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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Viral Puppet Video Based on Movie “Fearless”

I want to share this video because it’s really really really well-done. This was a puppet video released around two years ago inspired by the 2006 film Huo Yuan Jia (霍元甲) starring Jet Li. It was also released in North America under the title Jet Li’s Fearless in the UK and US. It was about Huo Yuan-Jia, a martial art master from the Ching Dynasty. (By the way, Chin Dynasty is a dynasty that really amuses me. Maybe we’ll talk about that later.) The background music is the theme music to the movie, written and sung by Jay Chou, one of the most well-known singer/song-writer in the world of asian pop music.


(If you can’t see the embedded video, watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEWsYUbrZfk)

The video is simply amazing in terms of puppeteering and editing. All the shots are meticulously planned out and the attention to details is superb. They must’ve spent a lot of time on this. The way the characters handled the instruments and weapons are very human-like, and it’s just one of those videos that I’d watch again and again to soak in all the details.

That said, although the puppeteering is very good, it cannot look that good without really heavy editing. I watch this kind of puppets growing up, and I know the mechanisms of these puppets. So, I know that they did really heavy editing with the left arm. Normally, the puppet’s left arm is controlled by a rod from below. The left arm rod is usually hidden from the audience by the character’s really wide sleeves, but it is not possible to hide the rod when the sleeves are so narrow like the main character’s. They are so careful with this stuff that this is the only frame in the whole video where I can show you the rod. This is from around time code 1:46.

You can only see a really short section of the rod, and it just goes to show you what I said about the rod being normally covered by the sleeves. For the main character, since there’s not enough sleeve to cover up the rod, they must’ve really carefully edited it out. And since the character is constantly moving, it must have been a lot of work to edit out. Again, what they’ve done amazed me.

Who made such a video? People had different guesses and the group of people that made it used a pseudo-name and didn’t released much official information about it. When it first became viral on the internet, there were a lot of discussions about who made this video. Some said it was made by Chinese people, and some said it was made by Taiwanese people. Some said it was made by professionals that work in the industry, and some said these were made by people that were just passionate about the art. But I think, you can buy puppets, but you are not likely to have access to a studio with set pieces that are to the scale of the puppets if you are not in the industry. And these people obviously have really good skills, and most likely a lot of experiences as well. I believe it’s done by professionals as a side project.

Anyway, this really shows that with a vision, good skills, and a lot of time, you can make all kinds of crazy and amazing videos come true.

Comments

  1. August 28th, 2008 | 10:54 am

    Kelvin,

    As a Jet Li lover, you have ruined my day! Oh, please tell me he had NOTHING to do with poor puppetry! I don’t know what I’d do!

    Then again, at least you’ve left Jackie Chan alone…for now. Watch out there, buddy. He and I are VERY good friends! (Though ALL of the young women in his dubbed – blech- videos have the same high voice. Good ones, bad ones, it doesn’t matter. Is there only ONE woman who can speak the language and dubs all of his films…?) I digress.

    So, who do YOU think made the video? And were they “good puppeteers” in your eye, despite the visibiity of the “rod?”

    Rita

    Rita’s last blog post..Contest Time: Blogging for Prophet – a Quiz

  2. August 28th, 2008 | 4:33 pm

    Awesome find Kevin; this just made my evening!

    Andrew’s last blog post..Awesome Chinese Martial Arts Puppetry

  3. August 28th, 2008 | 4:57 pm

    Beautifully done. Thanks for pointing it out.

    There’s another style of Chinese handpuppet that Yang Feng invented which has all internal controls and can do this kind of martial arts arm movement in real time onstage. Tears of Joy built a set of them for the production of Monkey King that he directed. The controls are a very impressive and highly engineered set of springs and levers worn on the hand and give an astonishing range of movement.

    Mary Robinette Kowal’s last blog post..There Will Come Soft Rains — Extended!

  4. August 29th, 2008 | 3:40 am

    @Rita: Since you like them both, did you like The Forbidden Kingdom? I do think that they’ve both done really good works, but I’m not a huge fan of either of them, hehe. I believe this is done by people in the industry that are familiar with the craft and have access to a production studio. My guess is that it’s done by people that work for a certain puppet show that was either having budget or distribution problems, and the workers there just made this for fun (and possibly as a resume builder project) while the main production is on hold. And to answer your question. good puppetry is good puppetry, whether the rods are visible or not. I’m only pointing out the rod thing to illustrate my point about editing.

    @Andrew: Good to hear! What I found amusing is that the Commentluv link below your comment links to a post on your blog that links to this post on my blog. Kinda circular there. 😀

    @Mary: Thanks for dropping by! I am not familiar with Yang Feng’s work, so maybe i’ll dig around for more info about that. As for this particular type of puppetry, the rod is a tradition carried over from the glove puppetry days. While each glove puppet only takes one hand to control, sometimes a rod is put into one of the hands to do more delicate actions like using a fan or a paintbrush. The rod carried over to these enlarged puppets rigged specifically for TV. They are able to have this kind of movements on stage in real time as well, but the characters sleeves must be big (as they usually are) to hide the rod. I would be interested to see what Yang Feng has done with the mechanisms. Another thing i’m curious about is the internal control mechanisms of Vietnamese water puppets…

  5. August 29th, 2008 | 11:13 am

    Kelvin,

    That’s a great explanation of “good puppetry” – and very kind. Regarding “The Forbidden Kingdom,” which time are you talking about that you didn’t like? The first time I watched it, the ninth? I’m not really sure what you mean. :-)

    Rita

    Rita’s last blog post..Contest Time: Blogging for Prophet – a Quiz

  6. March 16th, 2009 | 6:41 pm

    […] site before. One of them was the opening theme to the previous Pili series, and the other is the Fearless video that’s been viral on the […]

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