Tricks of the Trade: Scrap That Idea

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

Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge Episode 3: Assembly Inspired — The eight remaining designers have to create creatures that are half beast and half electronics discards.
This week’s Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge splits the eight contestants into four pairs building creatures out of scraps from an electronics scrap yard. After $500 and 90 minutes in the scrap heap, the teams set to work on their designs. The creatures—part organic and mostly part scraps—are supposed to be captured animals in a cage fighting to break free. Each pair will have three additional operators, but no one is allowed to be in the cage with the creature during the screen test. Oh, and they have only two days to put this thing together.

Here are some tricks to remember if you find yourself in a similar situation:

“It’s not the size of the budget, but the quality of the idea.”

Did you know the original Kermit the Frog was fabricated from pieces of an old coat? That’s part of the theory behind this week’s challenge. The creature designers still have access to the fundamental elements for fabrication, but the bulk of the visual component should come from the scrap yard. Ben and Ivonne take this idea and run with it, creating a creature-within-a-creature. The smaller creature was designed to move as if it were controlling the larger creature. The end product was probably about 90-95% scraps.


Since no one was allowed to be in the cage during the screen test, some of the creature movement involved the use of poles in a parallelogram framework. Melissa and Robert’s creature demonstrated this best, with the main body functioning on one beam and the head functioning on a separate beam. The beams moved like teeter-totters, so someone could move a significant portion of the creature with just two hands.

“Hot glue, zip-ties, and a lot of hope.”

At the end of the two day building period, Lex and Josh were the only team to have their creature inside the cage. That meant the other teams had to use some (or in the case of Jake and Russ, all) of their rehearsal time getting the creatures into the setup. The time crunch meant that teams had to be extra cautious because they did not want any of the components to fall off, as there was not much holding the electronics onto fur bodies. I have a feeling I am going to be a lot less sympathetic toward designers on Project Runway who cry because their garment is taking forever.

Movement is the top criterion.

Ben remarks early in the episode that the judges usually make notes about movement in all of their critiques. The other three teams did in fact get dinged for movement issues in their designs. Jake and Russ created an amorphous beast whose main movement was its eye on top of the body. There was a separate fake head that sort of moved, but it didn’t have a mouth (despite the creature’s bellowing roar). Josh and Lex did a great job in creating a wolf/rat cyber hybrid, but its tail and legs didn’t move as much as the torso and head did. Robert and Melissa’s creature “Pickles”—which looked a lot like Spark Mandrill—moved up and down as it howled in its cage, but there was no left/right movement at all. Ben and Ivonne’s creature had plenty of movement and imagination, earning the win. Ben took home solo honors this week.

This is still a job interview.

Russ and Jake’s creature was the least successful of the bunch. Before the team could get called to the carpet, Josh had an announcement to make. He decided to withdraw from the competition because he would not be able to take the job if he won. Everyone is disappointed to see him go, particularly Brian Henson, but good on Josh for not depriving others the chance at this awesome opportunity.

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About Mike McComb 970 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: