Underground Film Journal

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Short Animated Film: Puppet

By Mike Everleth ⋅ April 28, 2011

Pull the string! The puppet master becomes the servant in Patrick Smith’s twisted and hilarious short animated film Puppet. A young man places a simple new toy he’s sewn together himself over his hand and mayhem quickly ensues. Watching a vicious appendage rebel against a hapless body hasn’t been this fun since Bruce Campbell’s hand became possessed in Evil Dead II.

Smith offers no setup or backstory. He simply gets to the action as quickly as possible. The puppet is made, slipped over the hand and, for whatever reason, becomes an evil, abusive entity.

The victim, as drawn by Smith, looks like a cheerful, reasonable person completely perplexed by the assault. The opening title card with the quote by Freud indicates that this nice young man is in control of his own pummeling, having transferred his worst impulses into a proxy.

What’s really nice is how much personality Smith imbues the puppet with, particularly in the scene where it begins creating a partner. The eyes become more sunken in and quickly switch from mischievous glee to surprise to a great “Don’t even think about stopping me” look.

Smith also does a really great job of ramping up the victim’s predicament, from simply getting punched in the face repeatedly to being scorched on a barbecue grill to getting tossed down a cliff. The hallucination sequence in which he is then pursued by an army of nasty puppets is reminiscent of the multiplying broom predicament Mickey Mouse faces in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment of Fantasia, a film Smith has said is a major influence on his work.

Puppet won the Best Animation Award at the 2008 Arizona Underground Film Festival, and in 2007 screened at the Lausanne Underground, Atlanta Underground and Boston Underground film festivals.

While Smith has uploaded a few other short films to Vimeo to watch, the best place to find him on the ‘net is at the blog Scribble Junkies, which he maintains with his friend Bill Plympton. Smith regularly posts up great work by other artists for inspiration and gives loads of terrific filmmaking pointers, which is fitting as he’s also currently a Professor of Animation in the graduate program at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts in Singapore.