This animation introduces the two mascots for the London Olympics, Wenlock and Mandeville, and the story of how they originated from the Bolton steelworks where the girders for the Olympic stadium were made. It was written by Michael Morpurgo, the author of War Horse and many other children’s books. There are follow up adventures which also serve to meet the desire expressed by children that they have stories associated with them.
The mascot design and maybe in particular the bodysuit puppet versions have been mercilessly derided for obvious reasons. I’m not very fond of mascots generally; with these I’m disconcerted by their saggy bottom halves, but quite like their faces.
OverWorlds & UnderWorlds is Yorkshire’s flagship arts project for the London Cultural 2012 Olympiad. Leeds Canvas, the first collaboration between eight of the city’s key arts organisations offered their city of Leeds – its people, landscape, buildings, artists, and cultural institutions – as a canvas to The Brothers Quay, and asked them to respond in memorable and surprising ways.
They have proposed a large scale work, taking place this May, which will explore the flow of people and water through the city. They are interested in how, from out of the anonymous and everyday, myth suddenly erupts and transforms space into another dimension and then subsides, leaving the everyday altered and somehow different.
The Brothers Quay are renowned for stop motion animations which often involve surreal puppetry, (the video above is an excerpt from Street of Crocodiles) and although we don’t know yet what will unfold, this sounds exciting to me. As a lead up, the brothers’ exhibition Dormitorium, miniature scenes and decor from their animations, was shown in Leeds last October.
(Photo credit: Festive Road, who I think made the puppets – please let me know if I’m wrong)
Another puppetry project that will culminate in the London Olympics celebrations later this year is Imagination Our Nation (ION). It’s a five year national participatory art project undertaken by Kinetika, an international outdoor performance company, under the artistic direction of the company’s founder, Ali Pretty.
The project is based on an idea of Derek Walcott’s: ’The only nation I have now is my imagination’.
I wanted to create a project that engaged with the youth of today who are citizens of the future, using the performing arts as a tool to facilitate conversations about inclusivity and diversity within communities…. which aims to leave a legacy of youth based participatory art in communities through out the UK. – Ali Pretty
It is geographically spread across Great Britain and divided into 5 ‘hubs’ specialising in Community, Environment, Diversity, Creativity and Activity. And the backstory that has taken place over the last 5 years – GermiNation, FasciNation, DetermiNation, IllumiNation and ImagiNation – is another version of the familiar: puppets as representatives of another world come here to get to know us and help us re-imagine the future to save the planet.
I like the puppets. There are at least 10 small Champion brothers and sisters, who are 3 feet high – a nice kid height, made from aluminium, and have small decorations to differentiate between them. They are operated by long rods, requiring 4 puppeteers. Here are a few glimpses of the making, and some nice footage of how they move.
There are also 5 larger Eternal puppets, including Atom, Magma and DNA (I couldn’t find the other names), big brothers to the smaller ones, that stand 3 metres tall, and need 5 puppeteers. They have a cool design lines, and are again made of aluminium. The operation of the ION puppets remind me very much of the puppet belonging to Stabfugurencompany that often performs in Berlin.
The puppets can be lit up so they take on different colours, as seen here in From DetermiNation to IllumiNation. It will be interesting to see how they all come together later in the year.