May 24, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT


When it comes to designing nightmarish creatures, the imagination of Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) knows no bounds. But in creating the beasts called kaiju (Japanese for ”giant monsters”) that menace Earth in the sci-fi action epic Pacific Rim, del Toro stuck to a few rules.

? Draw inspiration from nature. ”We gave them outlandish touches, but we always wanted a vague simile of a species that exists, like a reptile or a crustacean. We used references like iguanas and alligators for texturing.”

? Make them sound as scary as they look. ”In designing the sound of the kaiju, we used a lot of real animal sounds. Like, we recorded angry badgers and pitched them down. We also used part of my voice in some of the kaiju, because I always voice at least one element of the monsters in my movies.”

? Respect your elders. ”Even if the anatomy of the kaiju was complicated, I wanted it to feel in keeping with the traditional man-in-a-suit type of puppeteering in the classic kaiju movies [like 1954’s Godzilla]…. If this movie was being done in 1975, you’d be able to put this monster in the movie with a guy in a suit.”

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