Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Shang-Chi: Real and Mythological Sources of Inspiration for Ta Lo Beings.

The first solo Marvel feature-length movie about the Asian American superhero, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, arriving in Disney + on Friday, features an origin story that introduces many new characters as well as a whole new realm.

Shang-Chi (Shimu Liu), through her mother, can trace her origins back to Ta Lo, a magical village located in the interdimensional plane. And after a dramatic family reunion, Shang-Chi must travel to Ta Luo with his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) and best friend Katie (Aquafina) to stop his delusional father Wenwu (Tony Leung), an immortal crime boss.

They are assisted in reaching Ta Lo by Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley), an actor imprisoned in Ten Rings, and Morris, a curiously adorable creature with wings but no face.

“Morris is a key character in the film — a six-legged, headless, faceless, winged, furry creature,” said Christopher Townsend, visual effects supervisor at Shang Chi. “He is based on Hongdong, a mythological character in Chinese folklore who is sometimes considered the god of chaos.”

It turns out that Ta Luo is filled with various mystical creatures based on those found in Chinese folklore.

Besides Morris and his fellow Hongdong, Ta Luo is home to “horse-like characters based on Qilin … nine-tailed foxes based on a character named Huli Jing … phoenixes, as well as a couple of huge Fu dogs based on – the creatures you saw guarding the gate, ”Townsend said. “The creatures inhabit a somewhat fantasy world, and therefore we wanted these creatures to display an element of fantasy. And we really wanted to draw on Chinese mythology and approach things in terms of their design, based on specific characters as closely as possible. “

Townsend explained that there is “a lot of work” going into the development of these creatures, even if they only saw a few frames in the film.

“When you’re dealing with the fantastic, it’s always difficult to try to imagine these things as real,” Townsend said. “So you have to try to reflect reality as much as possible and build on it, so that there are enough familiarity there for the audience to buy it a little easier.”


furry winged creature holding

Morris in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

(Marvel Studios)

As Shang-Chi, Kathy, and Xialing take Vienna into the territory, they stumble upon Slattery, the actor who is being held captive for posing as the leader of the Ten Rings, and his companion Morris, a Ta Lo creature inspired by Hongdong.

Townsend explained that when he saw the reference to “a faceless character named Morris” in an early draft of the script, he couldn’t help but wonder how they were going to pull it off.

“One of the problems in terms of trying [make a creature] emotion and the creation of any characteristic is face and eyes, ”Townsend said. But “the problem we had was that we couldn’t use it at all, so we had to find ways for this character to show emotion.”

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One of the particular challenges for Morris is that he gets into a more mundane world outside Ta Lo and interacts with other characters such as Slattery and Katy. To make him a character that viewers could believe in reality, the Shang-Chi team tried to refer to real animals as much as possible.

Among the animals they study are ostriches, cassowaries and wombats.

“Morris is actually a six-legged, headless version of the wombat,” Townsend said.

But the most important thing in bringing Morris to life was to figure out his character and emotions, as well as how he walks and moves. This involved numerous animation tests so that animators could learn how he “lives, breathes and reacts to understand everything about him.”

“We studied many different animals and their behavior, especially dogs and puppies,” said Townsend of the Morris movement. (If you found Morris cute, that’s probably why!)

Great defender

warrior riding a big dragon

The great protector of Ta Lo in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

(Marvel Studios)

As Shang-Chi’s Aunt Ying Nan explained, when Ta Lo was attacked thousands of years ago by a giant, soul-devouring beast, a dragon named Great Protector saved the village.

“The great defender was based a lot on the Chinese style. [dragon]Townsend said. “She had no wings. She has a loose mane, and she floats gently through the air. … It was interesting to try to figure out how to move and fly without feeling too magical. “

According to Townsend, one of the biggest challenges in creating a believably realistic dragon is that because this is a dragon, the audience innately understands that this creature cannot be real. This means that you need to rely on elements that actually exist for both her gaze and her movements.

To help understand how the Great Protector might have moved, the team studied sea snakes and eels. The horse’s manes and reptile scales are among other details that helped shape its overall design.

Another problem was its size.

“One way to portray scale is to slow it down,” Townsend explained. The logic is “when you are working on the design of any creature, [is] that if you make it slower, it gets bigger. “

But the Shang-Chi team wanted to avoid making the Grand Protector look awkward and slow, as she needed to be more graceful in her movements.

“We tried to find a very fine line between fast enough, elegant enough and dangerous enough because she is a Great Defender, but still maintain that sense of massive scale,” Townsend said.

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car in the field surrounded by equestrian creatures with shiny scales

Shang-Chi and his friends meet the Qilin herd at Ta Lo in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

(Marvel Studios)

When Shang-Chi and friends finally make their way to Ta Lo, they are greeted by a herd of creatures that Slattery describes as “a strange horse.[s]… “

Inspired by the Qilin of Chinese folklore, Townsend describes these creatures as “iridescent horse-like reptile-skinned characters with dragon heads and hooves.”

The closest real-life analogue that the team could look at were the horses they studied for locomotion. They also looked at animals such as parrotfish and various snakes to learn about Qilin’s scales and iris.

“Initially, we had Qilins really bright, bright and beautiful, but they stood out in such a weird way,” Townsend said. “Then we made different looks [development] tests of different skin colors [and] be it fluffy or hairy, multi-colored manes and different tails … to see how far you can go [the color] where you could still believe that these things could exist in this world instead of being too cartoonish. “

Fu Dogs

two large lions surround a small furry winged creature

Guardian Lions and Hongdong in Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

(Marvel Studios)

Perhaps a couple of Ta Lo’s most familiar creatures are Guardian Lions, also known as Fu Dogs or Stone Lions. These creatures are based on stylized stone statues that usually guard gates or entrances to buildings.

Although they only appear in a few scenes, Townsend explained that they originally thought these creatures “would be present in a much larger portion of the film.”

“Fu dogs always come in pairs,” Townsend said. “There is one man and the other is a woman, traditionally in Chinese mythology. They also tend to do opposite things. When one exhales, the other inhales. This is yin and yang. “

These were the elements that the Shang-Chi team tried to incorporate into the film.

“It’s very, very subtle, but there are things,” Townsend said. “There is a lighter and a darker in the film, and they compensate each other very slightly. When one growls, the other is motionless, and vice versa. These are the subtleties we tried to put into the film. “

Huli Jing

nine-tailed foxes on a boulder in a grassy field

Nine-tailed foxes based on the Huli Jing from Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

(Marvel Studios)

The creature that has led some viewers to believe that Shang Chi may have a Pokemon is the nine-tailed fox, inspired by the Huli Jing of Chinese mythology. (A Pokémon character named Ninetales is inspired by similar creatures from Japanese folklore.)

“We actually had a few more moments with the nine-tailed foxes, which were unfortunately cut out when we tried to continue the story,” Townsend said.

Townsend explained that even characters that can only be seen briefly, such as these foxes, require a lot of work to bring them to life.

“There is one particular shot where the bad guys appear, Vienna and his army. [to Ta Lo]”The scattered Qilin and the nine-tailed foxes are hiding on the rock to the left,” Townsend said. “It’s just a random moment, but attention to detail is a lot of fun when you can go back and watch. It takes almost as much effort to bring these characters to life as it does to the hero. It’s beautiful “.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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