Puppetry in the cinema

We’ve been thinking about puppets recently. As you know, we’ve got a screening of The Muppet Christmas Carol coming up on 17th December at the International Lawn Tennis Centre in Eastbourne (full details in our previous blog post, and booking details below), and 2011 would have been the 75th birthday of the puppet pioneer, and one of Filmspot‘s cinema heros, Jim Henson. So, we thought we’d present some of our favourite cinema puppetry!

We’ve has to impose a few rules on ourselves here, though – the world of puppetry is so vast, we’re talking live action puppetry this time (we’ll save stop motion for another day!)

5. Gremlins 

Here’s a particularly rousing clip from Gremlins 2

Gremlins used a range of puppetry to bring the innocent little mogwai, Gizmo, and it’s sinister offspring to life, including animatronics and marionettes. Directed by Joe Dante, Gremlins was the first and best of a batch of comedy-horror films about nasty little beasties that surfaced in the 80s. Dishonourable mentions include Critters, Ghoulies, Hobgoblins and Munchies.

4. Where the Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze’s rendering of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ breathed life into Maurice Sendak‘s beautiful book illustrations through the very effective combination of animatronic, costumes and CGI.

3 . Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

Although only in the film for short clips, the grotesque animatronic puppet version of Gainsbourg is what sets this wonderful biopic apart from most. Wonderfully acted and stylishly shot, the puppetry element represents Gainsbourg’s personal demons – yes, it’s an obvious trick, but it does add a great dose of quirkiness into something that could otherwise be fairly straight forward. After all, I think Gainsbourg’s philandering and rock and roll life style has been fairly well documented before!

2. Kooky (Kuky se vrací)

This is a recent discovery, about a teddy bear who ends out in landfill when his asthmatic owner is forced to throw him away. Directed by the award-winning Jan Svěrák, this film certain takes much inspiration from the marionette puppetry of the Czech Republic, where it was made. The film features a cast of beautifully detailed characters, designed by games designer Jakub Dvorský, including the antagonist Nightshade, who looks slightly reminiscent of Little Otik, the titlular ‘character’ tree stump baby from the film by Jan Švankmajer…

1. Of course, the anything that the Henson Company goes near

Yes, well – we could have made a list of ‘the best Henson related films’, but there are too many to list. Here’s a clip from Labyrinth, featuring a very helpful worm…

Jim Henson, and his creature workshop, have had a profound influence on film over the past few decades, by making the impossibly feel tangible and bringing fantastic and fun characters to life. Not only did Henson bring us The Muppets, but also fantasy films such as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth – and they worked on creatures and effects for countless others including the Dennis Potter version of Alice in Wonderland, called Dreamchild.

You can, of course, see Kermit, Jim Henson’s most famous creation, strutting his stuff in our next Filmspot event on 17 December, ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’. Doors will be at 2pm, for a 2.30pm start.

Tickets
Tickets for The Muppet Christmas Carol (or White Christmas, which we are also presenting on 17 December at 7pm) cost £6.50 (£5 concessions and children) each
Please contact the Events Office at Eastbourne Borough Council
tel 01323 415442 or purchase on line at <http://www.visiteastbourne.com/eshop/default.aspx?dms=71&shop=11&sct=323

Here’s Kermit, duetting with Tiny Tim, just to get you all in the mood!

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