Tricks of the Trade: I’m Too Skeksis

Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge (Photo: SyFy)
Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge (Photo: SyFy)

Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge Episode 2: The Return of the Skeksis — The creature designers channel the power of the Dark Crystal while designing the next generation of Skeksis.This week’s Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge splits the nine creature designers into groups of three. Each group is tasked with designing an updated version of the lizard/bird beasts from the movie The Dark Crystal known as Skeksis. Each team is given a harsh environment on which to base the design and three days to make their creature. As an added challenge, the three designers will work with their puppeteer in the execution of the screen test.

Use every part of the buffalo.

This week we get to see a little bit more of the initial design process. The teams each receive an environment type to base their evolved creature design: Arid Desert (Ivonne, Russ, Tina), Decaying Forest (Robert, Melissa, Josh), and Frozen Wasteland (Lex, Jake, Ben). The last group considers how the skeksis would have survived the brutal conditions, such as using every bit of pelt and bone in any creature it killed. Biology and anatomy knowledge seem to be required in this line of work.

I should have played with that Capsela set when I was a kid.

Knowledge of basic robotics also seems to be a pre-requisite on Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge. All three teams incorporated servos in the eyes for the creatures so that they can blink. Unfortunately, Tina struggled with this aspect of the challenge and it showed. Her team’s eyes stopped working during the screen test.

Consider choreography in your design.

One team member operates the servos via remote control. Another team activates some sort of external puppetry, such as Melissa manipulating a hand puppet “chickenbug” running away from the approaching Skeksis. The third team member is under the costume with the puppeteer. That means the creature has to be large enough to accommodate two people. Also, ventilation must be considered. The biggest challenge affected team Frozen Wasteland, as the head of their creature was too heavy for the puppeteer to manipulate along with everything else she had to do in the creature. The team was able to devise a solution within their one-hour consultation prior to presenting.

Sew what?!

The list of required skills so far includes: biologist, robotics technician, choreographer, sculptor, sketch artist, and tailoring. During the consultations, one of the puppeteers asked how long his team had to work on the challenge. He seemed floored by the answer of three days. Considering the original skeksis designs were created over several months, his reaction seems like an understatement.

Team Decaying Forest won the challenge, with Robert’s head design earning him individual accolades. Team Arid Desert, with last week’s bickerers Russ and Tina, was the losing team. Since Tina was in charge of the robotics (and a misguided attempt at adding a peeing creature/water source for the skeksis), she was sent home. That seemed like the right choice.

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv