How Stargate’s Puppeteer Team Made Asgard Magic

Richard Dean Anderson kisses Thor

While many shows today go for 100% computer-generated aliens, back in the day Stargate did things old school: in most shots the beloved Asgard were puppets, brought to life by a talented team on the show’s set.

When asked which guest star was his favorite to work with, even Stargate SG-1 leading man Richard Dean Anderson says it was Thor.

In this conversation with “Dial the Gate,” host David Read welcomes long-time Stargate actor and puppeteer Morris Chapdelaine (who also played the alien Tenat, under heavy prosthetics). He talks about bringing to life Thor, Hermiod, and other alien characters on the show, how theater influenced the performances, and how the team of puppeteers got so good that they began ad-libbing on set with the other actors.

“What I loved about falling into a show like Stargate, as a puppeteer working on the Asgards, was that it was such a theatrical aspect of film and television,” Chapdelaine said. “Film and television is such a director’s medium [with its technical requirements] … but as puppeteers and performers you need to work really collectively as an ensemble in order to bring this inanimate creature or alien to life.”

Check out this short clip from the longer conversation:

It was a priority for the Asgard performers not only to present realistic movements for Thor and the other Asgard, but also to have the characters interact well with the actors in the scene. “How are we going to make our little three-and-half-foot Asgard do what he wants to do, move in the space, and make it easier for the cast to relate to and have conversations with?”

“At any given time there were four of us working the Asgard in different capacities as puppeteers,” he said, “as well as a production assistant who would make sure batteries were charged and cables were set.” That team effort allowed one performer to focus on the character’s hands or body movements, another to concentrate on the mouth movements (which ran by battery-powered servos), and another the eyes and browline.

While actors provided the final voice in post production (“Daniel Jackson” actor Michael Shanks voiced Thor), Chapdelaine would deliver Thor’s dialogue on set to match the mouth performance and provide something for the actors to interact with.

Asgard puppeteer team Geoff Redknap, Paul Hooson, Morris Chapdelaine, Jeny Cassady ... and Thor

Asgard puppeteer team Geoff Redknap, Paul Hooson, Morris Chapdelaine, Jeny Cassady … and Thor

“We got to a point where we were so comfortable working with each other that we would end up improving, with Amanda Tapping or with Richard [Dean Anderson],” he said. “And they would love it because we would get so much more from those scenes and from the characters because we had the ability to do that. And it’s only because we were all from a theatrical background and had spent a lot of time with the little guy.”

Head over to “Dial the Gate” on YouTube to find the full interview with Morris Chapdelaine. While you’re there, subscribe to GateWorld’s YouTube channel for more Stargate content!

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