Thursday, November 27, 2008

Team Smithereen Anatomy of a Puppet Stunt

The stunts of Team Smitereen, the new stunt puppet show from The Dan Clark Company/Wildbrain/Jetix Europe require lots of creative thinking, pre-planning, careful rigging, nerves of steel, and a little luck. Because so much is unknown before the stunt is attempted, the final result is never certain. This post outlines the steps it takes to pull off a spectacular Team Smithereen puppet stunt.


First the stunt is dreamed up, and pitched. Many of the Team Smithereen puppet stunts came directly from the Smithereen production team. Once an idea is chosen, episode storyboards are created. This Team Smithereen storyboard was illustrated by Smithereen puppet captain/puppeteer/director Patrick Johnson.

The finished storyboards are sent to the Team Smithereen producing partners Wildbrain in San Francisco, and Jetix Europe in England. After they've made their notes, the boards are tweaked and finalized.

painted ballsthe paint ball cannon

Most of the puppet stunts developed for Team Smithereen require the production of special props. These custom painted paintballs and official Team Smithereen paintball cannon were created by Smithereen prop masters/production designers Lisa Coto and Brandon Minton.

Team Smithereen 10-07-08 157use protectionBrandon: armed and dangerous

Stunt day at the Team Smithereen house is full of excitement and some nervous anticipation. Because of the unpredictability of doing live stunts with puppets, the crew must be ready for anything.

In the top photo, prop master/production designer Lisa Coto, director/show creator Dan Clark, and director of photography Ivan Corona make final preparations. The green screen stage has been covered from top to bottom with plastic to protect the lights, and crew from stray paintballs and over spray.

In the middle photo, Team Smithereen puppeteer Russ Walko helps puppet captain/puppeteer/director Sean Johnson suit up in plastic and a protective paintball mask.

In the bottom photo, Team Smmithereen prop master/production designer Brandon Minton prepares to blast stunt puppet Thrill Kat with paintballs.

Team Smithereen 10-07-08 306

Action! After lots of hard work and preparation it's time to shoot the puppet stunt. The stunt is shot with two hi-deff cameras so nothing is missed. Some stunts are shoot in slow motion to capture everything in full detail.

Paintball episode director Patrick Johnson observers the action on a flat panel monitor.


Another sucesfull stunt created by the Team Smithereen crew. In the top photo puppet captain/puppeteer Sean Johnson and puppeteer Russ Walko pose with a paint splattered Thrill Kat. The bottom photo shows some of the damage, wear and tear that the Team Smithereen stunt puppets endure on a daily basis.

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