Creature Shop Challenge: Question for the Alien in the Alien

Ben's creature at the alien press conference
Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge (Photo: SyFy)

Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge Episode 7: Alien Press Conference — The final four creature designers have three days to make an alien that’s hiding inside another alien.

Challenge Brief

The final four contestants—Ben, Jake, Melissa, and Robert—have to design intergalactic diplomats who are traveling incognito to an alien press conference. Each diplomat’s disguise: another alien. Yikes. The outer head has to open to reveal the alien hiding inside. It’s a solo challenge and the designers have only three days to make the build. The final product will be judged on the cleverness of the reveal, the fabrication of the outer head, and the sculpting and mechanization of the inner head.

Day 1

The designers had to do the sculpt for their heads so that the off-screen fabricators could make the moulds overnight. We learn from Melissa foam latex is the way to go for puppeteering. The material is easier to work with when dealing with mechanization and other inserts, and the puppeteers are able to get more expressiveness into the creature’s face.

Day 3

Not much happened on Day 2 other than the usual panic about time management. A project of this scope would normally take months to execute, so kudos to the contestants for stepping up to the challenge. Shop master Pete Brooke has the same advice for all the contestants: do you have enough time to do everything you want to do?1

Alien Press Conference Screen Test

Each contestant presents their creature, then immediately speaks to the judges. Joining the panel this week is Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld.

Melissa presents her frail diplomat Basithe first. Her reveal has a bit of a garage door setup, but the inner head looks like its floating. Brian Henson tells her that strapping or constricting the puppeteer’s arm creates the sense that the head is connected to the body, because the limited movement mimics a head attached to a neck attached to a body.

Ben’s creature looks like Zoidberg from Futurama mated with a Thundercat. His reveal had the fake alien’s eyes turn into shoulder pads while the crown rotated 180º on a pulley system. It was pretty awesome. Also awesome: the tendrils on the creature’s mouth were actually the puppeteer’s fingers. The creature’s eyes were a technical marvel as well.

Jake’s creature had some problems. The outer creature had a dark color scheme, making it difficult to spot details. The reveal did not involve a surprise seam like the other creatures, though the inner head was much bigger than anyone would have expected. However, the inner head also had poor coloring, causing details to get lost. Sonnenfeld suggests adding more oil or sheen because, “you can never have enough KY jelly.” Okie dokie.

Robert’s creature’s outer head looked like an upright football, with a vertical mouth and eyes along the sides. The mouth opened like a venus flytrap to reveal a be-monocled creature I think I saw on Prime Minister Question Time once. The detail work was on point, with Brian declaring Reginald camera-ready.

Results

Ben’s elaborate reveal gave him the challenge win. Robert’s incredible detailing and complete execution granted him safety. Melissa’s reveal and her ability to pick up skills (i.e. servos) quickly gave her the third spot in next week’s finale. Jake goes home, but he is proud of the work he has accomplished.

According to Brian, the purpose of this challenge was to see if the contestants could accomplish an impossible task, and all four were successful. However, we didn’t get any time with the puppeteers and there wasn’t much to glean from the building process. The end results on Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge continue to be amazing, but I wish the show could find a way to make the process more engaging.

  1. Spoiler: No.  

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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

  • Aaron Mucciolo

    I believe Barry said “You can never have too much KY jelly on your alien.” See? Nothing weird about that when it’s in context.