Having read the script, I discussed ideas with the director, producers and creative director to get a feel for the creature and it’s environment. The starting point for me was based on a design of Mee-Shee’s head, created by Jamie Courtier some years earlier.
Director John Henderson referred to the characterful face of Walter Matthau and Producer Barry Authors felt that the creature should have friendly folds like that of a Sharpei puppy. For general reference I gathered imagery of dinosaurs and large sea mammals, focussing on the Plesiosaur, whales, manatees and elephant seals, which are quite ugly but beautiful at the same time. This creature would have existed for a very long time with the ability to swim to great depths.
It was a pretty fast turnaround in terms of design, I moved quickly from sketching ideas in Painter on computer to sculpting a clay maquette and I probably spent most time on the maquette sculpt to resolve the look of Mee-Shee. From there we sculpted the huge 40ft long section of Mee-shi for Animatronic effects. The project fell into financial difficulties and was put on hold and during that time such leaps were made in water effects in CGI that it was decided that all the full body effects would be better achieved this way. So eventually – years down the line we used only the full sized head and neck for a few animatronic in camera shots. The original maquette was scanned and used to build Mee-Shi for CGI animation.
Jim Henson’s Creature Shop – Directed by John Henderson, Produced by Barry Authors
Creature Design, Sculpt