Beasts

Kathrin

Active Member
Aww love me a pallas cat. It alone maybe is a little too fluffy & cute still for Tevildo & co? it'd be a cool starting point for them to be mostly inspired by wild cats with some features of bigger cats thrown in. (the dangers of weird scaled up/anthropomorphised cgi cats are quite present to me after the New Lion King and CATS 2019, both of which lean in a very different extreme direction :rolleyes:).

[some googling later] Actually there seem to be a lot of cool cat species that between cats and the typical wildcats/housecats in size and build.. (some african and southeast-asian wild cats seem (the african/asian golden cat, the caracal). probably simliar to eurasian & american lynx (?), but they look a bit more like bigger cats (about 3-4 times the weight of a house cat, a bit smaller than the biggest lynxes, but we could probably shift the size around a bit within a probable range) The Pallas and the european wildcat could add to that some of the fuzzyness of cats and some facial features that look more expressive to humans.
 

Haakon

Administrator
Staff member
I love the caracal, they are really something...
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Nevertheless...personally, I consider the decision to be already made, but these are my five cents:

The character Tevildo is one Tolkien put aside, so the lord of cats is a bit of an anomaly in this project. Not a great one, and not so different from other inclusions we have made that are taken from older and rejected concepts and ideas, but still, it was something he moved away from. I can only speculate on his reasons, but it is clear that Tevildo would feel alien and strange should he appear in the published Silmarillion. There's a tone of fairy tale over his character that, placed in a harsher and more realistic context, risks being silly. A cat? Is that supposed to be an evil, scary adversary? I do not want him to be a comic relief, and I don't suppose anyone wants that. Therefore, it is especially important to make his character as far away from silly as possible. And I think what we've done with his character so far has pushed him in the right direction. ...aaand the decisions we've made about his looks have also been efforts to the same end. I hope we stay on track.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, I agree that our Tevildo needed to evolve a bit to fit in this later story. He's not a giant house cat lazily sunning himself...he's an aloof villain who enjoys systematic torture and whose minions have the ability to move silently and not be seen and capture or kill elves.

Tigers are scary. Housecats are not. I certainly understand and agree with that. 'Tyger, tyger, burning bright, in the forest of the night. What infernal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry?'

So, yeah, if the Pallas cat looks too similar to a housecat, I can understand not wanting to use its face.
 

Kathrin

Active Member
I imagine it a bit like this. If you're alone in the woods at night (or a bit away from your group) and three lynx-sized cats that are sentient and work together suddenly attack you, that would be quite scary. Also they're extremely dextrous and have really good reflexes. They would probably be the shadowy assassination/spy troupe. They're the rogue, not the tank. So yes they gotta be dangerous but I don't know if the have to be the absolutely biggest possible cat.

Also, while they absolutely shouldn't remind us of housecats in the first place, I would like the word that pops up in the viewers mind to be still "cat", but bigger/scarier/etc., not "lion, tiger, lynx". These are very distinct. That's why I like the bigger wildcats, because they are nearer to lions, panthers, tigers in size/build, but they still are more or less associated with the word cat.

Also, cats are easier to anthropomorphise. We don't have to think they're cute and fluffy, but if we have lion king 2019 syndrome, where nobody gives a shit about the photorealistic lions on screen, and it looks reaally weird and unnatural whenever they talk, that's bad. With cats, humans are already much more used to granting them sentience or projecting it on them.
 

Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
While I think it is fine for Tevildo and his cats to be the size of lions or tigers or panthers and have that kind of physique, i.e., larger paws, thicker legs, generally more muscular, I think perhaps we should consider at least a more housecat-like face.

Also, cats are easier to anthropomorphise. We don't have to think they're cute and fluffy, but if we have lion king 2019 syndrome, where nobody gives a shit about the photorealistic lions on screen, and it looks reaally weird and unnatural whenever they talk, that's bad. With cats, humans are already much more used to granting them sentience or projecting it on them.
I very much agree. Cats have very expressive faces, and certainly do not always look "cute." I think an excellent example of this is the cover art by Owen Richardson for Erin Hunter's Warriors series.


Part of what makes those faces so expressive is the size and shape of the eyes and ears. On a domestic cat, the large eyes and relatively pointy ears are the dominant features. For the lion ant tiger, the nose and mouth are dominant.



In particular, I think Tevildo and his cats should have large eyes with vertical slit pupils. They assume their feline forms before the rising of the Sun and I expect they will continue to be largely nocturnal or crepuscular, so it makes sense for them to have a kind of eye that helps them see better in the dark. Also, I think there is something to be said for the classic look of scary cat eyes glowing in the dark.
 

Haakon

Administrator
Staff member
Ok just so that we're on the same page - does everyone want to have a working procedure that leads to a decision that in later seasons can be turned over? The Tevildo concept has been discussed in the forums and presented and dealt with in a session by the execs. In the end, our decisions are just dust in the wind, but if this idea of a production is going to look at all like a real one, my opinion is that we should leave decided things be. We have done this for a few years now, and I for one am looking forward to the upcoming decisions. Redoing old ones raises a big question mark to be honest, and frankly makes me feel a bit tired. Do you also think it's ok to go back and change story lines and such things? I don't think anyone loves all aspects of all the decisions in this enormous project, and I'm not in the position to hinder discussion, and I have no desire to do so, but I guess I'm ok with coming out as an old grumpy guy here. Sorry about that.
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Ok just so that we're on the same page - does everyone want to have a working procedure that leads to a decision that in later seasons can be turned over? The Tevildo concept has been discussed in the forums and presented and dealt with in a session by the execs. In the end, our decisions are just dust in the wind, but if this idea of a production is going to look at all like a real one, my opinion is that we should leave decided things be. We have done this for a few years now, and I for one am looking forward to the upcoming decisions. Redoing old ones raises a big question mark to be honest, and frankly makes me feel a bit tired. Do you also think it's ok to go back and change story lines and such things? I don't think anyone loves all aspects of all the decisions in this enormous project, and I'm not in the position to hinder discussion, and I have no desire to do so, but I guess I'm ok with coming out as an old grumpy guy here. Sorry about that.
I’m not sure we ever reached a decision on the cats of Tevildo.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
The decision on Tevildo was....
Not a giant house cat
Body of a tiger
Bit of a mane (like a lion)

Certainly, there can be some variation among his cats, but we are definitely committed to a 'big cat' look rather than a domestic cat look.

The eye of Sauron is described as a cat's eye, so there is some advantage to giving some of Sauron's minions cat's eyes...why not Tevildo?
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
The decision on Telvildo was....
Not a giant house cat
Body of a tiger
Bit of a mane (like a lion)

Certainly, there can be some variation among his cats, but we are definitely committed to a 'big cat' look rather than a domestic cat look.

The eye of Sauron is described as a cat's eye, so there is some advantage to giving some of Sauron's minions cat's eyes...why not Telvildo?
We could definitely do that with Tevildo. Would that also apply to Dragluin and Thuringwethil?
 

Rhiannon

Well-Known Member
Ok just so that we're on the same page - does everyone want to have a working procedure that leads to a decision that in later seasons can be turned over? The Tevildo concept has been discussed in the forums and presented and dealt with in a session by the execs. In the end, our decisions are just dust in the wind, but if this idea of a production is going to look at all like a real one, my opinion is that we should leave decided things be. We have done this for a few years now, and I for one am looking forward to the upcoming decisions. Redoing old ones raises a big question mark to be honest, and frankly makes me feel a bit tired. Do you also think it's ok to go back and change story lines and such things? I don't think anyone loves all aspects of all the decisions in this enormous project, and I'm not in the position to hinder discussion, and I have no desire to do so, but I guess I'm ok with coming out as an old grumpy guy here. Sorry about that.
While there are a few sessions devoted to visual design and other creative contributions, the primary element of the show discussed by the execs on the podcast is the story. Their decisions on other elements have always seemed to me much looser and not as thoroughly discussed. Therefore, unless someone proposes a change that will specifically impact a future storyline, I see no need to try to convince the hosts to "overturn" it. I do not think we need to ask them to discuss something like the design for Tevildo's cats again on the show, but I also do not think we should consider the discussion on these forums about their design closed.

Especially for the sake of new listeners, I think it would be a mistake to ignore threads for earlier seasons. People trying to catch up on the podcast will have thoughts and ideas as they are listening, and I do not think it is fair to ask them to keep their ideas to themselves simply because they had not yet discovered the podcast when those topics were being discussed or to expect them to wait to be fully caught up and engage only in the current discussions. I feel like that would be quite discouraging to newcomers and not something we want to do.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Ah, I see I have opened a can of worms, here. I will do my best to sort it all out!

