His Dark Materials artists explain creature effects in season 3

Image: His Dark Materials/HBO
Image: His Dark Materials/HBO /

His Dark Materials season 3 introduced many new characters for our protagonists Lyra (Dafne Keen) and Will Parry (Amir Wilson) to interact with. That included a host of supernatural beings which presented a new set of challenges for the visual effects team.

Speaking with Metro.co.uk, visual effects supervisor Russell Dodgson outlined how the show went about bringing angels, mulefa, harpies and gallivespians to life for television. In many cases, the onscreen versions of these creatures looked different from how Philip Pullman described them in his His Dark Materials books; for example, in the books the mulefa have diamond-shaped skeletons, whereas in the TV show they look more like regular animals.

“That one sentence, which sounds cool, could really derail the authenticity of the creature or character for the rest of the show,” Dodgson said. “So we decided that we weren’t going to try and come up with exactly that […] We didn’t want everybody to be distracted by unorthodox weird movement, so that you couldn’t land the other bit, which feels more important.”

And so the mulefa were depicted as a kind of blend between tapirs and elephants, while the angels — which are described as sometimes looking bird-like in the books — took on a more human form (although their ability to be almost invisible added an ethereal edge).

Why do the mulefa and the angels look different their book descriptions in His Dark Materials?

“A big thing for us is authenticity,” Dodgson continued. “You very quickly have to fall in love with a character and believe that they’re real. So we always want something that’s authentic and grounded so that the audience can get there quickly.”

With so much care put into staying true to book descriptions while also ensuring that a TV audience will relate to these creatures, it’s hard not to be impressed with the work of the visual effects department on this final season of the show.

All three seasons of His Dark Materials are available to stream on HBO Max and BBC iPlayer.

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