Freedom isn’t free — An interview with the Chiodo Brothers

The Chiodo brothers have done it all. From bringing evil gremlins to life to blowing up Roseanne Barr’s house, they are the go-to guys for all things animated. It’s impossible not to have seen some special effect they have created for television shows, commercials or Hollywood feature-films without having lived under a rock. The Chiodo brothers stopped by Calgary Sat., Jan. 20 to conduct a stop-motion workshop and discuss their involvement in their last work, Team America: World Police, as part of the International Festival of Animated Objects.

The brothers were incredibly animated themselves, barely containing their passion and excitement for puppets pooing on and shooting each other. Their largest project to date, they candidly explained the highs and lows of working on such a complex undertaking and entertained the audience with hilarious behind-the-scenes anecdotes.

“[Team America] was almost a solid year of non-stop work for us,” says Ed Chiodo, the youngest brother. “We made over 80 puppets that were used to create over 250 characters. By the end of the production, we had employed over 100 people in the puppet department including a high of 68 puppeteers on one day.”

The brainchild of South Park creators Matt Parker and Trey Stone, Team America was created to parody the over-the-top Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster cliche by using puppets instead of live actors. They originally pitched their idea by dubbing voices over an episode of the famous supermarionette program Thunderbirds, and called upon the Chiodo brothers when it came time to make the real thing.

“We were definitely fans of Thunderbirds–we loved all the Gerry Anderson shows,” explains Ed. “The puppets are closely based on the Thunderbirds characters in terms of scale and basic look. There was never an attempt to ever conceal the fact they were puppets. That was the first joke of the movie; these puppets were going to save the world.”

The first prototypes the Chiodo brothers cooked up were some of the most life-like marionettes money could buy, but Matt and Trey nixed them immediately. The puppets were too realistic and the infamous writer/director duo were set on the visual comedy stemming from herky-jerky marionettes blowing stuff up, fighting terrorists and having kinky sex.

“Matt and Trey wanted to exploit the look of the stringed puppets to make sure people didn’t think they were computer generated,” explains Ed. “When you see a puppet burned, blown up or ripped apart, it was the real thing. It was the reason they were made. We can’t think of anything funnier than blowing up puppets.”

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