New listeners (and old listeners!) may have ideas that vary (minorly or radically) from statements made in the podcast. That is certainly fine, and certainly something that can be discussed here (both before and after the fact). It is also possible to revisit a decision in the context of 'I've always imagined this in this way.' It is no secret (I don't think) that I've written Silmarillion-based fanfiction in the past; certainly, I have my own ideas about a lot of the characters and the implications of different events in this story. Many of my own ideas are not Silm Film compatible, and I'm aware of those distinctions. When I add phrases like "for me personally" to my posts, I am definitely trying to draw a distinction between what I think...and what others involved in Silm Film may think. I know that my role on this messageboard is often to explain the viewpoint of the Hosts, but naturally that's not always my own viewpoint.

The nature of a creative adaptation is that decisions have to be made, and none of us are likely to forget when a decision is made that is counter to how we saw things or hoped for things to be. That's human nature. The idea is to try to put all the ideas together and come up with the best idea for this project. So, in cases were something wasn't fully explored, it might be possible to add more to the discussion at a later time that is still relevant. But unless there is a very good reason to do so, we don't typically go back and re-visit a decision after the fact. This project has forward momentum, and sticks to what was already established.

In the creative discussions, the Hosts are typically seeking to set parameters for the artistic representation of the project's content, rather than being overly detailed or micromanaging in their discussion. So, yes, it's guidelines, rather than an exact image (in most cases), and there's some flexibility to design in different ways within those broad guidelines. But...the guidelines do exist, and were generally set for a reason.



So. The session in which the character designs of Draugluin, Thuringwethil, Tevildo (and their followers) were discussed was Session 3-26. It can be found on YouTube here:

The relevant part about Tevildo's character design is at the 1 hour mark. The transcript is posted below.

So, while we are not locked into particular artwork for Tevildo at this point, I would say that the Hosts of the Silm Film podcast did weigh in on what they wanted Tevildo to look like; and they requested a unique, original design that does not look like any real-life species. They touched on how this was related to his character, and did consider a variety of cat shapes before settling on the one they chose. There were some rejected suggestions in there too. (Conversations rejecting the house cat idea happened prior to the end of Season 3, which was why that was not brought up during this discussion at all.)

Is there more discussion to be had here? Sure. Artists are welcome to interpret Tevildo, or suggest additional details to how he could be portrayed. And it is certainly understandable if a newcomer was completely unaware that that conversation had even happened, or that any of us may have forgotten the content or details of this conversation (that happened in July 2018). Which is why I have helpfully included a transcript below :).

But I would urge everyone to use the conversations in the podcasts as a starting point. After all, we are discussing the Silmarillion Film Project here, not just the Silmarillion or Tolkien's works. And the Silmarillion Film Project is Corey Olsen's podcast. It's certainly possible to expand on this, but I don't want to reject it out of hand or ignore it - that way lies chaos. The Executive Producer model means that...when decisions are made, they are incorporated into the project. Looking at that conversation above - it may have been only 13 minutes of a podcast session, but it had input from Corey, Trish, Ange1e4e5, Faelivrin, Marielle, Nick, Tony, and Zach (And indirectly Haerangil and me). This is a group effort.

I think there is a balance between respecting the time and effort and contributions of those who were present during the podcast, and welcoming input from newcomers who join the project after the fact. Hopefully, we can accommodate everyone. I do remember how frustrating it was to join this messageboard prior to being caught up on the podcasts (yes, yes, back in Season 1), and comment on the 'old' threads, only to have people chime in and say "we already decided on something else." I knew I wasn't up to date, but I still had THOUGHTS I wanted to share, in response to the podcast I'd just listened to! Which I think is valid. Same idea for someone wanting to chime in now/later on something 'old' - you're welcome to share your thoughts! But I do understand why people wanted to let me know that we'd moved on and that my idea did not fit with what had already been decided. So, now that it's my job to do that, I try to be careful not to be to quashing about it, and just clarify what decisions were made so everyone can be on the same page. Maybe that doesn't come across, and I sound severe and 'correcting' when I do that - I don't know. But really my goal is just to make sure we all have the same information available to us in the conversation.

