Syfy greenlights an eight episode order for Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge (working title), a competition series featuring ten aspiring creature creators competing to out-imagine one another in a series of challenges where they will build everything from mechanical characters to whimsical beasts, bringing high-end inanimate creature designs to life. The contestants compete for $100,000 and the opportunity for the job of a lifetime – a contract working at the world-renowned Jim Henson’s Creature Shop™. The announcement was made today by Mark Stern, President of Original Content, Syfy.
Brian Henson serves as lead judge on the series. Henson is the Chairman of The Jim Henson Company and the Creature Shop. An award-winning writer, director and producer, he is also a creature designer and performer taught by the master, his father Jim Henson. His long resume in movies and television includes iconic roles like Hoggle in the fantasy classic Labyrinth and the dog in the groundbreaking anthology series The Storyteller. Henson has also produced and directed such television projects as Farscape, Muppets Tonight and Dinosaurs. His film directing credits include The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. Henson was part of the team that first created and utilized the Henson Performance Control System, a powerful custom-based interface for puppeteers, which won an Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (Scientific and Engineering) Award in 1992. He also led the Shop’s work in creating the revolutionary digital puppeteering technology, the Emmy Award-winning Henson Digital Puppetry Studio.
“As Face Off does with SFX makeup application, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge showcases the incredible imagination and artistry of lifelike creature construction,” said Stern. “We are honored to partner with The Jim Henson Company and Brian Henson on this series. The Creature Shop has set the bar for a caliber of work that is unmatched in quality, design and sheer imagination.”
Serving as mentors on the series will be world-renowned designer Peter Brooke, mechanization and animatronics master John Criswell and fabrication and artistic specialist Julie Zobel. The three are longtime Creature Shop artists who have dedicated their talents to the Henson legacy. Their tenures with The Jim Henson Company span decades and they bring a specialized knowledge having collaborated directly with Jim Henson himself. Working alongside the creature creators inside their workplace at the Creature Shop, they will be available for consultation and hands-on assistance.
The creative challenges in the series will showcase the fascinating process behind creature building, from conceptual design to sculpting, fabricating and mechanization. Each episode will end with on-set performances involving the elaborate and life-like creations. The creature creators will be tasked to create everything from hand puppets to large-scale theatrical creatures that can master the balance between realism and fantasy.
Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge is a production of The Jim Henson Company. Brian Henson will executive produce with his sister Lisa Henson, the company’s CEO. In addition to her time at The Jim Henson Company, Lisa’s prolific career in entertainment includes serving as president for Columbia Pictures where she oversaw films like Men In Black and The People vs. Larry Flint. Before that, she was a production executive at Warner Bros. where she worked on projects like Batman and Lethal Weapon. Lisa is currently in production on the upcoming family film Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day starring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner.
Also serving as executive producers on Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge are Joseph Freed (Little People Big World, Rachael Ray) and Rob Bagshaw (Paradise Hotel, Top Chef Masters, Project Runway All Stars). Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge is set to debut in first quarter 2014 on Syfy.