The format seems pretty standard for a reality show. The ten contestants are given a challenge and put in teams, they have two days to design and build the creature; then there is a screen test after which they explain a little bit about their work. The panel of three judges gives feedback, selects one winner and sends one contestant home. Because this was the pilot episode, most of the talking heads and short interviews focused on the contestant’s backgrounds, contrasting those who were freelancers with those who worked for established studios, people who were used to fancy tools and materials vs. those who usually built with tinfoil and hot glue. There wasn’t always the greatest balance between a focus on the working relationships of the teams vs. a focus on the challenge in the work itself.
My favorite parts were the clips of the teams working in the studio (except when there would be these strange little freeze frames that happened every couple of minutes, which were annoying) and the discussion among the judges after the screen tests. While the clips of in progress work were fairly brief, they did give a sense of the tools and materials used and I’m guessing that later episodes get more complicated with the use of cables and animatronics, etc. Overall, I don’t think I’m the best audience for this show, just because I’m not a huge fan of the format. Competition stresses me out and I’m much more interested in the working process than the tensions between teammates. However, for someone interested in a behind the scenes glimpse of how fantastic creatures are created for television and movies, this is a worthwhile show to check out.
1. Creature Shop Challenge! We’ve had reality shows about losing weight and finding romantic partners–why not about building puppets? Syfy channel has created a show where ten designers compete for a job at the Jim Henson Creature Shop. It airs on Tuesdays at 10pm, but you can also watch the episodes online. I haven’t seen it yet but I’m hoping to get some building ideas from watching what they come up with.
2. A theatrical version of Miyazaki’s film Princess Mononoke from 2013 that uses puppets made from recycled materials. Seriously, there’s absolutely nothing you can’t love about that sentence. This show is currently in a Research and Development stage again, so maybe there will be more opportunities to see it in the future! From the UK company Whole Hog Theatre.
3. The World Stages Festival has been amazing and inspiring and we will be writing more about the performances we saw soon. If you can, stop by the Kennedy Center before the end of the weekend and see the fantastic puppet installations.
4.The Manipulate Festival is an annual celebration of visual theater in the UK that encourages visitors to ‘leave preconceptions at the door.’ Here’s an article highlighting several productions this year that included puppetry.
5.Muppets Most Wanted needs no explanation. A new feature length film with Kermit & Co–what are you waiting for? Go see it!