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2. Prepare A Backstory

Cloverfield Monster

"A creature has to have history, personality and motive. I still use the tools I learned at acting school to this day: filling in the backstory, understanding motivation. You have to apply the same philosophy with creature design. J.J. appreciates this too. The Cloverfield creature is a good example. That big, gnashing Cloverfield creature was a baby, as opposed to a big, mature animal, and it was frightened, like a scared, penned elephant, and it was looking for its mother, and screaming out for her the whole time. It wasn’t rage, it was just frustration and fear. The little parasites were necessary for the story too, so we had to backwards engineer the reason for them to be there. Coupled with the fact that the creature was a newborn, the idea was that these were essentially parasitic creatures feeding off the placenta of its skin, and as it was walking about New York, that food source was sloughing off and getting less and less, meaning they had to look for food sources elsewhere. Again, whether anyone in the audience got that almost doesn’t matter, but as animators and designers it allowed us to make choices that aren’t arbitrary or contrived."

"You don’t always need such a thorough backstory, though. On Cloverfield and Super 8 we had the time and money to dig our heels in and do it the right way, but on something like Star Trek, although there was time and money, there were many more creatures and fewer staff to design them, and we didn’t need that level of detail for a lot of background aliens. It would have been a little self-indulgent for an alien 50 feet from the camera to have a long back-story!"

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