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Puppets don’t just belong in kids movies

Posted by GoreMaster Special Effects on August 11, 2009

Team America

Team America

Laura MacInnis – Miramichileader.com

Avenue Q is wrapping up on Broadway after a hugely successful stint internationally.

The Tony award-winning musical is a comedy in which the characters are puppets.

But don’t be fooled. It isn’t for young kids.

Though the colourful puppets are certainly inspired by Sesame Street, creators Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx have placed their hipster characters in a dingy New York dealing with real adult problems. The final performance will be held September 13.

But Avenue Q certainly isn’t the first or the last time puppets will be used to entertain a grown up audience.

Hand puppets, marionettes, animatronics and other techniques have been used in family fare as well as stuff you wouldn’t want your kids watching.

Just think of all the wonderful creatures we were introduced to by Jim Henson in the original Star Wars trilogies. No amount of CGI ever truly breathed life into Yoda the way Henson did. Those eyes, those ears, that wrinkly skin— the animation was just to shiny on the big screen during the Phantom Menace.

Then there’s that other childhood favourite Labyrinth, starring a freaky David Bowie and some even freakier puppets again from Henson.

In the last decade new movies have emerged with sprinklings of the art of puppetry here and there. In Being John Malkovich John Cusack’s character is a struggling artist who uses marionettes.

His job, of course, is a metaphor for the way he manipulates Malkovich’s brain but there is a beautiful scene in the beginning of the movie where two of his marionettes yearn for each other as one lies trapped in a castle. The performance on the street quickly angers a parent who has stopped to watch with their child on the street when the marionettes start getting sexual. Hilarious moment.

Later Jason Segel would create a special musical/comedy about Dracula for his 2007 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Watching a female women plop out 3 vampire puppet babies is worth the price of admission. I only wish that musical actually existed so I could go to it.

It was really Matt Stone and Trey Parker who took puppet movies for adults to new heights with Team America:World Police. The MPAA in the US was so taken aback by a puppet sex scene it was removed from the film altogether. All in all though, there’s almost nothing funnier than the ferocious puma played by a small cute black cat who attacks the puppet heroes. Well, that and puppet Kim Jon- il singing “I’m So Lonely”.

Here’s my list of favourite movies that include some masterful puppetry:

1. Being John Malkovich

2. Labyrinth                                                                                                                            

3. Star Wars (original trilogy)

4. Team America:World Police

5. The Sound of Music

6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

7. Muppets Christmas Carol

8. Meet the Feebles

9. Gremlins

10. The Dark Crystal

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