French Toast: Puppets on the Big Screen

I’ve met some beautiful and special fabric puppets.

They live here in Whitehorse and they come from the imaginary world of Fabienne Tessier.

Tessier sews and knits little animals and imaginary characters with different, kind of funky, old fabrics and wools. Those characters catch our attention by their strong personality and the expressions on their faces.

They’re so attractive and friendly; it’s easy to imagine that they have their own life, their own stories.

This year, they became actors.

Last December, Tessier had wonderful success with the presentation of two short animation movies of her artistic work, La Photo. It was a little tale with those fabric characters.

And there was l’Oiseau, an animation of a love story of two birds with a soundtrack by the Longest Night Ensemble musicians and Kim Barlow’s special arrangement.

The story of Tessier’s stopped-animation movies is always simple and efficient. They relate funny situations, friendships and love tales like children bedtime stories. It brings the public into an enigmatic, out-of-time world of innocence.

“I was used to doing art work for myself and I never really decided to make pictures-in-pictures animations for the public,” says Tessier.

“One day, Brian Fidler, artistic director for the Longest Night event, was looking at what kind of short movies I was used to doing and he was also looking at my puppets and he asked me, ‘Why don’t you do an animation with those little characters for the Longest Night show?'”

That’s what she did and that’s how she became the only artist in town matching sewing, drawing, knitting and movie-making activities.

Since she started to make movies, about one year ago, Tessier presented her movie at different events in Whitehorse and in the Dawson Short Film Festival 2008.

Last winter, she traded her French instructor job for a special kind of teaching: she began to teach movie making to elementary and secondary school students in the French immersion program.

“I enjoy giving them the opportunity to understand the work behind a movie creation process. I want to show them how to proceed from the beginning to the end.

“When I’m teaching, I start by introducing my puppets and my sewing and knitting art work in general to the students. Afterwards, I present my movies.”

Just before the students first start experimenting with movie making, Tessier explains the zoetrope principle: movement created by a fast rush of pictures. Then, the students write a story and work on the storyboard.

Each class has is own project. Last spring, three classes at Whitehorse Elementary School finished the creation of their short movies called Problèmes au Parc, Le Miroir Magique and La Grande Aventure. Three stories about justice, sharing, peace and friendliness.

What’s next for Tessier? “I plan to try documentary filming with parts of animation. It’s a long process so I’ll enjoy taking all my time to do it!”

Virginie Hamel will be reporting on how the culture and fun of the Yukon’s French community is shared with all. Contact her at [email protected]

Virginie Hamel is a regular contributor to What’s Up Yukon who keeps tab on events in Yukon’s francophone community.

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