“The triumph of intellect and romance…”

…over brute force and cynicism.”

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Slim just linked to this (apparently unaired) Craig Ferguson/Dr. Who clip with the comment “my new manifesto!” WORD.

Dirty Night Clowns

Warning to any coulrophobics or pupaphobics who may be a part of our readership: This video may not be for you; containing, as it does, both puppets and clowns and, in fact, a clown puppet. For the those of you without such qualms: Prepare yourselves for the bizarre traipse through a miniature forest that is the video for Chris Garneau’s Dirty Night Clowns, a delightfully dark composition with some decidedly insidious undertones. The video, directed by Ryan Gibeau, is unsettling but beautifully realized. Puppetry has the ability to both undercut and magnify disturbing themes in equal measure with its cartoonish, exaggerated qualities, and that is on full display here. They also have a great behind-the-scenes feature for those who are interested.

Via who killed bambi?

BTC (Again): Double Kermit Lip-Sync ALL THE WAY

Via The Daily What, “the most moving lip dub of Queen and David Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure’ performed by a homeless man holding two Kermit puppets you will see today, guaranteed”:

Currently there’s no solid information listed about the talented puppeteer, just a general link to nonprofits. It’s unclear if he’s homeless, or a performer trying to raise awareness. Either way, I’d love to put some dollars in his hat.

(EDIT 5/9/10: More information on this clip has surfaced! Read all about it at NY magazine. The puppeteer’s name is Sky Soleil, and the director of the video is Brian Maris. Thanks for the tip, alumiere!)

Captain Eo Flies Again

I went to Disneyland on Monday for the first time since my high school graduation night, which was a very, verrry long time ago. The biggest lure to re-enter the happiest place on Earth? Captain Eo‘s triumphant return, of course. The 17-minute, 3-D [or 4-D, if you count the synchronized in-theater effects] film stars Michael Jackson as the captain of a spaceship on a mission to deliver a gift to the Supreme Leader of a dark planet deep in the throes of a cyber-catastrophe.

Coppola-directed and Lucas-produced, Captain Eo began screening in 1986 and was shut down at the height of the alleged child abuse drama in the early 90s. Re-opened, predictably, after Michael Jackson’s death, this film is quintessential Jackson. As Eo, in addition to feeding his notorious Disney obsession, Michael gets to shoot lasers from his fingertips and to hang with adorable fantasy creatures and robots. He also wears a tight, studded white leather space suit while saving the world through the power of music and dance. This is who he wanted to be. Captain Eo should have been a mini-series.

One of my favorite aspects of watching this film again was finding all the influences from from sci-fi and fantasy films of the time. There’s the Geiger’s Alien-inspired Supreme Leader, the Gilliam’s Brazil-inspired pipes and steam of the dark planet, the Jim Henson-inspired puppets alongside nods to Star Wars and Terminator. You can probably find even more influences if you watch Captain Eo beyond the jump, but I don’t recommend it if it’s your first time and there’s a chance you might make it to an in-theater screening. It’s just so much better in 3-D!

The FAM: Jim Henson’s The Storyteller

And so it shall be that this work-week on Coilhouse begins and ends with Jim Henson. This week The FAM presents one of the greatest television series of all time, Jim Henson’s: The Storyteller. Only lasting 2 seasons the first was broadcast in 1988 and starred John Hurt as the titular storyteller. This was followed up two years later by a second season focused on Greek myths, which lasted for four episodes and featured Michael Gambon in place of Hurt. Today’s FAM features five episodes of the superior first season [Note: All episode descriptions come from wikipedia, ’cause I’m lazy]:

“Fearnot”: From an early German folk tale. The Storyteller recounts the adventures of a boy who goes out into the world to learn what fear is, accompanied by a dishonest but lovable tinker.

“Hans My Hedgehog”: From an early German folk tale. A farmer’s wife drives her husband mad with her desperate measures to have a baby. She says to him that she wants a child so bad, she would not care how he looked even if he were covered in quills like a hedgehog. That, of course, is what she gets: a baby covered in quills, as soft as feathers. His mother calls him ‘Hans My Hedgehog’ and she is the only one to love him; his father grows to hate him for shame. So eventually Hans leaves for a place where he can’t hurt anyone and where no-one can hurt him.

Deep inside the forest, for many years Hans dwells with his animals for companions. One day a king gets lost in Hans’ forest and he hears a beautiful song being played on a bagpipe. He follows the music and finds Hans’ castle. When Hans helps him to escape the forest, then king promises that he will give to Hans the first thing to greet him at his castle – which the King secretly knows to be his dog. Instead, it turns out to be his beautiful daughter, the princess of sweetness and cherry pie. Hans and the king have made a deal that in exactly one year and one day his prize (the princess) shall be his.

“Sapsorrow”: From an early German folk tale, this is a variant on Allerleirauh by the brothers Grimm. There is a king, his dead wife, and his three daughters. Two are as ugly and as bad as can be, but the third, Sapsorrow, is as kind and as beautiful as her sisters are not. There is a ring belonging to the dead Queen, and a royal tradition that states that the girl whose finger fits the ring will become Queen as decreed by law.

“The Heartless Giant”: From an early German folk tale. A heartless giant, who once terrorised the land before being captured and imprisoned, is befriended by the young prince Leo who, one night, sets him free.

