Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched Loki's mindblowing fifth episode, "Journey Into Mystery." Be warned!
As enjoyable and exciting and madcap as Loki's first four episodes were on Disney+, the ante went up tenfold with the penultimate Season 1 installment "Journey Into Mystery," whose own title was a huge connection to the character's history on the page. The episode was packed to Tadpole Thor's gills with references to both MCU canon and Marvel Comics lore, but there were a few visual details that had fans curiously scratching their heads: those giant stone heads and the ball-headed bird creatures that were running around. Thankfully, we now have something of an explanation for both.
CinemaBlend spoke with Loki's head of production design, the talented Kasra Farahani, about a bunch of details seen in Episode 5's The Void, and when I asked about those massive heads that Loki and his merry band of variants stood near during their first argument, he confirmed that neither the heads nor the purple quasi-birds were lifted from Marvel Comics. In his words:
The big giant heads, they were... I don't have a clear story for that one. [Laughs.] That was really just a visual thing, because we were trying to find moments to infuse The Void with surrealism. So that was the point of the giant heads, and also of the little Void creatures that look like the little peacocks. Originally, at some point, I was proposing a far more Salvador Dali-esque, Dada-esque version of The Void, and it evolved over time. But those bird creatures and heads made it through from the Dada-esque version to the English moors version of The Void.
Oh man, oh man. I so wish that I was privy to all of the ideas that were being thrown around during that point when Loki's creative team was leaning more into The Void's surrealism, not to mention all the other things we didn't see. It was already bizarre enough as it is, mind you, as a landscape riddled with alt-universe MCU locations and vehicles and even costumes, considering that giant Yellowjacket helmet. I'm sure I'm not the only one who had theories that Yellowjacket or Ant-Man might have been connected to the giant cracked heads in some way. But no, we can instead thank the influence of Salvador Dali and the highly imaginative Dadaism art movement. However, it's still interesting to think about how those big ol' domes would have broken TVA rules in order to get pruned into The Void.
And while Kasra Farahani didn't explicitly say that those bird creatures were organic to The Void, it's not so hard to infer that from how he worded things, combined with the idea that the bird-like creatures are purple and are only shown to be running around excitedly whenever the gigantic monster Alioth is on its feeding frenzy. It's also very, very easy to believe that these animals - who are somehow kind of cute despite not having a face - were born out of surrealism-infused designs. They're almost like T-ball toys that hold the balls aloft with water or compressed air, though I'm loathe to think of what would happen if someone tried to remove their ball-heads. [Shudders.]
While the bird creatures obviously weren't real-life creatures whose heads were supplanted with floating inanimate objects, which I'm sure PETA wouldn't have been hyped for, it turns out those heads were definitely physical and tangible background objects on the set. When I asked Kasra Farahani how much of the Void was physical sets, and how much was created through CG, he explained:
Yeah, so we built a really large chunk of Void terrain inspired by the moors in England. We built a chunk of this on stage, and if I remember correctly, it's in the area of like a 150ftx200ft space of terrain that we built. Then we brought in different elements to make it feel like different parts of The Void. So for example, the bus stop that he arrives on was one set-up. The giant heads were another set-up. The drive-in movie theater, where Sylvie wakes up, is another set. There's a total of seven or so different set-ups; we shot this over seven days. So that was all built, and then of course the barber shop was another one. We built that barber shop on that same terrain. And finally, the Loki Palace, which was another set entirely, but that was entirely built as a full 360-degree environment; no set extension in that.
I suppose it's understandable that they didn't build a massive recreation of Asgard for Classic Loki, only to have it immediately get destroyed by Alioth. But I love that so much of The Void was created as physical set pieces, as opposed to most backgrounds being digitally composed, as it goes with shows like The Mandalorian that film in front of LED screens. Now how long will it be until I can buy a Loki-branded giant stone head paperweight, or a Funko Pop figure of the bird creature? Take my money, Disney and Marvel!