"Posts For Behind the Scenes"

ALIENS Behind the Scenes - The Facehugger

ALIENS Behind the Scenes - The Facehugger



Just as the chestburster would be more fully actuated than it had been in the original film, the facehugger would be equipped to perform much more dynamic movement. “In the first film,” said Jim Cameron, “the facehugger —after its leap onto John Hurt’s face — appears simply as an inert form. In Aliens, we changed that. Now it has the physical capability, should it miss on that first leap, to run around on its eight legs and leap again — which made for a really interesting sequence.”

That sequence takes place inside a medical lab, where two facehugger specimens that have been released from containment attack Ripley and the little girl Newt (Carrie Henn), the lone survivor from the colony. In addition to running around on their eight finger-like appendages in the scene, the facehuggers would use their tails as grabbing and constricting devices. “Our facehuggers ran around all over the place in that scene,” noted Winston, “chasing and fighting Sigourney Weaver, jumping on things, scurrying across the floor. Our facehuggers were fully articulated, whereas the facehugger in Alien wasn’t articulated at all.”

ALIENS Behind-the-Scenes: Sculpting the Alien Queen Head with Shane Mahan
ALIENS - Chestburster Behind-the-Scenes with Director/FX Designer Stephen Norrington 
Building ALIENS Full-Size Alien Queen Puppet
The REAL Alien Queen: Sigourney Weaver
ALIENS Movie - The Making of a Xenomorph Drone
ALIENS Behind the Scenes - Alien Queen Attacks Bishop! 

AVATAR: Creating the Na’vi - Go Behind the Scenes at Stan Winston Studio - Part Two

AVATAR: Creating the Na’vi - Go Behind the Scenes at Stan Winston Studio - Part Two

by Balázs Földesi


Avatar was James Cameron's first directorial feature film since Titanic (1997). In 2005, concept designs, technical research, and development began in earnest under the code name of "Project 880" which was a "retooled version" of the original 80-page treatment that Cameron wrote for AVATAR over ten years previously.

Pictured above: For AVATAR Stan Winston Studio built human-size sculptures and busts of the main Na’vi characters.

The biggest challenge in prepping the film for production, besides developing the new 3D Fusion Camera System, was to establish a final design for the Na'vi. All of the digital work to bring the humanoid figures to life was accomplished at Weta Digital, but the designs and detail were based on the characters generated by the Stan Winston Studio.


“We have an indigenous population of humanoids called the Na'vi. They're fond of arrows dipped in a neurotoxin that will stop your heart in one minute - and they have bones reinforced with naturally occurring carbon fiber. They are very hard to kill.” - Col. Miles Quaritch (portrayed by Stephen Lang)

Pictured above: Young, male Na’vi character designs made by Joseph C. Pepe in Adobe Photoshop.

Na'vi are an indigenous species on Pandora standing 9 to 10 feet tall. Each individual features unique characteristics, distinguishable from each other, so that each one has distinctive visible personality and character.

James Cameron himself made the first sketches for all the Pandoran creatures including the Na’vi. Those early sketches already featured the blue skin and feline characteristics such as cat-like eyes, broad leonine noses, large articulating ears, and tall, slender, muscular bodies. A team of artists, Wayne BarloweYuri BartoliJordu Schell and Neville Page, began producing hundreds of pencil-and-paper drawings based on the character sketches and in mid 2005, Stan Winston Studio also joined the AVATAR project to help with the film's designs.

Pictured above: Joe Pepe’s Photoshop designs of a male and female Na'vi.

Na'vi have four fingers on each hand and four toes on each foot, unlike the human-created avatars which have five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot due to the influence of human DNA during avatar genetic sequencing.

Pictured above: Joe Pepe and Christopher Swift’s Photoshop character designs of a crouching female Na’vi.

James Cameron wanted elegant, slender, blue-skinned cat creatures that retained humanoid forms with human-facial characteristics. To capture the look, Jordu Schell created the first concept sculptures and James Cameron responded immediately to them. After approving a general Na’vi design, Stan Winston Studio artists lead by John Rosengrant detailed them in Photoshop to develop the final color and skin texture including stripes and a bioluminescence pattern. The crew created and presented many variations of the Na’vi look, making note, for example, that the color design should still believable as organic flesh rather than artifical body markings.

Pictured above: A female Na’vi design in Photoshop.

Once Photoshop renderings were approved, the next step in the conceptual process involved the transference to 3D space. Stan Winston Studio took photographs of models in key poses with a variety of facial expressions. Scott Patton brought those to ZBrush to resculpt them as Na’vi characters. They were supposed to resemble their human counterparts to make it easier for audiences to recognize and relate to them. For example Sigourney Weaver’s Na'vi avatar retains the actress’ distinctive small nose.

Pictured above: Creating Norm's (Joel David Moore) avatar. Actor photographed, conceived as a Z-Brush sculpture, finished in Photoshop, and finally sculpted as a life-size bust for lighting reference.

