Skip

A Mermaid's Tale
April 5, 2011 4:18 PM   Subscribe

"One day a little boy came up, he must have been about four and he saw me taking off my (prosthetic) legs and he started with the 'why' questions, you know, 'why haven't you got any legs', etc. And I said 'have you heard of The Little Mermaid?' and he said 'yes' and I said 'I'm a mermaid' and he got this look on his face and he said 'wow that's cool' and ran off to tell his dad.

I'll have to turn up to that beach again sometime with my tail - just in case he's there."
Weta Digital are the special effects team behind the costumes, weapons and creatures of the Lord of the Rings movies, Avatar and even a sonic screwdriver prop that could be making an appearance on the next season of Doctor Who. In 2009, they created a fully functional mermaid tail pro bono for Nadya Vessey, an Auckland woman who is a double leg amputee. Video News Report: 1, 2.
posted by zarq (37 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Via.
posted by zarq at 4:21 PM on April 5, 2011


My first impulse was to post THIS IS AWESOME AND I WANT IT. I quickly realized that while it is in fact awesome, I am pretty damned fond of my legs and would prefer to keep them, but, you know, if something truly unfortunate should ever come up, it's great that WETA has developed an alternative.

Undulating through the water with your legs together mermaid-fashion (the dolphin kick) can be fun while you're scuba-diving, and it feels very efficient, but my scuba tank always gets uncomfortable pretty quickly if I do that.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:29 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Very cool. Walking around Wellington over the last few years it's been pretty great watching Weta Workshop sculptures and etc. pop up round town, but this is another level. It's FUNCTIONING for fuck's sake!
posted by doublehappy at 4:31 PM on April 5, 2011


Morbid question: what condition exactly causes legs to not develop properly to the point where they must be amputated?
posted by Xany at 4:34 PM on April 5, 2011


Why does Bono have to insert himself into every damn thing, is what I want to know.
posted by everichon at 4:41 PM on April 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


She's lucky that it was pro bono, 'cos I hear those things can cost an arm and a leg.
posted by robotot at 4:45 PM on April 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Interesting. This implies that the exchange rate for arms and legs is the same.
posted by localroger at 4:49 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow! I recommend watching the videos; there's some great footage of her swimming out to sea.
posted by Nixy at 5:10 PM on April 5, 2011


Well, that's a nice story. Yay for Weta!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:12 PM on April 5, 2011


Weta Digital didn't make this since they're a digital effects company; it was Weta Workshop, who do all the practical props / puppets / makeup for the same sort of jobs.

Interestingly during Avatar there was another satellite design / build shop also based in Wellington doing a lot of the prop etc work on that film, who had to keep stamping their work with "NOT designed by Weta" since everybody just assumed Weta Workshop had done it.

The word I've always heard is that Richard Taylor loooooooves Weta Workshop but really doesn't care too much about Weta Digital, despite being a front man in many peoples' eye for both outfits.
posted by John Shaft at 5:15 PM on April 5, 2011


she paid for the materials with a grant she got from Kerr-Taylor Foundation Trust, so they should get some credit too.
posted by sineater at 5:21 PM on April 5, 2011


what condition exactly causes legs to not develop properly to the point where they must be amputated?

Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency and Fibular Hemimelia are congenital conditions often addressed with amputation if the individual has a better outlook for mobility with a prothesis than with their own underdeveloped limb.
posted by jamaro at 5:22 PM on April 5, 2011


This is such a Kiwi thing to do. I can't think of many other countries in the world where:

- a woman would wake up and, with a completely straight face, decide she wanted a mermaid tail;

- wander down the street to some people she figured could make a mermaid tail;

- say "Do you rickun you could make us a mermaid tail?'; and

- have everybody say 'Yis, rickun we could', and just do it, as though she had asked if they would lend her a biro.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:57 PM on April 5, 2011 [54 favorites]


I would totally put a jet in there.
posted by oddman at 6:37 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid I'd planned to get my limbs amputated when I grew up and replace them with better robot limbs. I still sorta want to do that.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:42 PM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is such a Kiwi thing to do.

I wonder what else it would work for...

"Do you rickun you could make us a:
(A) jetpack?
(B) working Wolverine claws?
(C) giant robot exoskeleton?"
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:47 PM on April 5, 2011


Do you rickun you could make us a:
(A) jetpack?


Check
posted by Paragon at 6:51 PM on April 5, 2011


"Do you rickun you could make us a:
(C) giant robot exoskeleton?"


Well it's not exactly giant, but I'd say you can check it off anyway.
posted by oddman at 7:05 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay kiwis, time to get to work on that Wolverine claw thing. Someone On The Internet needs it.
posted by Paragon at 7:12 PM on April 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wonder if this tail is more or less effective as a form of locomotion compared to these tourist-attraction mermaids?

