AVP-R: Inside the Monster Shop

AVP-R: Inside the Monster Shop

Monster movies and the creatures that inhabit them have defined and provided some of the most classic and memorable moments and characters in the history of cinema — just a few examples being of course: “Frankenstein”,”Dracula”, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”, “The Mummy”, and “The Wolf Man.”

In recent decades, the “Alien” and “Predator” movies and creatures have taken their place along side of these icons — all the while imprinting their own unique and indelible stamp on the esteemed legacy that they share.

Amalgamated Dynamics Incorporated, located in Chatsworth, California (just outside of Los Angeles), has been the “home” — or shall I say the “hive” — of the Aliens for almost twenty years now — with ADI co-founders Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr. as the “caretakers” of our venerated xenomorphs since the third “Alien” movie installment (they of course also collaborated with Stan Winston on James Cameron’s “Aliens”) — and in recent years, the Predators landed at ADI per the “hunt” they began in 2004s “AVP”.

Alec and Tom — who are Academy Award winners and have won additional awards for their practical and creature effects — previously released a book chronically their and the ADI artists work on the first “AVP” movie — and now they again have opened their doors at ADI for all to enter via the vantage point of their new book entitled: “AVP-R: Inside the Monsters Shop.”

Ah yes… the goo, the gore, the glory — it’s all encompassed and showcased in the book with a vast and fantastic array of photographs documenting the making of “AVP-R” — from pre-production imagery to final movie images.

“Monster Shop” takes readers on a journey throughout the production process of “AVP-R” through “the eyes of ADI” — with informative text commentary outlining the genesis of the project through that of the final days of production.

At the beginning of the book, Alec and Tom offer the following dedication to readers: “Websites, message boards, and blogs have all turned fans into critics and opinions into facts. We’ve had our share of praise and criticism, and still the Alien and Predator continue to thrive and thrill. With this book, we seek to show you the people and the art behind the process, answer the question of how it was done, and if we’re lucky, inspire the next generation of artists and filmmakers. This one is for the fans…”

The book also includes a forward by The Strause Brothers — the following is an excerpt: “When you’re making your feature directorial debut in the combined eighth installment of two of the greatest monster movies in cinematic history, things can get a little overwhelming. Even though Greg and I have been fans of the ‘Alien’ movies since before it was probably healthy for us to be watching them, it was great to work with two guys who’ve been involved for the long haul. On our first visit to ADI we knew it was going to be pretty tough to play it cool, so we decided just to geek out and get it over with. Seeing everything from the Runner to the Original Queen was really inspiring, and it dawned on us how much fun it was going to be to shoot this film. This was our chance to add to the legacy that our idols have created.” — and the brothers go on to say: “…The entire ADI crew was a constant boon for us, both in getting this ambitious film done on an extremely tight schedule, and in lightening things up. Even though, historically, practical effects and visual effects are on the opposite sides of the spectrum, it turns out we both share an affinity for inappropriate humor, gory movies, and delicious steak. If that’s not friendship we don’t know what is.”

… and with that, the book launches into the history of the production of “AVP-R”.

“Monster Shop” shows the many talented members of the ADI crew displaying their skills and artistry as they manifest their work — both at the ADI workshop and on location.

There are many interesting facets and aspects of “AVP-R” that are covered — from the process of designing and building the new PredAlien — to operating and filming the creatures in extremely constrained and claustrophobic scenarios in some instances — as well as filming the Aliens outdoors in harsh winter nights and rainfall for the very first time — during which, Alec and Tom cited that the First Assistant Director, Ken Shane would shout: “Bring on the misery..!” as he cued the rain machines!There is also a reflection by Tom as he ruminates about his experiences playing the Alien (which he has done in every Alien movie since “Alien 3” — and in “AVP-R” — he did double-xenomorph-duty by playing both an Alien Warrior and the PredAlien); sharing his thoughts about the rigors required to wear the Alien suit and perform under various challenging conditions. Tom goes on to say that he reminds himself in those times that this is something (being a “movie monster”) that he’s wanted to do since he was a kid — and something that he takes pride in!

The Brothers Strause also comment on Tom and Alec’s working relationship: “On the set, well… let’s just say Tom is the Alien; and the Alien is Tom…. and Alec is the beauty to Tom’s beast. Basically, he just sits there and looks cool with his awesome anchorman ‘fro, and he helps keep things loose on the set. In all seriousness, though, Alec brings an enormous attention to detail, along with the mind of a true storyteller, to the proceedings. He was an invaluable asset to our production.”

Each “species” is given its own chapter in the book: ALIEN: Dark Death — PREDATOR: The Wolf — PREDALIEN: A New Terror — as well, there’s also a chapter called: WEAPONS: Tools of the Trade — where the design and creation of the Wolf Predator’s weapons are illustrated and discussed — including his shoulder cannon, whip, power punch aka “brass knuckles”, wrist computer, the “cleaner” (acid) case, spear and shurikens.

“Monster Shop” also includes an anecdote entitled “Alien Abduction” (regarding an incident that we at “Alien Experience” were first to break news about on the Internet during the time of production), about a rather inept individual who actually stole a full size Alien Warrior costume from the filming location in Vancouver, Canada — and then posted it for sale on the internet — citing this as the tag: “Alien Vs Predator costume” (the culprit’s spelling) – “this is a original prop from the AVP2 movie, price is negotiable” (continued misspelling and audacity going hand in hand) — along with three photographs of the costume. It definitely comes off as a humorous story, though I’m sure at the time of its “abduction” — that it was anything but that for the crew!

In closing the book, Alec and Tom, while discussing the hybrid nature of the PredAlien, share their following thoughts about the potential cinematic future of the Aliens and Predators: “Hopefully the idea of an ever-changing xenomorph, long accepted in Alien toys and comics, will establish itself firmly in the movie’s mythos. If so, we may see future installments populated by descendants of science fiction’s royal bloodline.”

If you are an aficionado of film appreciation, sci-fi, horror, movie monsters, creature effects, sculpture and/or art — whew! — then definitely pick this book up — you will most certainly enjoy it!

To checkout 13 scans from the book visit our image gallery.

To purchase this book directly from the publisher, you may go to Design Studio Press. Alternatively you can buy it from Amazon.

Film photography – Copyright 2007 20th Century Fox & Creature shop photography – Copyright 2007 Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc.