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Local puppeteers in TV production 

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

“Dr. Thylacine’s Halloween of Cryptids,” a joint project of local and Atlanta-based puppeteers, has been selected to air on AIB Network television in Atlanta.

Craig Isley of Clanton and close friend Mark S. Smith, formerly of Clanton but now in Atlanta, have directed the project, and Smith wrote the script.

Local puppeteers Cole Riley and Zachary Williams are also a part of the project.

“Dr. Thylacine’s Hall of Cryptids” made its debut last year during a Central Alabama Performing Arts Guild production. Since then, Isley and Smith have continued to produce short videos with the characters on their YouTube channel. Smith approached the AIB Network about airing the Halloween special. Isley said it will air six times (Oct. 26 at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and Oct. 27, 28, 29, & 30 at 3 p.m.) with the potential of reaching 2 million viewers in the Atlanta greater metro area.

“I am super proud of everyone that has been involved and worked so hard to do this,” Isley said. “… It is super exciting for me that people all over Atlanta will have a chance to watch it on television.”

Chilton County residents will be able to see the production at aibtv.com/aibeverywhere/ the same time it is airing on the network or on the Hall of Cryptids YouTube Channel at 2 p.m. on Oct. 31.

“Dr. Thylacine is the curator of the Hall of Cryptids, which is a cryptozoology museum,” Isley said. “Cryptids are creatures that are believed to exist, but not yet proven to exist.”

Characters like Bigfoot or river monsters. Isley described the characters as “spooky but not scary.”

In the show, Dr. Thylacine’s Halloween party is interrupted by his rival “who is very jealous that Dr. Thylacine is getting a TV special,” Isley said.

All of the puppets are made by Smith.

“He’s really very, very talented,” Isley said.

Many characters are the same as last year, but Isley said the production is a new script and adds more creatures. One of the new characters is based on a river monster legend from southern Georgia. Riley is performing with this puppet.

Smith and Isley have done Halloween productions several times since there first shows as children.

“Halloween is Mark’s birthday, so it has always been special to him,” Isley said.

They decided on this most recent project a few months ago.

“We have basically taken on two separate locations filming because of the pandemic, and also the distance between us,” Isley said. “Using technology like greenscreen and digital compositing, we will be able to put puppet characters together interacting that were never there together in real life.”

The groups used storyboards to show puppeteers how the puppet needed to be positioned to fit.