20th June 2010: [20th june.... update?] (more like an infodump) if you're wondering why the chunk of design notes, i learned my lesson last project when i lost all my research to a power surge that cause my HD to corrupt.
taken from the book of Habidabad
These notes are a compilation from a memo of rediscussions between Michael McCormick, Sarah Bradpiece, Lyle Conway, Vin Burnham, Leigh Donaldson, Brian Froud and Sherry Amott, and notes from a script meeting attended by Jim Henson, David Odell, Brian Froud, Duncan Kenworthy, Michael McCormick, Lyle Conway and Sherry Amott.
Each indicated by color.
Special voices/sounds for each
Garthim Master: spurs sound
Artist-Designer: swish, rustle of silks
Historian: shushes, hums
Symbols - see Ritual Master notes
Power struggles. Two sitting on the bed/throne, perching forward.
Mystic-Skeksis corollaries: Slave master - missing hand and eye - same on one mystic. Scientist - artificial leg and bionic/mechanized arm. Same on a mystic.
All Skeksis have hump cowl configurations, which are combination of organic and mechanical elements.
Miss Haversham in the woods. King Lear. Looks like a chair, upholstered and stuffed, with hard carved animal parts like Lion's foot legs and Griffin arms. Collar like a headboard. When stripped we see the inside of the back contrast to outside. Also we see mechanical bits worked by his spines and vestigial hands, chair insides - springs, sawdust, horsehair, money, webbing, sacking, underfelt. Work in a coat of arms somehow.
Runs castle. Wheedling, obsequious, golem type.
Secretarial, administrative, carries rolls of scrolls, second to the dying one. Envy. Suspicious, eyes moving a great deal. Smiling. Creates dissension.
2 GENERAL/GARTHIM MASTER
Stern, massive, strong, sneers, is angry. No subtlety, mostly movements of power . . . brute strength, when speaking he never goes quieter than a deep resonant bellow. But, if this is the Alpha of the character, should we also see the Omega - what are his unguarded or weakened characteristics?
3 RITUAL MASTER/HIGH PRIEST
Tallest. Skull-like head. Throbbing temples. Deep-set eyes. Rasputin type with white eyes showing. Hypnotic - like Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Bishop Sheen, Eric Von Stroheim. Witchdoctor scepter. Ring hand to be kissed, has hidden menace - stylized, ritualistic type movement, like Tai Chi, but perhaps clumsy for all his smooth, gliding movements. Conjuring tricks - throwing powders into flames to punctuate his speech. Self-aggrandizement: conjures up false spirits. Carries (palms) a deck of tarot cards. Skeksis symbols - perversion of Urskeks symbols. Floor and wall markings. 21 spaces in floor, 21 original Urskeks masters, split into 21 Skeksis and 21 Mystics, 21 black magic symbols. Triangles, threes. 9 power centers. Double Helix, double spiral. Transcendent power - two snakes intertwined. These same symbols different styles appear in the crystal room/council chamber, floor patterns, mystic back piece, ritual master costume, and Aughra's costume. Masonic imagery - lower piece - Masonic apron. Symbol of the crystal - neckpiece, crescent with spike. Over apron or waistcoat - pockets for fobs, chains, pieces to put on - added ecclesiastical bits, dingle-dangles, badges of office plus straps, holders for stomach. Bogus religious stuff - obvious switch on staff to turn on light - like gaudy religious grotto. Reliquary boxes with glass fronts set into costume, going down the ribbon bands over robe. Like in the Russian film IVAN THE TERRIBLE, or as in BORIS GODUNOV, Russian orthodox Icons-encrusted.
High Priest. Controlled, precise, formal, straight backed, carrying ceremonial ornaments, a snob. Tarot readings, astrology-horoscope, myth making. Shaman, false magician. Connection with the other world solely for their own mafarious ends. False augurs.
