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(Rumpe & Tuli)

On the set of “Rumpe & Tuli” (photo © Pandora Film/Martn Demmer)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 03/2009

After building up a track record as a producer of complex international co-productions set in exotic locations, Cologne-based Pandora Film has tried its hand at something completely different with the low budget film Rumpe & Tuli.

The internationally operating company's involvement in the project came about after producer Raimond Goebel had seen some of Samy Challah's web clips featuring the two eponymous heroes Rumpe and Tuli.

A graduate of Cologne's Academy for Media Arts (KHM), Challah had been working in puppet animation for the past 15 years and seen his shorts shown at such festivals as Hof and the Max Ophuels Prize Festival in Saarbruecken, with the short Wenn sie nicht gestorben sind winning the jury prize at Cologne's Unlimited festival in 2006.

It was during his time at the KHM that Challah met Stefan Silies who had teamed up with a fellow student Till Nachtmann in 1999 to focus on work with sock puppets for films and art installations.

"We decided to try and combine each other's puppets in one film – Samy's Rumpe and our favorite sock puppet Tuli," Silies recalls, "and have them wandering through different kinds of environments peopled by minorities because they are also a minority themselves."

Subsequently, the three animators formed their own production company PuppetEmpire with the feature film's DoP Marc Mahn and composer Jasin Challah and worked together on a number of clips featuring Rumpe and Tuli, which can be seen on the company's website

Due to the small budget, Goebel and the filmmaking trio decided to make the film as a 50-50 co-production with backing from the Filmstiftung NRW and their own funds.

The story written by Challah, Silies and Nachtmann, see Rumpe and Tuli being unceremoniously evicted from their humble abode "Casa Paradisa" in a Cologne suburb and doing everything possible to raise the money to buy their home back. In the process, they meet up with all kinds of colorful characters on the fringes of the "human world."

"It's classic family entertainment, but shouldn't be seen as a children's film," Goebel explains. "We have here a dramatic story where the main characters just happen to be puppets."

"And it's a classic buddy story with two characters who reluctantly come together and then have to master a task although there are lots of hurdles put in their way," he continues. "The story has a kind of domino effect with one thing happening after another and the two buddies arguing among themselves as the action leads up to the finale when they are able to save their beloved Casa Paradiso – but then there's another twist to the story...."

The mix of live-action and puppet animation is based on the experiences the three filmmakers had gathered with the previous Rumpe and Tuli shorts, as Till Nachtmann points out: "We just went out with the two puppets and had them talk with real people – that is the core of the story."

"In the short films you could see that we were able to reach a high emotional effect with the puppets," Challah continues. "People laughed and cried in the cinema. Most people know puppets from their childhood, but usually in the form of something like the Muppets. Here, though, the discussions were about quite different subjects like alcoholism, incest and burnout, and we managed to get some really serious conversations as the people confided in the puppet as if it was a real person."

At the same time, the animation of the two puppet characters is not set to be enhanced by any digital tricks during post-production, and, as Stefan Silies notes, "the voices of Rumpe and Tuli are those of Samy and Till as recorded during filming. We don't want to record that in a studio afterwards. We want to be as authentic as possible and also retain the special nature of the conversations the puppets have with the real people."

To achieve this magical connection, the two animators have to make sure that they are well hidden from the camera by using special knee-pads as they hold the puppets above their heads to be at eye-level with their human counterparts. Moreover, in one scene with the puppets on a raft, two divers were specially hired to operate them from underwater.

"This project has the smallest budget we have ever had," Goebel says, "but that has been more than compensated for by the enthusiasm of everyone on the production. Everybody is giving their all for the project. And it's also been an interesting experience working with three directors at one time!"

Category Feature
Year of Production 2009
Directors Samy Challah, Till Nachtmann, Stefan Silies
Screenplay Samy Challah, Till Nachtmann, Stefan Silies
Cinematography Marc Mahn
Sarah Krumbach
Jasin Challah
Cordula Jedamski, Cora Pratz
Cast Rumpe, Tuli, Annette Frier, Ulrich Noethen, Vesna Buljevic
Producer Raimond Goebel
Production Company Pandora Film Produktion, in co-production with PuppetEmpire/Cologne
Format color
Shooting Dates Cologne and surroundings, June - July 2009
Sound Technology Dolby
With backing from Film- und Medienstiftung NRW

Pandora Film Produktion GmbH
Antwerpener Str. 6-12
50672 Cologne/Germany
phone +49-2 21-97 33 20
fax +49-2 21-97 33 29