Videos

This page provides links to video stories-for-all-ages.

Links to videos
Meet the stuffies
Behind the scenes

These videos were made for the UU Church of Palo Alto (UUCPA) during the COVID-19 pandemic, from April, 2020, to April, 2022. While some of the videos are specific to UUCPA, many of them can be used as supplements in Sunday school classes or at home. For example, check out the “Possum Is Stressed” series. Other videos may serve as inspiration for programs in your congregation. For example, check out the “Stuffed Animal Sleepover” videos.

Also on this page: introductions to the puppets and stuffies who act in many of the videos; and behind-the-scenes photos for those who are thinking of filming their own puppet videos.

Thanks to the live actors, a.k.a. “the UUCPA gang”: Aarav, Amy, Bruce, Carol, Daisy, Dan, Ella, Emma, Francesca, Greg, Heather, John, Liam, Mayo, Sam, Sarah, Sarah, and Vani.

N.B.: To help protect your privacy, I don’t use Youtube as a video host. Youtube is known for stealing your data, including tracking every movement of your cursor while you are on their site. I do not want to direct children to a website that steals their data! All videos are hosted on Vimeo.com, which provides somewhat more privacy (mostly because I pay a couple of hundred dollars a year to host my videos there).


Below are links to 50+ videos, in the following categories:

  • Religions and Myths
    • Back in Time to the Year 29 A.D. (early Christianity)
    • Jataka Tales (Buddhist stories)
    • Prometheus (ancient Greek myth)
    • Akhenaten (the first monotheist)
    • December stories (birth of Buddha, Judah Maccabbee)
    • The Old Story of Palm Sunday and Easter
    • Tales from the Ramayana (Sabala the Cow, The Pool of Enchantment)
  • Justice and Social Action
    • Ecojustice Avenger
    • Possum Learns about Protest
  • Unitarian Universalist Identity
    • Stuffed Animal Sleepovers
    • Contestants on a Game Show
    • Springtime Stories (May Day and Flower Communion)
    • Thanksgiving with Family
    • UU Christmas
    • The Pledge Drive
  • Spiritual Practices
    • Possum Feels Stressed
    • Possum Still Feels Stressed

Religions and Myths

Back in Time to the Year 29 C.E.

In the year 29 CE, some people in the land of Judea (hm, they look a lot like the UUCPA Gang) hear about a rabbi named Jesus…. [2020]

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Jataka Tales

The stuffies act out some Jataka Tales, stories that are supposed to be about the earlier lives of the Buddha. [2020-2021]

The Monkey and the Crocodile
The Elephant and the Dog
The Stupid Crocodile
The Turtle and the Geese
The Timid Rabbit
The Queen and the Huge Hound

Prometheus

The UUCPA Gang goes back in time to find out what happened to Prometheus. [2020]

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Akhenaten

The UUCPA Gang goes back in time to ancient Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs. What’s up with this Akhenaten fellow? [2020]

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

December stories

The UUCPA Gang goes back in time to see the miraculous birth of the Buddha, and then they go back in time to meet Judah Maccabbee. [2020]

Miraculous Birth of Buddha
The Story of Judah Maccabbee

The Old Story of Palm Sunday and Easter

Possum, Rolf, and Nicky want to hear about Palm Sunday and Easter. And even though Dr. Sharpie and Muds are kind of tired of those old stories, they listen, too. [2021]

The Old Story of Palm Sunday (2021)
The Old Story of Easter (2021)

This year, Possum decides to tell the old story of Easter. (Pretty much the same as the 2021 Easter story video, except it’s all stuffies and puppets, and there’s no mention of any specific congregation.) [2022]

The Easter story as told by Possum (2022)

Tales from the Ramayana

Rolf wants to hear stories from the Ramayana. So he and his friends decide to act out some Ramayana stories. [2021]

Sabala the Cow, part 1
Sabala the Cow, part 2

The Pool of Enchantment, part 1
The Pool of Enchantment, part 2


Justice and social action

Ecojustice Avenger

Oh, no! Trashman is throwing trash around again. The UUCPA Gang ask: Where, oh, where is Ecojustice Avenger?! [2020]

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Possum Learns about Protest

Dr. Sharpie has built a time machine, so the stuffies get to see the history of protest. (Thanks to Torin Fu for the idea.) [2021]

Part 1: the Civil Rights Movement
Part 2: Battle of Lexington, 1775
Part 3: the Occupy movement
Part 4: protest at home


UU Identity

Stuffed Animal Sleepover

Videos about Stuffed Animal Sleepovers at UUCPA. [2020, 2021]

2020 Sleepover — Introduction
2020 Sleepover — Memories

2021 Sleepover

Contestants on a Game Show

The UUCPA Gang comes up with a plan to raise money for the congregation — they’ll go on game shows! It’s a great idea, until things get weird. [2020]

Part one: “Lethargy”
Part two: “You Bet Your Life”
Part three: “Celebrity Family Food”
Part four: A Parallel Universe?

