Monday, June 23, 2014

Lessons Learned—Hollywood Theatre—NE Portland

Twice…Upon a Time

This short film, produced by Heather Henson (daughter of her famous father, Jim, creator of The Muppets), directed by Portland’s own, Toby Froud (son of the famous puppet designers, Brian & Wendy), and was shown only once at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland.  This and other short films are in association with IBEX films (local producer, Sam Koji Hale & sculptor, Sherri Morgan)) and Handmade Puppet Dreams (Heather Henson).  For more information go to their site at or see a clip from the film at

Once upon a time, in an alternate world, there was an evil, Fairy King, who was lonely for a son.  So he kidnapped a baby from the human world.  But this act set off a chain of events that would alter both these universes.  Fast forward almost thirty years and that kidnapped baby, Toby Froud, is now a budding filmmaker, recreating the magic that was Labyrinth and Dark Crystal and doing homage to his parents and Mr. Henson in Lessons Learned.

Is the film a reflection of Froud’s devotion to the Masters who started it all?  The characters bear a striking resemblance to those in the above mentioned two films.  And the relationship of the boy, in the film, to his Grandfather, is definitely reverential.  The child is given a magic box on his birthday, in which he is to store specific memories and experiences of his life, thus, lessons learned.  But when the boy opens his small box, it only has soil in it.

When his Grandfather dozes off, he discovers the old man’s box, which is a very large chest, indeed.  On opening it, he falls in and meets some of the characters in his grandfather’s memory, including a grumpy old King and an inquisitive spider.  When brought back from his visit to this Neverland, he discovers why the soil is in his box.  I won’t reveal the answer but, suffice to say, that small acorns breed great oaks.  And, so too is Froud, an example of this, as the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree which bore it (Ms. Henson included).

I enjoyed the film/story very much but have two suggestions.  The voice of the King and spider are unintelligible for the most part, possibly because of the overly-loud music/sound effects.  And the film was too short.  There is a fuller story here and I would be anxious to see more of it, as I assume it will be added to.  I eagerly await further adventures of the Froud and Henson Magic!

Two shorter films played with it.  Colosse (NYC filmmaker, Yves Geleyn) was a Godzilla-like beast (a string-puppet) crashing through the forest.  But his strings become entangled in the trees and they break, causing the beast to fall.  Along comes a woodpecker to his rescue and, by carving a heart in his chest, allows the beast to live without strings.

The second short piece, Melvin the Birder (produced by Portland’s own, Beady Little Eyes Productions), was about a photographer who wanted to shoot, with his camera an elusive woodpecker (paper cut-out puppetry).  He tries all manner of disguises but it is only when he relaxes his guard does the bird find the man and gives him what he needs.

In all these films, there seems to be a gentle message to be learned.  I recommend these filmmakers and their products and hope you will check into them.  If you do, please tell them Dennis sent you.


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