Director and performer:
Robert Waltl

Dramaturge:
Ivica Buljan

Concept:
Darij Kreuh and Tadej Fius

Visuals:
Ana Košir

Music:
Špela Avsenak

Coproduction:
Cankarjev dom Ljubljana

Production:
Forum Ljubljana

Distribution:
Mini teater

Opening performance:
December 2003

Duration 45 min

Virtual puppet show for children over the age of 3 y/o

The first virtual puppet show in the world! A combination of computer animation and puppet performance with extreme communication between the screen and the audience.

About Thumbelina

Thumbelina is one of Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen's subtlest and most beautiful fairy-tales - a story about a little girl whose fragility takes her to different places and whose courage and love always help her find the right path. All Anderson’s fairy-tales are concerned with the initiation process, a journey the hero or heroine has to undergo in order to overcome trouble. But in the end, their distress is rewarded - and Thumbelina's as well.

This world-first virtual puppet show is a mixture of film and puppet performance, set in an open and flexible virtual computer environment. Each situation consists of at least two different solutions while characters from the fairy tale come to life on the screen and, assisted by the animator and the audience, try to save the heroine from trouble. During the course of the performance, the children will determine the characters' actions and the course of events in a specific situation via the animator, and will undoubtedly be fascinated by the rich creativity of the environment and the chance to participate in the performance.

The performance of the fairy-tale is structured as a play which focuses on creative team work. Finding the correct solution and decision in a certain situation upgrades the classical puppet show with an educational/didactic element. Wishing to make the operation of complex technology attractive to children, the authors will encourage them to try themselves out in the role of the animator after the performance and bring the protagonists to life by themselves.

About the director

Robert Waltl (1965), actor, director, puppeteer, and art director - has succeeded in accomplishing a utopic theatrical project in the recent years. He created numerous acting roles in Slovene and Croatian theatres and films starting in 1987 and after 1999 also established himself as a director. Many of his directing creations won prestigious awards at numerous festivals, and while his performances were played on tours and numerous international festivals, he simultaneously created a large number of acting roles in radio plays.

After gaining rich experience in institutional theatre, he abandoned the safety of official institutions. In 1998, based on his own financial means, he started a new Slovenian theatre - the Mini teater which, unlike the commercial projects in other private theatres, offers puppet performances of the highest quality. The vast range of Waltl's original ideas may well be seen in the openness of his theatre programme directed towards the youngest spectators.

Robert Waltl however, also cultivates high quality drama for adults. Not just a reproductive director and actor, his works as co-director and dramaturge have brought him a number of prestigious awards in Slovenia and abroad.

Beside everything listed above, Robert Waltl also gave his contribution as animator and director to the first virtual puppet performance in the world, Thumbelina, where he decided to do research in some completely unknown and undiscovered fields of theatrical, visual and intermedia art. So far Robert Waltl played this performance not only in Slovene but also in Croatian, English, German, Flamish, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Romanian, Czech, Turkish and Hungarian as well as in Farsi, Urdu an Hebrew.

Selection of critics

The first seconds - when the children ‘get it’ and start shouting and establishing communication bonds with the characters on the big screen who, of course, always return the impulse - represent the greatest award for the conceivers of this project. And it is an additional achievement for the authors of the project when the kids - who at this age already watch television, play computer games, know what cinema is, and have already attended a classical puppet performance - immediately understand that Thumbelina is something in between or even more. This is especially the case when parents and adults, even after several minutes, cannot discern exactly how the story develops interactively, or what is actually true and what is fiction.

The first virtual puppet performance in the world differs from classical performances also in the fact that the story never appears twice with the exact same development or the exact same end. The conceivers of the project have actually transferred the active role of the director over to the audience and to the actor Robert Waltl. The latter is equipped with a playing console and a head sensor to follow the rotation and the bending of the fairytale character’s head on the screen. Waltl performs all this in the backstage, yet at the same time he communicates with the audience. The visualisation and interaction computer programme enables directing and defining the shape in real time, while the programme mediator enables fairytale characters to follow the narrator’s speaking.

The performance takes half an hour, which is exactly the right duration to preserve the tension of the story and the right concentration of the audience in their communication. Since the technology already offers the possibility of an optional development of the performance contents, and all essential elements and primal issues of a classical theatre are preserved at the same time, this may well be defined as an explosive mixture.

"Kids understand it immediately", Luka Dekleva Ukmar; Delo, December 11th 2003

Festivals and tours abroad

World Congress and Festival UNIMA 2004 (Rijeka, Croatia), LUT FEST 2004 (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina), PITA festival 2004 (Belgrade, Serbia), Exodos Festival 2004 (Ljubljana, Slovenia), Puppet festival Teheran 2004 (Iran), Solo Puppet Festival 2005 (Lodz, Poljska), Festival Szena Internationale 2005 (Milano, Italy), Festival de Teatro de La Habana 2005 (Cuba), International Festival of Puppet Theatres EUROFEST 2006 (Slupsk, Poland), Multikids International Festival 2006 (Wienna, Austria), Zadar Snova Festival 2006 (Zadar, Croatia), International Festival of Children's Theatres Banja Luka 2006 (Bosnia and Herzegovina), World Performing Art festival 2006 (Lahore, Pakistan), Zagreb Youth Theatre and Culture Centre Velika Gorica 2006 (Croatia), International Festival of Art Animation Euromarionete 2007 (Arad, Romunia), World Festival of Puppet Art 2007 (Prague, Czeck Republic), Dubrava 2007 (Croatia), Festival of Puppetry  2007 (Lingen, Germany), International Puppet Theatre Festival 2007 (Ieper, Belgium), Festival Europalia 2008 (Ghent, Belgium), Obrovačko Summer Festival 2008 (Obrovac, Croatia), International Festival Fairy Tale Day 2008 (Yerevan, Armenia), Pippi Longstocking Festival 2008 (Velenje, Slovenia), Puppet Theatre Mostar 2008 (Bosnia and Herzegovina), MESS Festival Sarajevo 2008 (Goražde, Bosnia and Herzegovina), Festival Zvezdarište 2009 (Belgrade, Serbia), International Puppet Theatre Festival 2009 (Klaipeda, Lithuania), Kövér Béla festival 2012 (Szeged, Hungary), International Festival of Children's Theatres 2012 (Subotica, Serbia), International Moscow Festival of Puppet Theatres 2012 (Russia), Holon International Theater and Film Festival (Israel), July 2013

Awards

Special Award for the New Multimedia Approach in the Puppet Theatre Production at the International Puppet LUT FEST Festival (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Special Award of the Professional Jury for its contribution to the Visual Expression of the Theatre for Children at the International Festival of the Theatre for Children (Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina)