Pat & Mat, lovable Czech puppetmen who have complex solutions to simple problems
September 7, 2009 8:53 AM   Subscribe

The puppets Pat and Mat are beloved everywhere their Rube Goldbergian antics have been shown on TV. A couple of inventive handymen they consistently solve simple problems in outlandish fashion. Pat and Mat traveled far afield from their Czechoslovakian origins thanks to their short running time and silence, which made translation unnecessary. Considered ideologically impure by Czech authorities, creators Lubomír Beneš and Vladimír Jiránek were allowed to make around 30 episodes by the Slovakian arm of the state television corporation. They continued making new episodes after Communist rule ended and production was kept going after they passed away. First, let me present my sentimental favorite, Wallpaper. Below the cut are all the episodes I could find online. posted by Kattullus (27 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Mat is the one in red and Pat the one in yellow.
posted by Kattullus at 8:55 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

My ex-girlfriend of some years was a descendant of the renowned Jiri Trnka (I used to tease her that her family were victims of the tragic vowel shortage of 1902). I see a similarity between this animation and that of Trnka (who was a teacher to Jan Svankmayer, the great surrealist animator and filmmaker, who in turn was a mentor to the brothers Quay, who did videos for the like of Peter Gabriel... a whole other fpp could easily be made about this lineage of the craft animation).

I would not be surprised to find out there was some relation between the artists making this series and Trnka (and if you need to entertain some children and don't want to do Disney yet again, check out The Emperor's Nightingale).
posted by idiopath at 9:05 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

OK, from the credits it appears that these were made at Jiri Trnka's animation studio.

I am enjoying what I see so far here, and I am sure I know that name Jiránek from somewhere else. I like the pacing and the facepalm inducing humor (and their mistakes bring back many an embarrassing memory of going with the first solution to the immediate problem on construction sites).
posted by idiopath at 9:19 AM on September 7, 2009

Considered ideologically impure by Czech authorities

communists really don't have a sense of humor, do they?

nice find
posted by pyramid termite at 9:22 AM on September 7, 2009

On the same sort of topic, I can highly recommend the excellently named Bush Mechanics, which has aboriginal actors showing off all sorts of wacky and unusual fixes for automotive problems when you are stranded in the outback.

Only one series got made. I challenge you to watch an episode and not roar with laughter.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:57 AM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

Thanks! Wallpaper was charming, although it brings on traumatic flashbacks of my own home improvement projects. I'll enjoy wending my way through the other episodes.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:08 AM on September 7, 2009

The ending of "wallpaper" was classic. I saw that coming from a mile away.
posted by FusiveResonance at 10:10 AM on September 7, 2009

The first time I saw these guys, I was living with a Pole in England, and he showed me. We were drinking something, and drinking it to excess. I left my ass there in England, because I laughed it off that night. I've been trying to remember their monosyllabic names ever since. Thank You!
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 10:31 AM on September 7, 2009

These are wonderful, great post!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:32 AM on September 7, 2009

Man, I love classic stop motion animation...thanks for this post.
posted by GavinR at 10:44 AM on September 7, 2009

The puppets Pat and Mat

posted by Sys Rq at 10:45 AM on September 7, 2009

This style of animation is known as puppet-animation. The origins of modern claymation were these puppet animations, originally done IIRC with actual puppets, just posed in stop motion rather than manipulated in real time.
posted by idiopath at 10:59 AM on September 7, 2009

This was great! I'm bringing my neighbors over to see this one.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:05 AM on September 7, 2009

Ah, thanks idiopath. The more you know!
posted by Sys Rq at 11:16 AM on September 7, 2009

So what was the ideological issue here?
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:56 AM on September 7, 2009

Like many totalitarian governments, the Czech administration had stringent rules for how things should be depicted in the media. I could be misremembering, but I think the issue is that the protagonists are not shown to be overcoming a capitalist oppressor or banding together in solidarity with fellow workers in an explicit enough manner. But there were all sorts of obscure rules about how things had to be depicted, IIRC.
posted by idiopath at 12:06 PM on September 7, 2009

Gee, it seemed like they showed a lotta solidarity against that wallpaper. Guess that wasn't on the approved oppressor list.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:16 PM on September 7, 2009

This stuff is probably the best, purest and most human television material I have ever come across. Probably the finest TV programming our mostly sad race of humans will ever put out.
posted by krilli at 12:23 PM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

This is very educational -- do not, under any circumstances, eat goulash out of a can.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:12 PM on September 7, 2009

Found another episode, a classic: Television.
posted by Kattullus at 2:50 PM on September 7, 2009

Kattullus: "Found another episode, a classic: Television ."

That one was good until near the end. And then it was complete genius.
posted by idiopath at 3:08 PM on September 7, 2009

Yeah. The Polish (I think) narration over the episode is a bit jarring but it fades into the background after a while.

Oh, and one thing, the reason Mat is in green in older episodes, or so I infer from the wikipedia entry, is that the censors thought that the shirt colors, red and yellow, might have been chosen to make fun of Sino-Soviet relations.
posted by Kattullus at 4:41 PM on September 7, 2009

In the birdhouse link, a youtube comment helped me notice something really remarkable: the animators managed to do a really excellent reaction shoht. Consider the implications of doing a reaction shot with a puppet, that does not have changeable facial expressions. This is a skilled usage of pantomime and body language for such simple models.
posted by idiopath at 6:37 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Beautiful, thank you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:56 PM on September 7, 2009

The titles are beautiful. They're kind of wise and goofy and lovingly sarcastic about the world. It even translates into English.
posted by krilli at 4:16 AM on September 8, 2009

The music is also superb. Deceptively simple. You can get the music from Jacques Tati's films separately, and it is excellent; Does anyone know if music from Pat & Mat is out there anywhere? Or if the guy made more good stuff?

I also really appreciate some of the sight gags. In the first show, for instance, the wordless little story arc about the water and the big power drill that culminates in this frame.
posted by krilli at 4:25 AM on September 8, 2009

The music machine Pat and Mat make at the end of Gramophone could be a Trimpin sound sculpture.
posted by Kattullus at 5:18 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

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