 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Transcript from Session 3-26 concerning Tevildo:

Slide image:
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Corey: So, Tevildo. With Tevildo we're not quite as locked into the pure beast form. Tevildo is, presumably, a spirit who has manifested himself as a cat? Or are we imagining that Sauron imprisoned these spirits, some in the bodies of wolves, and some in the bodies of cats? Since Tevildo is ultimately a rejected concept in Tolkien, we kinda have a little bit of freedom. We don't ever really see where Tolkien would have gone with it. Marielle, I agree, that's an interesting way to say it. Marielle says, "A spirit that has chosen to manifest as a cat is unlikely to deign to change into a merely humanoid form." Anything that would choose a cat as a form would see humanity as lesser. That seems to me to capture the feline attitude. I can see that. So, basically, our conception of Tevildo is that Tevildo could theoretically take human form if he wanted to, he just doesn't. We will never see him do that. I can live with that. Keep in mind, by the way, we talk about Draugluin as this opposite number of Huan, and in a sense he is, in that Huan is a wolfhound and Draugluin is the father, or at least the godfather, of the wolves, but of course on a more literal level Tevildo is actually his opposite number. The original conception of Huan was Huan vs Tevildo. Tevildo was his archenemy, and this was a dog vs cat thing. This was not a hound vs wolf thing, it was a dog vs cat thing.​
Trish: I'm glad he didn't do that. I'm glad he finally left that idea behind. It's a little bit too cliche. Tolkien was obviously a dog person.​
Corey: Obviously a dog person.​
Trish: I know you're a dog person.​
Corey: I am, I am. Though that's really kinda by constraint. I can't pretend that I give cats a fair shake, because half my family is deathly allergic to cats, so we run whenever we see cats. I have not interacted significantly with a cat in 25 years. So I'm totally not pretending to be objective on the dog and cat thing.​
So, Nick says, "We had decided on Tevildo being a project of Morgoth's which Sauron imitates to make werewolves." Huh. I don't have the faintest memory of that, but I believe you.​
Trish: Tony says that the difference between them is that Tevildo chooses to become a cat, whereas Draugluin is forced into the body of a wolf as punishment. I like that.​
Corey: Yeah, that Tevildo is a cat and smug about it, whereas Draugluin is a slave, essentially. So, the dynamics that that introduces are kinda interesting. You think about the relationship between Sauron and Tevildo and Draugluin. On the one hand, Draugluin is Sauron's slave, and yet there's going to be some resentment there. So the kind of tension with Draugluin is that he's resentful and might be disobedient or intransigent, but he's a slave at the end of the day. Tevildo is not a slave. Tevildo would see himself as an ally. But therefore would have his own ideas, and isn't always guided by Sauron and doesn't always listen to him. In his own mind, like every other cat in the world, he would see himself as a free agent, doing his own thing.​
Marielle says that Tevildo should definitely torment Draugluin, whenever he can. Yeah, we had talked about it, Tevildo being the torturer, who should enjoy inflicting suffering on others. Here again, I'm not just trying to be anti-cat, but Tevildo needs to be a distillation, and an exaggeration, of all of the worst elements of cat personality. That element of cats playing with their prey before they kill them. Tevildo has that exponentially expanded.​
So, Tevildo should certainly be....what do you think? So we've got this picture of Tevildo here. I do like there being sort of lionish elements. Lion-like, leonine let me say, elements to Tevildo. And I think that he shouldn't be identifiably any modern cat species. I like the idea of him having black panther elements, but we don't want him just to be associated with black panthers. Especially in the wake of the Black Panther movie, I would add! But it's really, I think...​
Oh, interesting, Tony says "What if he's a saber-tooth cat?" See again, I wouldn't want to go too distinctive, not the actual saber-tooth look *gestures towards mouth*, because then we would be calling up more particular associations.​
Trish: How about something more toward the leopard side of things? Like even a snow leopard kind of look, where it's more black-and-white than brown?​

Corey: Yeah, maybe. Maybe. So this picture we have up here on the right, I really kind of like, with not a full lion's mane, but a kind of suggestion of a lion's mane. I really kind of like that. Zach, I've always pictured Tevildo as more sleek and aloof, too. I don't think exactly the body type of a lion. Lions are heavier looking. Something more leopard-like or more mountain lion-like I think would be good too. But again, he should have something of the, I don't know, regal-ness of one of the bigger great cats, like a tiger.​
Trish: Or a tiger. I was gonna say, tiger might not be.... Tiger, yeah, tiger would be good. Or something basic tiger derivation.​
Corey: The body shape of a tiger. But without the markings of a tiger. Something like a tiger, but maybe black or mostly black in markings. I think that would be good. Cool, alright.​
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Personally, I don't find anything lacking in the expressiveness of Aslan in the Narnia films. Also, the background cheetah in this scene is fine to me:


I have a lot more issues with Mowgli, though Shere Khan is hardly the most problematic design there.


I think The Jungle Book did a better job.


