Special thanks to Jack Bennett, Scott Ian and the staff at The Nerdist's Blood and Guts show for doing your part to keep real monsters alive. It's great to have allies like you, who really get it, and who want to see real monsters and practical effects take their rightful place in the spotlight again, where they belong.
Long live monsters,
The Legacy of STAN WINSTON: Blood and Guts with Scott Ian
Join host Scott Ian as he explores the legacy of the late great Stan Winston, exploring the history of Stan Winston Studios and the Stan Winston School of Character Arts.
Stan Winston: Advanced Studies - Blood and Guts with Scott Ian - Bonus Scenes
The legend of Stan Winston Studios is discussed by his collaborators, friends and son. Includes explorations on the creature effects for ALIENS, MONSTER SQUAD, PREDATOR, PUMPKINHEAD, JURASSIC PARK and more.
Hey there everyone! So for those of you who've already checked out my Stan Winston School videos (Animatronics Design Basics & Cable Mechanism Basics), you already know that I have one of the oddest, coolest, and most challenging jobs in the world--making monsters, puppets, and creature suits for the entertainment industry.
Pictured above: Richard Landon brings his animatronic magic to everything he works on, from cats to gorillas to baby T-Rexes.
Pictured above: Click the image to check out Richard Landon's website.
INSECTS BECOME ARTWORKS
I have taken South American Beetles and repurposed them to be clockwork creatures, in the Steampunk style that is so much fun to observe.
Pictured above: A Richard Landon clockwork beetle, exposing its complex inner workings.
The idea came from an exhibit I went to at the Getty Museum many years ago displaying several figures of clockwork automata. These are human-form figures that move or perform a task via their inner mechanical workings (yes, I hear many of you saying "Hugo" right now, and you are right--that film was a beautiful depiction of the field of automata), and I was transfixed.
Pictured above: The Getty Museum's "Devices of Wonder" inspired "The Clockwork Life Initiative."
So observing, understanding, and collecting automatons became my new hobby then--and still is--but I wanted something a bit different for my personal works. Something with a deeper artistic edge, but still in that same vein, with an extra element of fantasy.
COBBLING CLOCKWORK CREATURES
So I began going to swapmeets, fleamarkets, and the like looking for bits and pieces to use.
Pictured above: Creature Mechanic & Fine Artist, Richard Landon, transforms a South American Beetle into a Clockwork Creature.
MYSTERY BOXES & CABINETS OF CURIOSITIES
The boxes, and the idea for them, are variations on something else from the same museum exhibit. Victorian Era teachers, nannies and parents used to get their pupils and children interested in exploring and learning about the world around them with special mystery boxes. Sometimes these were simple boxes, sometimes more complex, much like a dollhouse, but interconnected and chambered like a Chinese puzzle box--each compartment with a new wonder, a new thing to explore and learn about. I believe they were even called Wonder Boxes, but that may be something my own memory has supplied over the years. [Editors note: Richard is close. They were called alternately "Cabinets of Wonder" or "Cabinets of Curiosities."]
Pictured above: Richard creates custom "Wonder Boxes" for each of his Clockwork Creatures.
A PARTING THOUGHT
My boxes ARE wonder boxes, each with a single figure which looks like it could spring to life at any time. They are static sculptures so far, future iterations may move--but I am not quite there yet. Please enjoy looking at them, I really enjoyed making them.
SPECIAL EFFECTS YOU NEVER FORGET – CREATING ICONIC FILM MOMENTS
To watch the never-before-seen “TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY” Stan Winston Studio test clips, CLICK ON THE PLAYER above.
Today’s blog includes a couple of tiny bite-size treats. Exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY of just two of the hundreds of physical effects designed by Stan Winston Studio for the groundbreaking and remarkable, James Cameron feature film. First we watch as an "ash dummy" from Sarah Connor's nuclear holocaust nightmare is blown to bits. Then we see Stan Winston Studio key artist Richard Landon as the subject for a test of the T-1000 blade arm kill effect.
Pictured Above: Stan Winston and friends during the making of TERMINATOR 2:JUDGMENT DAY.
SARAH CONNOR’S FIERY DOOM
For a dream sequence the script required a shot of Sarah Connor (played by Linda Hamilton) who stands at the chain link fence of a playground and bursts into flame, her charred skeleton still clinging to the fence as she lets out an anguished cry. The sequence would require three ‘Sarah’ puppets for three stages of disintegration. Rather than lifecast Hamilton in the screaming facial position — which would be impossible for the actress to hold for the length of time it took the material to set — Winston took advantage of a relatively new technology called cyberscanning, in which Hamilton’s head was scanned in a matter of seconds as she held the scream position. Data from the scan was output as a styrofoam bust, which served as the foundation for the puppet sculptures.
Pictured Above: For a sequence in which Sarah is disintegrated in a nuclear blast, the puppets built by Stan Winston Studio had to match live-action footage of Hamilton performing the scene.
