The show, previously announced as The Jim Henson Creature Shop, is based around the Creature Shop in Los Angeles. Hosted by Gigi Edgley (of Farscape fame), the contestants participated in challenges involving the different aspects of mechanical creature and puppet building and creation. The contestants competed for a $100,000 prize and a contract job for Jim Henson's Creature Shop.
Brian Henson served as the lead judge on the series along with Creature Shop veteran Kirk Thatcher and Beth Hathaway (former designer at Stan Winston studios, who worked on The Walking Dead). Designers Peter Brooke, John Criswell and Julie Zobel served as mentors on the series. Guest judges in the first season also included Neville Page and Barry Sonnenfeld.
The series only ran for one season.
From Syfy's press release:
- "For generations the craftsmen at The Jim Henson Creature Shop have brought to life imaginative, lovable and memorable characters that have enthralled audiences around the world. Now, aspiring creature makers will have an opportunity to win the job of a lifetime – an apprenticeship with the Creature Shop. Teams of amateur creators will face off to build elaborate and awe-inspiring creatures, ranging from animatronic monsters and fantastical puppets, to life-like beasts and beyond! Creations are judged by Brian Henson – son of Jim Henson and Chairman to the Henson empire – along with top industry experts."
Judges and Mentors
- Gigi Edgley, host
- Brian Henson, head judge
- Beth Hathaway, judge
- Kirk Thatcher, judge
- Peter Brooke, mentor
- Julie Zobel, mentor
- John Criswell, mentor
Episode 1: What Lies Underneath
|Creature Brief||Undersea creatures|
|Air Date||March 25, 2014|
The ten creature-making contestants arrived on at the Jim Henson Company Lot and are greeted by host Gigi Edgley and head-judge Brian Henson. Brian informs the bright-eyed contestants that one lucky winner will receive an exclusive contract to work with the Creature Shop and gives them their first "Creature Brief".
The contestants were challenged to envision a world that man has never seen, three miles below the surface of the ocean. The contestants were broken into five teams of two contestants, and those teams were tasked with designing a full-body creature that might be spotted on that ocean floor for the very first time as a sub's searchlight falls upon it. Their mentor for the competition was Pete Brooke.
Episode 2: Return of the Skeksis
|Air Date||April 1, 2014|
The "Creature Brief" for this week is to create their own Skeksis from the world of The Dark Crystal. These original Skeksis characters were creatures banished from the castle to three distant environments, and have now been called back to the castle. Working in teams of three, the contestants were given three days to create their creature. Julie Zobel mentors the contestants.
In addition to building their Skeksis, each team member would also be working to help operate the creature in the screen test along with their puppeteer. Alice Dinnean, Drew Massey, and Victor Yerrid were the featured puppeteers.
Episode 3: Assembly Inspired
|Creature Brief||Scrapyard creatures|
|Air Date||April 8, 2014|
The contestants meet in the Apex Electronics scrap yard for their "Creature Brief." The contestants were to envision a creature that had been disguising itself in scrap heap materials for so long, it was now part creature, part scrap. For the screen test, the contestants were to present their scrapyard creatures captured, held in a cage, and desperate to escape. However, no puppeteers would be allowed inside the cage; the creature had to be operated from outside the cage.
The contestants were put in teams of two for the challenge and each team was given $500 and an hour to buy scrap from the scrapyard for their creature build.
John Criswell mentored the contestants in their build. Alice Dinnean, Artie Esposito, Sean Johnson, Drew Massey, Michael Oosterom, and Victor Yerrid were the featured puppeteers alongside the contestants.
Russ and Jake's creature was deemed the least effective of the creatures. However, before the judges were able to announce who would be eliminated, Josh stepped forward and resigned from the competition. He said he did not want to uproot his family if he were to win the competition and was offered a job at the Creature Shop; he stated that he did not want to take the opportunity away from the other contestants and bowed out.
Episode 4: Heads Up!
|Creature Brief||Heads mounted on a wizard's wall|
|Air Date||April 15, 2014|
For the first time, the contestants work solo to build a creature. The "Creature Brief" tasks the contestants with creating a fantasy creature that has been slain and is mounted on a wizard's wall. The creatures would come back to life to tell how it died, and how it felt about its fate. Peter Brooke mentored the contestants on their creature designs and development.
