The many fantastical creatures in Marvel’s Shang Chi and the Legend of The Ten Rings are based on Chinese mythology – and the adorable Morris partly inspired by, what else, puppies.
When they first encounter Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley), who’s also been locked up by Wenwu (Tony Leung), he is astonished they can see his unusual companion. Until Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) demand to know what Morris is, the actor thought he’d been hallucinating him all these years.
What kind of creature is he?
Morris is a faceless, furry fellow who looks a bit like a walking footstool with wings and he’s a bit sensitive about being told he doesn’t have a face, Trevor insists. (Only Trevor seems to be able to understand what Morris says.)
The cuddly creature proves to be their key to gaining entry to the elusive land of Ta Lo, where he happily reunites with his fellow winged flock. And plays with the two Fu Dogs, who are about 10 times his size.
Christopher Townsend, the visual effects supervisor on “Shang-Chi” tells the LA Times, “He’s based on Hundun, which is a mythological character in Chinese folklore, sometimes considered the God of chaos.” According to a Marvel Wiki, he’s also called a Dijiang.
What real-life animals inspired Morris?
Townsend told the Times his team studied ostriches, cassowary birds and wombats: “Morris is a six-legged, headless version of a wombat, really.” He added, “We studied a lot of different animals and their behavior, particularly dogs and puppies,” which means Morris likes to greet people, warm laps and ride shotgun in the car.
What does Katy call Morris?
Also know as the Guardian Lions or Stone Lions, they are based on the figures usually placed on either side of a gate or an entryway in Chinese architecture.
“Fu Dogs always come in pairs,” Townsend told the Times. “There’s one that’s male and one that’s female, traditionally, in Chinese mythology. They also tend to do the opposite things. When one is breathing out, the other one is breathing in. They’re yin and yang… There’s a lighter one and a darker one in the film and they offset each other just ever so slightly. When one is roaring, the other one is still and vice versa. It’s these kind of subtleties that we tried to put in the film.”
Do they see action in battle?
Yes. During the climactic battle, one Fu Dog dispatches a Ten Rings baddie, and one of the little “soul suckers” becomes a Fu Dog dinner. They are outfitted with their own matching collars before the fight. They loos more ceremonial than protective, but these dogs can take care of themselves.
THE GREAT PROTECTOR
The red dragon who protects Ta Lo does not have wings, but can still fly. “The Great Protector was based very much on the Chinese-style (dragon),” said Townsend. “She didn’t have wings. She has a flowing mane and she silkily swims through the air. … it was interesting to try and figure out a way for her to move and to fly without it feeling too magical.'”
What animals inspired her design?
Sea snakes and eels, as well as horse manes and reptile scales.
Who gets to ride on her?
Shang-Chi and his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang).
The fearsome dragon-like creature comes from another world and was trapped long ago by Ta Lo warriors. As Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh) tells her niece and nephew: “Thousands of years ago, all of our people lived in peace and prosperity, until the attack of the Dweller-in-Darkness. He came with his army, devouring every soul in their path, and with each kill, they grew stronger. After decimating our largest cities, they were headed to your universe to do the same. The leaders of Ta Lo sent their strongest warriors here to stop them from reaching the portal to your world. But our ancestors were no match for them…”
How does it get free?
Wenwu attacks the gate of its hillside prison, mistakenly believing he is freeing his dead wife. Once freed, it begins feasting on souls, having already been been fed by its smaller minions, aka soul suckers. It nearly defeats the Great Protector, but, like Maleficent’s devilish dragon in Sleeping Beauty or Tolkien’s dragon Smaug, is felled by a well-aimed weapon.
What does Katy call it?
“Mega soul sucker”
These snowy white Nine-Tailed Foxes are inspired by the Huli Jing from Chinese mythology, while the similar-looking Pokemon character, Ninetales, is inspired by Japanese folklore, according to the Times. Sadly, we only get a brief glimpse of them, but an additional scene had to be cut, Townsend said.
According to Comic Book Resources, in Chinese myth, these foxes sound like babies and eat people. In later versions of the myths, they were supposed to be able to transform into beautiful women or men and when they turned 1000 years old they could become divine.
The first animals the team encounter in Ta Lo are, as Townsend describes, “iridescent, reptilian-skinned, horse-like characters with sort of dragon heads and hooves.”
“Originally, we had the Qilin really bright and garish and beautiful, but they stood out in such a weird way,” said Townsend, who toned down the colors so they wouldn’t be “too cartoony.”
What does Trevor say about them?
“That’s a weird horse.”
When the Ta Lo newcomers comment it’s odd to see birds on fire flying overhead, Trevor informs his new friends what Morris has said of them: “It’s normal. They’re old mates of his.”
According to Comic Book Resources, they are Fenghuang, similar to the Phoenix.