Let's...just not even talk about this year's Cats. I...yeah, no. That's Uncanny Valley material right there, and really questionable application of CGI. But I will admit I only saw the trailer, and...well, that was enough!

I did not see the 'live action' Lion King, so don't have an opinion on it. Except that, well, it's much easier when you have at least some humans on screen. An all-animal cast is like an all-puppet cast...difficult to pull off (and I say this as a lifelong fan of The Dark Crystal). In general, Tevildo will be interacting with Sauron, Thuringwethil, Draugluin, other cats, various elves, etc. So, there may be an all-beast-like scene at some point, but....probably not? And certainly not as a rule.
 
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Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Some of the problems people had with the 'live-action' Lion King was that it looked too realistic and gave off the appearance of seeming more like a nature documentary than an animated film; some detractors call it "lifeless."
 

Kathrin

Active Member
Yes, I listened to the podcast where Tevildo was discussed. (but thanks for reposting it, especially the transcript) But still, I had the impression this was like, the briefing you'd send to the concept art person. For example the script team gets their briefing in form of the rough season & frame outline the hosts do, then goes and works for a while, and then comes back, sometimes having diverged a bit or added new stuff, but mostly trying to realise the host's visions of the episodes.

But since the discussion of the visual elements (on podcast and the forum) isn't finished till end season, it's quite difficult to respond to that before the next season starts already, and the official postproduction is already done by then anyway. So if an element is still somewhat unresolved in episode 3-26 (the hosts called for Tevildo to be not exactly one cat species but to have certain influences from some cats) then the time to actually try and visualize that is necessarily in season 4.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, that is my understanding of how this works - that that session was more-or-less our 'marching orders' as to how to proceed, and then do with it what you will. In season 4, we did try to have the creative sessions all along, so artists wouldn't have to wait until the post-season to get input from the podcasts. I hope we will continue that into season 5! I mostly was just concerned we all have the same starting point from which to jump off into our ideas, as it sounded as if there might be some confusion here as to what actually was discussed when it came to Tevildo. I will note that they weren't very specific about size, facial features, or eyes in that discussion, so I would hope an artist would render their own choices to manifest a character who is 'aloof' and 'smug' and 'a free agent.'

An artist I am not. But, hey, I've got Gimp on this computer, so why not butcher some photos....


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So, I started with a Sumatran tiger (original image). That's a smaller variety of tiger, but I chose it because of the natural ruff around the face and interestingly pointed ears. I then did my best to 'erase' the tiger stripes, leaving it more or less dun with red, black, and white markings. I accentuated the ruff, giving it a bit more feathery of a look, added caracal-inspired ears, and made the pupils cat's eyes rather than round, and trimmed the whiskers. It maintains the lean muscular look of a tiger.

It also still very much looks like a tiger. The changes I made were too minor to have the overall creature not still scream 'tiger'. I think I would have to make it less orange, and I want to spend some time looking at snow leopards (tigers' nearest relatives) to decide how to change the face shape (which I left unaltered here). Also, maybe not give him clown makeup or choose a photo where he's sticking out his tongue!

Color-inverted snow leopard, with cat's eyes, modified ears and added fringe. And, uh, some rainbow makeup, cause that was intentional (not):
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(original photo here)
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
I tried another photo manip, this time based on Haakon's sketch. Obviously, I still haven't figured out a good way to alter the color scheme...I've gotten him somewhat shadowy, but definitely not a black cat yet.

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Again, the base animal is a tiger, chosen this time for the crouching pose and open mouth. (Original image)
I've added a tail, elongated the ears, made the eyes larger, added a beard, and redrawn the whiskers. But there's only so much I can do with the facial structure using this method of 'smear paint around on a photo'
 

Kathrin

Active Member
I've still got a lot to do till the 14th, but I have a Tevildo and a Thuringwethil project sitting around in early stages in my drawing app. I'll see how far I'll come with it. Next week I'm also visiting the Tolkien expo in Paris. Bit late to gather inspiration for this season, but it'll be super fun & interesting anyway. Heard a lot of cool stuff about that exposition. I own a book about Tolkien's paintings (J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, can recommend) but I'm so giddy to see everything IRL, and they have a lot of extra stuff, and made some gorgeous giant tapestries of the paintings apparently :)eek: ). Yayy. (sorry this is a bit off topic for here, just because it's about middle earth art)

MithLuin I've done some studies of the different big & wild cats (body&face features) and I'm basically doing the same thing in drawings rn, mixing & matching those features to get somewhere close to the description given by the hosts.
 
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