“The True Bride”: Based on an early German folk tale, The True Bride. A Troll had a daughter, but she left straight off, so the Troll took Anja, an orphan, to replace her to wait on him hand and foot.

I was 8 when these originally aired and two things made watching them a difficult proposition. The first was that the episodes came on dangerously close to my and my brother’s bedtime. The second was that we did not have television. That is, we had a television and VCR, but no cable or reception. My grandparents next door, however, did and we would give them a cassette so that they could record them for us. We must have watched these episodes dozens upon dozens of times, pushing the magnetic tape well beyond its intended lifespan — every story then taking place behind a veil of falling “snow”.

Henson and his team did a phenomenal job with the puppetry and make-up; and Anthony Minghella’s writing is top-notch. Tying it all together is Hurt, whose gravelly delivery is pitch-perfect. With his curmudgeonly dog, voiced by Brain Henson, at his feet he manages to outdo some of the visuals using only his words and that wonderfully expressive face. Time has done nothing to detract from the quality of the series, and upon watching them again, I find that they enthrall me just as much now as they did when I was a child. The low quality YouTube feed even manages to evoke that VHS-like haze on everything. Maybe I’ll put on some footie pajamas later and take this nostalgia trip as far as it will go.

BTC: Jim Henson’s ads for Wilkins Coffee

Just a wee bit o’ vintage muppet-on-muppet violence to kick start your morning. The backstory, via Wikia:

In 1957, Jim Henson was approached by a Washington, D.C. coffee company to produce commercials for Wilkins Coffee. The local stations only had ten seconds for station identification, so the Muppet commercials had to be lightning-fast — essentially, eight seconds for the commercial pitch and a two-second shot of the product.

From 1957 to 1961, Henson made 179 commercials for Wilkins Coffee and other Wilkins products, including Community Coffee and Wilkins Tea. The ads were so successful and well-liked that they sparked a series of remakes for companies in other local markets throughout the 1960s.

The ads starred the cheerful Wilkins, who liked Wilkins Coffee, and the grumpy Wontkins, who hated it. Wilkins would often do serious harm to Wontkins in the ads — blowing him up, stabbing him with a knife, and smashing him with a club, among many other violent acts.

The Black Keys – Tighten Up

Just a funky dinosaur puppet dance party on a lackadaisical Saturday afternoon. Frank’s got the moves:

Via Dr. Hypercube.

The Black Key’s new album, Brothers, drops May 18th.

BTC: “Kuky se vrací” a.k.a. “Kooky’s Return”

Um. Other than Zobot’s hubbatron Ales, does anybody around here understand Czech? No? Me neither. You know what? Don’t worry about it. Doesn’t matter. Just watch this, WATCH IT RIGHT NOW:

My old chum Gooby shows me the bestest things. Thanks, Goo.


KOOKY´S RETURN (Kuky se vrací) is a combined puppet and live action feature based on a 
child’s fantasy. A seven year old boy whose teddy bear Kooky has been 
thrown away wonders what his toy is up to in the big world out there, imagining 
[that] Kooky [is trying] to find his way back home.

It’s written and directed by Oscar-winning Czech director Jan Svěrák. If the film’s style/feel seems oddly familiar, it’s because Jakub Dvorský of Amanita Design (creators of Samorost, Machinarium) is the production designer. The film’s been scheduled for a May 20, 2010 release in Czech cinemas. If there is any goodness left in this cruel world, subtitled/dubbed versions in other languages will soon become available to the rest of us. But even without a translated version, nothing’s gonna stop us from seeing this, right? I mean, just look at this widdle guy:


Redmoon’s Curious Cabinet

Photo by Sean Williams, 2005 production.

Why don’t ALL puppeteers wear monocles and do acrobatics while performing? That was my first thought while watching Redmoon Theater’s latest marvel, The Cabinet. As the show begins, the audience is faced with a wall sized wooden cabinet, its face riddled with oddly shaped drawers and compartments. Suddenly, a door slams open and gloved hands slide a gramophone out from behind a curtain. More doors open to reveal a darkened stage. Then, as if through the hissing and static of an ancient recording, the voice of the protagonist begins to tell his tale, the story of an unwittingly murderous somnambulist.

Photo by Ryan Bourque, 2010 production.

Coilhouse being what it is, I have the feeling that at least a few of you are already familiar with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the 1919 silent film that inspired Redmoon’s production. It is a story with as many layers as a matryoshka doll, but on the surface, it tells the tale of a hapless somnambulist (Cesare) who falls into the clutches of a nefarious doctor (Dr. Caligari) who uses the young man as a pawn in his murderous schemes. Ultimately, we discover that the story we have just been told was the delusion of a man in an asylum, trapped within his own mind– a dream within a dream.

Photo by Sean Williams, 2005 production.

The 10th Annual Edwardian Ball of San Francisco

Lee Evil and Dougy Gyro
Lee Evil and Dougy Gyro in his “Nautilus” costume.

The tenth Edwardian Ball crept up upon us unawares, while we were still sleepy from holiday overeating and adjusting to our regular work schedules again. All of a sudden everyone seemed to say “This weekend? But I haven’t a costume!” And thus began the yearly scramble, with last-minute runs to the fabric store and safety pins carefully tucked away inside as-yet unfinished garments. The Edwardian Ball is one of those rare events where everyone–not just the performers and regulars–dons a costume. For some of us this means little more than our everyday wear, while others brainstorm for weeks.

A contact juggler amongst the revelers.