Production VFX Supervisor Dishes on the Manticore’s Design and the Delicate Swivel from “Secrets of Dumbledore”
After several years of waiting, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore hit theaters last month, and thankfully, it came with new magical creatures. While the qilins took center stage in the movie and our hearts, there was another beast that drove a rather harrowing, yet hilarious scene involving the Scamander brothers. In a recent interview, production visual effects supervisor for the Fantastic Beasts films Christian Manz discussed the collaborative efforts behind the creation of the manticore and the beloved delicate swivel.
Speaking with the visual effects and animation publication befores & afters, Manz broke down the process behind designing the manticore, the terrifying creature used in the German wizarding prison called the Erkstag. Manz explained that, like all the magical creatures seen in the Fantastic Beasts films, the animal must honor the oft-cited legends that describe its appearance but it must also still feel organic and real within the universe.
When we were looking at something like the [m]anticores as creatures to design, the first thing [we] were thinking of, in the spirit of the rest of the creatures that we’ve done in the Beasts franchise, was how were we going to make something that is like a Greek mythological creature but also an authentic creature. Part of the remit we’ve been given on all the Beasts films is to make audiences believe that they’re witnessing a living, breathing animal. A lot of those mythological beasts, particularly Greek ones, tend to be half-horse, half-human, half-whatever, and a [m]anticore is part-lion [sic] with a human face and part scorpion.
Our approach really was to think about it like this: maybe when a human first saw a giraffe, they said, ‘Hey that’s a horse and something else I don’t recognize,’ and they came back and drew it, and actually, it turned into something else. We went down that route with the [m]anticore of, how could we change the behaviour of something that is, effectively, a giant, horrible insect?
Though the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them textbook describes manticores as having “the head of a man, the body of a lion, and the tail of a scorpion,” Manz explained that the overall design was primarily inspired by scorpions, eventually landing on a “multi-limb scorpion.” It was explained that its lion-like features were due to the many spines resembling a mane, while African masks and beetles inspired its face. Manz attributed its legendary appearance to people’s perceptions of the creature slowly evolving over time as they attempted to reconstruct its look through drawings.
When asked about how the baby manticores were animated, Manz revealed that the infamous “swivel, but delicately” choreography was actually a collaborative effort between the team and Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander). While trying to determine how exactly the baby manticores would move, the team looked at scorpion references, developed some walks, and then previewed them to Redmayne. He would then work with his movement coach and further developed the movements. Manz admitted that the main objective of the scene was that it had to be funny and attributed the scene’s success to Redmayne’s commitment to the role.
You could always hear David [Yates] chuckling in the tent when Eddie suddenly throws a pose and holds it. The reason why it works as well is, Eddie is incredibly committed to making that work. He cares about the character, cares about what we are doing and making it work together. And that makes it all believable.
If you’re interested in more movie magic, you can read the rest of the interview on how the scene came together.
Do you think the scene was funny? How did you like the design of the manticore? How would you have made the baby manticores move? Let us know in the comments.