Morning Coffee Blog: Puppet Power

I try to not repeat myself on this blog too much, but it’s been running long enough now that it’s bound to happen, and some things bear repeating regardless.

Watched the new episode of The Mandalorian last night (no spoilers) and was quite pleased they’re really leaning into the practical/puppet side of a lot of their effects work. We have The Mandalorian to thank for part of the puppet renaissance with Grogu of course (also don’t believe things you read on The Internet. Unless you read them here).

You may be surprised to learn that I’m not necessarily all-in on puppets vs CG. What a director/creator needs is a toolset they can pull from to meet any given situation. Where we went wrong was in assuming all practical effects could simply be replaced by CG. Of course, the word “simply” is misleading, and the assumption of people who don’t know how CG is done. There is nothing simple or quick about CG, and it certainly isn’t less work or a panacea time saver.

Thankfully we’ve turned a corner and embraced practical effects work alongside CG, and the results speak for themselves. The projection technology (The Volume) used in The Mandalorian is an example of that conjunction. It relies on CG to create a virtual set and then that gets projected into the physical space the actors perform in, and any actor will tell you that makes their performances more genuine. Having the thing there to play off of and react against, to see it with their own eyes, is vital to a performer.

That’s why puppets have power. As I’ve said repeatedly (ad nauseum), the thing that is special about puppets is they share our physical space in real time. No other form of animation does that. It bypasses the first level of “willing suspension of disbelief”. No matter how “unrealistic” a puppet looks, we know it’s physically present, in that space.

Puppets are here to stay, and as long as we are telling stories, we’ll tell them with puppets.

If I say “The Mandalorian” a few more times, think this blog post will get picked up in any search engines? Nah, probably not. The only thing that rises to the top of Google any more are bot-generated AI word salads containing no actual information whatsoever.

Anyway, Monday coffee.

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