For the avatars the similarity to the humans portraying them had to be evident, at least for the face. Plaster casts and 3D scans of the actors were made for this purpose.

Pictured above: Eytukan's (Wes Studi) life-size bust. 

The artists at Stan Winston Studio retained the mouth area and the area around the eyes of the subject actors and blended these features into their avatar faces. Na’vi eyes are cat-like, large and yellow, but the area around those eyes kept the shape and proportion of the actors who who played them.

Pictured above: Moat's (CCH Pounder) life-size bust.

Pictured above: Tsu'tey's (Laz Alonso) life-size bust.

The Stan Winston Studo artists took lifecasts of the actors and actresses, then did a clay press-out and sculpted that into a Na’vi or avatar character. These full-size versions of the Na’vi were used on set for lighting references for CG and to provide useful eyelines for the actors.

Pictured above: Aimee Macabeo and Michael Ornelaz work on the life-sized Na’vi female hair.

Na’vi have only hints of eyebrows which made the facial animation a bit more difficult, since eyebrow movements are often a critical part of human emotional expression.

Pictured above: John Cherevka paints the male, actual-size Na'vi sculpture.


Neytiri te Tskaha Mo'at’ite, in short Neytiri--who was originally named "Zuleika Te Kaha Polenoma" in James Cameron's Project 880--is the Na'vi princess of the Omaticaya clan, daughter of Eytukan and Mo'at.

Pictured above: A very early concept of Neytiri by Wayne Barlowe.

Pictured above: Jordu Schell's full body maquette for Neytiri was roughly 15 inches tall.

Pictured above: Jordu Schell's sculpted bust of Neytiri from different views.

In designing Neytiri, one of the challenges was making her look sufficiently alien but with enough familiar and appealing aspects to make Jake's attraction to her seem natural and convincing. Her lithe but powerful athleticism was central to her characterization.

Pictured above: Scott Patton’s digital design highlights Neytiri’s (Zoe Saldana) facial expressions.

Pictured above: Progress image of the Neytiri's sculpture in process.


Grace’s avatar was the most difficult to realize. Sigourney Weaver’s face wasn't a natural mesh with the features of a Na’vi. Her narrow, patrician nose did not translate well to the distinctive leonine Na’vi nose. Moreover Grace’s avatar was to have been created 18 years in the past, so her avatar had to appear as an 18-years-younger version of Grace/Sigourney.

Pictured above: Artists at Stan Winston Studio brought pictures of Sigourney Weaver from ALIEN into ZBrush and used them to sculpt her avatar.

Pictured above: Finished Grace sculpture for lighting reference.


Jake Sully, a paraplegic former marine, replaces his deceased twin brother in the Avatar program.

Pictured above: Sam Worthington and his 3D avatar sculpture based on one of the photographs that Stan Winston Studio took for ZBrush sculpting.

Jake's atrophied legs were prosthetics created by Stan Winston Studio. John Rosengrant took a mold from the legs of a paraplegic who was approximately Sam's skeletal size, and then created rubber legs.

Pictured above: Sam Worthington, Ted Haines and John Rosengrant regard the prosthetic atrophied legs.

Pictured above: Sam Worthington at the Stan Winston Studio during a test of the prosthetic legs. 

Sam's actual legs were tucked down through the chair and digitally removed in post-production.


Pictured above: For Tom Sully, a fake head also made by Stan Winston Studio based on the lifecast of Sam Worthington.

“We always try to create iconic characters that will be remembered and stand out. We’re not so much creating effects but creating characters: That was Stan’s success and where we’re following up. Although the majority of work today may be accomplished digitally, as with AVATAR, we feel we bring a lot to the table by designing the characters. They can be full-scale, interactive puppets; hybrids that are part puppet and part CG; special effects makeup; old-fashioned working props; and specialty props like the Amp Suit.” - John Rosengrant

















Terminator 2 Disaster: James Cameron bashes "Arnold" T-800 Puppet to Bits

Terminator 2 Disaster: James Cameron bashes "Arnold" T-800 Puppet to Bits


To break new ground, sometimes you need to break things. No one in the history of entertainment knows this better than James Cameron, whose commitment to "getting the shot" on Terminator 2: Judgment Day resulted in a near nightmare scenario for the Terminator Effects crew from Stan Winston Studio.

In this behind-the-scenes look at the Making of T2, SWS team member Andy Schoneberg recounts the night that Cameron bashed "Arnold's" head in, got the shot, and how the SWS robot builders scrambled to put him back together again in time for the next day's filming.



Video excerpt from the full Monster Maker Interview w/ Emmy Winner Andy Schoneberg.


