September 3, 2021 delivered the Marvel Cinematic Universe's newest theatrical release with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, introducing the franchise's first new solo hero in Phase 4. Coming in as the first in-universe story post-Avengers: Endgame, Simu Liu's titular hero found himself with a world turned upside down as he learned about his true past and future.
Part of the story showcased a simple yet emotional struggle between family and friends; Shang-Chi found himself face-to-face with his villainous father while finding the truth about his mother and sister as well. That led to the uncovering of an entirely new world in Ta Lo, a visually beautiful alternate dimension with creatures based on Chinese mythology, both good and evil.
The first of those creatures to appear on screen was the adorable and lovable Morris, a fluffy six-legged animal boasting wings and no head that became Marvel Studios' new superstar. With the unexpected return of Sir Ben Kingsley's Trevor Slattery, Morris served to prove just how crazy the fake Mandarin was while adding a new entertaining factor to the story.
Recently, fans learned how Marvel Studios brought this character to life in front of the camera and behind it.
The Movie Magic Behind the MCU's Morris
Entertainment Tonight spoke with Marvel Studios Senior Visual Effects Supervisor Chris Townsend to explore how he and the team brought the mythical creature, Morris, to life in Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Townsend revealed that Ben Kingsley used a green-screen-colored "stuffed wombat," which looked "very much like Morris" and set the foundation for the character's feel and look.
"We had a few things. We were shooting and prepping and things down in Australia, and one of the props people found online a stuffed wombat. If you've ever seen a wombat, it's very much like Morris. If you took a wombat, added a couple more legs, took off the face and added some wings, that's Morris. It was really interesting. So, we had this stuffed toy that we brought in. And then from that, we had the props department build some green stuffies shaped like Morris without wings and legs, just something that our actors could touch and hold."
An important aspect of this plush object was that it had "to be heavy enough" for Kingsley and the rest of the cast to get an accurate idea of what Morris would really feel like.
To make this happen, the team "put sandbags inside" of the Morris doll to make it feel heavy when the actors lifted it up:
"And one of the things that I really wanted as well was it to be heavy enough. I'm always very aware watching films when people pick up a suitcase and there's nothing in it. You're like, 'Oh, come on.' And it would be a heavy, heavy creature. It's got a lot of bulk to it. So, we put sandbags inside to make it nice and heavy so that when the actors lift it up, it had some weight to it. So, we did it with this green cushion, basically."
The team at Marvel also used the classic green screen technique in front of its actors before adding the mountains and greenery of Ta Lo in post-production:
The blue screen also came into play for other shots, such as Simu Liu's Shang-Chi and Meng'er Zhang's Xialing riding the back of the Great Protector as they took on the creatures of Ta Lo:
Giving Morris the Spotlight in Shang-Chi
From the moment Morris first came to the big-screen in Trevor Slattery's dressing room, he proved himself to be a fan-favorite quickly as he showed a bond with the struggling actor.
Marvel clearly wanted to give its actors the proper resources to show Morris as realistically as possible, even with the creature being like nothing that exists on Earth. With a heavy plush creature to hold and interact with and not having its personality or extra physical features to use, the weight surely helped bring a sense of realism to the creature's scenes with actors.
Having to develop dozens of different visual effects for an entirely new dimension and its inhabitants, the VFX team put the work in to make sure the outing lived up to the MCU's usual standard of excellent scenery. Amongst all of the work done after shooting ended, Morris undoubtedly stole the show, and Marvel proved to know how to bring him to life in an accurate and visually interesting way.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently playing in theaters.