Shang-Chi VFX Boss Reveals One Person Hand-Modeled Thousands of Scales for the Great Protector Dragon

The team behind Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings went to great lengths to make sure their movie was done right. Writer Dave Callaham previously revealed the studio came up with a list of stereotypes the movie needed to avoid, and that same level of care was spread throughout the entire crew. Because of its dedication to ancient Chinese mythology, the movie ended up using some of the same animals plucked from those stories, from dragons to guardian lions, Hundun, Fenghuang, and more.

Those charged with building the CG dragons from scratch took exceptional care of the work. In fact, one of the film's VFX supervisors tells us a single person labored over the dragon, intricately placing every scale individually on the water-dwelling beast.

"It almost killed them, but yes, we did have one hand place 8,000 scales on the dragon," Weta Digital VFX Supervisor Sean Walker tells "He actually created the initial sculpt and so he wanted to look after it as a whole, so yeah, e had one modeler that did the entire dragon pretty much. And he hand-modeled every single one of those scales."

In our same chat with Walker, the VFX guru noted the production wanted to pack the dragon with as many Easter eggs as possible. As such, they used the eyes of Fala Chen — the actor that played Shang-Chi's late mother — for the Great Protector.

"We kept looking at Shang's mother for reference for almost everything," Walker added. "Even the Dragon's eyes were initially based off by Fala Chen's eyes, the actress who played Shang's mom."


Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and produced by Kevin Feige and Jonathan Schwartz, with Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, and Charles Newirth serving as executive producers. David Callaham & Destin Daniel Cretton & Andrew Lanham wrote the screenplay for the film, which is now in theaters.

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