Yes, much like the character of Miikshi, and I’m sure many others out there, sometimes big emotional responses can be a little hard to get my head around and require a bit of encouragement. How fortunate it is then, that Miikshi’s new mini-movie is a vessel of joy with the power to captivate anyone of any age or background. Miikshi: Cosmic Rays is a big, colourful burst of action, comedy, and adventure, produced with so much love and attention to detail by Lindsay and Justin T. Lee alongside their talented creative team at Gazelle Automations.
Supermarionation fans will know of Lindsay and Justin’s work on the 2014 documentary Filmed In Supermarionation, the 50th anniversary episodes of Thunderbirds, and Century 21 Films’ original sci-fi puppet series, Nebula-75. The puppets of the Miikshi universe may not be marionettes, but the Supermarionation work of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson clearly played an enormous part in inspiring the retrofuturistic world that Miikshi and her friends are eager to protect!
The previous series of Miikshi episodes was aimed at pre-schoolers, yet captured the imaginations of kids and adults alike. The new Miikshi: Cosmic Rays mini-movie is intentionally targeted at a general audience, so it’s fun for children and older viewers who consider themselves children at heart. Cosmic Rays is a tightly plotted 15-minute adventure packed with a commitment to real science, stunning modelwork, and utterly loveable, complex characters. This is, without a doubt, a film that will appeal to the whole family.
During my reviews of Stingray, I truly discovered that the Supermarionation writers had a big passion for basing their stories on scientific fact. The likes of Alan Fennell and Dennis Spooner would take concepts and technologies from the world around them and adapt them into futuristic fuel for their action-adventure stories. Such ideas were often given a great amount of explanation and examination so that curious viewers, regardless of their age, could learn all about the potential world of tomorrow that was being built on their doorsteps. That same dedication to exploring scientific concepts in a manner which is both educational and exciting became the inspiration for Miikshi: Cosmic Rays. Professor Hiroyuki Tanaka of the University of Tokyo is a particle physics professor who worked with Gazelle Automations to weave his chosen area of research of muography into a thrilling story for Miikshi and her team.
Now, I must confess that I absolutely checked out of my science lessons at school because I couldn’t get to grips with learning about things we can’t actually see with our eyes. I was having a hard enough time figuring out the things I could see. However, the triumph of this short film is the way in which it explores the specialist subject of using cosmic muon particles in a manner which is both intelligent and easily digestible. Yes, a puppet movie starring a talking sheep can totally nail groundbreaking practices in partical physics and do so without talking down to children or boring them. Miikshi uses the muPS technology to help solve the film’s central crisis, and explains her work to her colleagues in a clear and concise manner which I’m confident a child could follow and adults would find equally fascinating. Combining science and puppetry in a way that appeals to a general audience is a cornerstone of Supermarionation storytelling, and Miikshi: Cosmic Rays delivers that factor absolutely perfectly.
Another key ingredient that Anderson fans will appreciate is Miikshi’s nail-biting race against time to divert a major disaster. Her underwater tunnel project, sponsored by the mayor of the city, is at serious risk from a submerged volcano. Any further use of explosives to construct the tunnel could trigger a full-scale eruption and endanger the city of Mibukiville. When the reckless scientist, Dr. Crumpet, goes rogue by planting charges to complete the tunnel, Miikshi and her friends Chickelyna and Gord set out in their craft to prevent a catastrophe!
And that neatly brings us to another of this mini-movie’s triumphs – the vehicles. The starring model for this particular production is the “Ewe 2” submarine designed by Justin T. Lee and built by John Anderson. Thunderbirds fans will immediately spot one or two nods to the vehicle designs of Derek Meddings. It’s a beautifully detailed model and the underwater filming techniques show it off as a rugged and multi-faceted machine built by Miikshi to explore the depths and work on her tunnel. In fact, Miikshi’s world is inhabited by all manner of complex and fantastic vehicles which perfectly tick that “toys come to life” factor that appeals to Supermarionation fans – but these are toys which, like Derek Meddings’ models, have been carefully dirtied down and fully detailed to look big and real and impressive on-screen.
While serving as a well-observed tribute to Supermarionation, I also adore the fact that Miikshi is an incredibly original production. This particular mini-movie really pushes the boundaries as far as film-making for children and a general audience is concerned. The tone is fun and light, but not immature or lacking in depth. The action and gorgeous visuals are not just there to fill time or show off, but to serve the story and build the bustling world that Miikshi lives in. It’s a detailed, rich, and enticing universe that the characters live in and I would happily spend as much time as possible in there with them, or at least watching them at home.
Speaking of characters – I love them all. They’re all so easy to identify with precisely because they’re so complex. Miikshi is a brilliant scientist but sometimes struggles to be understood in a world that doesn’t just value her practical skills and razor-sharp logic, but also demands that she be emotional and outspoken. Her friend, Chickelyna on the other hand, is confidently able to bring passion and feeling to the experiences going on around them, and is often impatient to get to the drama of it all. Every character is balanced with strengths and weaknesses and the script is keen to celebrate both and teach young people the value in both being good at some things and recognising where one might need help with others. Miikshi may be an unlikely hero for all her nervousness and modesty, but by thunder does her quiet determination and intelligence make her a capable and worthy adversary to the forces of chaos and destruction – and the backing of her diverse group of friends only serves to make her stronger.
I think the biggest source of this feeling of pure joy that my feelings detector has registered is the fact that Gazelle Automations are clearly so very, very passionate about making high-quality, family entertaintment. The hard work and commitment they have to their craft is evident across all aspects of the Miikshi: Cosmic Rays mini-movie. The story is intelligently woven with science, character development, and thrilling action. The puppets, sets, and special effects are packed with fun details to make the world they inhabit so visually and emotionally inviting. Every hand-made element of this production is presented with great pride and professionalism to create a film which proves that puppets and models can tell rich, fulfilling stories to captivate people of all ages. It’s a philosophy that I’m confident will inspire the next generation of film-makers to create things just as remarkable and groundbreaking as Miikshi, and the works of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson, for decades to come.
Miikshi: Cosmic Rays is now available to stream on YouTube in English and Japanese. Thank you to Lindsay and Justin T. Lee for sharing early access to the film for this review, and for supplying behind-the-scenes photographs and insights! You can see more of Gazelle Automations work by visiting gazelleautomations.com.
Egypt: Hidden corridor in Great Pyramid of Giza seen for first time
Muometric positioning system (μPS) with cosmic muons as a new underwater and underground positioning technique
Hiroyuki K. M. Tanaka
Miikshi: Cosmic Rays © 2023 Muographic Liberal Arts Foundation.
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