SIMPLE MATERIALS USED IN AN EXTRAORDINARY WAY
The third and final puppet — an ashen form that blows away in the wind, exposing the charred skeleton beneath — was the most difficult, requiring much research and development. To create the effect, Shannon Shea reinforced a medical demonstration skeleton with a steel armature, and then positioned it to match the ending pose of the stage two puppet. To create the ashen material, Shea laid tissue paper and tempera paint into the mold of the initial screaming Sarah form. When it dried, he pulled that ‘skin’ out of the mold and carefully laid it on the skeleton like papier-mâché. Additional floating ash was simulated with gray and black paper napkins, shredded in a kitchen blender and stuffed into the form. Just prior to cameras rolling, Winston’s crew scored the form with an X-acto knife. When the special effects crew blasted it with air mortars, all the delicate skin and shredded napkin material blew off the skeleton like ash.
Pictured Above: Joe Reader applies hair to a burnt Sarah puppet.
Pictured Above: The extreme facial expression of the puppet was captured by cyberscanning Hamilton as she held a scream.
LIQUID METAL BLADE HAND KILL
In another scene, the T-1000 kills John Conner’s foster mother Janelle (Jenette Goldstein) and takes her form. Stan Winston Studio sculpted and produced a tapered blade arm, attached by strap to Goldstein, for a shot of the woman driving the blade through the head of her husband, Todd (Xander Berkeley). As the T-1000’s weapon of choice, blades built for the show would number in the hundreds. Although seemingly simple, the blades posed continual challenges to Stan Winston Studio artists and technicians, since the vacumetalizing process revealed even the most minute flaws in their form. The Janelle blade arm, for example, which was made of fiberglass and ABS plastic, had to be made and remade multiple times before the crew produced a perfect specimen.
Pictured Above: Ian Stevenson’s design for the T-1000 spike finger, a variation of the blade used to kill John Connor’s foster father, Todd (Xander Berkeley).
THE MOST DIFFICULT SHOW – AND ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE
Made on an incredibly tight schedule and featuring hundreds of character effects, TERMINATOR 2 would go down in the Stan Winston Studio record books as one of its most difficult projects — ever. “TERMINATOR 2 was all-encompassing, and often overwhelming,” Stan Winston Studio supervisor, and Legacy FX co-founder John Rosengrant noted. “There were so many gags, so many effects, it felt like we were always playing catch-up. There were lots of puzzles to solve, and very little time to solve them. There was never a moment to just stop and enjoy the process. Because of the number of effects, the variety of effects, the lack of time, and the intensity, TERMINATOR 2 was the most difficult show I’ve ever worked on.”
Pictured Above: A still from TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY as Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is turned to ash in a dreamed nuclear blast.
Pictured Above: A still from TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY as Todd (Xander Berkeley) gets stabbed by the Jeanelle/T-1000 (Jenette Goldstein).
TO WATCH THE NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN "TERMINATOR 2:JUDGMENT DAY" STAN WINSTON STUDIO TEST CLIPS, CLICK ON THE VIDEO PLAYER AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE.
To watch the never-before-seen “Jurassic Park T-rex - Sculpting a Full-Size Dinosaur” video CLICK ON THE PLAYER above.
When Steven Spielberg enlisted Stan Winston to handle the full-size dinosaur duties for JURASSIC PARK, he based his faith in Winston — and, indeed, in the very idea of building full-size mechanical dinosaurs — on the alien queen in ALIENS. “Steven figured that if we could build a fourteen-foot-tall alien queen, we’d be able to build a twenty-foot-tall T-rex,” Winston explained.
Pictured above: The 1/5th scale Jurassic Park T-rex sculpting stand (aka armature) ready for clay.
Pictured above: Key sculptor Mike Trcic works on the 1/5th scale T-rex maquette at Stan Winston Studio.
A NAÏVE ASSUMPTION
“But that was a somewhat naïve assumption on Steven's part. There was a big difference between building that alien queen and building a full-size dinosaur,” continued Winston. “The queen was exoskeletal, so all of its surfaces were hard. There were no muscles, no flesh, and there was no real weight to it. The alien queen also didn’t have to look like a real, organic animal because it was a fictional character — so there was nothing in real life to compare it to. There was just no comparison in the difficulty level of building that alien queen and building a full-size dinosaur.” Even so, when Spielberg asked Winston if he could build a full-size dinosaur, Winston didn’t hesitate. “I told him, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ He said, ‘How are you going to do it?’ And I said: ‘I haven’t got a clue. But we’ll figure it out.’”
Pictured above: SWS dinosaur mechanic Alan Scott numbers a segmented casting of the 1/5th scale T-rex maquette, in preparation for the scaling up process.
Pictured above: The SWS team scaled up the 1/5th T-rex segments by projecting their silhouettes five times larger onto a sheet of plywood and then tracing the outline.
