Tribute to Carlo Rambaldi at the 2017 Romics

At this April’s Romics Comic Con — held as usual in Fiera di Roma — I had the great chance to attend a tribute gallery to Carlo Rambaldi, organized by his children. The exhibition was focused on Carlo’s most well known special effects work — E.T: The Extraterrestrial, Alien, and the 1976 King Kong — and featured a painted E.T. sculpture and a replica of King Kong’s hand (mechanized to grab people!), as well as several prints of photographs of Carlo’s work on said films, and of magazine pages with articles on them.

The prints included Carlo’s extensive concept art for E.T. — the various expressions of the character, as well as concepts for the animatronic and suit versions of the alien and how they would implement the various mechanisms animating E.T.. There were also Carlo’s anatomical sketches of the alien’s skeleton and musculature. The Alien stills depicted Carlo’s full-size animatronic heads built for the film (read more here) during the construction process; one of the heads currently resides at the Giger Museum in Gruyeres. The King Kong photographs portrayed the construction of the King Kong suit’s head, the full-size hands, and the full-size ‘Robot Kong’; Carlo’s sketches and paintings of King Kong’s face were also shown.

The tribute was there in occasion of E.T.‘s 35th anniversary, as well as to promote the work of the Carlo Rambaldi Cultural Foundation, which is trying to preserve the memory of the maestro’s effects work in the form of a museum. At the exhibition I met Carlo’s daughter, Daniela Rambaldi! A true honour. She told me that the museum, which is going to be in Carlo’s hometown, Vigarano Mainarda, is going to feature material from most of the films Carlo has worked on. I chimed in, specifically asking if the creatures from Dune and Possession (my favourite effects of his along with the Alien animatronic head) are going to be there, and she confirmed that those are going to be covered as well. The kind woman also left me with a signed postmark exclusive to the Con.

Daniela Rambaldi (center) and Leonardo Cruciano (right) and other guests at the Carlo Rambaldi panel.

The event continued in the evening, with a special panel dedicated to Carlo’s legacy: his film work from the first assignments to E.T., as well as the still pulsating importance of practical effects in today’s film industry. One of the guests was Leonardo Cruciano — key concept artist and special effects artist of Makinarium, one of the Italian special effects houses keeping the art of practical effects alive. The artists at Makinarium at large were inspired by Carlo’s iconic effects work. I waited patiently and, after the panel, I had the great honour to meet him and shake hands with him. Being a great enthusiast of Makinarium’s work on Tale of Tales (2015), I asked Mr. Cruciano if the sea monster design had been inspired by an Axolotl. “That was indeed the inspiration,” he told me. “I initially wanted to go beyond that, more ‘out there’, since it was a sea creature — but director Matteo Garrone wanted to maintain a simpler direction, which is the one you eventually see in the film.”

Leonardo Cruciano’s concept art of the Tale of Tales sea monster.

You can visit the Carlo Rambaldi Cultural Foundation’s Official Website, as well as donate towards their cause and contribute to the funding for the museum. Of course, once the museum is open to the public, you can expect a full report from me!

While you are here, take a tour in Makinarium’s Official Website and see their wonderful special effects creations for Tale of Tales and other projects.



Monster Gallery: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

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There was a terrible snarling noise. Lupin’s head was lengthening. So was his body. His shoulders were hunching. Hair was sprouting visibly on his face and hands, which were curling into clawed paws.

-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Trotting towards them were a dozen of the most bizarre creatures Harry had ever seen.

They had the bodies, hind legs and tails of horses, but the front legs, wings and heads of what seemed to be giant eagles, with cruel, steel-coloured beaks and large, brilliantly orange eyes. The talons on their front legs were half a foot long and deadly-looking. Each of the beasts had a thick leather collar around its neck, which was attached to a long chain, and the ends of all of these were held in the vast hands of Hagrid, who came jogging into the paddock behind the creatures.

-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Monster Gallery: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

The Dementors


Standing in the doorway, illuminated by the shivering flames in Lupin’s hand, was a cloaked figure that towered to the ceiling. Its face was completely hidden beneath its hood. Harry’s eyes darted downward, and what he saw made his stomach contract. There was a hand protruding from the cloak and it was glistening, grayish, slimy-looking, and scabbed, like something dead that had decayed in water…

But it was visible only for a split second. As though the creature beneath the cloak sensed Harry’s gaze, the hand was suddenly with-drawn into the folds of its black cloak.
-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Monster Gallery: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II (2011)



From the middle of the misty domed web, a spider the size of a small elephant emerged, very slowly. There was grey in the black of his body and legs, and each of the eyes on his ugly, pincered head was milky white. He was blind.

‘What is it?’ he said, clicking his pincers rapidly.
-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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A crimson bird the size of a swan had appeared, piping its weird music to the vaulted ceiling. It had a glittering golden tail as long as a peacock’s and gleaming golden talons, which were gripping a ragged bundle.

A second later, the bird was flying straight at Harry. It dropped the ragged thing it was carrying at his feet, then landed heavily on his shoulder. As it folded its great wings, Harry looked up and saw it had a long, sharp golden beak and beady black eyes.
-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


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For a moment, he was sure he’d walked into a nightmare – this was too much, on top of everything that had happened so far. They weren’t in a room, as he had supposed. They were in a corridor. The forbidden corridor on the third floor. And now they knew why it was forbidden.

They were looking straight into the eyes of a monstrous dog, a dog which filled the whole space between ceiling and floor. It had three heads. Three pairs of rolling, mad eyes; three noses, twitching and quivering in their direction; three drooling mouths, saliva hanging in slippery ropes from yellowish fangs.

It was standing quite still, all six eyes staring at them, and Harry knew that the only reason they weren’t already dead was that their sudden appearance had taken it by surprise, but it was quickly getting over that, there was no mistaking what those thunderous growls meant.
-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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