Around two weeks ago I briefly mentioned that I saw the Spielberg film War Horse, and had suggested to you to go see it as well. It truly is a wonder of a movie, so if you still haven’t seen it, I am going to continue to recommend it. War Horse is originally a novel written by Michael Morpurgo, who is well known for his work in children’s literature. His other work has been adapted, but none of it has really taken off quite like War Horse, which was adapted into a stage play in 2007 before being taken on by Steven Spielberg.
War Horse, for those that aren’t up to date, is a story about a boy, named Albert, who falls in love with a horse, named Joey. Joey is sold to the British cavalry upon the outbreak of the First World War, and we follow both his journey and Albert’s attempt to find his beloved friend. One of the challenges in turning the story into a visual production was how to make Joey, as a main character, as life-like as possible. In movies, because of the technology available for editing, it is much easier to trick audiences. But on stage, life had to be breathed into Joey-otherwise, the play simply wouldn’t work. I found this video on TED from last year that shows us exactly how Joey came to life on stage! I will give you a hint- the secret behind Joey rhymes with “Muppet”. Watch below to see the magic! The video is approximately 20 minutes long, but you can skip to 5:10 to get to the horsey specifics, or skip straight to 9:05 to watch a life-like Joey come onto the stage. Otherwise, if you have the time, you ought to just see the whole thing!
The puppeteers behind stage play Joey are Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones, two South Africans from Handspring Puppet Company. The even cooler thing is that, in Spielberg’s version, for all those tough scenes with Joey getting beat up by the conditions of war, movie makers used this same exact puppet idea- proving that old concepts can be just as good as new ones!