Cardboard, but never boring

Compared to the 3D special effects of today's blockbuster films, old science fiction movies tend to fall flat. Strings are clearly visible on speeding spaceships, claymation dinosaurs stumble around like drunks after closing time.

Compared to the 3D special effects of today’s blockbuster films, old science fiction movies tend to fall flat.

Strings are clearly visible on speeding spaceships, claymation dinosaurs stumble around like drunks after closing time and alien puppets are no scarier than the Muppets.

At best, these old movies are hilarious, at worst they’re downright boring.

But for Brian Fidler, they’re a source of inspiration.

“It’s like watching a train wreck,” he said.

“They’re so bad they’re good.”

The old movies had trouble hiding the fact special effects have their roots in puppetry.

Puppetry happens to be one of Fidler’s specialties.

“I got to thinking, what if I showed all that? What if the audience saw the making of the movie?”

The result is a new show, billed as the Sci-Fi Double Feature, running at the Guild theatre next week.

The two “features” are cardboard puppet shows, filmed and projected live onto the big screen to create a one-take, 1960s sci-fi B-movie.

The first feature, originally unleashed on the world a year ago during Longest Night, is called Attack of the Slime-O-Trons.

The 10-minute story is about board games, aliens and love.

Watching the show is like watching a dance on a tightrope.

Aside from the actual puppetry, Fidler needs to ready sets, characters and props throughout the show, often before they appear on screen, so that everything runs smoothly.

Meanwhile, Fidler’s collaborator Edward Westerhuis performs a choreographed dance with his camera, moving around and between the different sets and scenes.

“He’s fun to watch,” said Fidler.

“He’s this tall, gangly, grasshopper moving throughout the stage.”

Westerhuis even edits on the spot, fading in and out by shining light into the camera or using other creative techniques.

The show skirts disaster throughout, with no room for error.

One slip of the camera, one prop out of place, one audio cue missed and the show could fall apart.

This might sound like a recipe for disaster, but the creators hope it could also create some magic.

Because the audience gets to watch the process, the hope is that they’ll feel more involved.

The goofs and bloopers might end up being the most endearing part of the show.

The new show, the second part of the sci-fi double feature, will be even trickier than the first.

Last Day on Earth follows the exploits of a time-travelling scientist and his brainy dog Marty, as they try to prove the existence of a three-headed dinosaur.

This show runs 25 minutes and is prop heavy, even by Fidler’s standards.

There are shadow puppets, undersea adventures and time tunnels. The extra sets and props keep Fidler and assistant puppeteer Claire Ness more than busy.

The idea to project a puppet show remedied the longtime problem of scale that Fidler’s been battling.

Many of his puppets are small, often the size of his hand.

Projecting a live film allows Fidler to reproduce the same intimate feeling of one of his smaller shows to a larger audience.

To add film, Fidler teamed up with Westerhuis, an independent filmmaker who also dabbles in animation and puppetry.

“He knows how to tell a story with a camera. He’s a force of nature,” said Fidler.

“He’s been involved in everything, from editing the story to creating the puppets and sets”

The show is built almost entirely out of cardboard. A lot of chopsticks, shish kebab sticks, hot glue and magnets also went into the set creation.

There were a lot of trips to the Dollar Store, said Fidler.

“I don’t know what they thought I was building.”

Fidler isn’t sure if his live puppetry, video projection is a completely new art form, but says he’s not about to look.

“I’m sure it’s out there in some form. Nothing’s new, really.”

Jordy Walker composed the show’s music.

As a special feature, Erin Corbett will start the show off with a video mash-up of old science fiction films.

And, as if that wasn’t enough already, the intermission will also contain a short shadow puppet film.

The Sci-Fi Double Feature will take place at the Guild Theatre December 7 to 9 at 8 p.m. There will be a midnight show on the night of December 9 and a 1 p.m. matinee on December 10.

Tickets are available at Bent Spoon Cafe and cost $15 for adults and $8 for kids.

Free popcorn will be given to all audience members dressed in Sci-fi costumes.

Contact Chris Oke at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Copper Ridge resident clears their driveway after a massive over night snowfall in Whitehorse on Nov. 2, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Whitehorse and Haines Junction areas for Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Winter storm warning for Haines Junction and Whitehorse

Environment Canada says the storm will develop Monday and last until Tuesday

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

Most Read