It's been over 30 years since Ripley returned to an extraterrestrial planet on the Sulaco only to relive the nightmare that had ravaged the Nostromo — except this time, she got the amplified version after coming face to fangs with the monstrous Alien Queen.
As an homage the royal source of everything that crawls on LV-426, Sideshow Toys has hatched the ultimate Alien Queen. Just stare at her for a moment. Chills will crawl down your spine. Your face may contort in horror. Let unmitigated fear consume you, because on the internet, no one can hear you scream.
Sideshow Project Manager Anthony Mestas was one of the masterminds behind reanimating the creature that invaded theaters (and nightmares) in 1986. Though the foam rubber movie prop was just not meant for this world and has mostly disintegrated, Mestas worked with Sideshow's art department and the team at Legacy FX Studio, the original special effects studio that hatched the aliens on Aliens, to bring her back to life and make her immortal as a 19" tall maquette that is the closest you can possibly get to feeling hot extraterrestrial breath on the back of your neck.
"We started by brainstorming, taking various aspects into account: What will the environment be? Will it be scene-specific? What pose will the Queen be in? Should we add some Alien Warriors? How about facehuggers?" Mestas told SYFY WIRE in an exclusive interview. "We not only focused on the Queen herself, but we were telling a story, re-creating a pivotal moment from the movie."
Spoiler: They did add Alien Warriors. And Facehuggers. And Ovomorphs.
The Alien Queen spawned from H.R. Giger's original concept that crawled out of his terrifying Necronomicon works. Necronomicon and Necronomicon 2 are infested with undead things that merge skeletal and often insectile features that will warp everything you think you know about anatomy and biology in about 2.5 seconds. The Queen was something unprecedented at the time, not only in movies but in the FX industry. Aliens director James Cameron and the unnaturally talented team at Legacy FX evolved Giger's Xenomorph concept with an even more elongated and elaborately ridged and flared head crown, blade-like back spikes, and amplified features that would crown a monarch.
After reviving the concept, Mestas and his team approached Legacy FX for their take on what was then still an emerging life form.
"Legacy brings years of experience to the table," Mestas said. "It's the best possible relationship to have when bringing an iconic character like the Queen to the collector!"
Legacy co-owners John Rosengrant and Shane Mahan are hardcore veterans of Stan Winston's Studio, the visual effects studio that leveled up Giger's Alien design. Rosengrant and Mahan designed, sculpted, and painted the creatures that went on to claw and hiss their way into the dreams of legions of sci-fi fans who experienced Aliens in a dark theater for the first time. The duo also brought the Alien Queen into being.
After the embryonic concept was finalized, it was the team at Legacy that had it developed into a full-blown Queen. They unearthed a universe of archives for reference, along with digital scans of any disembodied pieces of the original creature that remained. This data was then used to sculpt a grotesquely detailed 3D model.
"By digitally modeling the piece, we have complete control. We can pre-visualize, adjust the pose and composition, add extra details, and best yet… we can scale and print the piece to whatever size we want," explained Mestas.
Alien and Aliens may have not predicted 3D printing in their dark visions of the future, but the technology was integral to creating a mold. After the queen's limbs and extra appendages were printed, they were cleaned, finished, and prepped for molding. The resin castings that were created once those pieces were molded provided an eerily accurate prototype for the ultimate Alien Queen collector's piece.
It wasn't "Game over, man” yet. She needed makeup.
The artists needed to give the Queen her mucousy, just-emerged-from-primordial-ooze look. To imagine what they went through, remember the revulsion you felt when you first saw her egg chamber. Try to forget that view of her egg-laying orifice in action and visualize her skeletal face and limbs glistening with slime. So how did Sideshow recreate it? Mestas unearthed the secrets behind that preternatural glow.
"When the Queen is first revealed in the movie, she is in her egg chamber, under a hot and humid Atmosphere Processor on LV-426," he said. "When that humidity combined with her hard insect-like exoskeleton, she took on an almost gloss-like sheen. So the final step in our laborious paint process was to use a hi-gloss clear finish over the piece. This allows the light to bounce off the surface topography of the piece, replicating that sheen we saw in the movie."
What about those gnashing teeth?
"As for the teeth, we replicated the crystal-like nature of the Queen's deadly smile by using clear cast parts, combined with various paint applications, which were finally topped off with a gloss clear coat," Mestas revealed.
Surround the Queen with her soldiers and eggs, put her next to the Alien King, and you're going to want to run screaming until you remind yourself this is really an inanimate object. There's also an easter egg among the Ovomorphs she is so fiercely protecting. The one with all the legs climbing out of its eggshell is the exact same monstrosity a horrified Newt had to face when she realized she wasn't alone in the shadows.
"By collaborating with the talented artists that played such a huge role in her creation, I feel we have had the privilege of also replicating something very special and unique for fans and collectors," Mestas said. "All hail 'The Queen'"!
Pre-orders for the Alien Queen Maquette are now open. Click if you dare.