I can’t say I’ve stumbled across that many puppet shows on YouTube since I started writing this column. The web series world and the YouTube platform is lined with single camera vlogs, low budget live action comedies, a handful of dramas and a growing collection of animation.
That group of animated series is one of the highlights of the creative revolution. Growing out of the success of The Simpson’s, South Park and Adult Swim (among many others), kids who grew up watching those shows have learned the modern tools of the trade and put their own, edgy, adult themed animation online.
So why not go back in time a little further – back to the days of Jim Henson and The Muppets, Sesame Street, Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood, and many others. Why have puppets not grown up along with our cartoons? While I can’t answer that question, “Puppatics” seeks to tell us that they have.
While “Puppatics” has only released four episodes, they are marked by a slightly darker theme than usual. The show features puppet murder and an evil teddy bear… Set against the backdrop of a group of puppets trying to create their own TV show, but ultimately settling for a web series, “Puppatics” still retains a lot of the ‘youthful charm’ of a kids show without trying to appeal to kids.
When I look at the show critically I still see a lot of room for improvement. The episodes are quite short, and considering the single location nature of the production there is no reason these guys couldn’t crank out a ton of episodes in short order. The limitation seems to be the amount of time the group has to dedicate to the project. Life gets in the way, especially in the way of hobbies, but web creators are setting the bar very high these days, many dedicating themselves fully to their shows. In order to stand out in this ultra competitive arena you have to be dedicated, and “Puppantics” certainly has a production model capable of efficient content creation. The puppets are already made, and they film inside creator Sean Jo Arcand’s apartment.
I would also like to see the show get edgier. It was not until the puppet murder scene that I was sure this show wasn’t for kids. While I’m not saying that the puppets should start cursing, I think it’d be a good idea to have more adult humor to go along with the sort of darker plot lines. It also wouldn’t hurt to involve more people in the writing process. While some jokes are good others fall flat, and at just 4 episodes I think the bar for jokes is super high – each one should be killer sine there is a lot of time to think about and debate the merit of each joke. The best series I have seen are typically written by a small group of people bouncing ideas off each other.
My last issue is the sound design. After the first couple of episodes I knew something was off, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I finally realized that the only audio being used was the direct recording of the dialogue. This means that when a character isn’t talking there is just silence. This isn’t how we are used to experiencing movies. There should always be some sort of ambient sound, music, sound effects – something – that keeps the silence at bay. For the most part this is something the audience doesn’t think about, but when it’s missing it’s very noticeable.
All in all “Puppatics” is new series made by a few guys who are still learning their art. The great thing about it is that they are doing something different, and that’s what this movement is all about. With each episode they seemed to get a little better, and like a lot of great shows out there I would not be surprised to see them blow us away with some really great stuff in the future.
You can find “Puppatics” on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/ZombieTeaPartyProd/videos – and I’d like to take this opportunity to highly recommend the use of playlists so that visitors to the YouTube channel can easily find all the episodes in the order they go.