I had understood that my work on FROM BEYOND was going to be brief and that was fine. I was happy to have worked with Mark Shostrom and Bob again, and it was a pleasure meeting and working with Dave, John, Aaron and Greg. However my phone had rung and I was about to embark on another adventure. The phone call was from Tony Gardner who was then working with Doug Beswick on the miniature Queen Alien/Power Loader unit for ALIENS. Brian Penikas (God love him!) had recommended me to Tony when they found themselves needing some additional help. Now familiar with this routine, I was happy to jump in and go back to work on ALIENS.
I don't know how else to say this, but Doug Beswick is great. He is. Those of you whom have met him know what I'm talking about and those of you who haven't, know this: He is a fantastic person. Let me get back to my correct "tense" here:
Since you have been reading this blog, you already know of my love of Stop Motion Animation and I was familiar with Doug Beswick's career before during and after his tenure with Rick Baker. In photos, Doug always seemed a bit intense (which, I imagine, is how you look when you are shooting Stop Motion?) so I wasn't prepared to meet such a warm guy with a big smile when I arrived at his studio. In fact, his wife, Vicky was working in the front office and she, too, was so welcoming and friendly that I instantly knew I was going to enjoy the heck out of working there.
The studio was northeast of the San Fernando Valley in Sunland in a modest, industrial space. Doug was not just a talented Stop Motion animator, but was a very clever animatronic designer and machinist. Because of this, a great deal of his shop was dedicated to machining, however Doug was a good sculptor as well; remember he did sculpt the Cantina Musicians for STAR WARS! By and large the art department tables were set in the back and at one of these tables was my old college buddy, James Belohovek! I had worked with him earlier that year on HOUSE, but since then we had fallen out of touch. It was good to see that a talented miniature builder like Jim had been tapped to build the Power Loader and he had already begun making parts that had been delivered to Brian Penikas for molding and casting.
|Jim, attaching the claw assembly.|
|Doug Beswick (left) and Phil Notaro with the miniature Power Loader. Sorry about the crappy photos, they are scans off of a color copy from the page of a Japanese book.|
Doug was such a trooper and he put up with my nerdy, fan, enthusiasm with a lot of patience. I badgered him until he showed me pieces of the Terminator stop motion puppet (unfortunately, a lot of the mechanical pieces had been machined - once - and the only complete figure was in James Cameron's office. He also shared some old photos of the STAR WARS aliens as well as the Tyrannosaurus Rex puppet he had mechanized for MY SCIENCE PROJECT. NOTE: This was 6 years before we would begin construction of the T-Rex for JURASSIC PARK and Doug's T-Rex was the most sophisticated real-time dinosaur puppet built up to that date.
|Doug and his Endoskeleton model.|
|The head, chest, and pelvis were the only parts I saw in person. I think Willie Whitten sculpted them.|
|Doug and Phil's mechanism for the MY SCIENCE PROJECT T-Rex|
Meanwhile, under Tony Gardner's supervision, I worked on casting pieces for the Sigourney Weaver puppet. Phil had build a simple head turn mechanism that mounted to the plaster core. To illustrate how sophisticated Phil was in his approach, as the mechanism turned left to right, the "chin" would automatically pitch up and down slightly to off-set the "mechanical" look. Simple and brilliant. I would affix the mechanism to the core and then inject hot melt vinyl (tinted flesh tone) into it. The stone mold was good enough for most of the seam to just be plucked, but I smoothed the rest of it down, carefully, with a dental waxer. I was also given small armatures to put into arm molds to repeat the process.
|Tony Gardener re-sculpted the Sigourney Weaver puppet.|
|I wonder why Mattel never issued a Power Loader Barbi?|
|Don't ask. I'm working on the leg assembly apparently.|
|Jim paints an assembled leg.|
|The completed Loader ready to be shipped to England for shooting.|