Alice: Creating The Jabberwock

The Mill, best known for providing the CG FX for Doctor Who , Merlin and Primeval , had to create a famous monster from Wonderland for Syfy mini series Alice , which starts airing this Thursday

Syfy’s Alice mini series, which starts this Thursday and stars Primeval ’s Andrew Lee Potts as Hatter, is a very unusual twist on the traditional tale by Lewis Carroll, giving the book a psychedelic makeover and reinventing many of the iconic characters. But one character remains incredibly faithful the original children’s novel: the Jabberwock.

“The Jabberwock was based on the original John Tenniel illustrations from Alice Through The Looking Glass ,” explains Barney Curnow, who also looks after the Great Dragon in Merlin . “If you have a look around the internet it’s the only picture you’ll ever find of the Jabberwock. We tried to keep to the look of his Jabberwock as possible, though, of course, we had to render it in 3D. It’s a pretty comic character. He has to be goofy, move goofily and have big goofy teeth, but be dangerous at the same time.”

Creating the creature in 3D wasn’t the only problem. Director Nick Willing and Curnow also had to decide how the Jabberwock would move.

“The movement is as big a part of the creature as the basic design. A lot of his character comes through the movement. So we’ve incorporated little stumbles and slightly uncoordinated moments as he crashed through the trees. The animation had to back up that goofiness.”

The Mill’s other main work on the series was a little less traditional. They proved the effects for the Truth Rooms sequence.

“Alice is being interrogated by Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee who are doctors. They are basically mind torturers. It was only one actor and we had had to replicate him in the same shot. They take Alice back to her childhood. The house that she grew up in. They are exploring her childhood fears. And they’re like giants staring through the window. Then the floorboards fall away to this bottomless pit underneath her and she’s standing on a single floorboard.”

The sequence is very trippy, which, Curnow reckon, is a very description of the production overall. “The production design is very psychedelic.”

Clearly the relationship between director and Nick Willing was a good one. “The Mill is working with Nick Willing again on Neverland ,” reveals Curnow of the Peter Pan inspired mini series Willing is now creating for Sky One. “We’re doing the crocodile on that and a few other things.”

Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.