While held at father Wenwu's compound, Shang-Chi, Katy, and Xialing discover the long-held captive Trevor Slattery and his companion, a most unusual but lovable creature created by Trixter — a rotund, fuzzy little CG creation with six legs, four wings, and no head, eyes, or mouth. Aside from having no face, Morris, an expat from Ta Lo, does have feathers and fur — all of which presented a challenge when bringing the character to life.
According to Dominik Zimmerle, VFX supervisor at Trixter, Morris is based on a Chinese mythological creature called a Hundun (a primordial God of Chaos), and as such, there are some historical illustrations that set some level of precedence for how Morris was designed. The studio also used a number of other creatures for reference, including dogs, bears, wombats, and birds such as Canada geese (for the wing structures).
“We started out with a few concepts created by Marvel’s art department and worked closely with the team there to create a cute, wobbly, affable creature,” says Zimmerle. The artists then refined the design, deciding how to configure his six legs (would he have two sets of front legs or two sets of back legs?), whether he would walk like a digitigrade creature on his toes or a plantigrade creature on the full foot. In the end, it was decided that Morris would have two sets of back legs and plantigrade movement.
“Animating and rigging a six-legged creature like Morris was unprecedented for our team. And, considering he is such a small and compact creature, it was a big challenge not only to find space for the additional set of legs in his tiny frame, but also to make sure they could move in a lifelike and realistic way,” says Zimmerle.
Morris not only had to be cute, but he also had to communicate — no easy feat with a creature that has no face — which he does by fluttering his wings and shifting his weight.
In addition to Morris, Trixter also created a full-CG world and numerous other mythological creatures for the film that appear as Shang-Chi and his friends pass through a water portal (created by Scanline) and enter the path to Ta Lo, all contributing to Trixter’s 237 total VFX shots in the film. As with Morris, these were all existing creatures from Chinese mythology. “The designs are very interesting and based on animals that are somewhat familiar in terms of their appearance, to keep them as real-looking as possible while still being fantastical,” says Townsend.
There are a variety of creatures that appear along the so-called Ancestral Road (also an all-CG environment built by Trixter) upon entry into Ta Lo, including white nine-tailed foxes and qilins, horse-like animals with the face of a dragon, turquoise, iridescent, scaled skin, flamboyant white manes, deer antlers atop their head, and wizened faces.
Lastly, Trixter created Abomination, a hulking creature at the fight club in Macau.