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Doctor Puppet – Interview with Creator Alisa Stern

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With a show as popular as Doctor Who it seems almost inevitable that the more creative fans craving more adventures in time and space would reach out and create more, we’ve all seen the many memes online and know of the countless pages of fan fiction and drawings fans create on sites such as Deviantart. Obviously, the quality varies significantly and the majority of it only serves at best as a quick joke or at worst as something absolutely mental just for the individual creating it.

The 11th Doctor in puppet form

The 11th Doctor in puppet form

Luckily for Whovians and animation fans everywhere that american animator Alisa Stern has used her spare time and stepped up to create an ongoing web series on Youtube called Doctor Puppet which has developed a cult following of its own pleasing fans and animators alike with its excellent animated interpretation of the Doctor Who universe. Four episodes have so far being released with fans worldwide eagre for more as it would appear all previous incarnations of the Doctor are being created for the serial. As well as venturing into her adventures through time and space with the animated Doctor, Alisa has given us an insight to her tricks-of-the-trade and what she’s not up to when she’s exploring animated galaxies.


Poster for episode 4 by Isam Prado

Here is episode 4 “Smoke and Mirrors” part of Youtubes “Geek Week” you can see episodes 1, 2 and 3 on the Doctor Puppet Youtube page

What inspired you to start animating?

I always gravitated to animation when I was little. Stop motion in particular interested me because I liked making tangible art, like sculptures. I recall seeing “The Nightmare Before Christmas” for the first time and being in complete awe of the craftsmanship that went into it. Later I discovered “Wallace & Gromit” and the films of Ray Harryhausen, and I was hooked. At some point I realized that people were getting paid to make that stuff, and I wanted to do it too.

Did you study animation or get into it as a hobby?

I studied it in college. I went to a traditional animation program so I learned how to animate with paper and pencil, as well as stop motion. I learned 2D digital techniques as well.

What made you want to tell a Doctor Who tale in Stop-Motion?

I didn’t originally set out to do that – it sort of happened organically. At first I just made the puppet, then decided to do something with it on the Internet. I didn’t have time to animate anything then, so instead I just took still photos of him around NYC and posted them on a Tumblr blog, that was really fun. The blog got quite popular, so I decided that I finally owed the fans some animation. I created the Christmas special last year, which went viral and lead to me partnering with The Nerdist and being able to produce the full series. Combining two things I really adore, stop motion and Doctor Who, has been a dream. They go together quite nicely, I think.

The 11th and 10th Doctors meet

The 11th and 10th Doctors meet in episode 2

Doctor Who has a massive fan base both UK and Internationally, what response have you had from the fans with your interpretation of the Doctor Who universe?

The response has been great! So far people seem to approve of my story and interpretation of the characters, which is wonderful to know. Because I’m using puppets, I can put any two characters together. I think this has been especially exciting for other fans to see. It sure is fun for me to imagine how characters would react to each other.

What software & equipment do you use?

I have a Canon Rebel digital SLR and Dragonframe software on an iMac. Draganframe is fantastic! It’s the industry standard for stop motion.

Are we looking to see more of the Doctor’s and possibly companions in future episodes?

Definitely! Once I made the first Doctor Puppet (Eleven) I was hooked! Making the puppets is my favorite part.

You also incorporate a lot of visual effects & compositing, what sort of tricks and software do you use?

I do all the effects and compositing in Adobe After Effects. I use a lot of green screen, which saves me time when building sets. I can make a set look a lot bigger by putting a green screen behind it, or even avoid building it entirely. Two talented animators/artists, Isam Prado and Rachel Gitlevich, created all the matte paintings that complete the words. I also like to add as much atmosphere as I can. The first two episodes have a subtle smoke effect over them, which adds some depth and movement. I try to do the light effects practically as much as possible. The TARDIS light really works! That was wired by Shelby Arnold, who has helped me with the sets and props. She even built the little sonic screwdriver to light up. Unfortunately I had to cut off the wires on that because they were becoming too difficult to hide, so now I add the sonic’s light in post. For the light that steals the Doctors, I use a spotlight with a yellow gel. The beam is enhanced in After Effects with some yellow solids and adjustment layers.


11 tries to give 9 the slip! From Doctor puppet episode 3

Aside from exploring galaxies in the Tardis, what other sorts of things do you work on?

Haha. My day job right now is animating for a preschool TV show. I do After Effects cut-out animation for that. In the past I’ve done animation, design, and made puppets for commercials and music videos. I’ve also taught stop motion animation and puppet making.

Do you come up with the story at the beginning of each episode or are you working to an overall story arc? And how does the announcement of a new Doctor alter any plans you may have made?

When I wrote the first episode I also made an outline for the whole series. I’ve fleshed it out a bit since then. The 12th Doctor was a curveball, but I can handle him!

If you’re working to an arc how many stories have you got planned?

That I don’t know! I have an ending, but there are a few ways to get there. I’d like to make as many episode as possible, but it depends on time and various other factors.

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Lewis Heriz
@themooks @skwigly Yeah! That's when it becomes << actual magic >>
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James Howard
@lewisheriz @skwigly That first time you see it move is such a buzz and then you add sound and it just enters a whole new stratosphere.
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Lewis Heriz
@themooks @skwigly I know it's kind of obvious, but I used to see it as 'important but secondary'. I don't see it as secondary any more.
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James Howard
@lewisheriz @skwigly Sound does bring it to life.
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