More TERMINATOR BEHIND-THE-SCENES from Stan Winston School



THE TERMINATOR was my Film School - with FX Wiz Shane Mahan - SWSCA Cyborg Celebration

THE TERMINATOR was my Film School - with FX Wiz Shane Mahan - SWSCA Cyborg Celebration


THE TERMINATOR Effects Veteran Shane Mahan (Stan Winston Studio supervisor, co-owner Legacy Effects) shares memories of working with Stan Winston and James Cameron on the iconic film that started the unstoppable Terminator franchise. "Being so close with Jim and Stan and being in that sort of sphere, that was my film school," recalls Mahan. "The Terminator was like 8 years of concentrated film school, in one 5 month period... every lesson I've learned from that film, until today, has pretty much been retained."



Video excerpt from the full Monster Maker Interview w/Oscar nominee Shane Mahan includes exclusive behind-the-scenes imagery and video footage from the making of THE TERMINATOR.


More TERMINATOR BEHIND-THE-SCENES from Stan Winston School



The History Of Animatronics

The History Of Animatronics


Although true animatronic characters didn't really exist till the late 20th century, the real history of the technique begins with 17th century clock makers. Advanced mechanical clocks dating back to pre-Industrial Revolution France featured miniature animated characters that would emerge from a time-keeping device when it struck the hour. Like modern animatronics, the movements of these automatons were programmed using mechanical gears to coincide with specific hours. Later, sounds were introduced to attract attention, and clock makers used the characters to tell a story. 

The modern era of animatronics began in 1961, when Walt Disney started developing animatronics for entertainment and film. Disney and his "imagineers" created a 9-inch tall Dancing Man figurine. Though primitive by today's standards, the little man captured people's attention and got the animatronic ball rolling. Advances in robotics, programming, rapid-prototyping, surfacing materials and techniques make today's animatronic characters more lifelike than ever before. Movement and control of the animatronic figures can mimic natural life to an uncanny extent, tricking the eye. Thanks to animatronics, modern filmmakers can create creatures and characters that have physical presence and a palpable reality. And though advances in the digital arts allow today's filmmakers to depict astouding and impossible beings visually, there is still no comparison to having an animatronic. These characters exist in an unquestionable, substantial way. They can occupy the same space as the actors in a film and impact their environment more than any collection of pixels, however realistically rendered. They seem 'real' because they ARE real.


Pictured above: Review of animatronics world by Custom Entertainment Solutions (CES) Inc.

Though the adaptabilty and variations possible with digital animation has somewhat curtailed the use of animatronics in recent years, certain studios and filmmakers are starting to champion the technique once again. Thanks to institutions such as The Stan Winston School of Character Arts, the once arcane processes that had to be invented by genius mechanics are now widely available to anyone with an internet connection. Through lessons and behind-the-scenes case studies, the next generation of filmmakers can gain insight and learn character creation, including design, life-castingsculptingmold making and painting. Students not just in Hollywood but worldwide can learn and appreciate the art and technology of animatronics/mechanics and electronics. And these tutorials don't stop at making machines. Every aspect of physical character creation is covered: model makingspecial effects makeup, fabrication, lab working, hair working, and filmmaking as well. 

The artist/instructors at the SWSCA are the Renaissance artists of today. They are dedicated to teaching, promoting and fostering innovation in the arts and sciences of character creation. Through their work and lessons, they keep the legacy of practical effects alive so that it may continue to enhance the entertainment experience for us all. 

- Balázs Földesi

For more animatronics behind-the-scenes:

Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park 1-3 Behind the Scenes at Stan Winston Studio.

Giant Robot befriends Little Girl at Comic-Con 2013

How to Make a Giant Creature - The Webseries

Pygmy Mammoth, "Chippy" Walks Again over 10,000 Years After Extinction - Thanks to Animatronics

A Zombie Dog, FX Filmmaking and Imagination - Making the Macabre World of Lavender Williams


Chestburster Behind-the-Scenes and Building Full-Size Alien Queen Puppet


Terminator 2 - An Interview with Stan Winston and Terminator 2 - The new T-800s,

Terminator 3 - The First Terminators and Terminator Salvation - T-600 Puppet Test


SMALL SOLDIERS - Creating the Ultimate Toys and Rehearsing a Puppet Battle


CONSTANTINE - Behind the Scenes at Stan Winston Studio

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE - "Lestat bites Rat" Test


INSTINCT - Gorilla Suit Test with Verne Troyer (aka Mini-Me)

SPIDER MAN - Green Goblin Makeup Test by Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc.

AVATAR: Species of Pandora - Go Behind the Scenes at Stan Winston Studio - Part One

AVATAR: Species of Pandora - Go Behind the Scenes at Stan Winston Studio - Part One

by Balázs Földesi 


Before James Cameron left for his 1995 undersea expedition to the Titanic, his 80-page treatment for AVATAR was already complete, but the necessary technology did not exist to achieve his story and vision. AVATAR gathered dust till early 2005, when advances in digital technology made it possible to tell the story the way he imagined. Under the code name of "Project 880" which was a "retooled version of AVATAR," the conceptual process began, along with the technical research and development.

