All those who are familiar with this movie, please tell me how the character was created, and using what. At that time in 1982, it was not possible to create such a live character walking, talking, etc with computers. So how was it created?


1 Answer 1


I those days they used to build live dolls or electrically powered movement doll, to portray a character. They also used to make costumes for actors to wear while portraying a specific character or alien-like creature.

I guess they used to create it similar to the techniques used to create and film Alf, costumes, hand puppeteers, movement dolls, and people.

Wiki quote:

Ed Verreaux created a $700,000 prototype for E.T., which Spielberg deemed useless. Carlo Rambaldi, who designed the aliens for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, was hired to design the animatronics of E.T. Rambaldi's own painting Women of Delta led him to give the creature a unique, extendable neck. The creature's face was inspired by the faces of Carl Sandburg, Albert Einstein and Ernest Hemingway. Producer Kathleen Kennedy visited the Jules Stein Eye Institute to study real and glass eyeballs. She hired Institute staffers to create E.T.'s eyes, which she felt were particularly important in engaging the audience. Four E.T. heads were created for filming, one as the main animatronic and the others for facial expressions, as well as a costume. Two dwarfs, Tamara De Treaux and Pat Bilon, as well as 12-year-old Matthew De Meritt, who was born without legs, took turns wearing the costume, depending on what scene was being filmed. Caprice Roth, a professional mime, filled prosthetics to play E.T.'s hands. The finished creature was created in three months at the cost of $1.5 million. Spielberg declared it was "something that only a mother could love."

I also read somewhere that there were three types of the E.T. creature, one was controlled mechanically by more than ten men. The other one was radio-controlled, it was used for close-ups, designed with full facial expressions. The third one was the suit mentioned in the quote. There was more than one version of each.

  • 3
    With CGI so common nowadays, it seems like everyone underestimates good puppeteering...
    – Izkata
    Mar 14, 2012 at 14:22
  • The Making of E.T. (this is part 3/10 on YouTube) talks about many of the points quoted above, as well as provide some additional detail and visual behind the scenes demonstrations of the different mechanisms used.
    – Josh
    Mar 14, 2012 at 16:25
  • Very similar to how Yoda was done in the original Star Wars trilogy.
    – vsz
    Mar 14, 2012 at 18:22
  • @Izkata, There are some great old movies with special effect techniques that are almost forgotten today. We're so attuned to cgi, that we can usually spot it easily, but some of these older effects are so obscure today, that it's hard today, and we're not used to seeing them that they seem amazing.
    – Sam
    Mar 15, 2012 at 18:15

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