4 SLAVE MASTER/EXECUTIONER
We see him kicking, whipping slaves. Evilly silent. Hisses. Sneers. Metallic hook, sheathed. Pulls off sheath, revealing hook, herds slaves around. Directs their movements. Sees that dead slaves are carried away, or that machinery rolls over the dead ones, like in pyramid building. Surcoat - leather, hooks, metal clasps, chains, manacles. More chains, padlocks. Hook seen grabbing peasant hands, neck, head. Hook seen pinning notes between peasants to floor. Back prong on costume opens and closes like scissors. Shiny fabric on gown like snakeskin, colors/tones like slaves. Head attached to collar with chains. Scars. Moist, wet snakeskin texture, like layers of crocodile skins, surround head-neck area, yet remain flexible like gearshift box surround. Like mock turtle plastic wrinkled pieces in Alice in Wonderland. Slave control tools, Garthim like claws. Hard plates, chain mail, armor. Hanging sleeves with detailed hard and soft bits. Back plate - black shiny, patent leather, put together and stitched like a glove. Slavemaster keeps slaves from playing. Tally sticks of dead slaves. Scalps?
Slave master: in charge of the eye blanking, getting rid of slaves, rules the abattoirs (in terms of slaughtering the food sources). Has eye patch.
Sitting on a stool, knees up, peering over tomes. Tail wrapped around stool, flicks tail. Blotter pad. Expandable reading glass prop. (Like Kermit on the stool - Skeksis as actual hand puppet). Historian has characteristics of the idiot. Looks like a book. Pleated fabric like pages. Bookmarks in the pleating. Surcoat like a green-tooled leather book cover. Marbled inside book flyleaves. (Lining of surcoat, lining of collar? To better identify heads). Live bookworms, pressed flowers, writing like print on fabric to look like pages. Head - long snout gets caught in the books. When head projects out of collar, he assumes an academic, pedantic tone. When head retreats into collar he assumes other persona - babbling, cackling, childlike, falls asleep like dormouse. Has a group of peasants doing illuminations. Add a court photographer. Historian shushes, hums.
Smallest. Lopsided face, constantly looking confused. Goes where angels fear to tread. Does everything out in the open . . . completely opposite of the others . . . maybe the General/Garthim master is his idol. Idiot gets hit and laughed at a lot. He limps. I think this is a valuable character. Possible use for a plot change. Perhaps this is another race? Problem of breaking up the hierarchy.
Smallest. Historian, always carrying scrolls, writing notes when Skeksis meet. This job could be the Chamberlain's. Professor, librarian, historian, solicitor. Propaganda making, rewriting history, has the power of the written word - but as a solicitor who uses words for their power only, not for truth. Argues any side of the case that's useful at the moment. Actively corrupt.
Head - Robert Morley. Jowly, bushy eyebrows, sweaty, burping. Stuffs food into cheeks. Lifts head to swallow, like a pelican. See food traveling down. Cheek bulges mechanized. Wine stains. Bits of encrusted food. Slaves always carrying trays of food for him - silver goblets, small sugar things, tidbits for him to nibble. When he talks he sprays food and saliva. Has a serviette of handkerchief tucked into sleeve. Surcoat dark glaze - crème brulee! Inside collar - skirts, pantaloons, like Roast Pork of Leg of Lamb. Back costume piece like a Lobster of Crayfish presented on a tray. Feelers reach over back of Skeksis and move. Pastry on shoulder rolls. Scored Pork with cloves and cherries, with apricot glaze. Sausage skirt. Body bulges, tummy pops buttons, slits gape, pink extrudes. Ham pale pink, edges of white fat. Has beautiful crystal goblet with murky wine. Has soup that eats him - clams in soup. Hands - long fingernail to pick teeth. Little finger to cock, lifting teacups.
Gourmet cook, sensual, glutinous, lustful, sloth. Slob, food encrusted, slovenly, fat.
7 ARTIST/INTERIOR DESIGNER
Designs fabric, jewelry, furnishings. Decadent, perverted sexually, sensual hedonistic, vain, theatrical. Highly emotional, shining. I believe his main function would be to dress and bejewel himself (and other Skeksis?) Heavily made up with jewels and equipment of mascara. Artist's power play might be to create a strange new jewel, then bribe the Ritual Master to falsely augur this jewel - i.e. everyone must have one, and must go to the artist to get it.
Has slaves, peasants with makeup pots, powder puffs. Giggles. Slimmer belly than design? Swishes, rustle of silks.
Pale. Yoke-like neck brace or brace with metal bits. White or pink, hinged chrome-plated sections. Plastic and chrome tubes. Latex sheeting thing for under or over sleeves. Leg appliance - exaggerated. Very finely mechanized. Gears, levers, machine parts. Gleaming metals, glass. Limps with cane. Special sound of artificial leg. Constantly fingering his instruments. Bionic type arm. External structure on outside of atrophied arm, to help it move - pneumatic devices - hisses, pins into bones of arm. Structure starts at cowl, leads off from it down his arm - view from side of body like a nautilus machine, or wheelchair, or locomotive wheels. Loci description. Italian futurist sculpture, movement machine, other side of body normal. Wound on sleeve, suture pins. Transparent tubes - liquids, fluids. Materials like clear cast resins and polypropylenes. Cowl like iron lung - a medical support system for him. It hisses. Electrodes to head from cowl with tubes and liquids. Pacemaker, colostomy bag. Tube with liquids going into face - one color going in, another color leading out, or different color threads pulled through bubbling liquids like Christmas tree candles. Epileptic, petit mals, Oxygen tents, waste bags, liquid receivers. Back of train gauze, with bloodstains on hem. Polythene worked in somehow. Thick bandages on surcoat - cotton wool with frayed gauze over. Back spine - metallic blades. Leeches, bloodletting. Hanging sleeve piece with pockets for surgical instruments. Keith Moon pervert - flasher with raincoat.
Little beady eyes, mad. I don't think he's mad. He's always studying, observing, thinking. Maybe he constantly has scientific tools about him, (equivalent of stethoscope, speculum, etc.) He's the intellectual. Experimenting with reproduction. Has telescopic eyepiece, possibly with light source, for peering intently.
Thinnest, counting - abacus collar. Tiny brass scale on hook. Weights, measures, coins, purses. Suggestions of chains and padlocks, fastening devices, keys. Combination lock with dials. Pocket calculator. Gold mesh bags and misers purses. Sagging and bulging pockets, pocket in vest. Silas Marner type. Pound signs on pupils. Biting a coin to test for gold. Touch stone to test gold, sound of cash register or reacts to sound of coin. Codpiece purse - two coins and a fountain, or miser's bag. Details - wax edgings - seals Hieroglyphics, for quantities of wealth. Milling. Embossing - shallow relief. Spines open out to the sides. Jeweler's loop to look at mint marks - decorative notches on staff like tally sticks. Casket or chest under his arm, which he strokes. Spines - weighing scale-like shape. Weights and chains. Weights with holes in it stacked on a rod.
Avarice, handles jewels and money.
10 EMPEROR/DYING ONE
Dark-faced, crumbling, dark head on the pale pillows. Mystic goes pale when he dies, Skeksis goes dark. Dark - going off like a piece of bad fruit. Or white faced in death, wheezing, excretion from eyes, nose, mouth. Deterioration of Skeksis: build up layers of wax with high melting points. Hard bits fall off separately, soft bits slough away at different rates.
"They are part reptile, part predatory bird, part dragon." - Brian Froud
For every Mystic there was a corresponding Skeksis. SkekTek the Scientist was the counterpart of urTih the Alchemist. SkekAyuk the Gourmand was the alter ego of urAmaj the Cook. The Skeksis had control of the castle where the Crystal was kept; in its chambers they practiced their evil arts, hating one another as much as they hated the rest of the world.
Evil masters of a corrupt culture, they rule through the power of a darkened crystal suspended at the heart of their encrusted castle. From, there, they have turned all good in the world into evil. They have bird-like beaks and reptilian bodies, but under their elaborate robes of velvet, lace, and brocade, there is only decay.
