Return of the Skeksis
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Skeksis. If you grew up after 1982, you probably know the name. They're the main villains of the classic film The Dark Crystal. Part bird, part reptile, part dragon, these magnificent creatures brought together the team that would eventually become Jim Henson's Creature Shop.
It's week two, and nine of our contestants were still in contention for the job with the Creature Shop. The creature brief for this week: each team got to create their own Skeksis. These Skeksis were creatures banished from the castle to three distant environments, and have now been called back to the castle. How have they changed since they've been away? It was up to our designers to hash out the details through their creations.
The teams only got three days to pull off months of work, but they were working in teams of three to hopefully maximize their time. But this go round, each team member would also be working to operate the creature along with the puppeteer.
Our first team was Robert, Melissa, and Josh. Their environment: A decaying forest.
Team two was Ivonne, Russ, and Tina. Their environment: An arid desert.
Team three was Ben, Lex, and Jake. Their environment: A frozen wasteland.
Our master this week was Julie Zobel, an extremely talented Fabrication Supervisor with the Creature Shop with far too many credits to list here. She was also one of the team who restored the original Skeksis from the movie.
As the teams tore into their assignments, we saw Russ and Tina who were determined to prove they were competent professionals take their tasks very seriously. Last week's winner, Josh, was wondering where to find the aluminum foil.
Robert felt as though he was finally in his element with the sculpting. Melissa realized that with two performers inside the creature, there was going to be a lot of adjustment that needed to be made to account for the extra body heat inside the suit. She began working on ways to dissipate the heat without sacrificing the shape of the creature.
Ivonne was immediately concerned about Tina. Tina admittedly was having difficulty sticking with just one task. In addition to the challenges of the build, Russ and Ivonne were going to be challenged with keeping Tina focused. Ivonne became the de facto team leader, and that seemed to help keep Russ and Tina's personality conflict from happening again.
When master Julie Zobel visited on day 2, she was impressed with the ambition in the projects, but gave the teams some excellent advice to keep them in-check.
Tina, unfortunately, was having too much trouble with the animatronics. With Ivonne's blessing, Russ stepped up and took over that task to make sure they were going to finish.
When day 3 arrived, and Julie Zobel made rounds again, she was concerned with Tina, Russ, and Ivonne's team's progress. She also cautioned Melissa, Josh, and Robert on making sure they kept a higher contrast in their creature for the camera. Still the teams pressed on and finished their creatures.
At the rehearsals with the professional puppeteer, Jake, Ben, and Lex faced a problem they never considered. The puppeteer was unable to hold her arm up with the head on it for the amount of time they might need it to be held up. There was a very real risk of the head of their creature falling off during the screen test.
When screen test time comes, the designers were faced with a set full of the original props from the movie The Dark Crystal, including the original crystal itself. Melissa couldn't help but geek out.
When the screen tests were done and it was time to tell the stories of their creatures and get critiques, Robert, Josh, and Melissa were first on the block. Josh's Skeksis hands were considered of excellent proportion, and Melissa's work on lightening the load of the creature itself was something Brian Henson considered truly noteworthy.
Russ, Tina, and Ivonne were next up. While Tina's hands were considered nicely spindly, Brian had a problem with how clean the creature looked for just coming off of the desert. They asked for a demonstration of the eye functionality, but the servos hadn't been working, and that moment gave it up to the judges.
Jake, Ben, and Lex faced critique next. While they loved the costuming for the frozen wasteland, Brian had an issue with the design of the head, specifically the placement of the eyes. It wasn't a natural design, as he didn't believe the creature could see where he was going. The eyes were too far off to the side.
In the final tally, Robert, Josh, and Melissa's Skeksis took the day. They were deemed to have had the most coherent design, and it was generally most impressive. The winning creature designer for the week was Robert.
Russ, Ivonne, and Tina's creature was deemed the least impressive Skeksis. Unfortunately, Tina was also sent home this week. She went home to the projects she had set aside for the competition, and we look forward to seeing these projects from Tina in the future!