Or: A Boy Raised by (Stuffed) Wolves
a kate west revisit
(original review here)
As a child, Bill Olson believed everything around him was alive, with actual feelings. Especially his stuffed animals (to let you in on a little secret: HE STILL BELIEVES THIS.) More on this later.
Bill grew up (if you can really call it that) to be an actor, a juggler, a teacher of the Alexander Technique and a puppeteer with Lunatique Fantastique. He likes to say he misspent his adulthood with decades of acting, directing, writing and producing. But it paid off (another little secret: NOT WITH MONEY - do you see where this is going?)
Bill did what anyone would do (right?) and put his imagination on film (this is the later part).
Enter the stuffed animals. Again. Proving the world is big enough for any type of imagination. Influenced by Jim Henson and Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes, Bill found the perfect outlet for his artistic bent by forming Two Plush Two Productions (2P2). What is it? According to 2P2’s Mission Statement, it is "a video production team founded to create quality entertainment for everyone through a unique form of storytelling; presenting the world as it should be, through the eyes of stuffed animals."
How does this work? Essentially, he and his crew manipulate stuffed animals on camera into simple stories, set to different soundtracks. And just so we’re clear, it’s important to see the hand manipulation, because we need to see the blend of fantasy and reality. Remember playing with stuffed animals as a kid? It's like that, but more poignant. And funnier. And on video.
And infectious. Because Two Plush Two (2P2) is increasingly getting requests for videos. Chris Ballew, lead singer of The Presidents of the United States of America, was so excited by the video “More Bad Times”, which interpreted the Presidents' song, that he asked 2P2 to do a video for a children's song he recorded as Caspar Babypants. He says he was struck by an excellently done slow motion shot in one of the earlier videos so he commissioned 2P2 to do “Baby’s Getting Up” (later followed by "The Frogs"). This success was followed by a request from Seattle musician Jonathan Shue to illustrate his lovely lyrical ballad, “Bartholomew”, that celebrates following dreams. He had so much fun with 2P2 that he wrote his own version of "Deck the Halls" for the stuffed animals to act out. Musicians seem to love the way 2P2 interprets their themes and images.
In fact, these “critter” stories really do speak to everyone. From the classic tortoise and the hare tale, to beloved toys missing their owner (she’s off at college), it’s riveting storytelling. And it really is a unique point of view. To give you a small example, in one scene, the animals want to mail a letter, but don’t know how. They get the concept of mail, just not how it’s delivered. Their solution is adorably touching. Oh and by the way, only one of them actually talks. That would be C.C. the black cat and unofficial spokesperson for 2P2 (watch him at a recent red carpet event here). Nothing will change Bill’s mind about this.
See for yourself in this exclusive Kate West interview:
Bill never lets go of this magic. That’s what makes it work, and makes everyone around him believe it too. Which is why the “critters” seem so real. They feel acutely and get the message of the story across in a fun and direct way. Its gentle Henson-like humor is never mean, and usually quite sweet. The greatest appeal is the way the "critters" deal with challenges - their creativity and teamwork present an idealized version of humanity. It’s obvious the 2P2 crew love what they are doing too. Bill and his human cast often share “Eureka” moments on set, which he generally voices with a pleased yelp, to the great amusement of his fellow plush fans.
The other reason it works is because we want to let our guards down a little and pretend again for a little while. To see the world from a younger, more innocent place. That’s definitely worth paying attention to. Plus (plush) it's pretty dang cute.
Thanks listening. And watching, if you’re inclined. Links to all below.
About Two Plush Two Productions
Some of us never grow up. Or at least we still know how to feed that inner child. We hold on tight to that sense of wonder. If you’ve ever felt your toys were real - if you remember loving them as true friends, and you fervently want to keep believing in childhood magic, we can help you. Two Plush Two Productions is a video production company started by friends just for fun. We make awesome videos starring stuffed animals (that we all still love and adore) acting out simple stories. Intrigued? Check us out on YouTube.
2P2 on YouTube
2P2 on Facebook
2P2 on Twitter @TwoPlushTwo
Earlier 2P2 review here
Bill Olson (the mad Pied Piper behind the critters) would like to thank:
Leaf and Petal
Or: A Boy Raised by (Stuffed) Wolves