Episode 92 – Puppetry and Muppetry

December 10, 2010

Here’s a challenge. When you hear the word “puppets“, don’t think about BertErnieKermit the Frog or anything associated with the name Henson.

If you can do it, we’re impressed. Like any 20th-century renaissance, Henson’s re-envisioning of the art of puppetry did more to help and hinder the art. Arguably, there might not be the underground (if anything is truly “underground” in the age of the Internet) culture of indie-puppetry if a whole generations hadn’t been raised on Sesame Street.

But, conversely, Salacious Crumb is probably the main reason film-makers got behind CGI in such a big way. Even George Lucas knew Max Rebo was a mistake. At some “Henson” became more than a man and became a style of special effect. One that worked well enough in a bit fo fluff like Labyrinth, but almost entirely derailed more serious projects like Return of the Jedi.

Unfortunately, Lucasfilm were actually worse at CGI than they were at puppetry, and we were inflicted with the sight of CGI Yoda. Perhaps there isn’t a single second in Empire Strikes Back you feel like you’re watching Yoda instead Frank Oz, you at least feel like he’s in the same universe as Luke Skywalker. Even the character Count Dooku doesn’t seem to believe in the existence of CGI Yoda.

Perhaps there have been a few crimes against puppetry committed over the years, but pretty much everyone should be able to agree this giant girl marionette is some amazing magic.

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