Saturday, September 11, 2010

US Television, Beast Legends, Episode 1.1 "The Kraken"

Beast Legends
Season One, Episode One, The Kraken
Original Air Date:  Thursday, September 9, 2010

I've got to say, I love stuff like this.  I've always had a fascination with mythology and legend.  When a television show comes along that looks to take myth & legend and build upon it with biological facts I've got to check it out.

Beast Legends is a new six-part documentary series currently being aired on the SyFy Channel.  The goal of the show is to take legendary creatures and bring them to life using state-of-the-art computer graphics.  Behind those computer graphics is old fashioned research, planning, animation and hard work.  The investigative team consists of five individuals who bring a unique eye and imagination to each project.  Steve Leonard is an adventurer and veterinary surgeon.  Francis Manapul is a very talented comic book artist.  Kathryn Denning (anthropologist, archaeologist & associate professor, York University, Canada) is a Legend Specialist.  Scott Edwards (Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University) is a biologist.  Mike Paixao is an animator skilled at bringing anything to life using a computer.
The team has sifted through all the legends relating to the Kraken.  They've gone through written accounts and take the information they glean from each source and make note of it to use in creating their computer-generated Kraken.

After approaching the Kraken from the mythological standpoint, they begin researching actual animals that the legend could be based upon.  The three animals they research:  giant squid, colossal squid and giant Pacific octopus.

Steve heads to Vancouver Island, Canada to catch and study a giant Pacific octopus.  Jim Cosgrove (research associate, Royal British Columbia Museum) has been catching and researching octopi for some 30 years.  Kevin VanClemput (scientific research diver) is an experienced diver who assists in catching the octopus.  They find one and bring it on board to examine. 

Meanwhile, Scott, Francis and Mike are working on the preliminary ideas for their Kraken.  Francis and Mike want to add elements to the Kraken that Scott feels are unnecessary and make it too much like something from a comic book.  Scott wants the creature to be based on on the real world.

Kathryn goes to Brest, France to speak with world-class competitive sailor Didier Ragot who, in 2003, had an experience he won't soon forget.  A giant squid attached itself to the rudder of his boat some 200 nautical miles from the Canary Islands.  The squid slowed his boat from 24 knots to 8 knots.  Ragot, who has been sailing for four decades, estimated the length of the squid to be anywhere from 32-35 feet long. 

Steve and Francis head to Wellington, New Zealand to view a video and the body of a colossal squid that is on display at the Museum of New Zealand.  After viewing the just half-grown 14 ft, 1,091 pound creature they head to the Soren Larsen, a tall ship they use to base just how the Kraken would have taken down a similar ship.  Using the scale from the ship, they determine the size of their Kraken:  a full 200 ft.

The episode ends with the finished computer-generated animation of their Kraken.  Their beast lives in the Kaikoura Canyon off New Zealand.  First, the Kraken dines on a whale then attacks a boat.

Each member of the investigative team brings a lot to the mix.  Kathryn, Steve and Scott bring real-world scientific knowledge while Francis and Mike bring a youthful and limitless imagination and creativity.  I couldn't imagine any single creature that Francis and Mike would have difficulty bringing to life.  At the same time, I couldn't imagine any creature that Kathryn, Scott and Steve would find difficult to find some sort of real-life animal upon which to base their legendary beast.

I greatly enjoyed that this episode blended mythology and legend with actual animals.  That they found the three most likely suspects for a Kraken, researched them then based their computer-generated creature on that research.  The reality blended with the mythology adds a bit of credence to the project and makes it just a bit more believable that a creature of the magnitude of the Kraken could actually dwell in the world's waters.  This was almost like a blending of an oceanographic documentary and Monster Quest.

Future episodes of Beast Legends will focus on the dragon, the griffin, a giant shark, a killer bird and the Bigfoot of Vietnam.

Beast Legends airs every Thursday night at 10 P.M. (9 p.m. Central) on the SyFy Channel.  Episode two, Fire Dragon airs on September 16, 2010.

For More Information:
Official Web Site:
Official SyFy Site:
TV Rage:
Francis Manapul's Official Website:

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