West Hartford film studio Elmwood Productions makes movies starring a cast of puppets for a strictly grown-up audience.
Imagine a Muppets movie written by Kevin Smith, and you’ll probably get a decent idea of what’s going on at Elmwood Productions, a puppet-focused film production studio in central Connecticut. Jon Bristol founded the company (named after his hometown) in 2002, around five years after he started building his own puppets.
Elmwood’s work embraces humor in the absurd and the uncomfortable, aided by the additional reality-bending possibilities (what Bristol calls “the Looney Tunes element”) afforded narratives focused on puppets. The company’s original film follows one man waking from a nightmare to find his id manifest as a puppet, and its new series The Risley Brothers takes notes from Clerks. Many of the crew members used to work in retail, and strange customer-related anecdotes have found their way into the material.
Bristol works out of an old converted barn in West Hartford, and tries to distance his puppet aesthetic from Jim Henson’s. He bases some characters—like one of the Risley brothers—on himself, but often finds inspiration elsewhere. “I’m always carrying a sketchbook with me. If I’m in public somewhere and I see an odd-looking person, I’m gonna doodle them really quick and hopefully maybe turn them into a puppet.”