I have been reading the debate on what is a pro doll, semi-pro doll etc... Very interesting and good comments by all and surprisingly a topic that has sparked some high interest.
I guess I look at it solely from a marketing perspective. The description of amateur or toy, semi-pro or converted, and professional or supreme are only marketing terms in my eyes. The use of these terms is to help categorize the products that are being produced or sold.
Can a professional ventriloquist use an amateur or professional doll – Yes. As a matter of fact they do not have to use a doll at all and can still put on a memorable performance.
Can a novice ventriloquist use a professional or amateur doll? - Yes, and probably not very well. The type of doll does not make the performer or the puppet a professional.
I use these terms to help categorize the type of doll or puppet for the person trying to purchase the doll. The critical information about the doll should be found in the selling description. The detailed description should help answer what the doll can and can’t do, the size, it’s features and how it is made. After that, it is up to the ventriloquist and they can call it whatever they want.
Less detailed and smaller puppets are typically better for beginning ventriloquists. They give the beginning ventriloquist the opportunity to get started at a minimal investment.
As the ventriloquist becomes more advanced, they typically move to more advanced puppets. Intermediate and advanced ventriloquists typically prefer larger puppets with more features. (moving eyes, eyelids, ears, blinkers, arms etc...). Since they prefer these features and most likely are making some money using these puppets, they are more inclined to pay more for a puppet. Thus the marketing terms amateur, semi-pro and professional dolls have been developed to try and categorize the appropriate doll to the user.
I guess in the long run, I really don’t care what they are called. My hope is that those who make puppets continue to make them in their special way and for those who perform with puppets to find the right puppet and continue to perform. What is important is getting satisfaction out of this craft.