It would appear not. The bear was originally just described in the script as "bear-like". When the Director sat down with the Effects Supervisor and Concept team, he said that he wanted something that look like a half-bear, half-tardigrade but that was really sick. Ultimately this was then kitbashed together with a range of different skulls (including human and others) to create the finished article.
You can see the evolution of the ideas that led to the finished article in the video below. There's no indication that they started with anything even remotely looking like an alzabo, nor that it was something they were consciously trying to mimic. The design appears to be more a case of form following function when trying to combine two skulls (bear and human) into the space of one.
Q. I can’t shake the shock that comes from the bear. What was the description of that creature in the script, and what was the initial design process like?
AW: In the original version of the script, it was described as being bear-like. Alex was, in the way he described it and the way he spoke to me, deliberately a little bit tricky. Do you know the creature called a water bear; a tardigrade? They’re these tiny microscopic creatures. They send them into space when they want to see how extreme life forms can survive. These weird, tiny, sort of eight-legged creatures. So Alex was saying, “Well, maybe I’m meaning it could look like a giant water bear.”
“WE LOOKED AT THAT AND WENT, ‘YEAH, OKAY, THAT’S HORRIBLE. THAT’S GONNA WORK.’” So the first thing I personally did in response to the screenplay was, I mocked up a concept of this half actual bear, half water-bear creature. Then when we started thinking about it in a more formal sense, we thought, “Well, let’s be sure it should be a bear.” So we tried a bunch of other ideas, like making it a wild boar or some other kind of large, dangerous animal that you might expect to find in the forest. Ultimately, the feeling was, a bear works because it’s got the right capabilities of movement that we need narratively, and also bears — particularly when they stand up — have that sort of strange, not-quite-human but slightly human quality. Which is unsettling in a regular bear. So that gives us a leg up in terms of making it feel weird to begin with.
And then we knew we were going to try to suggest the idea of the mutation causing sickness, but also causing pronounced physical change and transformation, which was true for most of the creatures. We wanted to suggest the idea that some of [Tuva Novotny’s character] Sheppard’s DNA is somehow added into the bear, and maybe other humans it has encountered previously are part of it also. So we were struggling to come up with a clear visual way of describing that. One of the concept artists, in a piece of 3D software, got a scan of a bear skull and a scan of a human skull, and literally just mashed the two together. We looked at that and went, “Yeah, okay, that’s horrible. That’s gonna work.”
Then we thought, “Okay, let’s see what kind of bear we want.” So we looked at different bear shapes, different bear physiology, the different types of bear, and we ended up picking polar bears, because they’re slightly longer-legged, and they have a very distinct kind of curve to the top of their body down to their head, that has a sort of aerodynamic sleekness, and a real sense of precision and purpose. Because we’d been looking at the skull, we felt the whole front of the face tapered really interestingly. That’s the shape of the bear’s skull — if you get rid of the adorable, wet juicy nose, and all the fluff off the front of it, that’s what bears are like. So I thought, “Well, okay, we should probably try and keep that.”
“IT NEEDS TO BE TERRIFYING, BUT I ALSO HOPE PEOPLE HAVE A SENSE OF EMPATHY TOWARD IT.” So we then pushed the idea that the sickness of the creature has either totally atrophied the flesh off its face, or there’s just a thin coating of skin over the skull. That then transitions back into a more naturally skinned bear-creature. When we were going through our reference collection process, we found an image of a baboon that I think had alopecia or vitiligo or both. It had mottled skin and was only partially furred, and even though it was actually apparently fairly healthy, it looked odd and uncomfortable. So we took that as an idea. We added a lot of mottled patterning to the skin, and then we only partially put fur onto it, and we tried to put fur into places that we thought would have a maximum dramatic effect. So the top of the head is mostly fur-free because that’s kind of freaky, while on the underside of the jaws and on the bottom, we put lots of fur, so that after it’s attacked people, that can be dripping in blood. It just has a lot more visual impact.
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