Tag Archives: Puppetry

The Skullduggery Steals the Show in Nickelodeon’s The Barbarian and the Troll

23 Apr

Nickelodeon to Premiere 'The Barbarian and the Troll' on Friday, April 2,  at 7:30 p.m. (ET/PT)"By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

On Nickelodeon, YTV and YouTube.
Please check local listings for Friday evening showtimes

Nickelodeon’s The Barbarian and The Troll is a love letter to the antics from the original Muppet Show, and tosses in some of Matt Groening’s style from Futurama for good measure. Technically, he’s been producing Disenchantment, which I simply lost interest on over time. This puppet version has a better appeal since it doesn’t feature as much violence.

Brendar (voiced by Spencer Grammar) is very much like a Leela figure, fiercely independent and sassy, and gets her title not by choice. Her side-kick, Evan (series creator Drew Massey) dislikes trying to extol tolls from the bridge he’s supposed to manage. His singing chops are great (the tunes are catchy) and I’d have to say he is more of a bard than a mad troll. However, the people aren’t exactly praising him for his skill. He’s every much a level one D&D character with a charisma value of about five.

True to the fantasy formula, they form an adventuring party, and Brendar takes the lead. I’d guess she’s at least a level six warrior (with a magical talking axe) on a quest to rescue her brother, Kendar. A demon by the name of Alvin kidnapped him. 

There’s Skelly (Allan Trautman), the general of a skeleton patrol who is causing problems in the world of Gothmoria. Their antics are crazier than those from the movie, Army of Darkness, and I suspect that’s where this puppetry team is drawing their inspiration from. Their moments are laugh-out-loud funny, especially the third episode where Skelly has lost his body, and his minions have to figure out how to put their leader back together again. Humpty Dumpty never had it this bad!

Buried in this same narrative is the wizard Horus Scrums (also Trautman) plans for this world. There’s a simplicity in the narrative that’s enjoyable. It’s not too crazy like Lord of the Rings.

Production-wise, the visuals switches from wide shots of the puppets animated by wire to close-ups where puppeteers are tucked below the camera line. This technique works very well to make the show come alive in the same level as The Dark Crystal.

But the big selling point is with Evan’s musical numbers. Somehow, they turn into full blown orchestrations (which may get addressed a fourth wall breaking moment one day). Ultimately, it’s the nostalgia which makes this program great viewing for older audiences who grew up on Henson’s many puppet products. Kids won’t necessarily understand the humour, but I was cracking up whenever the skeletons are on screen. They are the reason I love this show lots. They tickle my funny bone!

4 Stars out of 5

 

You Can’t Break The Haunted Swordsman at LAAPFF 2020

2 Oct

The Haunted Swordsman (2019) - IMDbBy Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Available to viewers in Southern California (excluding San Diego County) from October 1, 2020 at 12pm PT to October 31, 2020 at 11:59pm PT. Click here to watch the film on Eventive.

If Studio Laika ever feels they’re stuck on what to make next, they should talk to Kevin McTurk and give him the chance to realize The Haunted Swordsman as a full length film. His work may not be mainstream, but the Japanese folklore about the spirit world he’s borrowing from certainly is! His Kickstarter page reveals how the spooky narrative would develop, and his use of Bunraku Puppet Theater must be seen to be believed. It’s nearly photo-realistic, and the puppeteers are hidden from view to move scale figures in alluring detail. The spook factor is something even The Addams Family would approve of.

Laika made a name for themselves with their equally haunting works, Coraline and Kubo & the Two Strings. Their ability to generate box office hits is very hit or miss. Certain groups will love puppet theatre, but for the masses, CGI has sadly tainted the spectrum. McTurk’s previous short won him accolades. The Mill at Calder’s End earned 14 awards and Guillermo del Toro purchased Grimshaw for his traveling museum exhibition At Home With Monsters.

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The Vintage Tempest’s Nerdy Picks: Victoria Fringe Festival 2019 Edition

10 Aug

August 21 to Sept 1
Victoria, British Columbia

Summer in Victoria, BC can never feel complete without going to the Fringe Festival! This event has been defining the local arts scene for the past 34 or so years now with its unjuried selection of local and travelling acts. I always gravitate to the nerdy type shows, and to get my zombie on does not always happen every year. Intrepid Theatre, the organizers, cemented my love for their show with Z-Day: The Anthem for Post-Zombie Apocalypse by Jay Mitchell. I’m thankful some of that past is preserved on Youtube, but that’s not why I keep going.

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[Victoria Fringe Festival 2018] The Wilds are more than Flights of Fancy, A Review

29 Aug

Location:
Metro Studio Theatre
1411 Quadra Street
Victoria, BC

Remaining Shows:
Aug 29, 8:15 pm
Aug 30 7:30 pm
Sep 1, 12:15 pm
Sep 2, 3:00 pm

  • Spoiler Alert

Victoria, BC is now the base for Wonderheads, a physical theatre company known for their puppet style theatre. They wear full head masks and also make use of minimalist set pieces to tell their tales. I remember seeing Grim and Fischer years ago and this act returns for one night only, November 8th, 2018. These shows have a wonderful mystique to them, and the tales are often enduring.
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The Life, Times & Advances in Puppetry with Mike Quinn

14 Jun

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Mike Quinn is a man of many cinematic trades—a talent mentored by Jim Henson and Frank Oz—and he sees a bright future for puppetry, a style of performance theatre. His passion for it predates meeting these two icons and he is fully aware of its rich history. At an early age, he staged his own live puppet shows for family and friends, and he was always encouraged to pursue his dreams.

This form of entertainment can be traced back to the days of early man. Some simply manipulated the stuffed dolls with their hands and others took the form further, like to have a light source cast upon them so their shadows are projected upon a larger surface. This technique not only helped make them become larger than life but also create a mystique to enthral many a viewer. Quinn is well aware of the many styles of puppetry that can be used to tell a story. In the 90’s, his shift to work behind the camera showed his passion also included directing. He worked on many a TV pilot in the UK and said Mira Mara was one program where he brought in skilled shadow puppeteers to perform while a human actress was regaling fantastic tales to a cast of puppets. It went to full series production, was filmed throughout Wales and Scotland, and was broadcast in Gaelic speaking countries.

“I think this style is a very poetic and abstract artistic way of doing visuals. I also enjoy watching a different form known as bunraku (Japanese puppet theatre). You have three people working a full figure on a tabletop. They are usually seen behind the puppet, sometimes dressed in black, partially visible … they study forever to be very precise. It’s incredible!” observed Quinn.

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