James Cameron himself made the first sketches for the different creatures that he imagined might populate Pandora, his new world. Based on those images, as well as reference from the natural world culled from National Geographic photos, botany books and nature documentaries, a core group of artists including Wayne BarloweYuri BartoliJordu Schell and Neville Page began producing hundreds of pencil-and-paper drawings. In mid 2005, Stan Winston Studio also joined the conceptual and character development process working on the viperwolf, direhorse and the banshee’s head.

Pictured above: Different thanator concepts by Stan Winston Studio's Scott Patton.

Every drawing had to be approved by James Cameron before rendering to Photoshop. Once a rendering was approved by the director, it was transferred from a 2D concept to a 3D digital sculpt in ZBrush. In some cases, clay models were also sculpted and used for visualizing the designs and to provide lighting reference.


The organic structures of the Pandoran flora and fauna, the landscapes, and the overall planet Pandora itself all had design origins on the planet Earth. Every Pandoran creature and plant had earthly counterparts, sometimes in hybrid forms. James Cameron's earliest inspirations for the predatory creatures included super-slick, aerodynamic bodies and race-car-looking patterns, including racing stripes. Some of the creatures were designed with special breathing holes located in the trachea, echoing the intake valves of high-performance sports cars.

Pictured above: Different color schemes for a viperwolf by Jim Charmatz from Stan Winston Studio.

Another early concept was that Pandora's animals would have six limbs rather than the Earthly norm of four. ILM successfully animated a six-legged viperwolf hunting. The extra legs looked appropriately graceful and powerful in motion, so all of the terrestrial creatures got six limbs and these extra limbs led the design team to incorporate an extra pair of wings on the flying creatures. 


The direhorse was intended to be a creature that Na'vi warriors use for riding and hunting. Conceived as a sort of horse crossed with a dinosaur, it had to incorporate reptilian aspects while maintaining a horse's natural grace and glory. The main terrestrial inspiration for the designers was the Clydesdale horse with its massive scale and strength.

Pictured above:  Direhorse clay maquette by Chris Swift.

Based on Wayne Barlowe's concept, Christopher Swift sculpted the final direhorse maquette. Joseph C. Pepe did design modifications and color designs in Photoshop that ended up serving as the final design scheme for the movie.

Pictured above: Color paint over a photo of the direhorse maquette in Adobe Photoshop by Joe C. Pepe. 

As with all the terrestrial creatures, getting the six legs to work together and make them seem natural and still beautiful and graceful was one of the greatest challenges. The animators ultimately achieved a natural-looking gallop by coupling the front four legs, but off-setting the movement of the first pair by a few degrees.


The most feared land predator on Pandora is the thanator, similar to a Terrain panther. Originally thanator was called manticore. This was the only design where James Cameron did not have a complete vision in his head. Designing this animal took months and hundreds of illustrations.

Pictured above: One of the proposed sketches for a manticore.

Pictured above: One of the many thanator designs by Scott Patton.

Pictured above: Thanator sculpture by Jason Matthews from Stan Winston Studio.

The name was changed to thanator; and James Cameron himself took on the final design late in the production. Neville Page fleshed-out the design and built it as a Zbrush model.


The lean body and graceful motion of the mink inspired the design of the viperwolf. Jim Charmatz rendered the concept artwork in Photoshop, then Scott Patton did a 3D model of the head in ZBrush. 

Pictured above: Clay sculpture of the viperwolf by Jason Matthews.

Pictured above: The "life-size" viperwolf puppet.

Stan Winston Studio created a viperwolf puppet scaled to human proportions used for the scene in which viperwolves chase Jake through the forest. The puppet was strapped to calibrators and had patterns that the mocap system could recognize for integration into the scene and to guide the animation. This puppet had the necessary "viperwolf weight" to help sell the illustion of weight and actual impact with actor Sam Worthington in the scene when this beast knocks Jake down.


The concept of lower gravity on Pandora was the justifcation for the evolution of giant fliers like banshee or the great leonopteryx. Both creatures were conceived as bird-like four-winged aerial predators, extremely colorful and very bright. 

Pictured above: Banshee jaw in different positions to illustrate the articulation by Scott Patton. 

The references and inspiration for the banshee (and the giant leonopteryx, too) came from sea creatures such as manta rays, skates and the great white shark. While sea-creature biology informed the profiles and bodies of the flying creatures, their aerodynamic and hydrodynamic characteristics incorporated the most current thinking of the way extinct species such as plesiosaurs and pterosaurs moved through water and air. But the most unique feature of the banshee was the articulation and mechanics of its mouth and teeth.

Pictured above: Banshee head by Scott Patton. The mouth has a two-part upper section that would pull back as rows of the teeth moved forward. 

Skin of both the banshee and the great leonopteryx has a wide range of complex color schemes based on Earth animals, like poison dart frogs and monarch butterflies. Their wings were a mixture of bird and bat wings. And while banshee has only vestigial legs, the great leonopteryx legs are not vestigial at all!

