For del Toro the appeal is that rich allegorical subtext, and how greed and consumption can spawn ever greater desperation.
Said del Toro, “I think there’s two things I’m really compelled by. One is the myth that [the more] it eats, the more hungry it gets; and the more it eats, the weaker it gets. There is a metaphor for the insatiablility that exists right now and the permanent depravation of everything.”
And the desire to depict this horrific figure of Native American lore correctly is a major sticking point for both men. Cooper noted that he worked again with friends and consultants in the Native American community, including Smoke Signals director Chris Eyre, on Antlers, just as he did Hostiles before it. Cooper also mentions discussing beliefs surrounding the wendigo with Grace L. Dillon, Professor in the Indigenous Nations Studies Program at Portland State University.
Thus when it came to designing the creature—a specialty for del Toro, whose own movies have birthed countless iconic monster designs from the filmmaker and concept artist Guy Davis—there was a desire to play toward the actual mythology about about the wendigo.
“The wendigo has very specific cues in the way you need to describe and the way you need to follow [it],” del Toro said. “The antlers for example are a must. I remember very clearly when I was working with Scott and Guy Davis, and later with everybody at Legacy creating the creature, I said, ‘We have to remember that we’re not creating a monster. We’re creating a god.’ So the design needs to have elements that are completely unnatural, that are almost surreal or abstract.” One intriguing note is that upon seeing initial animations of the creature with normal bone and fur, del Toro said, “The bone needs to look like coal…. We have to see he looks ancient and powerful, and one with nature.”