Alien Resurrection: Designing the final Auriga

 


Auriga (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)

 
Auriga (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)
 
 
a) New design for the Auriga
Nigel came in to the art department and rounded up a few of the art department members to offer ideas, and we have the names Jim Martin, Bill Boes and Sylvain Despretz.
 
He said to them "Well, guys, we've got three days to come up with another one so, anything lying in your draws, just bring it up, "

Sylvain expected a typical process to go ahead , the director would look at one drawing and say "this is the one I really feel will do the trick.
 
Normally there would be an argument about it for a little while before they would then the do a preliminary model, in a matter of a couple of days, they just kind of whip together this thing, to block out the forms and say "well, make it a little bit thinner", but basically that is what usually saw happening.

What the design team knew was that in the story it had two functions. One of them was to be a stationary base, which is in orbit around Pluto and that's where it started.
 
The art department went to town or perhaps even got to their battle stations and then again it was like a race, where they had to produce around ten or twenty different drawings of ships and then Jean-Pierre came down to the room and looked at the different drawings and started selecting what he liked.

But he would begin to "hack" at drawings, which a sort of typical process, somebody would brings in a bit, Sylvain would be watching over what they've just done hoping that his design doesn't get butchered too much.
 

 
Auriga by Jim Martin (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)

 
Auriga by Jim Martin (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)
 
a.i) Shape shifting
One of their ideas was that it might be interesting to show two different aspects of the ship: one of the floating station as a sort of stationary object, and then another would be the vessel as it's seen propelled like a projectile towards the Earth.  
 
So they thought it might be interesting to give it two forms and in the end that's exactly what happened.
 
While it's stationary,  the two sides of the Auriga have popped out of the side have remain extended
 
By the time that the ship actually starts heading toward the earth, it collapses a little bit and turns into something more streamlined as needle-like structure. 
 
Despretz felt that there was always a sense that the Auriga was something that could have been a little ominous, and he thought about it being a factory of death.
 

Auriga (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)


Auriga (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)

 
a.ii) Comparison to the alien life form
Illustrator Jim Martin did one design using a scientific approach evoking the feel of a space station, complete with detachable looking sections and softer more rounded shapes while Sylvain Despretz picked up on the fact that there were so many ribs in the corridors, it would be interesting to give the place an organic feeling, almost as if the ship was an animal, with areas that almost looked like facehuggers.  
 
With that, part of Sylvain's idea was that it should look almost like the alien itself. 
 
It would have  a skeletal feeling to it, almost as if its ribs could be seen.  
 
It wasn't actually his intention to really think hard about the design of this thing, but he wanted to get something that he felt comfortable with, because there was the fan in him when he was drawing. 
 
He wanted to do something that would excite him when he was sitting in the cinema, and perhaps that was the design philosophy for anyone he knew in the art department
 
They had all started back in 1979, we saw the first picture and their lives were never the same.  
 
Most of them respected the first Alien picture greatly, so they wanted to try and do it justice. 
 
They wanted to try and live up to the incredibly high standards that have been said before them. 
 
Whether or not they succeeded was up to the new fans to decide, but they wanted to excite the audience with with the visuals.
 
 

Auriga by Sylvain Despretz (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)


 
Auriga by Sylvain Despretz (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)
 
 
a.iii) Appealing to Jeunet's aesthetic
Despretz was aware that Jean-Pierre seemed to like things that looked very organic, rusty, seemingly ribbed, gnarly, industrial in a turn of the century the way and the latter could mean like Jules Verne. 
 
So he gave him something that he would ideally chose and this met with Jeunet's approval. 
 
Jeunet saw that Despretz had done a front and a back, said "that's perfect", took the drawings and left. 
 
The other side to Jeunet's point of view though what that he thought it was a nice ship that was nothing special, but for him it was something that was horizontal and worked for the film in terms of narration. 
 
Of course he needed to get on and make the film 
 
Nigel Phelps thought that the engine of the craft that Sylvain had done was fantastic, and there was a spaceship that Jim had done which was great, while the final things was cobbled together from both of these.




Auriga by Sylvain Despretz (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray) (November 1996)
Auriga (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray) (October 1996)


a.iv) Echoes of the Cygnus from The Black Hole?
The long horizontal Auriga was the direction that they went, perhaps in some renditions, it slightly resembled the vast Cygnus spacecraft from the movie The Black Hole which would have been something in the background of the minds of many scifi movie fans, and the way these both start of in the films as stationary objects in space might seem similar.  
 
But the new shape of this craft would lend it self to the photography format that they were using in this film.
 
 
The USS Cygnus from The Black Hole (1979)
The USS Cygnus from The Black Hole (1979)




Auriga by Sylvain Despretz (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)
Auriga (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)


Source quotes
  1. Alien Anthology: In contrast, Sylvain Despretz - inspired in part by designs for the interior of the ship - envisioned the Auriga as being more angular and streamlined. Director Jeunet eventually chose this look for use in the final film. (Alien Anthology blu-ray)
  2. Sylvain Despretz: Finally, a few weeks before the model shop deadline, the director gave it the ax and said, 'I want a new ship,' so we went to town. Illustrator Jim Martin did one design using the scientific approach while I felt there were so many ribs in the ship's corridors, it would be interesting to give it that organic feeling, almost as if the ship itself was an animal, with areas that almost looked like facehuggers and they really responded to it.(Starlog 252, p37) 
  3. Sylvain Despretz: We had to go to our battle stations and try to come up with a design Jean-Pierre would like. He seemed to like stuff that looked very organic, rusty, kind of ribbed and gnarly. So I tried to give him exactly what he'd choose and that's kind of what happened. I did a front and back  and he came by and said that's perfect and took the drawings and left . (Alien The Archive)
  4. Nigel Phelps: There was a fantastic engine that Sylvain had done, but there was a great thing Jim had done, so it was cobbled together from different concepts. (Alien The Archive)
  5. Jim Martin: Sylvain did the one that's probably closest to what is in the film. I think Bill Boes did a scratch model of it, a rough foam core and cardboard model, and then I did a detail and drawing pass. (Alien The Archive)

Auriga by Sylvain Despretz , (1996 )(source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)

Auriga (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)


b) The beast
Despretz would be critical about his own design, didn't think that his design was great, that it wasn't as nice as Syd Mead's Sulaco from Aliens, but he worked with what the department was given, that meant limitations and lack if time.
 
It looked to him like an alligator or a crocodile swimming away, like a weird, dark ribbed thing to the extent that it near enough looked like a flying ribcage, which was his intention anyway

Sylvain would have preferred to have designed a ship where he knew what the function of the ship was.

His idea was that in a normal science fiction movie, a ship would have a function or it would be perhaps a military ship or even a refinery, then he would have something to work with, but he

But in this case there didn't seem to be a single scene that transitioned between the inside and the outside of the ship, so that one would never get a sense of the functionality of the ship, or where the cockpit was or where the people are inside it.

He found it was just an excuse to cut away and have a bunch of wide shots in space.

He came to the conclusion that it was a terrible ship, one that oddly fans of the Alien films were not trying to make models of.



Auriga by Sylvain Despretz (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray) (1996)

Auriga by Sylvain Despretz (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)


  Source quotes
  1. Sylvain Despretz: The problem was I was never clear in my own mind as to what the function of the ship was. In a normal science fiction movie a ship will have a function, or it's a military ship, or it's a refinery. Then you have something to go from or for.  But in this case, I don't think there's a single scene that transitions between inside and outside the ship, so you never see how functional it is, or where the cockpit it, or where the people are inside it. It's just an excuse to cut away and have a bunch of wide shots in space.  In the end it's a terrible ship. It had the dubious honour of being the only ship from an Alien movie nobody has ever tried to make a model of. It looks like a crocodile swimming away, like a weird, ribbed dark thing. (Alien The Archive)
  2. Sylvain Despretz: It was a nice ship but nothing special. It was horizontal and was working for the film in terms of narration.  (Alien The Archive) 
  3. Starlog: While Despretz wishes that ALIEN Resurrection had gone a bit further in terms of exploring new artistic areas he still considers the film one of the proudest moments in his career. (Starlog 252, p37)
  4. Sylvain Despretz: I also did one of the two ships in the film. It's not a great ship - it's not as nice as Syd Mead's ship [the Sulaco] in the second one or anything, but we had to work with what we were given, which was limitations...and no time! (Laughs.) It's called The Auriga, it's the one that blows up. It looks like an alligator or something. It looks like a flying rib-cage - that was the idea, actually. The idea was to make it look like a very organic thing, it almost looked like a sort of animal itself. (http://www.reddwarf.co.uk/features/interviews/sylvain-despretz/)
  5. Sylvain Despretz: The problem was I was never clear in my own mind as to what the function of the ship was. In a normal science fiction movie a ship will have a function, or it's a military ship, or it's a refinery. Then you have something to go from or for.  But in this case, I don't think there's a single scene that transitions between inside and outside the ship, so you never see how functional it is, or where the cockpit it, or where the people are inside it. It's just an excuse to cut away and have a bunch of wide shots in space.  In the end it's a terrible ship. It had the dubious honour of being the only ship from an Alien movie nobody has ever tried to make a model of. It looks like a crocodile swimming away, like a weird, ribbed dark thing. (Alien The Archive)
  6. Q. What's the function of this new ship? Is it more military, is it some other form of transportation?

