It might be coincidental, but to me the bear-like speaking creature encountered by characters in the Annihilation film adaptation seems so similar to alzabo that it's probably a deliberate reference. Even whole encounter does seem a bit reminiscent of the scene from The Sword of Lictor in which Severian first hears and then meets the beast in little Severian's house.

Did creators of the movie spoke about it, or is there any other proof of this, or maybe such theory was disproved and whole matter is just an unusual coincidence?

I found a discussion about it here, but without actual confirmation.

  • 2
    You may wish to note that the bear's name was Homerton, in homage to Paddington Bear
    – Valorum
    Sep 9, 2018 at 18:50
  • Just a nitpick ;) Nice that guys were so inventive and also had some humor sense. It would be cool if it was a ref. but as independent thing is maybe even more impressive.
    – Mithoron
    Sep 9, 2018 at 19:03
  • @mithron - If you're going to have two skulls, you need to extend the outer one to give space for the inner one. It's the reason the Xenomorph also has such a long face.
    – Valorum
    Sep 9, 2018 at 19:06

1 Answer 1


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.

How Annihilation’s visual effects artists created those terrifying mutant creatures

  • This answer doesn't seem to address any of the similarities between the Annihilation creature and the alzabo - its voice, its behavior, the staging of the scene each appears in. The question does not seem to be asking about its appearance.
    – recognizer
    Sep 10, 2018 at 23:26
  • @recognizer - What's to address? The similarities are superficial and the makers claim original inspiration.
    – Valorum
    Sep 11, 2018 at 6:13
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    If you consider their shared ability to mimic human voices in order to lure in prey superficial, then sure, you're entitled to your opinion. But even though it's been many years since I read the novel, that similarity was still striking to me as soon as the creature appeared in the film. I consider that to be the crux of this question, as it's not only the most similar attribute between the two, but the one that most distinguishes them from other monsters in F/SF.
    – recognizer
    Sep 11, 2018 at 8:41
  • 1
    @recogniser - Animals/monsters luring people in by mimicking human voices is a trope that's as old as fiction. It happens in Gilgamesh
    – Valorum
    Sep 11, 2018 at 9:00
  • 1
    @recognizer I presume that Valorum didn't read the book (at least yet ;) so he put an indirect answer. I think I'd liked most if authors of the movie themselves addressed this similarity directly, but it's a bit too much to hope ;) Also comparative analysis between both monsters would be welcome - I could do it myself, but I'm not sure if it validates necessity of another answer. So, this one isn't optimal, but quite ok, maybe a better one wounds up, who knows.
    – Mithoron
    Sep 20, 2018 at 22:08

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