Creating Revolutionary Puppetry on the Web Posted by Andrew on Jan 06, 2009
I think that one of the most amazing things about sites like this is seeing just how many cool projects members have done and are working on. So many people here are doing such interesting stuff.

I already mentioned this over at MC, but I was reading a book about Walt Disney recently and it struck me that where we're at with puppetry on the web is where animation was at in the early 1930s...lots of young people experimenting, a medium that's still relatively new (then it was sound & colour cartoons; today it's the internet).

If we're really honest with ourselves, we have to admit that most of the work that's being done online is exciting, but lacks a certain level of sophistication and professional polish. Lately I've been thinking about how to bridge that gap and take things "to the next level". I wrote a post on PuppetVision a few days ago that explains what I mean a little better and includes some examples.

I'd love to hear some feedback on this and maybe stimulate some discussion.
Re: Creating Revolutionary Puppetry on the Web Posted by Sonny on Jan 06, 2009
Andrew, check the link. seems DOA.
Re: Creating Revolutionary Puppetry on the Web Posted by Andrew on Jan 06, 2009
Thanks Sonny, I fixed the link. It was correct, but there was one too many "http"s in it.
Re: Creating Revolutionary Puppetry on the Web Posted by Jon on Jan 06, 2009
Here's a link to the Puppet Vision Article Andrew was posting about.

It's a very well thought out and thought provoking article and I agree with the assessment that most of the puppet videos posted on the web are basically people playing around and as a result amatuerish.  The reason for this is that it takes a lot of creativity and work to put together a well made video no matter how long it is.  I guess for a person to put together a truely good vdeo they've got to set a higher standard of excellence for themselves.

I've talked about producing some videos with the puppet characters I've created but the reality is I want these videos to be more professional than I have the time and ability to do right now.

Andrew, thank you for launching this thought provoking discussion.  It has served to motivate me to reach for excellence in my puppetry.  Just because at this point puppetry is a hobby for me doesn't mean that I have to settle for mediocrity.

Here's a newbies question for the experienced videographers -- What are the most important elements for producing a good puppet video?
Re: Creating Revolutionary Puppetry on the Web Posted by DrPuppet on Jan 08, 2009
Andrew   I read the post when you put it up. You gave some examples of what you thought was good and you referenced a cartoonist who indicated he felt if you could do it with live actors you should not do it with a cartoon, and i suppose you meant puppets as well. I am not sure I agree with that. Most all of what the Muppet's have done all the back to the Muppet show could almost all have been done certainly and staged with people. I know we do that sort of thing on 99 Acre Woods I think in some cases using puppets and animation to show everyday events all be it over bizarre events is charming and very effective. In fact some of our most popular episodes are ordinary everyday things. Date night for example was based on a real argument at dinner.

Perhaps its the mindset today that differs I love to see the old style Warner brother and Disney shorts. I treasure them. It seems from personal experience I think people like being able to relate to a situation themselves and maybe learn from it. Using animals or puppets in general is a way to tell the same story but take it out of the context that made it uncomfortable for example and make the same message but in a comical manner.

Just my opinion but my grandfather once told me the reason he loved the Flintstones so much when it first came out was he could relate to Fred most of the time. Just a regular guy trying to make it day by day. Some of the circumstances we ridiculous but he said he could watch Fred and say "i have been there and done that exact same thing wasn't funny when it happened to me but its funny to watch".

Just my two cents.

Re: Creating Revolutionary Puppetry on the Web Posted by Jon on Jan 08, 2009
Jay - you present a very good argument supporting the use of puppetry to depict everyday kinds of events. I agree with you 100%.  Puppets can can be very effective in helping us see the humor and at times learn lessons from everyday events. 

At the same time I think that Andrew is right to challenge us to strectch ourselves creatively and do things that are possible for puppets but not for real people.  In this way we increase the impact and entertainment value of our craft.

Perhaps Andrews strongest argument was regarding professionalism in staging and camera work.  This is something that most pupppet people are not very experienced with and it shows.  I guess a little education about good cinematography could go a long way in improving craftmanship.
Re: Creating Revolutionary Puppetry on the Web Posted by DrPuppet on Jan 08, 2009
I agree with you Jon completely!
Re: Creating Revolutionary Puppetry on the Web Posted by Andrew on Jan 08, 2009
Those are really good points Jay and Jon. I do think the argument for using puppetry only for things puppets can do holds up, and the Muppets and 99 Acre Woods are both of examples of why it's true.

Virtually everything the Muppets have done wouldn't work nearly as well with actors. I think their appeal lies in how outrageous and over-the-top they are, in a way human's aren't and can't be. It's true, you could do the Muppet Show with actors, but I don't think it would work nearly well as. Emmett Otter was staged with actors recently and although I didn't see it, the video of it looks, well, somehow odd.

Re: the Flinstones, as I'm sure everyone knows, the Flintstones was intended to be a stone-age version of the Honeymooners, but it went way beyond that because animation allowed them to do all kinds of things that weren't possible for the live-action Honeymooners. And even when years later CG made it possible to do the Flinststones live, I'm not sure they had the same appeal for audiences.

I can totally believe that the most popular episodes of  99 Acre Woods are the ones about mundane, everyday stuff. There's something about the contrast between the fantastic (puppets) and the ordinary that works on some kind of deep level. Take away the puppets and you're missing something. What you said Jay about using puppets to tell a story in a different context was exactly what I meant.

I don't think that Shakespeare just done straight with puppets works. I've seen shows like that done and the puppets are OK, but there is something about Shakespeare that calls for actors. Then again, there was a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor that mixed actors and oversized puppets a few years ago and it seemed to work very well because the director used actors and puppets to very deliberate effect. He didn't just want Shakespeare with puppets, he wanted the puppets to add something new to the original play.

Maybe you can do anything with puppets, but the trick is understanding how to use the puppets effectively?
Re: Creating Revolutionary Puppetry on the Web Posted by Jon on Jan 08, 2009
Andrew, I believe we're understanding each other now, and as usual our thought, your, jay's and mine are not far apart in this discussion.

The point isn't whether or not a people or a puppets could perform the parts so much as what roles and plays are better performed by a puppet of a living person.  And what I hear you calling for is for people to get away from using puppets to perform parts that would be just as well or better performed by people

I'm reminded of a very funnny little video Onath posted spoofing the olympics in which he had two puppets engaged in a staring contest.  It could have been performed just as easily by people but it would not have been nearly as funny.  The idea of puppets with fixed eyes staging a staring contest was what made the joke.

I guess part of the art is knowing what content is best performed by puppets and what is not well presented by puppets
Re: Creating Revolutionary Puppetry on the Web Posted by DrPuppet on Jan 08, 2009
Excellent points all around, you know something that could be a fun experiment sometime in staging composition and performance is to have several of us all use the same source material and film something from it. Like Shakespeare or another classic like the Time machine or other Jules Vern. Something where we all can see how each other tackled the very points we are discussing, such as how to change characters to make them work best for puppets. How to add or remove comedy as needed. I think that would be a fun to do one day. It would be interesting to post them so we could see how we all did it and then determine what was most effective and not about each project.

Maybe one day...


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