Handmade Puppet Dreams is, as one can probably guess by the title, an anthology film exclusively highlighting shorts made via the art of puppetry. Under the watchful eye of Heather Henson, daughter of the late, great, visionary Jim, the multiple volumes of the compilation allow several independent filmmakers and artists to show their unique visions and stories. Now, 16 of these shorts have been curated and released for the public to consume on streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime.
I know what you are thinking. This is a Henson production, so all the shorts must in the style of the Muppets or Fraggles, right? Oh, how wrong that is. There are a few that hue closer to that style, such as The Sure Sheep. This John Kennedy created segment features child-friendly lessons and vibrant colors, with sock puppets and the more cartoony look for the humans that so many associates with puppets. These elements are sure to make it a favorite of the younger children in the crowd.
“…an anthology film exclusively highlighting shorts made via the art of puppetry.”
Whereas Lessons Learned feels like it could readily exist within The Dark Crystal universe, with its UrRu by way of Gelfling looking characters. The titular world of Yamasong leaps right off the screen to immerse the audience in a living, breathing world. Its characters are highly detailed and made to be as realistic as possible. The stylized paper puppets in Junk Palace are unique and gorgeous. Amaterasu uses various household objects such as lamps, scissors, and vases to create its characters and world. Heather Henson literally wears Lhamo Trung Trung’s setting, and its characters move across her.
And it is not just the puppet designs and landscapes that vary either. Harker is a silent movie retelling of the Dracula legend, replete with interstitial dialogue boxes and image flickering and grain. Whereas Hitori has its large cast of performers in gray bodysuits, making the white spheres that make up the character stand out in a unique way. The tender emotions of Moonfishing or melancholic tones of Junk Palace offer heartfelt intensity, for those wishing to be moved to near tears.
"…shorts presented that cater to whatever mood you happen to be in."