How Marvel's Shang-Chi VFX Artists Redesigned The Incredible Hulk's Abomination

Warning: this story contains spoilers for Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, now streaming on Disney+. Shang-Chi's visual effects supervisor breaks down bringing back the Abomination (Tim Roth) 13 years after The Incredible Hulk. When Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) enter Xialing's (Meng'er Zhang) underground fight club, it's during a cage match between two familiar faces: the sorcerer Wong (Benedict Wong) and Emil Blonsky, the mutated monster not seen since his Harlem rampage in 2008's The Incredible Hulk

"We were incredibly thrilled when we first discussed re-creating Abomination for Shang-Chi. We saw this character the last time in 2008 and getting the chance to show our take on it was an exciting outlook," TRIXTER's Dominik Zimmerle told Art of VFX. "We started with Concept Art from Marvel's Art Department, the original Asset from 2008 and references of the most recent developments on the Hulk. First of all, we started detailing the information we received from the provided Concept Art: we looked for references to what each part of Abomination could look like. For example, what materials should the horn parts have, how will the plates behave under the skin, what about his fins."

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(Photo: Marvel Studios / TRIXTER)

On making a more comic book-accurate Abomination ahead of Roth's return opposite Tatiana Maslany and Mark Ruffalo in Disney+ series She-Hulk, the visual effects team "started looking into how much of Tim Roth we could get into Abomination."

"We played around with different blending levels between a 3D representation of Tim Roth's face and the original Abomination until we found something that worked," said Zimmerle, whose credits include 2012's The Avengers, 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming, and this year's Black Widow. "The Associate VFX Supervisor of the first phase of the show and huge Marvel fan Chris Smallfield was significantly involved in this part of the process. I think it was a dream come true for him. We then sculpted a model around this framework and based on Marvel's feedback, we refined proportions and large-scale shapes until everybody was happy with the anatomy."

He continued: "We then used all of our reference material to add displacement and bump details and worked on the textures alongside. At the same time, our creature simulation team investigated the best setup for the skin sliding over the subdermal plates, which we see around the biceps and calf areas." 

Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton previously called the character's new look "a bit of an upgrade," telling Fandango: "We might call it an evolution going through time. I do really love the design that we landed on for that character. He's big and scary and looks really cool." 

Roth's Abomination is confirmed to next appear in Marvel Studios original series She-Hulk, which revealed first footage at Disney+ Day on November 12. The legal comedy series coming to Disney+ is about Bruce Banner's (Ruffalo) super-strong cousin Jennifer Walters (Maslany), a lawyer specializing in superhuman-oriented legal cases. 

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