old. We have been do­ing their win­dows for 10 years.

“They are very artis­tic, our best cus­tomer. They give me artis­tic free­dom.”

It is a year-long process to cre­ate a Christ­mas window, be­gin­ning with the client (in this case Smith & Caughey) ne­go­ti­at­ing with a chil­dren’s book il­lus­tra­tor.

“They go for some­one who has won a big award with a (chil­dren’s) book,” David said.

“We take that book, con­dense it, cre­ate scenes and then get 12 de­part­ment store win­dows out of it.”

To­wards the end of each year, the Noosav­ille fac­tory (which David and Sally like to call a stu­dio) looks like Santa’s en­clave in the North Pole, with colour and fan­tasy in hun­dreds of pup­pets, and ex­cite­ment in dozens of Christ­mas scenes cov­er­ing ev­ery cen­time­tre of the 1000sq m space.

Bring­ing it all to­gether so it has move­ment as well as colour and fas­ci­na­tion in­volves many el­e­ments, with David and Sally opt­ing for a French me­chan­i­cal-the­atre style of op­er­a­tion which al­though tra­di­tional is far more dif­fi­cult to pro­duce.

“We use very lit­tle elec­tron­ics,” David said. “French me­chan­i­cal the­atre was very pop­u­lar in the 1870s. There are only two or three stores in the world that do me­chan­i­cal the­atre now: Gal­lerie Lafayette in Paris and Lord & Tay­lor in New York.”

Al­though the colour and move­ment of Pro­mo­tions in Mo­tion’s Christ­mas win­dows is the main star, the sound­track is also very im­por­tant.

“Hu­man Na­ture recorded the sound­track for the Auck­land Christ­mas window,” David said.

“There would be close to a mil­lion peo­ple look at that window. That’s un­usual in a city the size of Auck­land.

“They have lots of coun­try peo­ple come in just to look at the window.” Other Christ­mas window dis­plays that will de­light young and old this fes­tive sea­son will be pre­sented in cities and towns all over Aus­tralia, in­clud­ing the David Jones window in Wol­lon­gong. “We had a lo­cal band in Noosa do the sound­track for the Wol­lon­gong store,” David said. “We have stuff in 21 shop­ping cen­tres from Perth to Queens­land from Syd­ney to Cairns. We have just built a phe­nom­e­nal Christ­mas tree in Perth which has an­i­ma­tion in it.” While the an­i­ma­tion/pup­pet man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try is com­pet­i­tive, espe­cially from the Chi­nese mar­ket where man­u­fac­tur­ing costs are half of David and Sally’s in­stal­la­tions, Pro­mo­tions in Mo­tion’s work is still in de­mand. “Ev­ery one of our pup­pets is a one-off,” David said. “We do not pro­duce like a sausage fac­tory. Ev­ery­thing we do is made for the client, it is be­spoke. “We have a great sense of pride. We have been of­fered an op­por­tu­nity by a large Amer­i­can com­pany of 10 times what we do now if we re­lo­cate to Asia and run a fac­tory for them. But we live on the Sun­shine Coast. We care about it, want to cre­ate lo­cal jobs. “We put about $500,000 into the Sun­shine Coast com­mu­nity by wages. We don’t buy any­thing on the in­ter­net, it is all bought lo­cally. I be­lieve strongly in it. We have to have jobs for our young peo­ple. We have to shop lo­cally. “

The fes­tive sea­son is fast ap­proach­ing. It’s time to dust off the dec­o­ra­tions and deck the halls with boughs of holly. No-one does Christ­mas bet­ter than Pro­mo­tions in Mo­tion.

David Poulton (pic­tured) and his wife Sally own and op­er­ate Pro­mo­tions in Mo­tion, a com­pany based in Noosav­ille.


Pro­mo­tions in Mo­tion pro­duces in­stal­la­tions dis­played all around the world and are reg­u­larly named (by the Huff­in­g­ton Post) in the Top Ten Win­dows of the World.

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