Shang-Chi: Dragon, Beast and Demons

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One person practically managed all of his sculpture. According to Walker, the band decided the best way to approach their platform was to use individual ladders so that they moved and passed over each other. So the person placed all of the scales – all 8,000 – by hand to match their sculpture. Otherwise, her model contained a reasonably simple muscle platform for her skin and muscles to flex the right way as she moved.

For her hair, which is fully dynamic, the artists also studied the fluid movement of hair underwater, even when she is in the air. “We didn’t want it to collapse. We wanted it to flow consistently and feel like it had a bit of a magical quality to it,” adds Walker.

“The dragon has undergone some revisions. We wanted to find the right mass balance. Also, she had to be beautiful but rather terrifying, although kind when looking at Shang-Chi and her family – but still strong,” Walker describes. In fact, Weta forged a familiar bond between the dragon and Shang-Chi and her sister by basing the creature’s eyes on those of the actress playing their mother.

The dragon is 130 meters long, and even though it is “ginormous”, it is majestic and moves gracefully through the air using a swimming motion, Weta referring to the movement of sea serpents and underwater iguanas . Weta created its spline rig using Koru, its proprietary puppet editing tool. Because she is wingless, the dragon leads with her head as she moves, with the party applying animation based on the path, but every once in a while they interrupt that path at the body (the head still following the way) to give the impression that she was pushing herself through the air.



At the other end of the scale was the Dweller-in-Darkness, which is creepy and terrifying, thanks to its massive jaws and large tongue which it uses to locate its prey. It is even larger than the dragon at 250 meters when it extends its nine tentacles (plus its four arms and two legs). For reference, Bats were the obvious choice. Weta also referenced obsidian, a black rock, for its sharp teeth, and the thick skins of rhinos, elephants, and crocodiles for general skin quality. They even used raw meat for the skin and gums surrounding the beast’s teeth. “We wanted a sore, worn skin quality,” says Walker.

“While with the Grand Protector, the artists had certain limitations in the design; for example, she had to be beautiful. Whereas with the Dweller, we could go to town and we were told to make it as scary and weird as possible. There were very few limits,” recalls Walker. At 128 million polygons, Walker believes this is the heaviest creature Weta has ever made.

The Dweller contains a simple muscular platform for the arms, legs and torso, but its wings and the membrane between the wings are fully dynamic, as are the neck and scales which slide over each other to protect the neck . A dynamic platform was also used to allow the neck to expand and engorge as the beast sucked the souls of its prey.

“The dragon had a complete skeletal structure, so when its soul was sucked into the beast, you could see its innards as the soul ascended through the body,” Walker explains. “The beast itself has a complete skeletal, muscular and vascular system integrated so that we can represent this visual power through emissive veins. The veins inside were glowing, and while that was happening the rest of the musculature and skeletal system was shadowing it, so you could feel its innards and organs while the rest of the veins were glowing inside. of his body.

Due to its size, the artists used a traditional Maya puppet system and treated each body part as a different “costume”, allowing them to animate the torso for mass movement and then add a costume – for example, the arms – and work them separately. The same goes for the tentacles, although they had to be framed by hand due to their size. “It was literally a beast to animate,” adds Walker.

To create the dragon and the beast, the artists primarily used a mixture of Autodesk’s Mudbox and Maya for modeling; Foundry’s Mari for texturing; and Manuka, Weta’s proprietary tool for shading and rendering. As Walker points out, Manuka is a path maker and designed to handle extreme amounts of polygons, so while both creatures were difficult to model and animate, they weren’t a problem for the renderer.

While the Guardian was massive, Weta also spawned hordes of demons that escaped from the cave, which were similar to the Guardian but on a much smaller scale.

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