Sometimes, in celebrating the spooky qualities of fright filmmakers and the garish creations of their effects teams, we forget that, in addition to ripping out hearts, they often have big ones of their own.
Recently, the effects artists at Richard Taylor’s WETA workshop took a break from creating creatures to turn another fantasy into reality: Transforming a double amputee into a mermaid.
A swimmer since she was a child, New Zealand native Nadya Vessey was always passionate about swimming. Despite losing both legs in her youth, Vessey didn’t allow the disablement to hinder her from doing what she loved. Utilizing two prosthetic legs that she has had since her teenage years, Vessey would take to the pool and sea to become one with the water. She never once entertained the notion that she could transform into something more. Vessey was merely content in doing what she loved to do.
However, one day, at the beach, Vessey was approached by a young boy, who witnessed her removing her legs after a swim. According to an interview with The Telegraph, the boy, confused by what he saw, asked her if she was a mermaid. Tickled by the notion, Vessey was inspired to see what she could to make the boy’s flight of fancy become a reality. She contacted WETA, who, intrigued by the unique request, set about to see if they could take the magic they created on the screen and apply it to real life. After all, it’s one thing to create King Kong in fantasy, it’s another to make a real live woman a mermaid.
Over the course of two years, WETA toiled at turning Nadya into a modern-day Ariel. Utilizing wet-suit materials and molded plastic, the effects team was successful in marrying female with fin. Furthermore, being the expert effects artisans that they are, the team ensured that it looked as real as possible, to inspire those seeing Nadya take to the sea to dream.
For artists who so frequently create creatures of the darkness, this story brings a remarkable amount of light. Thanks to a confused boy, a girl’s aspiration, and one hell of an effects team, the people responsible for orcs and trolls have done the impossible: They’ve made mermaids real.
To see how WETA made Nadya’s mermaid prosthesis, watch the video below.