Chances are you’ve seen the work of stop-motion legend Phil Tippett. Phil Tippett - Mad Dreams and Monsters doesn’t explore the man behind the creatures so much as it takes us through the history of his career. Starting off back in the late seventies with films like The Crater Lake Monster and Star Wars: A New Hope, we learn about his inspirations in the beginning and how he helped pioneer an industry that hadn’t quite fleshed itself out in Hollywood yet.
Though it plays largely as a career retrospective, it’s not totally devoid of looks into Tippett’s life. The documentary has a few personal gems like Jules Roman’s proposal, as well as the stressors of shifting away from practical puppetry into a digital age. Or perhaps, more importantly, finding a marriage between the two. It also feels relevant to shout out that Jules Roman’s title card is never listed as “wife”. Instead, she’s always noted as “CEO of Tippett Studios”.
The acknowledgment of the parts that Jules and the other folks in Tippett’s life have played in his success feels like one of the most significant aspects of the documentary. Tippett himself admits that he has no interest in the business behind it all, or the accolades of the industry. The dude just wants to sculpt some monsters and make some movies. Women like Jules and the teams of folks behind Tippett Studios play the critical but unseen role behind the creations of a genius.
Phil Tippett – Mad Dreams and Monsters is in a pretty standard documentary format. It’s a little dry, and focuses solely on the information it’s putting forward without ever really looking into the emotions behind over forty years of creation. Even so, the doc’s got a tight runtime of about eighty minutes and has a laser focus on its intent. The subject matter might be presented without a lot of frills, but how much frill is really needed when you’re looking at the career of a man who gave us so many iconic creatures throughout our lives?