In an early draft of the script for King Kong, the Foetodon's role was filled by a carnivorous dinosaur. Late in the design process Peter Jackson requested a new dinosaur be made by Weta Workshop. Though Weta Workshop would learn that Jackson wanted this new creature to be quadrupedal, the crew at Weta initially did not know the nature of the scene the creature would appear in. During this period, concept artist Greg Broadmore created a concept in 2004 of a theropod-like creature with large claws and a slightly upright pose like older dinosaur restorations. With the knowledge that Jackson wanted the creature to be quadrupedal, Weta explored different reptilian lineages and what Christian Pearce described as "funky designs," as there was no carnivorous dinosaur that matched Jackson's description. Daniel Falconer created a design that was rauisuchian in appearance with dark green skin that towered over human beings. Christian Pearce created a design titled "Tartarusaurus" which he described as being "dragon-like" in appearance with a "questionable anatomical reality." Though the design was rejected, Pearce said it helped "steer [Weta Workshop] in the right direction, if only by showing one path [they] didn't want to take." The name of this design, "Tartarusaurus" would later be reused for another carnivorous reptilian quadruped in The World of Kong.
Jackson ultimately led the team at Weta Workshop to pursue a design that was closer to a lizard than a dragon. Further along the design process of the Foetodon, Weta used a cast of a Komodo dragon as a reference for the creature. Jackson then suggested that the lizard have growths on its face, so in response Weta added diseased boils to the creature and made its mouth filthier.
Foetoedon means "sinking tooth" while its full species name, Foetodon ferrus, means "cruel sinking tooth."
Foetodon superficially resembles a large lizard with a short blunt head. It has crocodilian osteoderms running down its neck and back and crocodilian webbed feet. In the film, they are shown to have what appears to be a mouth disease. It is explained in The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island that this is a mouth infection contracted from leaf litter. This infection would disfigure the animal so much so that Foetodon's skull would frequently bear cruel scars because of it.
The book The World of Kong states that Foetodon descended from crocodilian ancestors.
Despite being a land-based predator, Foetodon sported a large and powerful tail that was necessary for their largely aquatic young. On land their powerful back legs launched them forward out of dug out, covered pits along jungle game trails to crush whatever prey came near with their horrible jaws. Their place as ambush predators was necessitated by their poor eyesight. Because of this, Foetodon were not particular in their prey and would attack whatever came their way, depending on their powerful bite to take it down.
They were not built for sustained speed, but they could surge forth and disable prey with immense speed and power. Their bite could shatter bones, meaning that even in the off chance that their first bite did not kill, their prey would still be unable to escape. Their strong sense of smell allowed them to easily track wounded prey. They also fed on invertebrates in the leaf litter, which juvenile Foetodon fed on exclusively. The layers of rotting vegetable matter also provided young Foetodon security from other predators and adults of their species.
A Foetodon ate the carcass of a Ligocristus in the jungle, and when Ann Darrow saw it, she backed away to hide behind a tree, where another Foetodon spotted her and snapped at her. It missed, but started to chase her, while the other Foetodon followed. As the two reptiles continued to chase her, Darrow fled into a log. One of the Foetodon barged into the log, splitting the bark as it struggled. However, it was bitten and lifted off the ground by a Vastatosaurus rex as the other Foetodon watched before running away into the jungle. The carcass hung limply in the jaws of the Vastatosaurus as it chased after Darrow. The Vastatosaurus thrashed its head around, causing the Foetodon's head to fall off of its body. The larger dinosaur then re-positioned the carcass to swallow it relatively whole.
- Main article: Foetodon/Gallery.
- In production, the Foetodon was referred to by Weta Workshop as the "wetasaur" in reference to the digital effects company. The Foetodon was given this temporary name because Weta felt there was no-real world analog to the creature for most of its design phase.
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