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From Farscape to Five Nights at Freddy's? The Connection Between the SYFY Classic & Horror Hit
The puppetry and animatronics featured in Five Nights as Freddy's represent four decades of innovation by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.
When audiences settle in to watch real-world versions of Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie, Chica, and Foxy wreak havoc on humans in Five Nights as Freddy's, it's important to note that all of those state-of-the-art animatronics can trace a direct line back to Jim Henson. Forty-four years ago, Henson founded Jim Henson's Creature Shop in London as a dedicated collective of puppeteers and technicians working with him to advance the technological potential of animatronics and puppetry in film and television.
At the time, they were focused on R&D for The Dark Crystal (1982). Today, there's a Creature Shop in New York City, and another in Burbank, California where their engineers and puppet makers continue to make creatures and animatronics for projects as varied as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Batman Begins (2005), Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) and now Five Nights as Freddy's.
In the early 2000s, SYFY's Farscape, co-created by Brian Henson, was one of the Creature Shop's incubators for next generation prosthetics and animatronic innovations. In the DNA of creations like Rygel, Pilot and Scorpius from Farscape, audiences should be aware that there's a through line from them to the life-sized versions of Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie, Chica, and Foxy in Five Nights as Freddy's.
How Farscape Paved the Way to Five Nights as Freddy's
Robert Bennett, the Lead Supervisor on Five Nights as Freddy's for Jim Henson's Creature Shop, told SYFY WIRE that their expertise in crafting physical creations augmented with technology is a pursuit that doesn't fundamentally evolve as dramatically as some might expect.
"With the technology that we use, we always try to better whatever the technology is available," he explained. "But what we do, it's not CG. We have to deal with physics so there's just certain limitations. You can only go so far with them. Because of that, we use a lot of traditional techniques, pretty much all of them. And then we might utilize, for example, programming the servos that we use is technology that's upgraded. But the spirit and the soul of what we do, it's still the same."
But it's a vocation that Five Nights as Freddy's director Emma Tammi (The Wind) said blew her away during development and pre-production. "I felt a huge learning opportunity every time I walked into the Creature Shop," she said. "Every part of the process of the design period and the build period and the rehearsal period was so rich and interesting."
She points out the small-scale maquettes that Bennett and his crew initially sculpted to show the design possibilities for Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie, Chica, and Foxy. "Every time I came into the Creature Shop, there was something new to look at, right?" she explained. "I remember seeing them for the first time, and was like, 'Oh, my gosh! They're really gonna be dimensional in 3D, and they're gonna be huge.' Seeing them were the most exciting things since sliced bread for me that day."
Working with the team in the Creature Shop also allowed Tammi access to creative paths she said she never explored before. "Getting to see the process and the techniques that you use, they are not things that you get to see up close and personal very often," she explained. "For me, it was such a huge joy to see every time I came into the shop. It's like, where your imagination gets to run wild, so it's the best place on earth, in my opinion."