STAN’S LEAP OF FAITH
In preparation for the construction of a twenty-foot-tall T-rex, Winston expanded his studio space, acquiring an adjacent building and hiring contractors to raise the ceiling of that second structure. “We not only needed the room to build these big dinosaurs, we were at a point where big shows were overlapping on a regular basis; and so I needed a dedicated mechanical department, a hair department, a mold-making area, a painting area, et cetera. I committed to buying this second building and doing all of that contracting, just on faith that we would be getting Jurassic Park.”
Pictured above: The full-size plywood T-rex bulkhead segments. Cut, numbered and ready for assembly.
Pictured above: The 1/5th scale maquette (foreground) was used as reference throughout the full-size T-rex sculpting process.
STEVEN’S LEAP OF FAITH
In entrusting Winston with building characters that would be, in many respects, the stars of his movie, Spielberg, too, was taking a leap of faith. For JAWS, he had managed to build a movie around the malfunctioning mechanical shark, using John Williams’ music, clever editing and any number of camera tricks to suggest a shark presence that was not there. Such cinematic hocus-pocus would not rescue Jurassic Park, should Winston’s dinosaurs fail. For the movie to succeed, those dinosaurs would have to be completely convincing as living, breathing, organic animals.
Pictured above: Richard Davison and Alan Scott fasten the plywood T-rex segments to the aluminum frame, similar to a ship's bulkheads.
Pictured above: Alan Scott, Stan Winston & Richard Landon check to make sure the bulkhead spacing will provide ample space for the mechanics that will articulate the T-rex head -- eye mechs, nostril mechs, etc.
“THEY HAD TO BE PERFECT.”
In creating these dinosaurs, art, as always, took precedence over technology. “Before we ever got to mechanizing the dinosaurs,” commented Paul Mejias, one of the artists on the show, “their look was tweaked and re-tweaked. I remember Stan and sculptor Mike Trcic spending tons of time on the T-rex head, for example. There were thirteen different permutations of that head in maquette form, because Stan wanted something very specific, and he wasn’t going to stop until he got it. He did that on all the dinosaurs. They had to be right, no matter what it took, no matter how much it cost, no matter how many people he had to hire. They had to be perfect.”
Pictured above: A layer of fiberglass is applied to the chicken wire to prevent clay from pushing through into the bulkheads.
Pictured above: David Beneke, Rob Hinderstein and Richard Davison rough out the first layer of Roma clay onto the T-rex armature.
FIGURING IT OUT
When all of the designs had been perfected and approved by Spielberg, Winston’s crew turned its attention to ‘figuring it out’, to the nuts and bolts of how to build organic, full-size dinosaurs. Of all the riddles that had to be solved, none was more perplexing than how to construct the full-size T-rex, which would measure nearly forty feet from nose to tail. The massive size of the character made even its sculpting a technical problem unlike any the studio had faced.
Pictured above: Rob Hinderstein adds heated Roma clay to the T-rex armature.
Pictured above: SWS key artists Christopher Swift & Greg Figiel attach the T-rex arm to the rest of the sculpture.
THE LARGEST SCULPTURE IN SWS HISTORY
The ultimate solution — for the T-rex and all the large dinosaurs — was to slice a small-scale maquette into cross-sections from head to tail, and then project those cross-sections onto plywood using an opaque projector, scaling them up to their full size. Each projected and scaled-up section was outlined, numbered and cut out. The cutout plywood pieces were assembled onto a supporting armature made of aluminum speedrail, and then covered in chicken wire and fiberglass, creating a full-scale form over which the artists could sculpt in clay.
Pictured above: SWS supervisor & co-founder of Legacy Effects, Shane Mahan, sculpts textures into the creases of the T-rex hips.
Pictured above: Key sculptor Mike Trcic adds fine detail to the T-rex head. After 16 weeks of sculpting, he began to dream in scale patterns.
AN ENGINEERING FEAT
The supporting armature was an engineering feat in itself, built to withstand the weight of three tons of Roma clay, an oil-based clay that would remain moist and pliable throughout the sixteen weeks it would take to sculpt the T-rex. A team of ten sculptors contributed to the T-rex sculpture, working on raised platforms and scaffolding to gain the necessary heights.
Pictured above: SWS artist Greg Figiel compares the 1/5th scale T-rex arm to the full size version.
Pictured above: The largest sculpture in the history of Stan Winston Studio stands alongside its 1/5th scale twin.
ART IS FIRST
“That ‘art is first’ philosophy is what made the work that came out of Stan Winston Studio stand apart,” SWS Supervisor and co-founder of Legacy Effects, Alan Scott, elaborated. “At some shops, there is a tendency to figure out the technology first, and then design the character around that. There, we designed the very best character first, and then we decided how we were going to make it move. Once Stan signed off on a design, we'd have to find a way to make that design work, no matter what. There were times we might be tempted to go to him, and say: ‘We can’t fit everything in this head. It’s got to be bigger.’ But his response would just be: ‘It won’t look right if it’s bigger. Figure it out.’”
TO WATCH THE NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN "JURASSIC PARK'S T-REX: SCULPTING A FULL-SIZE DINOSAUR" VIDEO, CLICK ON THE VIDEO PLAYER AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE