Monday, December 10, 2012

The Komodo Dragon as a Potential Mascot for the Field of Visual Effects

[Revised 12/11/2012]

The purpose of this post is to bring to your attention an example of a truly original behavior in an animal, in this case the Komodo Dragon.

I find animal behavior fascinating, and I have no doubt that animals are intelligent, even though scientists, or some scientists, claim that they are not sure.   I think most dogs are more intelligent than many people I know and they are certainly of a better character.

One reason this topic has come up, is because there has been a low level effort to find a mascot or symbol for the field of visual effects and computer animation in the motion picture industry.  A bulldog might symbolize determination, an eagle might symbolize vision and integrity, a zombie might indicate mindless devotion, and so forth.   After all, doctors have their snake, California has its bear, the Orioles have their bird, maybe we should have a mascot too.

Ideally any mascot chosen for visual effects would communicate something about the field and people in it, and not just be chosen because it is cute. A good mascot / totem might inspire us by their example and help stimulate an espirit de corps that could cut across the various competitive companies and encourage us to achieve excellence.

Recently, I came across an animal with a truly amazing behavior that has been observed in the wild, and I want to suggest it here as a possible candidate for our mascot.

A very cute Komodo Dragon taking a nap on a rock.

The Komodo Dragon ( is the world's largest lizard. It lives in parts of Indonesia and it is famous for many things. It is famous for having a saliva that is so nasty that one bite and the victim will go away and die of the putrescence that comes from the bacteria in its drool.   The Komodo is famous for eating anything that moves, including its own children. The little Komodo Dragons apparently learn to climb trees to stay out of the way of their parents in case one of them should suddenly decide to want a snack.  

But there is one behavior above all others that distinguishes the Komodo from other animals. In order to understand the significance of this behavior we first have to go over the normal eating behavior of the Komodo.

The adult Komodo Dragon may eat no more than once a month. Its preferred meal is a small pig, goat or deer which it likes to eat whole, live, in its entirety, in one gulp. Basically they inhale dinner, or that is the idea. Then they will sit in the shade and digest for several weeks, up to a month, being careful not to get too hot.  When done digesting, he or she will vomit out the indigestible parts such as the skull and hooves and wipe the disgusting slime off its snout on a rock.

But often a piglet or appropriately sized dinner is not available so the Komodo inhales what it can of the available animal, and can get caught with an unhappy pig or goat in its mouth, half in and half out.  Obviously this won't do, so the Komodo has to figure out how to get the intended dinner all the way in.

How does it do this? Other predators might stun the intended victim with a venom that paralyzes the victim or makes it unconscious. Or it might want to kill the victim first, bite it into chunks, and then eat it a piece at a time.   But this is not what the Komodo Dragon does.  

What the Komodo does is to run at full speed with the pig/goat/deer in its mouth and slams that part of dinner still visible into a tree (or other large object) in order to bash it all the way in.  If dinner is not all the way in after the first bash, it will back up and charge at the tree repeatedly head first, or if you will, goat first, until the goat/pig/deer is completely inside.  

Komodo's have been observed knocking trees down in this way because of their enthusiasm.

What a creative approach!   What enthusiasm and ingenuity it demonstrates!  It reminded me at once of the enthusiasm and determination that a visual effects facility uses to get a project.   And of the same sort of compassion and genuineness with which someone in visual effects works with a co-worker and many, many other aspects of our field.  I still see the resemblance whenever I read about the Komodo Dragon, this one behavior completely recreates for me the sense of the deepest motivations of so many of our peers.

Anyway, I wanted to bring this to your attention in case people felt that this might be an appropriate mascot for visual effects.  

Wikipedia page for the Komodo Dragon


  1. I support your choice of mascot. I believe you forgot to mention that it is cold blooded which only adds to it's qualifications to be a mascot.

  2. Oh thats right, it is cold blooded. Good call!