How Monsters Inc.’s Mike Wazowski Helped Create Payakan The Space Whale In Avatar: The Way Of Water

You remember Mike Wazowski, right? The giant sentient eyeball with little arms and legs voiced by Billy Crystal who works at Monsters Inc. (of “Monsters Inc.” fame), helped caused a lot of destruction in the city and was involved in the company going bankrupt after a huge scandal before saving the company by pivoting to a laugh factory. 

Wait, what does funnyman monster Michael Wazowski from the big city have to do with the space whale from the multi-million-dollar “Avatar: The Way of Water”? you might ask. Well, a lot, it turns out. 

In the April 2023 issue of Empire, production designer Dylan Cole talked about how the design team found a way to make Payakan a relatable character by using … Mike Wazowski as a reference. “It started as a joke, but it’s 100 percent the same problem: how much can you express with just an eye.”

And yet, joke or not, it sort of makes sense. As concept artist Constantine Sekeris said, “you read Payakan through [that one big eye].” This is the key to the character. Payakan cannot talk (except through subtitles), but he expresses so much through the one big eye that sees Lo’ak. Within minutes, he is a wonderful addition to the movie, one that matches Lo’ak’s energy and his frustration with the adults of the clan, and his desire to fight injustice.

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