Pictured above: Stan Winston Studio built a practical model of the banshee, used as a guide and reference for CGI works by Weta Digital.


Artists designed every creature with detailed renderings, from the smallest insect to the largest beasts of land and air.

Pictured above: Crawler by Scott Patton. 

"Designing using the computer whether using 2D Photoshop or 3D sculptures enabled us to nail down what Jim [Cameron] wanted in a more efficient manner than in the past. We worked out a nice design presentation with Jim that was, I feel, very effective. It was always challenging in a positive way, as Jim always brings out and expects the best from you as an artist and you feel like you are working on something very special." - SWS Supervisor, co-owner Legacy Effects, John Rosengrant

Learn design techniques like the ones used for AVATAR.






Creating CONSTANTINE's Demons from Hell - Go Behind the Scenes at Stan Winston Studio

Creating CONSTANTINE's Demons from Hell - Go Behind the Scenes at Stan Winston Studio


Stan Winston Studio created a variety of demonic (and heavenly) characters for CONSTANTINE (2005), directed by Francis Lawrence and adapted from the 1985 DC and Vertigo horror comic, HELLBLAZER, including demons, victims possessed by demons, and a winged angel.


The main character, John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) interacts with many different types of Hell’s inhabitants. To achieve the desired visual style, these demons had to seem to exist for real. The inspiration for the design of many of these characters, including the scavenger and seplavite demons, came from the art world and real-life autopsy photographs instead of relying on typical medieval-era depictions of demons.

Stan Winston Studio concept artist Aaron Sims designed both the scavenger and the seplavite demons in the computer. The designs were then realized in the real world as computer-milled sculptures.

Pictured above: Left - in-progress seplavite. Right - Finished silicone seplavite by Jason Matthews, Rob Ramsdell and Trevor Hensley. This physical creature provided real-world lighting and texture reference for the CGI modelers and animators.

Although the flying seplavite would be brought to life via CGI, the scavenger demon was a fully articulated puppet with radio-controlled face, jaw mechanisms and cable-controlled fingers, operated on set by six puppeteers.

Pictured above: Left - Scavenger sketches. Right - Aaron Sims design for scavenger.

Pictured above: John Rosengrant rehearses with an animatronic scavenger demon puppet on the set of CONSTANTINE.


Another demon appearing in the film is ‘Vermin Man.' Although this creature would eventually be animated digitally, the filmmakers wanted to shoot a physical character on set, which Stan Winston’s crew realized as a Vermin Man mask and suit. 

Pictured above: Aaron Sims designs for Vermin Man.

Surreal paintings by 16th century artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo inspired the look of 'Vermin Man.' Arcimboldo's work depicted characters formed entirely out of fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish and books; 'Vermin Man' was made up of snakes, rats, crabs and about 20 different types of insects. Real bugs, worms and snakes were molded, cast in clay and then added to the sculpture.

Pictured above: Left - SWS key artist, Trevor Hensley's 'Vermin Man' sculpture. Right - Trevor Hensley adds final touches to 'Vermin Man' (Larry Cedar) before cameras roll.


A number of prosthetic makeups were created for the film. In the prologue, the drifter who finds an ancient relic (portrayed by Jesse Ramirez), wears a subtle transformation makeup. The possessed young girl (Jhoanna Trias) wore a gelatin prosthetic.

Pictured above: Concept art for the possessed girl.

In collaboration with CONSTANTINE's makeup department head, Ve Neill, the Stan Winston crew provided dentures, contact lenses and full-body airbrush painting. The crew also built an articulated head-and-shoulders dummy of the unconscious girl for a brief cut in which the scavenger demon within pushes through her skin. SWS mechanics gave the puppet nostril movement, an internal 'breathing' device, and mechanical eye twitching beneath her closed eyelids.

Pictured above: SWS artist Joey Orosco sculpts a prosthetic makeup for actress Barbara Pilavin. Forensic photos of a three-week-old corpse were used for reference.

Stan Winston Studio artists also collaborated with Ve Neill, Joel Harlow and a team of fifteen assisting makeup artists to create prosthetic effects for a subsequent scene in a hydrotherapy room, where nearly eighty 'half-breed' characters are destroyed by holy water pumped through a sprinkler system.

Pictured above: Dummy for the demon Amin (Tanoai Reed) who disintegrates after being hit with a shotgun blast of holy water.

Shane Mahan and Chris Swift designed the disintegration as a physical effect, sculpting Tanoai Reed’s body from a cyberscan and casting a replica in plaster. The plaster body was hollowed out, painted and filled with a skeleton, internal organs and ten gallons of black goo. The loaded dummy was raised thirteen feet above the studio floor, and then released to explode upon impact.

Pictured above: A silicone replica of actress Rachel Weisz, constructed by Dave Grasso & Nick Marra and painted by Trevor Hensley & John Cherevka. In addition to the 'possessed' scene, this figure was used for the deceased twin scenes as well.

