But for me, anyway, there was a catch:
In order to arrive at Stan's on time, I would actually have to be early. There seemed to be about a 20 minute gap between buses, so I could either show up at 7:50 or 8:10. However, due to the RTD schedule, it would be required to catch my first bus at 5:30 in the morning. That would mean getting up around 4:45 a.m.!
Thank God, I caught that early bus because I discovered later that one of Stan's pet peeves was tardiness!
Everyone started filing in and I'm not sure but someone (it could have been Tom Woodruff) walked me to an auxiliary unit in the same complex that was being used as a molding and casting shop. I was introduced to the people working there including Howard Berger, Bob Kurtzman, Everett Burrell, Scott Wheeler, and Steve James. Steve and I were shown a very clean, thin fiberglass body form that would be used for alien warrior construction but since they wanted the suit pieces to overlap, we would have to cut the body in half at the waist and extend the abdomen section with new fiberglass.
|The mold shop. When I met Bob and Howard they were standing behind this table. Note the Alien back-tube mold.|
Later that day, I was in the main shop and saw the two guys who had interviewed before me. They were sculpting an alien warrior tail. The younger, shorter of the two was Matt Rose, the older taller one was his roommate, Mark Williams. Although I didn't know of Mark, Matt's reputation preceded him.
Fangoria Magazine ran a contest for young monster makers to design characters and the winners were from San Jose, Califorina. Matt Rose and Steve Wang, at 18 and 19 years old, had won the national contest and their incredible masks were featured in the magazine.
|"The Ghoul Brothers" - I had forgotten that they were parodies of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. Oops!|
When I reminisce about those days, we all must have had the same inner insecurity and curiosity, because there was a lot of shop portfolio viewings and it was VERY clear that here was a community of very talented and very competitive people. Some were very blatant about the situation and some were aware of it but remained laid back. For myself, I felt like they were all out of my league and I was struggling just to keep up. And because there were job opportunities around town and that underlying competition eating at everyone's guts, some people were already LEAVING Stan Winston's for what was perceived as "better opportunities."
And as those folks left the studios, new replacements would be hired including Gino Crognale, a heavy metal kid from Philadelphia,. Gino joined us in the mold shop and began seaming a few alien eggs that had been run in latex and polyfoam.
|One of the alien eggs resting next to one of Gino's bags of Laura Scudder's chips.|
|This section of alien egg was made for the mechanics to work out the "flowering" mechanism.|
In terms of finished creatures, the one piece I recall being fairly completed was the chest burster that Tony Gardener had sculpted. Before it was shipped, there had been a completed mechanism and a test skin glued onto it so we were able to see its potential before it left.
The task of mechanizing the face huggers fell to Rick Lazzarini who had been researching many different methods of creating a controlled, effective run which was something that had not been seen in the first film. There was even a He-Man "Spydor" toy that was purchased for reference but ultimately another solution would present itself later...
|Cool? Yes, but ultimately not good for a face hugger.|
One of my strongest recollections about Stan Winston studios at that time is what I will refer to as the collective soundtrack that seemed to be ever present at the shop.
Whenever I hear Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms" or Stuart Copeland's "The Rhythmatist" I'm immediately taken back to Northridge in 1985 because I would venture to say that not a day went by that both of those cassette tapes would be played in the main shop.
And all of the while, the two shops were being coordinated by Stan and the "lifers." The preferred way for Shane Mahan and a few others to get back and forth was via skateboard and it wasn't unusal to hear the din of the wheels as someone from the main shop would appear at the large open bay door.
|Everett Burrell and I casting something..who knows what? Everett was the one who opened the wooden crate and showed me H.R. Giger's complete alien suit in the shop.|
As the ALIENS work began to be completed and shipped, more of us were shifted over to INVADERS FROM MARS duties.
When Bill Sturgeon first walked me through the studio, he had shown me a few cast maquettes for the alien drones (or warriors) for the film. In order to confuse the audience with what they were seeing, the performance of the drone suit would require two performers: A large stunt man who would walk backwards and a little person sitting in a specially designed harness on the stunt man's back. The little person's legs would control the gross jaw movement while the eyes and brows were radio controlled. Although the drone's main legs were the stunt man's legs (with the knee facing backwards, remember) it also had a secondary pair of legs that were operated by the stunt man holding ski poles. It was as ingenious as it was cumbersome.
|Here are a couple of the drone frames waiting for their fiberglass under structures and their skins.|