Creature Shop Challenge: Swamp Scrat Love

Robert's creature Mildred on the hunt for swamp scrats.
Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge (Photo: SyFy)

Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge Episode 6: Swamp Things — It’s another solo challenge as the swamp scrat population is endangered by camouflaged creatures.

Creature Brief

The five remaining designers are taken to the screen test studio to look at the swamp scene that will serve as their challenge. Each designer must make a creature that will be camouflaged within the scene, coming to life for lunch when a swamp scrat skitters by their domain. Melissa, who won last week’s challenge, gets to choose her creature’s domain first and selects grass. Ben chooses rock, Jake takes the wooden branch, Robert selects lily pads, leaving Russ with juniper leaves (which he wanted anyway). Brian Henson adds that each creature will need at least one mechanical element as well.

Construction

Day 1 of the construction process deals with drafting and sculpting the creature heads. It looks like Jake and Robert have opted for cyclopses to make for an easier mechanism process. Russ struggles with time management (again), as he is still sculpting with only an hour of work time available. He’s not in full-on panic mode yet, but the bleep button is already getting some heavy use.

Day 2 features more elaborate building following one-on-ones with fabricator Julie Zobel. She tells Jake the concept of his tree creature channels Jim Henson. We’ll call that high praise. Ben’s rock creature will be a turtle with its head hidden. Julie is concerned Ben is missing the “hiding in plain sight” concept, but he sees this as a high risk/high reward opportunity. Russ shows Julie his rudimentary eye mech, which uses wood blocks rather than servos. She appreciates the old-school approach.

Day 3 begins for Melissa the way Day 2 ended: struggling with servos. She’s under a significant time crunch because she needs to complete skull construction, paint, and apply the grass to her creature. More mech talk, more scrambling.

Screen Test

Russ: His creature is a half primate half…something that grabs the swamp scrat and beats it on the ground. Although the action gets a laugh, the lime green coloring on the creature reads more Incredible Hulk than swamp creature. The panel also appreciates the old-school approach.

Robert: It turns out his creature is more of a bi-cyclops than a cyclops. One lily pad is a hat of sorts, with the flower on top opening to reveal an eye. Once the scrat’s spotted, the head rise out of the water and a hand—hidden by the other lily pad—grabs lunch. This may be my favorite creature of the entire series. The panel loves the creativity and the fabrication to make it look wet, but the overall look is a bit cartoonish.

Melissa: Her grass bird goes almost unnoticed within the demonstration. It rises up out of the brush to snag a scrat, but they only way to spot clear definition is through the eyes. In other words, Melissa aces the camouflage criterion. I thought one eye looked a bit wonky, but none of the panelists mention it. Their only critique involved suggesting a different texture or color for the peak to provide some contrast.

Ben: His turtle rock creature sounds like an interesting concept, but there were several issues in execution. First, the rock opens like a DeLorean, which doesn’t seem organic or practical. I thought the face of the creature looked like Baby from Dinosaurs, but judge Kirk thought it looked like Grandma Ethel from the same show. The tongue used to grab the scrat was obviously a hand and way too long.

Jake: This creature started as a nomad but eventually becomes a parasite to a tree’s root system, eventually taking on tree-like characteristics. We see the creature partway through its mutation and its failed attempt to capture the scrat. Interesting story, but almost none of it was conveyed in the action. Though the design had incredible detail, it vaguely checked the boxes of the challenge.

Results

Melissa’s creative use of grass to craft a crest for her bird creature gives her the win. That’s a shame, I thought Robert’s creature had this challenge in the bag. He’s safe, as is Jake, putting Ben and Russ on the spot for elimination. Ben acknowledges he should have listened to Julie’s warnings. Russ, who has been on the spot too many times, gets sent home.

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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