Wednesday, 3 September 2008


There are a number of practices we use in the filming industry, one is to simply shoot the whole movie with video cameras, which is the bulk of all movies; another is to create computer animations, such as 3D animations (Toy Story, Cars) or Anime (like the Japanese films); Then there's stop-motion animation, which uses some kind of mechanical puppets and take a sequence of photos to create a full moving picture; but what I'm really interested in today is another filming practice which we call Puppetry!

Puppetry is the one practice that I believe will never die... looking at Jim Henson's Labyrinth, I believe that still competes with the graphics and all that we use 20 years later... this movie is 20 years old... and to me it looks as relevant today as any other movie that you will see! Tell me if you think I'm wrong!

These are a couple points in which I believe puppetry excels in:

  • You merely have to create the perfect puppet and film it... no messing around with CGI that may or may not look right.
  • Puppets are real objects and thus interact correctly with their surroundings, which is very hard to do with CGI

OK, here are a few examples of good puppets:

  • Obviously the Muppets immediately spring into mind, there's some pretty good designs amongst them
  • Yoda from Star Wars: way better than the new CGI version found in the latter films!
  • Treebeard from Lord of the Rings: when they couldn't use CGI for him, they had to go with puppetry, which worked far better!
  • All around the original Star Wars trilogy you will find various

Well perhaps Jim Henson's original ideas evolved since then- We now have a variation called Animatronics, which seems very likely to start to take over CGI as first choice in creating creatures. There is an interesting post that will give detail into how animatronics works... read here!

Del Toro has announced that he intends to use animatronics over CGI while adapting The Hobbit, which was widely used in Pan's Labyrinth and caused a stunning effect!

So it seems that puppetry has had a big boost around the time of Star Wars and Labyrinth... and has laid dormant until Del Toro has recently picked it up, proving it's potential in a modern day audience with Pan's Labyrinth... looking forward to more development in the puppetry industry!

Puppetry will never die!

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