A MONSTROUS flesh-eating spider set for a starring role in a film blockbuster will be a thing of nightmares.

That is guaranteed, for the mere thought of orc-eating Shelob, one of the terrors of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, is already giving designer Jason Schleifer goosebumps.

The 29-year-old, who works for Weta, the company behind the effects and animation for the movie trilogy, said: "I am scared to death of spiders."

The man who is responsible for bringing Shelob alive on screen for the third part of the trilogy, due to be released in December, freely admits to being so squeamish about spiders that he gets his girlfriend to deal with them.

The Fellowship of the Ring won an Academy Award for its visual effects and The Two Towers has been nominated for another Oscar, again for its visual effects.

Mr Schleifer, who is in Middlesbrough to take part in the University of Teesside's Animex celebration of animation, flies back to New Zealand to work on the final film, The Return of the King.

He said: "We are in the design process for Shelob, and she's going to be pretty creepy. Just looking at all the reference material on spiders is enough for me.''

Mr Schleifer recounted how he automatically recoiled when one of the director's team - who was trying to be helpful - put a spider he had trapped in a bottle, on his desk, thinking it could provide inspiration.

Mr Schleifer has been overwhelmed by the success of the two films released so far, and requests for his autograph.

He and seven other computer animators have spent the past three and a half years creating the odious Gollum creature, also known as Smeagol, which stars in The Two Towers.

He said: "I have sympathy for Smeagol. He is just a little lost child."