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The scrap heap. We're not talking a sentient pile of compost from Fraggle Rock (for those wracking their brains, that was Marjorie the Trash Heap), but the pile of old parts, electronics, computers, and junk at Apex Electronics.
This week's creature brief took its inspiration from the Apex Electronics scrap yard. The contestants were to envision a creature that had been disguising itself in scrap heap materials for so long, it was now part creature, part scrap. The creature only came out from the scrap piles to hunt for food. It was captured, is now desperate to escape. The trick? No puppeteer would be allowed inside the cage. The other trick? They only had two days to build the creature.
To illustrate the value of repurposing something that might be considered scrap, Brian told the story of the original Kermit the Frog puppet, which was made from one of his grandmother's old coats. That puppet, now sitting in the Smithsonian, is worth a considerable amount more than an old coat.
Our contestants were broken into teams of two: Ben and Ivonne, Jake and Russ, Lex and Josh in a reunion, and Melissa and Robert.
Our master mentor this week was none other than John Criswell, the mechanization supervisor for the Jim Henson Creature Shop. John's credits include the TV series Dinosaurs, where there were 18 different fully animatronic dinosaurs. John also worked on the animatronic tiger from The Hangover.
Each team was given $500 to buy their scrap, and then let loose in the scrap yard.
Where Melissa and Robert were adjusting a design as they found objects, Russ and Jake were designing before they went junk shopping.
Ben and Ivonne were hungry for winning this challenge. Ben took the note of Brian's notes about the creature's movement, and their design incorporated that very concept.
Lex and Josh decided to approach the creature in much the same way they did in week one, but reverse their roles. Lex sculpted the creature's head this time, while Josh worked on fabricating the rat body for their creature.
The cages were there when they arrived back at the shop, and it caused Ben and Ivonne to re-evaluate their creature. The cages were much bigger than they expected. As they'd settled on a smaller creature, they decided to expand it to include a mechbot.
Melissa was psyched to see the mechanical arm that they would be attaching their creature to for operation. Her skills at making creatures lightweight would be of tremendous use in keeping the puppeteering easy. Robert, however, was at home painting the eyes for their escaped monkey from a science lab hiding in the junkyard.
Russ was not enthused with the mechanical portion of the body that he was fabricating, and they ended up not using some of the pieces he had made on the first day. Jake was trying not to feel the stress, but with Russ, that's no easy task.
Josh on the other hand was starting to feel the burn. He felt like a zombie on day two. His thoughts were very much on his fiancée and two children back home.
It was stressful all the way to the end, but finally, they got to the screen test. For Russ and Jake, it was a matter of finally getting their creature into the cage and making it work.
Ben and Ivonne introduced us to their creature, "Swarf" first, and the judges seemed to love it.
Jake and Russ introduced us to ZZ867, but while the judges liked the story, they weren't convinced that the story was coming through the creature. Their biggest problem was that the creature roared several times during the screen test, but the creature had no mouth.
Josh and Lex's H2735, a.k.a. "Hungry Horace" stopped the judges at the knees and tail. They loved the body, but the work didn't quite make it to the legs.
Robert and Melissa introduced us to "Pickles", and while the judges liked the gorilla, there wasn't quite enough junk. Brian did find "Pickles" to be impactful, but it couldn't quite stop moving for long enough to just be considered junk in the junkyard.
Ultimately, Ben and Ivonne were deemed the winning team. The judges believed that they attacked the concept spot-on, and they were impressed with Ben's animation of the head and arms. Ben took the prize for the best creature designer this week.
When we reached the elimination moment, though, a spanner was thrown into the works. Russ and Jake's ZZ867 was deemed the least effective creature this week. However, before either of them could be eliminated, Josh stepped forward and bowed out of the competition. He cited his family and how he didn't want to cause such trauma to them, by uprooting their lives, even for a massive opportunity. Russ and Jake were saved this week, but they need to up their game next week.
Brian was sorry to see Josh go, and so are we. We wish Josh the absolute best of luck!