TEAM AMERICA AND BEYOND
Saturday, January 20
The Chiodo Bros.
International Festival of Animated Objects
Uptown Stage and Screen
"America, fuck yeah!"
In college dormitories across North America, on the lips of every South Park fan worth their salt, the refrain for the theme song of Team America: World Police is never far away. If anything, what Trey Parker and Matt Stones particular brand of blunt-force political humour lost in box office revenue, it more than made up for in cult staying power.
But while the idea for an all-puppet film began as an idle play on the Thunderbirds television series, the logistics of creating and managing the literally hundreds of puppets fell to the Chiodo Brothers: Charles, Steven and Edward.
"We didnt get the exact number of puppets we needed," recalls Charles, noting that for the films 236 characters, 100 puppet bodies had to do double duty. "We learned very quickly why they dont make marionette movies."
In fact, before Team America, the Chiodos had principally done spot marionette work, providing short, less involved puppet appearances. Thankfully, though the film depended largely on the skill of its puppeteers, Parker wanted to amplify the comically clumsy nature of the puppets movement, allowing the brothers to steer clear of the intense effort required for realism. But if allowing strings to be seen removed one difficulty from the production, it certainly did nothing to alleviate the sheer manpower required to move the films actors.
Because of the scale of the project, the Chiodo brothers found themselves employing up to 66 puppeteers in a single day, with an average of 26. That number was culled from at least 150 would-be puppeteers before the brothers finally settled on their core group. Its an arduous process that audience members will be able to probe in "Team America and Beyond," a question-and-answer session that the brothers hope will be driven by audiences curiosity about the high-stakes world of film production and "behind the scenes nightmares."
Despite the prohibitive size of Team Americas labour-intensive production, the brothers point out that the cost, set against stop motion or computer graphic (CG) animation, is actually relatively economical.
"Once you get your kits assembled you can produce a lot of footage," says Edward. "You walk away with a shot in a camera. Its not a post-production technique that could take months to complete."
Stop-motion animation has long been an important part of the brothers filmmaking, such as their work on the North Pole snowscape of the Will Ferrell vehicle, Elf, or their Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Passionate defenders of the continued relevance of stop-motion animation in an era of CG (animation has come to the point where films like Tim Burtons Corpse Bride publicize that they are not computer-generated, Edward points out), they admit that Team Americas strong connection to puppetry was a mixed blessing.
"Its nice to be known for doing wacky, offbeat stuff, but the downside of it is that you dont get knocks on the door from people doing the next marionette feature," says Charles, noting the very small market for puppetry films. "We hope people will recognize that we will be able to pull off these fantastic undertakings. Were not just marionette guys."
Inspired as children by claymation works like Gumby and Davey and Goliath, the brothers wonder whether the current generation of video-saturated kids will even consider older methods of animation instead of video. However, if the continued cult success of Team America is any indication of the enduring power of animated objects, the Chiodo brothers may be able to mutter a well-deserved "fuck yeah." At the IFAO, at any rate, theyll certainly have an audience who will give one back.
The Chiodo Bros. will also be holding a workshop on stop-motion animation on Saturday, January 20 at 2 p.m. at the Art Gallery of Calgary.