What starts as a polite dinner party among friends soon devolves into existential crisis and a comedy of manners in the latest episode of The Creatures of Yes. The series, created by brothers Jacob and Caleb Graham, follows a group of puppets as they go about their life and times, and distinguishes itself with its throwback recording equipment and careful production design. This week’s episode, “Near Death Experience,” showcases what the series is best at: subverting expectations and complicating plotlines while remaining family friendly. There’s even a sense of gentleness to these videos that is rare for the modern wave of “must-shock” puppetry aimed at viewers above seven.
The creation of this episode comes from a fairly plain point of origin. “Honestly, we've just been wanting to make a video for a long time where the puppets are sitting around a table,” creator Jacob Graham explains to The Creators Project. “I must take this opportunity to thank my mother-in-law for the miniature china and silverware.” With every video, the tiny team incrementally advances their production and technique. This time around, Graham describes their newest innovations as simply being “the first time we had all our lights hooked up to a dimmer box. So we were able have much greater control lighting the scenes than before. In the past the lights were all just on full blast and I'd tape wax paper and things like that over them to diffuse them a little.” Jacob Graham’s other line of work also brings him into the light, as the touring liquid-light and “hologram” artist for the band Sound of Ceres.
Watching this episode, it’s clear that careful attention to detail guides the production, even though it’s a fairly minimal set. “When we were making it we kept saying ‘this is the most challenging one yet!’” says Graham. “But now I can't remember why that was. The whole thing is a blur. I rarely remember the process—maybe the finished videos push all the work out of my mind. I do remember when we were making this video that the ‘food’ was just heavy whipping cream with black and green food coloring and it kept going bad and smelling awful.”
As the small blue puppet Tom considers whether or not he’s choking, and the characters begin to mumble about baseball teams, a tide of unspoken tension rises. “It's hard to boil down the way [co-creator and brother] Caleb and I write,” says Jacob Graham of their collaborative process. “We'll have some very vague ideas, then write a little script, then talk about it for a few days and say ‘hey, what if this happened too?’. Then when we start shooting we'll have more ideas that we'll try to include.” With such a small team, he says that they even have the luxury of going back for reshoots and added scenes or moments while in the editing bay.
Watch the latest episode of The Creatures of Yes below, premiering exclusively on The Creators Project:
Click here to check out The Creatures of Yes on YouTube.