‘Eborsisk’ is the production nickname given to the gargantuan, two-headed monster in the 1988 feature film Willow. The label is a portmanteau of ‘Ebert’ and ‘Siskel’, two famed film film critics (George Lucas is known for having contempt towards them). The two of them would later claim that they “weren’t flattered” with the film; in a review Ebert gave Willow 2 stars and a half, but praised its advanced special effects. The final design of the Eborsisk displays an unusual, unprecedented combination of traits, without any subsequent movie Monster replicating it.
The scripts for the film did not describe the creature in all of its details — it was simply presented as “an enormous two-headed monster that doesn’t like visitors”. This allowed the special effects crew of Industrial Light & Magic — headed by Phil Tippett — extensive creative liberties in designing the fearsome behemoth. The final creature, featuring massive protuberances on the snouts, vulturesque eyes, and manes of hair running down its necks, was designed and sculpted by Phil Tippett and Randy Dutra. It was based on discarded Monster designs by Ralph McQuarrie for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. The signature trait of the Eborsisk is represented by its throat sacs, which the creature inflates with flammable gas to prepare its powerful fire breath — so “you could believe it could actually create fire”, said Warwick Davis (Willow) in his commentary for the film. A flamethrower rig on set was used to create the monster’s breath.
The Eborsisk was brought to the screen through the technique of go-motion, developed by Industrial Light & Magic. Two rigged rod puppets were built: a small scale model of the full creature and a single, larger and more detailed head for shots that needed close-ups. Particular effort was needed in making the smaller scale model and the hero head undistinguishable from each other. The rod puppets were rigged up to a rod system and controlled by a computer. The go-motion process was overseen by Harry Walton and Tom St. Amand.
Nick Dudman Studios built a full-size head of the Eborsisk, on which Val Kilmer jumped while filming his fight scene with the monster. The enormous prop was mounted on a gimbal, and was able to perform limited movements and flail about. For more elaborate shots of the battle, a Madmartigan go-motion puppet was used in coordination with the Eborsisk model.
For more pictures of the Monsters from Willow, visit the Monster Gallery.