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His Dark Materials' Mulefa design will 'disappoint some, please others'

The iconic, bizarre creatures play a big part in the original Philip Pullman novel – but why have they been such a challenge for the team behind the BBC adaptation?

Ruth Wilson as Mrs Coulter in His Dark Materials season three (BBC)
Published: Tuesday, 24th May 2022 at 12:41 pm
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The team behind BBC One and HBO's terrific adaptation of His Dark Materials have faced all sorts of challenges in bringing Philip Pullman's beloved novels to the screen – and it sounds like one of the trickiest tasks of all was saved for the upcoming third and final season.

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The third novel in Pullman's trilogy introduces a species of rather bizarre creatures known as Mulefa – who play a crucial role in the events of the book – and speaking at a panel as part of the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival, the creative team explained why translating them to TV had been no easy feat.

"It's going alright," VFX supervisor Russell Dodgson said. "I mean, it's tricky. If you ever want to get stitched, up, read the description of the Mulefa in the book, and then go, 'Cool, let's have a go!'"

He continued: "It's going well. I mean, everything is about adaptation when you're doing this, and taking the essence of what something is. If we did exactly what is described in the book, you probably wouldn't want to watch it. Because it would be too weird.

"And there's a certain grace and elegance about them that we need to try and find. And that's what we're currently doing, day in day out until October."

"It was a bit of a process working out how they would move," added costume designer Caroline McCall. "And I was somewhat concerned at one point that [there would be] broken limbs."

Brian Fisher, Ruth Wilson, Caroline McCall and Russel Dodgson at the His Dark Materials BFI & Radio Times Television Festival panel
Brian Fisher, Ruth Wilson, Caroline McCall and Russell Dodgson at the His Dark Materials BFI & Radio Times Television Festival panel. Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

"For those who don't know, they're like kind of a giant trunked horse animal that has a diamond-shaped skeleton," Dodgson explained further. "And also rolls around on wheels. So there's no problem with that!

"At one point, one of our puppeteering team turned up with a Mulefa puppet head on the end of a bike, and went, 'What do you reckon?' And I'd be like, 'It's a cool idea but someone's gonna die.' So we didn't do that.

"But it's going fine. It's a cool challenge, and we'll disappoint some people and make some other people really happy, I guess."

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His Dark Materials returns to BBC One and HBO this autumn. For more, check out our dedicated Fantasy page or our full TV Guide.

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