Handmade Puppet Dreams (2020)

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A collection of short films displays some amazing puppetry in this collaborative effort between Heather Henson and various film directors.

The world of Handmade Puppet Dreams lives up to its idea: using the classic style of handmade puppetry and bringing it to the modern world. The selection of short films here are nothing but short of wonderful not only to watch, but as a surprise, there are some who have famous actors joining the fray voicing the characters in some of these.

For instance, in The Narrative of Victor Karloch, directed by Kevin McTurk, the legendary Christopher Lloyd voices the titular character, an artifact collector who tells the viewer the story of a journal and some diving gear he was given by a colleague of his. The film then flashes back to said narrative, in which we find the writer of the journal, William Merriweather, as we learn that during a salvage operation for a series of missing sea freighters, uncovers a lost Templar Knights ship with a dark secret. Elijah Wood voices Merriweather and the puppet itself looks exactly like the actor himself, which is ingenious. The film is a bit dark, but this is a ghost story and has the feel of perhaps a Tim Burton-style film.

Yamasong is a non-verbal short film but has a score by On Ensemble that matches perfectly with the film. The story of a patchwork girl named Nani, who meets a tortoise fisherman and warrior named Shojun. They go on a quest together to find a mountain with a secret after Nani discovers a falling star. The film feels like a cross of something expected out of Wes Anderson or Travis Knight, but done quite well especially when the viewer learns that the backgrounds are made up of CGI. Kudos to director Sam K. Hale for meshing the two effects quite well.

Lessons Learned, by Toby Froud (who played the baby in the 1986 Jim Henson-directed Labyrinth), tells the story of a boy celebrating his birthday and is given a very special gift from his grandfather. When the boy discovers the gift, he finds himself into a world that he never was intended to explore. The story is well done and very visceral as we see this boy go on an adventure that brings back a nostalgic feeling of the very movie Froud appeared in. The creature puppets are amazingly done and it is a beautiful and curious story to watch.

These are just a taste of Handmade Puppet Dreams, a terrific collection of films in which Heather Henson’s intentions are well met. If you like puppets and you like stories, this is one collection worth checking out.

WFG RATING: A

An Ibex Puppetry Production. Directors: Various. Executive Producer: Heather B. Henson.

The collection is available to see on Amazon Prime.

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