Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge debuts tonight

I’m a really big fan of SyFy Channel’s make-up FX competition series, Face/Off, and really excited about the debut of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge which premieres tonight across North America.

Here’s an explanation of the show’s premise from a press release:

For generations the craftsmen at The Jim Henson Creature Shop have brought to life imaginative, lovable and memorable characters that have enthralled audiences around the world. Now, aspiring creature makers will have an opportunity to win the job of a lifetime – an apprenticeship with the Creature Shop. Teams of amateur creators will face off to build elaborate and awe-inspiring creatures, ranging from animatronic monsters and fantastical puppets, to life-like beasts and beyond! Creations are judged by Brian Henson – son of Jim Henson and Chairman to the Henson empire – along with top industry experts.

Those “industry experts” are an impressive line up that includes Henson veteran Kirk Thatcher and former Stan Winston Studio designer Beth Hathaway alongside Creature Shop designers Peter Brooke, John Criswell and Julie Zobel, who serve as mentors to contestants on the series. The series is hosted by actress Gigi Edgley, who played Chiana on the Henson-produced SyFy series Farscape.

In this great behind-the-scenes video, John Criswell explains how one of the “One Eyed, One Horned, Flying Purple People Eaters” featured in the promos for the series was brought to life on screen and takes us on a short behind-the-scenes tour of his personal workspace at the Creature Shop:

(I especially love the animatronic “skulls” from shows like Dinosaurs and The Country Bears that John keeps mounted on the wall)

For a review of the premiere episode, visit the A.V. Club. SyFy also has lots of great behind-the-scenes videos and photos on their web site, although some of the materials aren’t available to visitors outside of the United States.

Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge debuts tonight at 10 p.m. on SyFy Channel in the United States and in Canada on Space. No word on overseas broadcasts yet, but hopefully soon!