Tricks of the Trade: Head of the Class

Donald Faison goes head-to-head with Jake's creature.
Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge (Photo: SyFy)

Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge Episode 4: Heads Up — The creature designers have to create mounted heads for Donald Faison’s wizard to heckle. There may be some making out.

This week the seven creature designers work solo (thanks prime numbers!) to create monsters that were slain by a wizard and are now mounted as trophies on a wall. The creatures will reanimate and talk about life after mounting, including some chit chat about how they got to where they are today. Hehe. The mounts have to function as hand puppets, but also incorporate some mechanization.

What tricks of the trade did we pick up from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge?

Consider your base.

The creature designers had about a dozen or so busts of animal mounts to choose from as the base for their creature. Russ, who has been on the bottom team each week of the competition, decided to “go big or go home” and picked the biggest head available. Since mechanisms need to be part of the design, he has a larger area with which to work. Ivonne, on the other hand, chose a badger head and had to blow out her design during her construction. This forced her to reconfigure her design completely and deliver an unfinished product at the end.

My Eyes Are up Here.

Knowing how to construct servos for the eye mechanisms is only half the battle. Ben, who is probably the one to beat, had no problem constructing his eyes. However, during his consultation with the construction expert, the issue of eye focus and naturalness came up. Ben’s creature Sherman Oaks was supposed to have the wandering eyes of an older person. While this feature was spot on, the placement in a stump portion of the face seemed too unnatural for the creature. I love that these considerations have to be part of the creation process.

Sculpt, Story, and Accessories

Following the rehearsals, all seven creatures were on display at once in the screen test. Donald Faison (ScrubsThe Exes) played the wizard interacting with the beasts as they shared their tales of woe. The performers were given some talking points for the backstory, but also ad libbed with Faison, including making out with the minotaur created by Russ and a discussion about responsible “oregano” use with Robert’s camel/hippie concoction. Ben and Robert received high praise for their creatures, as did Jake, though he needs to make sure horns on creatures stay rigid. Ben won the challenge.

Russ and Lex finished in the middle of the pack. Though the judges liked Lex’s creature sculpt, the eyes had too much of a Muppet quality and made it seem less real. Considering the mouth was the only part of her creature that moved, I was surprised she was considered safe. Russ over-accessorized his minotaur. Also, as a head of a minotaur, Russ basically created a bull rather than a new creature. Still, it was a vast improvement over previous weeks.

Melissa and Ivonne were called to the carpet for their designs. Both women ran out of time and had underwhelming sculpts. While Melissa had a compelling backstory, Ivonne’s creature had bare felt and barely visible eyes. Ivonne was eliminated.

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About Mike McComb 1001 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: