Pili Puppetry releases 3D feature film ‘The Arti: The Adventure Begins’

You’ve probably never seen a film like The Arti: The Adventure Begins.

Produced by Taiwan’s insanely popular Pili Puppetry, the film follows the story of the children of a family accused of treason who are forced to cross a desert while being pursued by a jealous prince planning to construct a robot army. Featuring Pili’s unique fusion of traditional Chinese puppetry and CGI, it was released over the lunar new year holiday in Taiwan and produced with a budget of $10 million, probably making it the most expensive non-Henson/Muppet independent puppet film ever made.

Have a look at just how much work went in to making this film:

Sadly, the behind-the-scenes featurettes for The Arti don’t have any English subtitles, but they do give you a good idea of the scope of what Pili is doing.

One of the things I like most about Pili is that they remain grounded in the traditions of Poteh glove puppetry, while relentlessly embracing new techniques and technology. Although Arti makes extensive use of CGI and features at least one major animated character, Pili’s co-founders Chris and Vincent Huang – grandsons of Taiwan’s most celebrated puppeteer Huang Hai Dai – seem adamant that they’re going to preserve their family’s tradition and remain at their core a puppet company.

The detail and craftsmanship that is going in to their work is remarkable:

Pili has enjoyed a cult following in the West for years, but in Taiwan – and increasingly elsewhere in Asia – it’s an iconic series with a fanbase that’s comparable to Marvel Studios or The Muppets. In addition to having their own satellite TV network (most people are lucky to get a TV show – Pili has their own network), they sell more than 400,000 DVDs every month through Taiwanese corner stores, operate a record label, a book publishing arm, a chain of retail stores, were recently listed on the stock exchange in Taiwan and have built the world’s largest dedicated puppet film studio.

International distribution rights for “The Arti” have been picked up by Hong Kong’s Golden Network Asia, but there haven’t been any official announcements about a release outside of the major Chinese markets. Pili is already making plans to put a sequel to in to production later this year.

You can learn more about The Arti: The Adventure Begins at www.arti2015.com.

Via the Taipei Film Commission.


21/3/15 Update: The original version of this post mistakenly claimed the The Arti: The Adventure Begins is the most expensive non-Henson/Muppet film ever made. It is in fact the most expensive independent puppet film ever made (depending on your definition of “puppet film” there have been at least one or more films made inside the Hollywood system that are more expensive). This post has been updated accordingly.

  • MikeFX

    The movie Team America with a reported budget of $32 million makes is one of the most expensive non-Henson/Muppet puppet movies… Although this looks very cool and impressive for $10 million! Just wish there wasn’t so much CGI of the characters… I don’t mind it for environments and to augment puppetry or rod removal… Oh well, times are changing!

    • You’re absolutely right! That was actually a typo…it should have read “…probably making it the most expensive independent non-Henson/Muppet puppet film ever made (if you count E.T. or other puppet/animatronic Hollywood films, there are several more expensive than this). I believe only one or two of the characters are actually CG, the rest are puppets. I haven’t seen the entire film, but typically Pili cuts their promos so they are very FX heavy with an emphasis on the fight scenes to show production value.

      • MikeFX

        Guess we should just be happy that someone is still making and using puppets in movies at all (Muppets being the exception!)… Pili could obviously go all CG if they really wanted to, so I do applaud them for doing as much as they can with practical puppets. It’s the practical FX artist in me that wishes there was more puppet stuff being done… But knowing that the film industry will defer to whatever is most economical, from a production point do view.

        Call me sentimental and biased, but I do prefer the look of practical fx and puppetry, even if that element is then augmented digitally. Just something about having a real physical object there that can’t be beat!

        Plus puppets are just more fun!!