    Sylvain Despretz:
    According to the story has two functions. One of them is to be a stationary base, which is in orbit around Pluto. That's where it starts, And the idea, and this is an idea that we came up with in Nigel's office, when we realised that the ship had to be re-designed, was that it might be interesting to show two different aspects of the ship, one of the floating station, sort of stationary object, and then one that would be propelled like a projectile towards the Earth for the balance of the picture. And we thought it might be interesting to give it two forms and in the end that's exactly what happened. The two sides of the Auriga kind of pop out and extend, and I think that's the first version that you see when it's stationary. By the time that the ship actually starts heading toward the earth, it collapses a little bit and turns into more of a streamlined needle-like structure. So there's always a sense that the  Auriga was something that could have been a little ominous, because it's a factory of death if you think about it. It's the ultimate plot that's been driving the "Alien" from the very first picture. They always talk about the elusive "Company" to which they finally give a name, thank God, because because they used to just refer to it as the "Company", I forget what it is. The name is actually funny, it's a weird reference.  


    Q.
    Weyland-yutani


    Sylvain Despretz:
    Yeah so they've given it the name, and this company has finally reached the alien on board the Auriga. So their plot is to breed the beast  that's what they've been talking about from day one, so this is it.  So to me the question was, what can we do to make this more than a technically feasible, pleasant-to-look at science-fiction ship? Part of my idea was that it should look almost like the alien itself. Have a sort of skeletal feeling to it.  Almost so you can see ribs.  I never - some people put a lot of thought, you know, into a design.  It wasn't my intention to really think hard about this.  I wanted to get something that I felt comfortable with, because the fan in me is always present when I'm drawing,  and a fan I wanted to do something that would excite me as if I was sitting in the theatre. And I thought that was pretty much the design philosophy throughout the film from anyone I know in the art department.  We've all started back in 1979, we saw the first picture and our lives were never the same.  And most of us respect the first Alien picture greatly, so we wanted to try and do it justice, we wanted to try and live up to the incredibly high standards that have been said before us. Whether or not we succeeded is up to the new fans to decide, but hopefully we will excite them with the visuals.

    And the safest way to do this was to try to please yourself as a fan. So, would I accept this if I saw it on the screen, would I feel really titillated. Would I feel that this belongs in this universe we call "Alien Land". So once you get to a point where on your drawing board you're getting something that's feels like it has a nice mix of something plausible but at the same time otherworldly, somewhat and for me, I mean, the Auriga was a factory of death, I was thinking about a very industrial , sort of turn of the century, almost like a Jules Verne machine just spitting out fire and hurling it towards planet Earth, which is what it is, a projectile of death

     (source: alien-resurrection.com)
  7. Sylvain Despretz: And so a few of us were rounded up and had to offer ideas, and as it happens in this process, the director would look at one drawing and say "this is the one I really feel will do the trick." And then they argue over it a little bit, and then thye do a preliminary model, in a matter of a couple of days, they just kind of whip together this thing, to block out the forms and say well, make it a little bit thinner, but basically that's what happens. (source: alien-resurrection.com)
     

Auriga (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)

Auriga (source Alien Anthology Blu-Ray)

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