Pictured above: Rachel Weisz wears prosthetic makeup in her possessed state, which included a forehead piece without eyebrows, demonic teeth, black contact lenses and veined, pallid body makeup.


The Stan Winston crew created a two-stage silicone prosthetic makeup for the scene in which the face of the half-breed demon, Balthazar (Gavin Rossdale) dissolves upon contact with holy water.

Pictured above: Left - Shane Mahan sculpted Aaron Sim’s design onto a lifecast of Gavin Rossdale. Right - Gavin Rossdale wears the prosthetic makeup on set.

Stage one included torn skin revealing underlying areas of demon flesh; stage two was a more extensive makeup with overlapping teeth and a shriveled left eye.


Pictured above: Stan Winston Studio created Mammon as an articulated silicone puppet, based on an Aaron Sims design, sculpted and painted by Joey Orosco.

A full-scale (five-foot-ten-inch) Mammon puppet was fitted with a smile mechanism and an articulated rod-puppet armature. Tippett Studio used photographs and cyberscans of the puppet to create a digital version of the character.


Director Francis Lawrence didn't want the wings to look like typical white angel wings, but rather dark bird wings. Stan Winston Studio created feathered mechanical wings and ESC generated the wings in CGI.

Pictured above: Tilda Swinton is fitted with feathered, mechanical angel wings for her role.

“What was enjoyable about working with Francis Lawrence on CONSTANTINE was that his thinking was counter to the way most people think about these types of demonic creatures. They weren’t the usual creatures with big fangs and all of that. They were horrifying, but also pathetic. I really liked that.” – SWS Supervisor, co-owner Legacy Effects, John Rosengrant

- Balázs Földesi with selections from The Winston Effect: The Art and History of Stan Winston Studio by Jody Duncan


CHARACTER MAKEUP - Sculpture Breakdown & Moldmaking - Part One
CHARACTER MAKEUP - Sculpture Breakdown & Moldmaking - Part Two
CREATURE DESIGN - Maquette Painting Techniques
CREATURE DESIGN - How to Sculpt Character Maquettes
PAINTING SILICONE SKIN - Realistic Flesh Tones
OUT OF THE KIT - Makeup Effects

The "Original" Predator - Jean-Claude Van Damme

The "Original" Predator - Jean-Claude Van Damme


Makeup FX legend Steve Johnson (GHOSTBUSTERS, SPECIES, BLADE 2) recently sat down with us for our first episode of THE MONSTER SHOW. With his usual mix of candor and comedy, Steve covered the highs and lows of his award-winning career, including his nightmare stint as Boss Films' Creature FX supervisor on the first ill-fated PREDATOR suit, worn by Belgian martial artist and aspiring action star, Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Enjoy the video excerpt below and check out the full interview HERE.

Matt Winston


Matt Winston: Let's talk about Predator.

Steve Johnson: Oh my God, are we really going to do this?

Matt: Of course, it's one of the most iconic characters in the world. Let's talk about that job ...

Steve: Lead me, help me.

Matt: Let's start simple.

Steve: Let's start easy.

Matt: You're pitched this creature. We've got to pull this thing off. What are we going to do?

Steve: We have this meeting and we're sitting around a board table and it's the usual suspects. It's all of the executives. It's Joel Silver, the producer; it's John McTiernan, the director. With great pomp and ceremony, McTiernan comes in and slams down a bunch of designs that have already been done by a production designer, and they were awful.

Pictured above: (Left) Mechanical sketches for the Boss Films Predator. (Right) Predator design by Luc Mayrand for Robert Short Productions between Boss Films and Stan Winston's involvement.

Steve: It was ahead of its time, let's put it that way. But the head did suck. They said, "Here's what we want you to make." What they needed was a character with backward bent reptilian legs, extended arms and a head that was out here and they wanted to shoot on the muddy slopes of Mexico in the real jungles. It was virtually physically impossible to do. I told them it wouldn't work.

Pictured above: Design maquette for the "Original" Predator.

Steve: They wanted to just tell the guy to hop around like a frog and it was Jean-Claude Van Damme who had no idea what he was getting into. He was just off the boat from Brussels. He thought he was going to show his martial arts abilities to the world.

Pictured above: Belgian martial artist Van Damme hoped playing Predator would make him a star.

Steve: So Jean-Claude comes in for his fittings. Remember the cloaking device? Beautiful effect in its day... we made a red version [of the suit] because red is the opposite of green on the color wheel. It had been shot against green in the jungle.

Pictured above: Jean-Claude Van Damme goes through the life-casting process at Boss Films.

Steve: Jean-Claude comes in and we're fitting him in this red suit and just assuming, like the slaves that we are, that the higher ups have told him exactly what's going on. But he thought this was actually the real look of the monster in the movie and he was, "I hate this. I hate this. I hate it. I look like a superhero." He was so angry. 

Pictured above: Director John McTiernan tries on the red fabric-covered "Invisibility Suit."

