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

Pili Prestige: The Dragon Warrior

Taiwan’s biggest TV puppetry production company has just released their new series Pili Prestige: The Dragon Warrior (霹靂震寰宇之龍戰八荒). This is the new opening theme:

As usual, it’s fancy-looking and a seamless combination of animation and puppetry. Unlike the previous opening themes (see here, here and here), this one does not have as much of a story. Instead it’s a showcase of all the primary character of the series. While it looked nice overall, two things caught my attention, in particular.

First, there’s the dancing girl with long wavy sleeves, first seen at 0:48-0:54. The camera shooting from the top while the character spins is something rarely seen in these things, since these puppets are manipulated from below. The spinning motion is really fluid, natural, and human-like. They did a really good job with it. She can been seen dancing again from 2:48 to 2:58. The wrist movement is the most smooth and delicate I’ve seen for this type of puppet, so they definitely improved on the technique (and maybe mechanism) some more.

And then there’s the shot with the monk at the end (4:29-4:33) in which he turned twice in the air, and hit the ground with his weapon while landing. This was also beautifully done. Normally how they would film this was, they would first show the character spinning in the air from waist up, because it would be difficult to control the legs at the same time. Then they would cut to a shot with just the legs and feet touching the ground, and finally his weapon swinging downward. Of course, these shots would each be very short and cut together smoothly to represent the movement, but this time they did the whole thing in one straight shot. I could imagine that it took several puppeteers to get this exactly right, and with post-production crew cleaning up the images afterwards, but the end result looked really good. Beautifully done.

The rest of the video were nicely done too, using transitional effects representing brush motions in traditional calligraphy or painting. However, those two shots stood out as I went back to re-watch those portions multiple times. :-)


  1. February 5th, 2010 | 9:35 am

    The puppets sort of look like Elvis to me…

    …The animation is REALLY cool though.

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  2. February 6th, 2010 | 4:06 am

    Hm… they do have interesting hair (and sometimes Western-looking faces).

  3. February 6th, 2010 | 10:44 am

    Hi Kelvin,

    To be honest I don’t know much about puppetry; in my country is not common so we are not used to watch shows with only puppets, so I find this simply amazing.

    If they didn’t show the faces but just the body movements I would think it is people acting and dancing instead of puppets.

    It’ll be interesting to watch a show like this.


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  4. February 6th, 2010 | 5:31 pm

    I’ve shown this kind of video to people and have people not believe they are puppets, but rather, actors wearing masks. It is quite amazing indeed. That’s one reason that I am glad to be born Taiwanese cuz I get to grow up watching this stuff (of course, back then it’s not as fancy visually).

  5. Nick Maldonado
    February 13th, 2010 | 7:25 am

    I think there amazing! Pili Productions have been cranking out these amazing shows year after year. Its a shame there shows are not recognize here in the US. I’m hoping some of the online rental services (Netflix) can some day make a deal with Pilis so we in the states can enjoy the excitement Taiwanese people enjoy on a regular basis.

  6. February 14th, 2010 | 3:29 am

    Hi, Nick. Yeah, they’ve tried to adapt it to the American audience by selling the rights to have it made into Wulin Warriors. That was a disaster. The biggest problem is probably still the language barrier (and maybe also the very complex story line).

  7. February 24th, 2010 | 6:55 pm

    […] the latest version of the long-running Taiwanese puppet series Pili (see previous post) over on Kelvin Kao’s blog. As per usual, it’s a mind-bending mix of computer animation, slick editing, and traditional […]

  8. Alex Tagus
    June 3rd, 2010 | 6:23 am

    Puppets remind me of Sesame street. The strings they use were very much visible. But these Taiwanese puppets does not looked like a puppet. Movements are fascinating like I am watching a real chinese movie!

    regards, Alex Tagus

  9. June 3rd, 2010 | 9:30 pm

    Actually, neither use strings. But the Taiwanese ones do hide rods better.

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