4 August 2005

Why Puppetry?

Ever since 'Team America' used the concept of Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds - marionettes from the sixties, many companies started using marionettes in their ads. A US website selling airline tickets (You can watch the commercials here!) jumped on the bandwagon, but why they did this, besides wanting the cute factor, amuses me. In my humble opinion, everything they, and '3' Australian mobile phone service provider, have done with puppets in their ads, is better suited to doing with actors! This takes me back to a question I'm always asking myself and my students: Why Puppetry? Okay, you might answer 'why not?' but surely puppets are better used to create situations and tell stories that actors (or live people) cannot. We go back to the big 'M' word - 'Metaphor'... Puppets can break down barriers and get through to humans, without prejudice, tackle sensitive topics, which people often have difficultly discussing. I realise that humour and imitation of real life is their strong point, but these commercials using puppets, and often badly so, makes very little sense to me! Please feel free to argue this point... or enlighten me!
Update: Thanks Jonathan for your response! Read it below..

1 comment:

The Root said...

I have to agree with you on this. If you're not going to use the format in the manner it is most effective, why use it at all? I think they were totally going for that nostalgic, cute factor. Not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with that, but it does beg the question "why?".
Obviously, Trey Parker and Matt Stone were going for out and out humor in Team America and, in my opinion, were very successful at playing up the differences between humans and puppets to comic effect as well as using the puppets to say and do things you would never forgive human characters for doing. In my opinion, marionettes always seem to walk that fine line between being balletic and looking doofy, and they seemed to be going for that loosy-goosy look to heighten the comedy in the movie. Whereas a movie like Being John Malkovich took the marionettes both seriously and comedically to great effect in all instances.