Thanksgiving with Family

Muds and Possum have to go visit relatives for Thanksgiving. Possum is worried about what might happen…. [2021]

Part one
Part two
Part three

Springtime Stories

The UUCPA Gang welcome springtime with dances, and the stuffies hear the Flower Communion story. [2021]

Dances for May Day
The Story of the Flower Communion

UU Christmas

Possum asks Dr. Sharpie about the meaning of Christmas. Then Possum asks some of his other housemates. Muds finally helps him find the meaning of Christmas. [2021]

The Meaning of Christmas?

The Pledge Drive

Rolf and Possum want to donate to their congregation’s pledge drive. Problem is, they don’t have any money. Then Rolf comes up with an idea…. [2022]

Possum and Rolf and the Pledge Drive


Spiritual Practices

Possum Feels Stressed

Possum and the stuffies are feeling stressed out by life, so Dr. Sharpie shows them some spiritual practices that might help. [2020]

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Possum Still Feels Stressed

Possum has been following his chosen spiritual practice, but he’s still feeling stressed out. Sharpie offers some ideas. [2020]

Part one
Part two
Part three

The Last Video

Now that the pandemic is endemic, it’s time to dismantle the puppet video studio so it can go back to being a child care room. But before the studio is taken down, there was time for one last video. Nearly all the stuffies make at least a cameo appearance in this video (except Booby who had to work, Hedgie who was presenting a paper at a scholarly colloquium on gender studies, and Castor who was protesting at a dam site). [2022]

Time To Play


Meet the Stuffies

Meet the puppets and animals who act in many of UUCPA’s video stories-for-all-ages.

Sharpie

Dr. Sharpie Ann Harper has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from CalTech, and a Ph.D. in physics from M.I.T. She currently works at CERN, where her research focuses on mathematical models for subatomic particles. She is active among a group of female scientists and engineers at CERN who organize around issues of gender equity; Sharpie brings an intersectional perspective to the group, since she is both non-human and was born in Korea, not Europe. In her spare time, she enjoys cosplay, with a particular emphasis on royal costumes. She also likes tinkering with her time machine, and participating in the wider Chronos-Maker community.

Stuffie info: Mid-80s stuffed animal from Remco.


Possum

Possum enjoys carousing at night and rummaging through compost piles. His big fears are owls and coyotes. He can be a messy eater. He wants to remind everyone that his name is Possum, no last name or any foolishness like that. When he was asked, “Isn’t every opossum named ‘Possum’ ?” he replied, “Yes, it’s so much easier that way.”

Puppet info: Mid-1980s Country Critters puppet, made in the U.S.


Mr. Bear

Mr. Bear has been happily unmarried to Ms. Bear for a quarter of a century. He is committed to sharing equally in both chores and joys with his life partner. He enjoys salmon fishing, blueberrying, and lying in the sun. He is both wise and goofy, so the other animals enjoy going to him for advice (though if they need really serious advice, they will probably go to Ms. Bear).

Puppet info: Early 1990s Folkmanis puppet, when they were still made in the U.S. 


Ms. Bear

Ms. Bear has been happily unmarried to Mr. Bear for a quarter of a century. As a feminist, she didn’t want to change her name to her partner’s name, so she is still know as Ms. Bear. She enjoys blueberrying, lying in the sun, and salmon fishing. She is both wise and kind, so the other animals enjoy going to her for advice (though if they need light-hearted advice, they will probably go to Mr. Bear).

Puppet info: Early 1990s Folkmanis puppet, when they were still made in the U.S. 


Rolf

Born on a farm in the Swiss Alps, Rolf St. Bernadito says he was trained as a rescue dog, but then decided to join a human family in the U.S. Rolf is in training as a competitive napper, and often takes 8-10 naps in a day to stay in training. He also works part-time as a personal assistant to a freelance author. He and Sharpie share living quarters in “The Clubhouse,” and Rolf is particularly fond of joining Sharpie in their sauna.

Puppet info: 1997 Folkmanis puppet.


Packie Rat is a Dusky-footed Woodrat. She enjoys walks in the woods, and has a day job as an office manager. Her motto is “Take it easy.” She is in recovery from stealing shiny things, and regularly attends Packrats Anonymous (PA) meetings. She volunteers as a PA sponsor, and would be happy to talk with any packrat who is trying to fight their addiction.

Puppet info: Recent Folkmanis puppet.


Nicky S. Rabbit emigrated to the U.S. from Scotland. While in Scotland, she had a career working in second-hand bookstores, but since she has moved to the U.S., she has been doing office work for a small environmental nonprofit. She says her job doesn’t pay much, but she’s happy knowing that she is helping to change the world. (Update: Nicky has gone back to working in a used bookstore!)

Puppet info: Puppet Co. puppet, purchased from Jill Purves of Scottish Puppets.