Their figures are sinister and reptilian. They have hooded, uneasy eyes above their beaklike jaws. They stand bulky in the thick layers of robes with which they have draped their skinny, scaly bodies over eons, never removing a layer but adding another as one decays. They walk on their hind legs with their forelegs poised in the air. Their talons are arched and their heads protrude from humped cowls, thrust out as if to strike.
Their bodies decompose with remarkable haste, having no soul to arrest the process. It is like the creation of volcanic rock with the space of a minute or two. Their flesh seems to boil, rise, blacken, and then transform into rock that rapidly develops gaping cracks and festering caves. Soon they crumble into pebbles. A sour, grey dust thinly films the air.
The assumption that pure spirituality was in some sense a higher form of being than brute matter was not self-evident to them.
Force, greed, and ruthlessness are the qualities the Skeksis respect in a ruler.
Skeksis are carnivorous. They have been known to eat roasted Nebrie and small, hairy-legged shellfish.
They have cold reptilian eyes and long necks.
The Skeksis always use the Garthim for their hunting because they aren't terribly good at it themselves.
Pettiness was a strong suit among the Skeksis.
Since the division after the Great Conjunction eons ago, the Skeksis had left the urRu to themselves in their valley. They had to: the object and its mirror image could not be combined except in cancellation of both. In any case, the Skeksis never had needed the urRu: impractical, old, chanting visionaries, obsessed solely with their collective inner life, their values diametrically opposed to those to which the Skeksis ascribed.
The Skeksis had profited prodigiously from the knowledge and from their control of the Crystal within the fortress they had carved from the mountain that contained it. Along all the ley-lines of energy around the planet, they had continuously fed noxious pulses, fomenting misery and weakness throughout their world. And along the same ley-lines they had sucked in the geodynamic energies. Lightning focused into the Standing Stones of the Valley and transmitted to the castle. The Skeksis controlled the nodal points of the planet by terrestrial acupuncture.
To the Skeksis, the Division of the urSkeks was a great triumph; even the darkening of the Crystal is interpreted favorably.
Every one of the Skeksis desired to have sole credit for the Garthim.
They had a demand for repetitive flamboyance in their materials.
There were considerable mutation in the Skeksis during the period of their degeneration. The Skeksis did not care to keep records of their former appearance.
Much of the Skeksis' descriptions of their work was committed to parchment made from Nebrie skin. Smooth and unblemished, it crumbles after a few centuries.
The bodies of the Skeksis are founded on deeply disordered principles. Only in their heads does an intelligible pattern remain.
Between skekUng the Garthim-Master and skekSil the Chamberlain there was bitter rivalry, for skekSil hoped his smiling poison and suspicious craft would lead him, not skekUng, to succeed to the Emperor's glory. Both were deceived.
He has a scrawny neck and a moist and unctuous body. He is the Chief Secretary, and therefore next in line to the throne.
He has a wheedling voice that all the others loath.
Comments from Steven Gregory, associate costume designer:
I cut all the toile's (fabric patterns) for the Skesis. The Chamberlain had advanced the most. I worked with Sarah Bradpiece at Henson's in Hampstead. I was introduced to Duncan Kenworthy by Vin Burnham. They wanted me to do a 5 day week, but the naval gazing was a very slow process. I went in one day a week and cut a complete pattern of each character's costume. My theatrical eye could see possibilities in Brian Froud's wonderful drawings. The experience of having my work shown to Jim Henson and Brian Froud, as thought it had been done by our leader, was rather galling. I thought my involvement had finished and later, whilst on holiday in Germany, I had a call from Duncan. They wanted me to come back to do the art work on the costumes. I insisted on a separate workshop to get some kind of control over this process. Sleeves had been made by one person, a collar by another, it looked like a jumble sale from the woman's institute. I could see that none had used an organic approach to the decoration elements. I set about the costumes. I had makers in tears when they saw what I had done, but Brian Froud loved it.