Real-life “wise monsters” inspired the creatures in Netflix’s The Sea Beast

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In the world of Netflix The Sea Creature, heroic monster hunters set out on the high seas to slay terrifying creatures to keep the waters safe for seafarers – or at least that’s what everyone thinks. The most terrifying of all sea monsters is the Red Bluster, a gigantic red creature that lives in the depths of the ocean and can swallow entire rowboats.

[Ed. note: This feature contains some slight spoilers for The Sea Beast.]

Image: Netflix

But when seasoned monster hunter Jacob Holland (Karl Urban) and accomplished stowaway Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator) are stranded on an island teeming with sea monsters, they discover that these beasts are not the bloodthirsty fiends they expected. In fact, the Red Bluster really likes Maisie. In its gentlest moments, the Red Bluster transforms from a massive, formidable beast into a gentle giant.

As with most animation designs, the final look for this imposing monster and benevolent guardian took a few iterations to land. Director Chris Williams tells Polygon that his creative team looked at real animals, which they saw as “the ultimate monster” in a particular biosphere, but they also wanted animals that conveyed a certain wisdom. This led them to big cats like lions and tigers. In order to convey the Bluster’s ability to move from the sea to land, pinnipeds became a natural complement.

“We did a lot of research,” says Williams. “We looked at pictures and videos of sea lions, seals, walruses and whales just to see how they move and how their physiology makes sense [as] Creatures that live in water – who could walk on land but were more comfortable in water. And that led us in a certain direction.”

Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator) feeds fruit to a strange creature in The Sea Beast.

Image: Netflix

But while the design elements required many iterations, some aspects of the film were executed perfectly at once – notably Hator’s performance as Maisie Brumble. Williams says she brought just the right amount of panache and sophistication to the role. He was blown away by Hator’s performance – especially seeing her transition from her own reserved personality to Maisie’s fierceness. Hator Williams also surprised in the trickier and more nuanced scenes.

“With actors, we often approach these scenes multiple times just to give them a chance to approach the moment from a different direction,” says Williams. “And there were moments that we thought were going to be the most challenging that she just attacked and hit straight away.”

Williams explains that while many people think voice actors provide audio that goes with existing animation, it actually works the other way around, with the acting first. This means that details in the actors’ performances can often inspire the end result.

“The animator listens to the performance and just eats into every little nuance and spontaneity that he can find,” says Williams. “[Hator] had so much to offer our animators and they couldn’t wait to get their hands on their scenes.”

The Sea Creature now streaming on Netflix.

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