Packing wonder, insight and gut-punch sentimentality into two minutes is a herculean task, but with just some twigs, wire and a handful of dry leaves Ainslie Henderson has crafted a beautiful little short that could go toe-to-toe with the best moments of stop motion animation. Stems tracks the birth, life and death of a small band of puppets – these little fellas wouldn’t look out of place in a Mos Eisley Cantina, and Henderson finds new life in old rubbish as we see the detail that goes into each stop motion delight. Within seconds you’ll fall in love with every puppet in Stems, and watching them build to a tinkling crescendo is an audiovisual delight.

Poppy Ackroyd’s score deserves equal praise to Henderson’s animating prowess, and the harmony in their collaboration seeps from every still – Ackroyd providing the original music from which Henderson then crafted a unique puppet to make each sound. Henderson’s own narration initially might seem pretentious, as he extolls the virtues of his process, and the beauty and tragedy of stop-motion. Stick with it though, because when that first puppet comes to life before your eyes his worldview suddenly clicks – you’ll never look at Chicken Run in quite the same way again.

No one would dream of stretching Stems out to a feature, but two minutes is definitely not enough time to spend in its world. That said, it’s possibly the perfect ‘short’ short film – a delicious emotional snack to get your heart beating and your imagination running wild. The pacy running time will whizz by – watch it at work during a quick break – and don’t be surprised if you get a little emotional when you have to say goodbye to your new musical misfit pals.


DIRECTOR: Ainslie Henderson

COMPOSER: Poppy Ackroyd

SYNOPSIS: Puppet making made to make music.