Friday, March 28, 2014

Crushing ALIENS Powerloader Concept Art by James Cameron and Syd Mead

Friday, March 28, 2014 - by Maurice Mitchell 3

Aliens (1986) by James Cameron
Check out Aliens concept art by James Cameron and Syd Mead!

Every Friday I try and feature artwork from a classic of science fiction cinema or television. This week's "Flashback Friday" post is on Aliens (1986).

One of the most iconic visuals from the Alien movies is the Powerloader that Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) uses to fight the Alien Queen. Recently, an awesome Dad made an incredible Powerloader costume for his baby, so I thought it would be a good time to show the origins of the exoskeleton. Where did it come from? How was it designed?

James Cameron is a director of such films as Avatar (2009) and Abyss (1989) and Syd Mead is a professional illustrator and "visual futurist" who's worked on Hollywood films like Blade Runner (1982), Tron (1982) and Elysium (2013).

Click on the images to enlarge.


In the script for Aliens it said,
        INT. CARGO LOCK                                         

        The Queen spins at the sound of door motors behind her.
        The parting doors REVEAL an inhuman silhouette standing
        there.

        Ripley steps out, WEARING TWO TONS OF HARDENED STEEL.
        THE POWER LOADER.  Like medieval armor with the power of
        a bulldozer.  She takes a step...the massive foot
        CRASH-CLANGS to the deck.  She takes another, advancing.
James Cameron explained it's origins and reasoning this way, "It's based on a design that I created a few years ago for another story that never got made [called Xenogenesis]. That predated the 'Transformer' robots, at least as a fad in this country. I think that the exo-skeleton concept has been used in a lot of literary SF.

"In this particular film, the origin of it was that I wanted to have the final confrontation with the Alien be a hand-to-hand fight. To be a very intense, personal thing, not done with guns, which are a remote way of killing. Also, guns carry a lot of other connotations as well. But to really go one on one with the creature was my goal. It made sense that Ripley could win if she could equalize the odds. So there had to be some way of amplifying her strength, in a way that was not a comic-bookish sort of concept, like taking a pill."

Syd Mead had done a design for "Walking cargo loaders" that Joe Johnson said inspired the AT-AT walkers in Return of the Jedi. Cameron, who said he felt a "little ripped off" by the film, hired Mead to design the Powerloader.

Walker design by Syd Mead
Mead said, "I started designing it when they went to Pinewood. They constructed the test model with 2x2s and trash bags stuffed with newspapers to get the articulation down. The finished prop was so cumbersome, they had to have guys in black skin suits running it. It was not power operated, it was operated by manipulators behind out of shot."
Aliens Powerloader design by Syd Mead



Aliens Powerloader design by James Cameron

Aliens Powerloader design by James Cameron

See more of Syd Mead's inspiring portfolio at http://sydmead.com

Click on the links if you want to see more of James Cameron and Syd Mead's work or Aliens on my blog.

What do you think of the concept art? If you've seen Aliens what did you think?

Official Aliens Summary
"In this action-packed sequel to Alien, Sigourney Weaver returns as Ripley, the only survivor from mankind's first encounter with the monstrous Alien. Her account of the Alien and the fate of her crew are received with skepticism - until the mysterious disappearance of colonists on LV-426 leads her to join a team of high-tech colonial marines sent in to investigate." 
Directed by James Cameron
Cinematography by Adrian Biddle
Production Design by Michael Seymour
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen
Release Dates: July 18, 1986
© Copyright 1986 Brandywine Productions, SLM Production Group, 20th Century Fox. All rights reserved


About the Author

Maurice Mitchell
Lover of science fiction and art.

3 comments:

  1. One on the best movies ever. The Walker design does look like the AT AT's. I guess I would be a little put off too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It is an awesome flick David. It's funny that everyone working on it had the same feeling that it was going to be great.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I did not realize that James Cameron did his own concept art. I have new respect for the man - still can never forgive him for Titanic.

    ReplyDelete

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