Steve: I'm like, "Jean-Claude, did no one tell you? It's a cloaking device. You're invisible for half of the picture. This is not you." Which made him even angrier because he thought he could do his martial arts, he could fight Arnold Schwarzenegger. Impossible. Absolutely Impossible.

Pictured above: Jean-Claude Van Damme performs in the red "Invisibility Cloak" suit.

Steve: He didn't realize that he was just kind of a stunt man, right? We get him out there for the first shot and he's just seething.

Pictured above: Jean-Claude Van Damme as the "original" Predator on location in the Mexican jungle.

Steve: We got him in at lunch and you could see his eyes through the rubber muscles of the neck and he's like, "I hate this head. I hate it. I hate it. Hate it."

Pictured above: Jean-Claude Van Damme would never wear a monster suit after his experience as the "original" Predator.

Pictured above: Carl Weathers (with prosthetic arm stump) with Jean-Claude Van Damme (wearing the "Original" Predator arm).


FULL INTERVIEW -  "The Monster Show" with Steve Johnson




The Monster Show March 6th with FX legend Steve Johnson

The Monster Show March 6th with FX legend Steve Johnson


Check out our new Interactive Live Webcast, THE MONSTER SHOW! For our first episode we talked to the mad scientist of Creature FX, Steve Johnson (GHOSTBUSTERS, THE ABYSS, SPECIES).

Our 2 hour conversation covered Steve's award-winning monster making career and his upcoming no-holds-barred autobiography about life in the FX trenches, RUBBERHEAD.


Matt Winston

JURASSIC PARK 2: THE LOST WORLD - Compy Dinosaur Attack

JURASSIC PARK 2: THE LOST WORLD - Compy Dinosaur Attack


THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK introduces the Compsognathus (Compy), a chicken-sized dinosaur and the first dino to be seen in the movie in a chilling encounter with a young girl on the beach.

The Compys return for more mayhem in a later scene in which a pack of them attacks hunter Dieter Stark (Peter Stormare).


Although the Compys that are first seen running in the forest and jumping onto Stormare were computer animated, the actual attack on the hunter was accomplished almost entirely with practical puppets.

Pictured Above: Dieter Stark puts up a fight against a pack of hungry Compys.


Stan Winston Studio built a dozen Compy puppets, of four different types, to create the range of behaviors required in the scene.

Pictured Above: The Compys were made out of foam latex over a wire frame.

“Very often, producers will say, ‘Just make a general puppet,’” said Shane Mahan long-time SWS Supervisor and co-founder of Legacy Effects. “It costs them less to have us build one puppet that can do a handful of general things; but making a general puppet is never as good as making different puppets that can perform specific functions really well.”

Pictured Above: SWS mechanics Chris Colquhoun & Jon Dawe developed a tiny blink mechanism for the Compys.


One type of Compy puppet was attached to the actor by velcro, and rigged with a fishing line that ran to a controller. By tugging on that controller, the puppeteer created a pecking motion.

Pictured Above: Some of the Compys were attached to the vest worn beneath the actor's clothes.

Another type of Compy puppet featured high-powered magnets on its feet to adhere the puppet to the actor’s clothes, which had attracting magnets sewn into them, allowing for shots of the character grabbing Compys and pulling them off. The mechanical crew inserted springs into the magnet Compy to give it a bit of neck movement.

Pictured Above: A stunt man rehearses the attack sequence a final test.


The "Hero" Compys were mechanized with servos to create full head movement, with pneumatic eye blinks and tail movement. The featured hero Compy had all the same functions, plus fully articulated arms that could grab at the actor while attacking.

Pictured Above: The featured hero Compy bites Dieter's lip - the effect made people on set cringe.


Stan Winston himself was impressed with the final effect in the movie. “Some of these puppets were very simple,” Winston said, “strings and springs, basically. But they worked beautifully. Between those simple puppets and the more mechanized ones, we were able to create this violent cacophony of Compy performance.

The scene is so chilling, it actually was listed as the 2nd most horrific death in the Jurassic Park Trilogy by Next Movie.

-Jody Duncan



More JURASSIC PARK stuff from Stan Winston School:


THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK - Animatronic Raptor Rehearsal

THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK - Raptor Suit Running Rehearsal

JURASSIC PARK - The Evolution of a Raptor Suit with John Rosengrant

JURASSIC PARK's T-REX - Sculpting a Full-Size Dinosaur

JURASSIC PARK - Animatronic T-Rex Rehearsal - On Set with Stan Winston

JURASSIC PARK'S SPITTER - Building the Animatronic Dilophosaurus Dinosaur Puppet

JURASSIC PARK's Brachiosaurus Animatronic Puppet Chewing Test

SMALL SOLDIERS Behind-the-Scenes - Creating the Ultimate Toys at Stan Winston Studio

SMALL SOLDIERS Behind-the-Scenes - Creating the Ultimate Toys at Stan Winston Studio


For the 1998 film, SMALL SOLDIERS, Stan Winston Studio began designing the toy characters, on paper and in sculptures, a mere five months prior to the start of filming. Due to a deal with Hasbro to mass-produce a SMALL SOLDIERS toy line, and the necessity for the film’s release to be timed precisely with the debut of that toy line, every aspect of the production was subjected to a similarly tight schedule. The making of the film was such a seat-of-the-pants affair, Joe Dante would later call SMALL SOLDIERS ‘the first improv big-budget effects picture.’

