By Naseem Ally. ‘Handmade Puppet Dreams’ is a collection of sixteen short animated films curated by the executive producer Heather B. Henson. The work of the talented puppeteers displayed in the collection of films is a sight to behold. It’s a testament to the painstaking attention to detail they’ve taken to make these animations credible for the big screen.
These sculptures are choreographed beautifully that they move in such fluid movements. The animations are so seamless sometimes you forget that you’re actually watching an animated film. It’s done brilliantly well and what I appreciate most about it is, it’s somehow managed to carve its own niche in the genre of animated films.
I wouldn’t put this collection of films up against titans like ‘Wallace & Gromit’ or ‘Chicken Run’, but nonetheless, ‘Handmade Puppet Dreams’ has found its own lane. The first short titled ”Narrative of Victor Karloch” is a solid opener. Elijah Wood is featured as one of the characters in the short. The aesthetic work done on his character is superb, and the resemblance to the man himself is remarkable.
Almost frighteningly realistic.
His character goes on a deep-sea adventure, where we see some fantastic close-ups of his diving suit. Again, the handmade work that went into designing and creating these sculptures is awe-inspiring. Credit to the design and animation team.
Whilst watching that short in particular, I couldn’t help but think of Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding Jr in ‘Men Of Honor’. A great film by the way if you haven’t seen it. The gold touches on the boots and diving helmet of Elijah’s character are subtle, but it gives it that added realism.
Of all the sixteen shorts my favourite has to be ”Melvin The Birder”. It tells the tale of Melvin, a lonely fellow who’s fascinated with capturing a photo of every species of woodpecker known to man. He’s on the trail for one elusive bird, and he goes to extreme lengths to spot it.
This films aesthetic is almost like a child’s drawing, but the animations used in this short really does make it the most entertaining of the lot. Also, it helps that ‘Melvin’ has a hilarious voice-over who to me at least, sounded very much like ‘Milton Waddams’ from the movie Office Space.
‘Handmade Puppet Dreams’ pretty much ticks all the boxes in terms of its overall appeal to the casual viewer. In all honesty, I can’t fault this project too much.
However, perhaps one downside of ‘Handmade Puppet Dreams’ is that a few of the shorts felt weak in terms of their storyline. Overall, it’s a refreshing take on what can be done in film and it’s an alternative of telling a story without all the pizzazz of feature-length films from studios like Mar – *cough* – vel *cough*.
Can films like this have a longterm mainstream appeal…I don’t know. But if a high brow director were to take this kind of risk, is another question altogether. To be fair, Tarantino used a decent amount of animation in Kill Bill. Perhaps some puppetry work, for Kill Bill: Vol 3?
Regardless, going forward it would be nice to see these kinds of films for a change. The ‘Handmade Puppet Dreams’ series is out on Amazon Prime in the UK and USA at the end of January.
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