JIM HENSON'S CREATURE SHOP CHALLENGE -- "Trophy Room" Episode 104. Photo by Dale Berman for Syfy.

A new TV reality series makes its debut this month pitting 10 artists against each other, including three with connections to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh artist Jake Corrick is one of the contestants in “Jim Henson’s Creature Show,” a series that brings aspiring creators of imaginary creatures together for a chance to live the dream of working in Jim Henson’s Creature Shop in Los Angeles.

Corrick, a senior studying for his BFA in sculpture at Seton Hill University, is joined by two graduates of the Art Institute (AI) of Pittsburgh—Robert Bennett of Baton Rouge (who currently works for Walt Disney Imagineering) and Chaz Vance of Collins, NY.

The series focuses on the artistic and design challenges that go into the creature design field, from sculpting and animatronics to full-body creature creation. The episodes draw on the creative genius of Jim Henson, the mastermind behind the classics “The Dark Crystal” and “Farscape.”

Corrick, a native of Belle Vernon, was “discovered” for the show by the casting director who mailed him an application after he saw his business on Facebook, Misfit Monsters and Model Kits.

“I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember,” says Corrick who grew up reading all things by J.R. Tolkien and Frank Frazetta. “I starting out sculpting and making action figures with Play-Doh.”

Corrick was initially selected from among 1000 applicants. He subsequently landed a second audition, a screen test in LA. “It was the first time I’ve ever flown on a plane,” he admits.

A few weeks later he got the call (during class) that he was picked as one of 10 slotted for the show.

“And I couldn’t tell anybody,” he says. “I had to go back and sit in this 3 ½ hour class with this knowledge in my head.”

The hardest part in filming a show for eight weeks was creating on the fly in front of a camera. “Usually when you’re creating artistically you’re fumbling around and making mistakes. But when you’re creating art on camera you have to be constantly on point. You don’t want to mess up on camera,” he says.

Corrick is sworn to secrecy, of course, regarding the show’s outcome. His only admission is that the experience of being judged by several of the most respected people in the business makes it a compelling watch.

The judges include Brian Henson of The Jim Henson Company and the Creature Shop, Beth Hathaway, a creature fabricator who has worked on “Jurassic Park,” “The Walking Dead” and “Edward Scissorhands,” and Kirk Thatcher, a creature designer whose credits include “Return of the Jedi,” “Gremlins,” and “E.T.”

The host is Gigi Edgley of “Farscape” fame.

The show debuts on March 25th on NBCUniversal’s Syfy (formerly the SCI FI channel) at 10 p.m.

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared...