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Strange Shapes and Monster Legacy interview Tom Woodruff, Jr

Credit for the exquisite banner goes to Space Sweeper!

Monster Legacy had the honour to interview Monster making veteran Tom Woodruff Jr. in joint collaboration with our friend page Strange Shapes. In 2014, Amalgamated Dynamics celebrates 25 years of effects making — our interview focuses on films such as the latter Alien series chapters, Tremors 2 and more. Read on!

alien III

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Monster Gallery: The Thing (2011)

Special: Why was the Pilot Creature fired from ‘The Thing’?

The Pilot animatronic on set.

As Kate Lloyd enters the ancient spaceship — in the climax of Matthijs van Heijningen’s The Thing — she discovers an enormous, luminous tower. Hologram pieces continuously assemble and disassemble, moving geometrically. It is here that she is then attacked by the assimilated Sander, who has taken the form of a horribly mutated, distorted creature. The final cut of the film, by itself, was a distortion of the director’s original idea surrounding what was hidden in the ancient and otherworldly spacecraft.

The creature effects of The Thing were assigned to Amalgamated Dynamics; the company was tasked with designing and constructing all of the creature’s gruesome transformations, as well as additional alien creatures. Several full-sized models were built, ranging from rod puppets to suits. Due to a studio interference, it was decided late in production to actually replace most of the practical work with digitally rendered effects, as the film “felt too 80s.” An exception is represented by a creature, labeled by the filmmakers as ‘the Pilot’.


In the final film, said Pilot was replaced by the hologram tower (mockingly labeled as “the Tetris version” by the film’s own director), and the Thing, ultimately, took the form of a monstrously deformed and mutated Sander — the last transformation designed for the film, and brought on the screen directly as a digital effect. “We created the Sander-Thing the last minute,” the director said, “and it shows, unfortunately.” The replacement was actually established after test screenings, and as such the Pilot-Thing can be still briefly seen in the film — hidden by the shadows and camouflaged among the machinery. This is in all probability unintentional, and the question emerges naturally:

Why was the Pilot Creature fired from The Thing?

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