Building ALIENS Full-Size Alien Queen Puppet
August 14, 2012 | 4:53 pm or 4:53 pm GMT
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New photos from the pre-production set of James Cameron's Aliens and the puppets of Stan Winston.
from the Stan Winston School article:
A NEW ALIEN FOR "ALIENS"
In developing the ALIENS screenplay, James Cameron had recognized that the story would lack punch if it featured only those alien organisms introduced in the first film. In ALIEN, “they’ve seen the eggs,” Cameron said, “they’ve seen the parasite that emerges from the eggs, they’ve seen the embryo laid by that parasite emerge from a host person, and they’ve seen the embryo grow up into a supposedly adult form. But that adult form — one of them, anyway — couldn’t possibly have laid the thousand or so eggs that filled the inside of the derelict ship. At least that was my theory. So working from that image — acres and acres of these quite large eggs — I began to focus on the idea of a hierarchical hive structure where the central figure is a giant queen whose role it is to further the species.”
PUSHING THE LIMITS OF PUPPETRY
Whereas Cameron had relied on stop-motion animation for wide ambulatory shots of his full-body endoskeleton in THE TERMINATOR, he intended to shoot his queen alien live and full- size, interacting with the actors as much as possible. “Jim had seen what we could do with puppets on Terminator,” Stan Winston observed, “and so it made perfect sense that he thought of puppeteering techniques when he needed a way to realize the alien queen. But, even so, it was a huge leap of faith to believe that we could build a fourteen-foot-tall, acting puppet.”
Cameron conceived a radical approach to puppeteering her, which would involve hanging the creature from an overhead crane and stationing two stunt men inside the mid-section to operate the puppet’s four arms. Other key functions would be controlled through external rods, wires and hydraulics. “When Jim first came to me with this idea of putting two guys inside a giant alien queen suit,” Winston admitted, “I thought, ‘This man is out of his mind.’ Nothing like that had been done before. But in the next moment, I realized that if he had imagined it, we could probably do it.”
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