Hedgie

Galahad Threepwood Hedgington “Hedgie” Hedgehog was born in the English countryside, into a lower middle class family who had lived in the same place for uncountable generations. But Hedgie dreamed of bigger things, and wanted to leave the countryside. So he went to school (which is unusual for hedgehogs). Then he won a scholarship to the London School of Economics, where he earned a graduate degree in gender studies. He now works as an independent scholar. He gives talks and writes articles about gender fluidity, the dangers of hypermasculinity, and related topics. He is also working on writing his memoirs.

Puppet info: A handmade puppet from England, c. 1990s. Not sure how he came to the U.S.


Castor

Castor Beaver grew up outside Boston, Massachusetts. He is a rabid Red Sox fan, and whenever there’s a game on, you’ll find him parked in front of his laptop rooting for the Red Sox. He belongs to several organizations that want to remove human-made dams from California rivers and streams. Castor says removing dams will help salmon, and other plants and animals. He believes that only beavers should be allowed to build dams.

Puppet info: Handmade puppet from a Boston area craftsperson.


Birago

Birago Lion is proud of the fact that he’s from a long line of griots, or storytellers, from Nigeria. (His parents named him in honor of the great Nigerian poet Birago Diop.) However, as a young lion cub, Birago showed no talent for storytelling. Instead he spent all his time writing computer code. So he emigrated to Silicon Valley, where he has worked for several innovative start-ups. Although he often works 12 hour days, he is also writing a book on new applications for LISP. Birago also enjoys amateur theatricals.

Puppet info: Mid-1980s Gund puppet.


Muds

Muds Turkle lived in small-town America for most of their life, but recently moved to the Bay Area. They are working as a lab assistant for a Stanford researcher who is studying the creatures who live in the mud of San Francisco Bay, a job they feel they are especially well-qualified for. Muds’s hobby is doing oral history, especially recording the stories of the older generation of transgender turtles who live in the Bay area.

Puppet info: Recent Folkmanis puppet.


Booby

Booby the Blue-Footed Booby comes from South America, where she was a pilot for a small regional airline. Worried about how air travel is making global climate change worse, she decided to move to the U.S. and start a new career as a life coach. She currently has clients around the Pacific Rim, whom she meets with via videoconferencing software (no more air travel for Booby!), and she’s a member of the Asian Pacific Alliance of Coaches (APAC). She is not accepting new clients at this time, but will put you on a waiting list.

Stuffie info: Handmade on the Galapagos Islands. Not sure how she got to the U.S.


Edgar

Edgar Raven grew up near Philadelphia, but even as a nestling he knew he wanted to come to the San Francisco area. He studied art at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, and now is a member of the Eco-Maker Space in Alameda. He specializes in earthwork sculpture (like Andy Goldsworthy). He thanks his grandparents for leaving him a trust fund which allows him to pursue his art career.

Puppet info: Recent Folkmanis puppet.


Nanas

Nanas grew up in Assam, India. As a young monkey, she got to know the Unitarians of the Khasi Hills, so when she emigrated to the U.S. she found a Unitarian Universalist congregation to join. That’s how she wound up living with Sharpie, Rolf, Possum, and the rest of the gang. During the pandemic, Nanas started doing yoga. But her real passion is eating bananas. Her best friend is Elephant.

Puppet info: Recent Folkmanis puppet.


Elephant

Elephant grew up in a zoo in the U.S. When he was middle-aged, he began attending a Unitarian Universalist church in Massachusetts, where his friends in the congregation helped him leave the zoo life and become an independent elephant. He met Sharpie while both of them were acting in a community theatre production. Sharpie invited him to move in to their group house, where he quickly became best friends with Nanas.

Stuffie info: 1990s vintage Nanco stuffed animal.


Al

Albert Edwin “Al E. Gator” Gator grew up in the Everglades in Florida. Al became a vegetarian because he’s worried about global climate change and sea level rise, which threatens the Everglades. He’s also concerned about toxic pollution in the water, including plastics of course, but especially PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) which threaten animals everywhere. 

Puppet info: Recent Folkmanis puppet.


Belinda

Belinda Sheep has been a farmworker all her life. Cesar Chavez is one of her heroes, and she has helped other farm sheep organize for better working conditions. She currently works on a small cooperative wool farm with several other sheep. Now that her own children have grown up, she volunteers with after-school programs for lambs and other young animals. 

Stuffie info: We don’t know where Belinda came from, but she looks hand-made.


Behind the scenes

When we’re filming, the puppeteers mostly watch the action on the computer screen. Sometimes looking at the screen is disorienting and we have to look up at the puppets. We tape the script to the back of the puppet stage at our eye level. Puppets who are not in the current scene lie on the table next to us (you can see Possum in the lower left corner of the photo.)


This is what the camera sees when the zoom is set to the widest angle:


A wider view, from behind the camera. We sometimes have up to seven lights aimed at the stage. Props are laid out on the table to the left of the puppet stage. When not needed in the current scene, the puppets stay in cloth bags, and you can see Rolf’s head poking out of the dark blue bag in the lower right corner of the photo.