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.