Pictured above: Mark Jurinko paints Link Static, a commando character from SMALL SOLDIERS. 


For their design, Winston set up a kind of creative free-for-all within the studio, letting key artists loose to draw as many designs as they cared to. The project gave newer designers, in particular, an opportunity to shine. “Being a new designer at Stan Winston Studio was tough at first,” commented Jim Charmatz, one of those newer artists who got his first shot to design a character for Small Soldiers. “Because Mark "Crash" McCreery was so well established here, it was hard to make your mark as a new designer. But on this show, there was such a tremendous amount of stuff to be designed, a lot of us got a chance to work on it. I was one of about seven people who started right in designing Gorgonites and Commandos.”

Pictured above: Joey Orosco matches one of many ‘Archer’ heads to the paint-master.


After the artists had generated literally hundreds of drawings, Winston narrowed the designs down to those he liked best. Concepts were narrowed further with Joe Dante, Hasbro and executive producer Steven Spielberg. Once an artist’s design had been chosen and approved, the designer was allowed to follow that character through, doing the final sculpting, painting and then on-set puppeteering. John Rosengrant — who had sculpted miniature military figures as a hobby since his teen years — took personal responsibility for two of the leading Commandos, Chip and Kip. “I had a blast designing and sculpting and painting those characters. And, overall, I think my experience with military miniatures really helped us on this show.”

Pictured above: John Rosengrant details the Kip Killigan paint master for SMALL SOLDIERS.

Similarly, Jim Charmatz was allowed to follow his Slam-Fist character — a design he’d sketched in only ten minutes, as an afterthought — all the way through to the end. “I got to design it, sculpt it, help make it work mechanically, design the paint job on the computer, then paint it and actually puppeteer it on the set. That was a great opportunity.”

Pictured above: Jim Charmatz paints his animatronic character, Slam-Fist, as Charles Ratteray assists.


The puppeteers’ status as real actors on the set extended to their providing temporary voices for their characters, speaking the lines of dialogue and vocalizing necessary grunts and howls. “Having us do the voices while they were shooting gave the actors real personalities to act against,” said Rosengrant. “I personally did the voices of Link Static and Slam-Fist. And a few of my on-set sounds actually made it into the final movie. Other than that, my dialogue was replaced with real voice actors.”

Pictured above: Ian Stevenson paints his Punch-It character.


The film's director, Joe Dante, speaking of Stan Winston said, “When you get into the world Stan’s in, you find it generally populated by movie fans — guys who really loved these pictures when they were kids and always wanted to build monsters and play monsters and get into the world of special effects. Stan is no exception. I met him right after he directed PUMPKINHEAD, which was a pretty cool little movie. But I didn’t actually get to work with him until Small Soldiers, and by then he had created this empire. We’d make a pilgrimage over to his studio a couple of times a week to watch their progress. It was very time consuming and labor intensive to design so many characters and create them in a way that made them look alive. It was intense, but Stan made it fun.”

Pictured above: A partially disassembled Archer puppet. 


Winston learned a lot about the toy business through his close association with Hasbro throughout the making of the film. “We found out what it really takes to make a great toy, to make it stand out on the shelf. We learned how the joints of toys worked, all the mechanics that go into them. The whole thing was an education; and we helped to create a toy line that was extremely successful for Hasbro. In fact, ultimately, sales for the SMALL SOLDIERS toys out-performed the movie.”

-Jody Duncan



Creature Creators on the News! - KTLA's Allie Mac Kay Visits Legacy Effects

Creature Creators on the News! - KTLA's Allie Mac Kay Visits Legacy Effects

Hey Monster Fans,

With Halloween around the corner, Creature FX artists are making the news! This morning, our friends at Legacy Effects revealed some of their movie magic for millions of Southern California TV viewers  when KTLA Morning News' Allie Mac Kay paid a visit to their mind-blowing Character Creation studio. Check out all three segments by clicking the video players below.

For more from Legacy Effects, be sure to check out their Website and YouTube Channel and don't forget to download Legacy's iMut8r App to tranform yourself on your smartphone just in time for Halloween!

-Matt Winston

Pictured above: Left - KTLA's Allie Mac Kay checks out Legacy's design room. Right - Legacy co-founder Alan Scott reveals the man inside the Giant Robot Mech, Bruce D. Mitchell.

Pictured above: Left - Allie gets mutated courtesy of Legacy's iMut8r app. Right - Hanging in the Legacy display room.

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