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Art

Little Amal: An Enormous Puppet Is Traveling 8,000km to Shine Light on the Refugee Crisis

October 12, 2020

Grace Ebert

Photograph by Bevan Roos. All images shared with permission

To draw attention to the ongoing refugee crisis, an oversized puppet will traverse 8,000 kilometers on a route starting at the Turkey-Syria border. From April to July 2021, “Little Amal” will travel across Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and France on a search “to find her mother. To get back to school. To start a new life.” The international journey will end in the United Kingdom, with a celebration at Manchester International Festival. Good Chance Theatre, a London-based organization dedicated to humanitarian and social justice efforts, is helming the public project “embodying the urgent message, ‘Don’t forget about us.'”

The 3.5-meter tall character, which was created by Handspring Puppet Company, will stop in 70 cities across Europe to meet with locals and participate in celebrations and education programs. “At this time of unprecedented global change, The Walk is an artistic response: a cultural odyssey transcending borders, politics, and language to tell a new story of shared humanity – and to ensure the world doesn’t forget the millions of displaced children, each with their own story,” Good Chance writes in a statement.

Check out the official map of Amal’s international journey and planned events on the project’s site, and follow along with updates on her progress on Instagram and YouTube. (via It’s Nice That)

 

Photograph by Bevan Roos

Photograph by Bevan Roos

Photograph by Bevan Roos

Photograph by Bevan Roos

Photograph by Bevan Roos

Photograph by Bevan Roos

Photograph by Nick Wall

 

 



Animation

Kukuschka: An Ambitious Bird Passionately Follows the Sun in a Windy Stop-Motion Short by Dina Velikovskaya

April 3, 2020

Grace Ebert

For Kukuschka, motherhood is a hindrance. In a stop-motion film bearing her name, the avian character dreams of reaching the sun. She travels the beige dunes each day and braves the wind gusts that blow her gauzy clothing. When her similarly dressed baby breaks out of its shell, she tries to continue on her journey to follow the glowing orb, before slowing to a lope to find care for her child.

Created by Russian animator and director Dina Velikovskaya, the stop-motion film is an effort to complicate traditional notions of parenthood. Velikovskaya told Short of the Week that “Kukuschka” represents “women who ha(ve) dreams and how motherhood can be an obstacle to them.” Throughout the emotional production, the mother-baby duo struggle to coexist in their sand-filled world.

Since it was released in 2016, “Kukuschka” has garnered worldwide attention, winning Best Animated Comedy from the EACG Animation Festival in San Francisco and Best Director at the New Horizon Film Festival and National Animation Premium “IKARUS.” For more Kukuschka and the other avian puppets, check out the animator’s Instagram, where the characters periodically visit coffee shops and parks.

 

 



Design Science

Tiny Organisms Escape Life Under a Microscope in Oversized Puppets by Judith Hope

January 8, 2020

Grace Ebert

A bacteriophage puppet. All images © Judith Hope

The familiar faces of friendly puppets like Kermit and Elmo are missing from Judith Hope’s enlarged microbe creations that magnify the world’s tiniest organisms. A brown bacteriophage, commonly known as a virus, features six moveable legs powered by a hand-operated device, while a pink tardigrade stands upright and sways side-to-side. Sometimes referred to as a “water bear,” the tardigrade imitates a resilient animal who can survive in extreme conditions and is usually only .02 inches long when fully grown. The models originally were created for the Tatwood Puppets production of Microbodyssey, a visual experience utilizing puppetry and shadow theater to explore life under the microscope. You can watch a trailer for the microbe-based show on Vimeo, and see more of Hope’s handheld crafts on Instagram.

Tardigrade and bacteriophage puppets

A bacteria puppet with removable DNA

Common cold puppet

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Art Design

An Enormous Smoke-Spewing Dragon Roves the Streets of Calais, France

November 19, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

La Machine, the group of inventors, designers, artists, and builders responsible for 46 foot-tall minotaurs and massive tarantulas roving the streets of Europe, has most recently unleashed the Dragon of Calais. The moveable beast, complete with articulated limbs and a smoke-spewing snout, was paraded around Calais for 3 days at the beginning of November. It has now been installed as a stationary sculpture, on which visitors can climb up and walk around. Follow the latest projects from La Machine on Instagram. (via Laughing Squid)

 

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Animation

Dozens of Expressive Puppets Encourage Kindness and Acceptance in a Series of Sing-A-Long Short Films

February 19, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

Irish director and animator Johnny Kelly (previously) is known for his puppet-based films, most notably his 2011 piece for Chipotle titled Back to the Start. His most recent project, Right on Tracks, is a series of short sing-a-long videos for Cheerios. Kelly worked with the art collective Nous Vous and Andy Gent, who was also the lead of the puppets department for Isle of Dogs.

The catchy anthems have an inclusive message that focuses on building confidence in yourself while practicing kindness to all. Walter Martin of The Walkmen created songs such as Just Be You which teaches acceptance of your own quirks and unique traits, and It’s All Family which showcases a look at familial structures in a much broader light than we typically see on TV.

“We wanted to show diversity,” Kelly told It’s Nice That. “Nous Vous’ characters are so otherworldly and abstract that they could be anyone and everyone. It was important that people empathize with them too. With such simple designs, you can read a little more into their expressions, project your own loneliness onto a lonely character, or warmth onto a happy character.”

The cast of puppets are large, small, and every size in-between, with characteristics that range from colorful tufts of hair to necks that extend out like tree branches. You can take a behind-the-scenes peek at how Kelly created the four-part series in the video below, and view more of his short films on his website and Vimeo. (via The Kid Should See This, It’s Nice That)

 

 



Amazing Design

Handmade Paper Toys by Haruki Nakamura Spring, Fold, and Jump into Action

November 16, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

Japanese paper engineer Haruki Nakamura (previously) continues to design delightful toys using simple materials. A friendly armadillo curls into a self-protective ball at the touch of a finger, and a sleepy boy emerges, ready to sleepwalk, in “Astral Projection.” Nakamura uses rubber bands and carefully held points of paper tension to spark the jumpy movements of his characters, and sells kits so you can make your own endless entertainment. The artist only sells within Japan on his website, but this Penguin Bomb toy is available on Amazon.

 

 

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