Donald Faison appeared at the screen test to play the wizard opposite the creatures. Julianne Buescher, Alice Dinnean, Artie Esposito, Drew Massey, Michelan Sisti, Colleen Smith, and Victor Yerrid served as the puppeteers.
Episode 5: Life in Motion
|Creature Brief||Creature movement|
|Air Date||April 22, 2014|
Brian Henson shows the contestants the large-scale Unicorn puppet from Lady Gaga's "Born This Way Ball" World Tour. The contestants were teamed up in pairs to design and build a large-scale creature, which came to life more through its movement rather than by its appearance. The creatures were to be painted in UV paint so they would come alive under blacklight and hide the puppeteers who could be otherwise visible. The believability of the creatures' movement was the most important factor. In a change from the show's normal procedures, the contestants would be able to meet with their professional puppeteers before starting their build and additional rehearsals with the puppeteers were allowed.
Episode 6: Swamp Things
|Creature Brief||Camouflaged creatures|
|Air Date||April 29, 2014|
Gigi takes the contestants to the Sound Stage, where Brian Henson and the art department were hard at work setting the stage for this week's challenge. Brian gives them their "Creature Brief" — the designers were to build an organic creature that lives within its natural environment. For this individual challenge the contestants each chose an element from different areas of the set to use in the construction of their creature - grass, mossy rock, gnarly wood, lily pads, and weeping junipers.
Julie Zobel served as the Creature Shop master on hand this week. Neville Page ("Face Off") served as a guest judge for the challenge alongside the series' three regular judges. Artie Esposito, Sean Johnson, Drew Massey, Michael Oosterom, Michelan Sisti, Allan Trautman and Victor Yerrid were the featured puppeteers.
Episode 7: Alien Press Conference
|Air Date||May 6, 2014|
Gigi brought her Farscape co-star Rygel to the workshop to offer inspiration when the creature designers when they were given the task to build an original alien species. The Creature Brief challenged the contestants to design and build a new alien life form. These aliens were to be intergalactic diplomats on their way to an intergalactic press conference and have to travel incognito. Brian Henson explained that the aliens were to have a large outer head, which opened in a clever way to reveal the creature's true inner head.
Pete Brooke served as the Creature Shop master, and the designers worked on individual builds over just three days. Director Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black) served as a guest judge alongside the series' regular judges. Alice Dinnean, Nameer El-Kadi, Artie Esposito, Sean Johnson, Drew Massey, Michelan Sisti, Allan Trautman, and Victor Yerrid served as puppeteers.
Episode 8: Tavern at the Crossroads
|Creature Brief||Full-body mystical creatures|
|Air Date||May 13, 2014|
|Eliminated||Ben and Melissa|
After meeting one-by-one with Brian Henson in his office, the final three contestants receive their final "Creature Brief" which is to design, build, and perform a full-bodied mystical creature that meets other creatures at a tavern at the mystical crossroads to tell their story. The designers also have to make some props associated with their creature's story and also perform some special effect.
In order to complete the task in just three days, the final three contestants received help from the contestants who were previously eliminated. Robert was assisted by Russ and Ivonne while Pete Brooke served as a mentor; Ben was assisted by Tina and Jake while Julie Zobel served as mentor; and Melissa was assisted by Chaz and Lex with John Criswell as mentor.
Melissa's creature included the special effect of being able to smoke a pipe, Ben's creature was able to cry, and Robert's creature featured a sneering and sneezing effect.
In addition to the three judges (Kirk Thatcher, Beth Hathaway, and Brian Henson), the audience for the screen test also included Lisa Henson, all three Creature Shop masters, the eliminated contestants, and Henson Company employees and family members. The creatures were each operated by the assisting designers along with professional puppeteers - including Allan Trautman, Michelan Sisti, Drew Massey, and Victor Yerrid.
In the end, Robert was chosen as the winner of Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge and became the newest employee of Jim Henson's Creature Shop.