Alien Jackals and Mud Demons: Creatures of the Desolate Planet

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In the planet upon which our hero is stranded, there are two main creatures: the alien jackal and razor-tailed mud demons. Scenes involving the creatures were shot in part with live puppets and in part with visual effects. Twohy explains: “In terms of creatures, I followed what I did in Pitch Black, meaning that I would do puppet pieces when the actor had to engage with, touch, pick up, duck, dodge or weave the creature. But for the most part, they’re CG creatures or a combination of the two. I try not to do animatronics anymore with things that are articulated and have eye movements and mouth movements because they ultimately come up short on some level.”

The alien jackal is introduced early in the film when Riddick finds it as a pup and they create a bond as it grows into a beast. Designed by Mokko Studio in Montreal, it was built by Tinsley Studio in Los Angeles. The life-size jackal puppet was made of foam rubber and fiberglass with movement mechanisms inside. Covered in shaved cowhide with neck hair from boar bristles, hackles from porcupine quills and with sharp acrylic teeth, it took three puppeteers to work the beast.

Riddick discovers that the deadly alien creatures on the planet live and thrive in water. Because the planet is mainly dry and barren, they lie dormant under the earth and may only be found in the odd watering hole. That is, until the rainy season comes, and they awake and wreak havoc. In the thriller, Riddick must pass by one of these creatures living in a giant mud hole, a scene that proved to be one of the most challenging for the puppeteers to film. Recalls puppeteer ERIC FIEDLER: “The mudflats were one of the most difficult places we worked in because we were in mud up to our waists for about two weeks. It was sticky and hot and sweaty and bubbly.”

To breathe life into the puppets, Twohy chose to work with one of Canada’s top-notch VFX shops. “Mokko Studio is this great house that was ready to step up and do a significant 3D character animation,” he says. “They proved themselves with the jackal and the other creatures in this movie.”

Production wrapped, Diesel reflects upon his dream for what is arguably the most personal chapter in the epic series that the team began so long ago: “Any artist hopes that he affects people. With this film, I just want audiences to escape for a couple hours.” As for Riddick’s next move? “He just wants to go home and discover his identity. A lot of people that come out of the movie feel like it’s an homage to Pitch Black, and yet, keeps the question alive: Where is Riddick from, and where is he going?”

One thing we do know for certain: It’s time to once again fear the dark.

Text © 2013 Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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