Or even compared to a good set of scuba flippers? Having two independently articulated legs ending in a flexible large surface area flipper could conceivably impart better low-speed agility but if that was the case why don't fish/aquatic mammals have two tails instead of just the one? Tradeoff for speed (hydrodynamism) vs. flexibility of agility?
posted by porpoise at 7:19 PM on April 5, 2011


Dear Childhood Self,

Hang in there. Sometimes the future is just as awesome as you think it will be.

love,
Yourself in the Future, Where We Have Real Mermaids (But You Don't Want to Be One Anymore, Because Legs and Land Based Locomotion Both Turn Out to Be Pretty Cool After All)
posted by byanyothername at 7:27 PM on April 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Can we have mermaid swimming as a Paralympic sport, please?
posted by Soliloquy at 7:51 PM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Do you rickun you could make us a:
...
(B) working Wolverine claws?


Are you prepared for the "Doesn't that hurt?"/"Every time." release of those claws, His thoughts were red thoughts ?

Obviously, eponysterical.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:01 PM on April 5, 2011


She's planning to use it in a triathlon! This whole thing delights me. Good on ya, everyone involved.

(also, having once pathetically tried to learn butterfly, swimming like that takes strength).
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:10 PM on April 5, 2011


Are you prepared for the "Doesn't that hurt?"/"Every time." release of those claws, His thoughts were red thoughts ?

If that's what it takes to get Anna Paquin to become infatuated with me, sure.

Although now I want Weta to put together the giant flying robot mermaid suit, complete with claws. And diamontes.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:24 PM on April 5, 2011


Well, I was completely taken with the Six Million Dollar Man as a tween, so I completely get the cyborg fantasy, even knowing that you can't just stick a few superhuman limbs on a human body and get true superhuman strength and speed.

And now for something completely different: I loved that they used Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren" for the first video. Here's my favorite version, from the Monkees' TV show.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:52 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was a lad in a fishing town
Me old man said to me:
"You can spend your life, your jolly life
Just sailing on the sea.
You can search the world for pretty girls
Til your eyes are weak and dim,
But don't go searching for a mermaid, son
If you don't know how to swim"


-Great Big Sea
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:24 PM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]



Well, I was completely taken with the Six Million Dollar Man as a tween, so I completely get the cyborg fantasy, even knowing that you can't just stick a few superhuman limbs on a human body and get true superhuman strength and speed.


I'd settle for just normal human strenght.
Yes, i'd rather undergo a series of painful operations rather than exercise. What of it? When I was a kid I assumed all my health problems would be solved with a combination of cybernetics, genetic engineering, and organ transplants.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:05 AM on April 6, 2011


I wonder if this tail is more or less effective as a form of locomotion compared to these tourist-attraction mermaids?

The WETA tail has a stiff fin and reinforcement up its 'spine' which would help the wearer propel herself significantly more effectively than the floppy fabric Weekiwachee costumes.

Her suit is similar in design to a monofin (except with monofins, the wearer's leg bones provide the lengthwise reinforcement) which are popular with freedivers because they require much less energy to power than bi-fins.

Having two independently articulated legs ending in a flexible large surface area flipper could conceivably impart better low-speed agility but if that was the case why don't fish/aquatic mammals have two tails instead of just the one?

If you think of aquatic mammals that excel in underwater agility, they do have two flippers in back but primary propulsion comes from the front flippers. The rear flippers are used for stabilization/steering. This works out well for sea lions, an animal that engages in relatively short foraging trips in the water chasing down agile prey in complicated cover.

Whales and dolphins reverse that [warning: cloying soundtrack]: propulsion comes from the tail flukes, front flippers are used for stabilization/steering. For 100% aquatic mammals, it's all about energy-efficient forward movement and for the carnivores, speed.

To give you an idea of the kind of thrust a monofin can generate, imagine trying to do this with a pair of bi-fins.
posted by jamaro at 1:24 AM on April 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


. . . even knowing that you can't just stick a few superhuman limbs on a human body and get true superhuman strength and speed.

Oh yeah? They banned this guy from the Olympics because he was too fast.

CYBORG RIGHTS NOW!
posted by KingEdRa at 2:03 AM on April 6, 2011




jamaro, that jump was awesome!
posted by oddman at 6:28 AM on April 6, 2011


*stands and claps* Well done, WETA Workshop, well done!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:29 AM on April 6, 2011


if that was the case why don't fish/aquatic mammals have two tails instead of just the one?
posted by porpoise

We were all set to ask You!
posted by ShutterBun at 11:07 AM on April 6, 2011


jamaro, that jump was awesome!

Isn't it though? I totally want a monofin mermaid suit but I want the killer orca kind, not the Daryl Hannah kind. And Wolverine claws.
posted by jamaro at 1:14 PM on April 6, 2011


Related post.
posted by homunculus at 3:27 PM on April 6, 2011


I totally want a monofin mermaid suit but I want the killer orca kind, not the Daryl Hannah kind. And Wolverine claws.

See, Weta? It's not just me! Help us, Kiwis. You're our only hope.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:46 PM on April 6, 2011


« Older A Tiny Day   |   Nanomachines will save us from... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post