Alien: Hand puppet created by Roger Dicken based on HR Giger's early chestburster design

leading from 


a) Roger Dicken takes over
The job of creating Giger's approved design was soon handed over to Roger Dicken who was not too happy about it. 


Dicken said "You want me to make this? It looks like a turkey."

Ridley and the others said "Yes, that's what we want"

To Roger, it looked like a plucked turkey, a veined repulsive looking thing with fangs, and indeed that's what they said they wanted. 

There wasn't anything too complicated in the design though since all it had to do was force its way through the chest and then flop onto the table, so they decided that the best approach was to build it as a hand puppet, about three times life size, so that he could get his hand up into the neck. 

Obviously though, you couldn't have something the size of a large turkey coming out of a human chest but they would cheat the shot somehow.


b) Dicken working from his house
He worked out of his home in Pangbourne, that was about an hour's drive from Shepperton where the studios were. 

Dicken began work on the chest burster in Mid-March, sculpting it out of plasticine, and then casting it in foam plastic with a latex rubber skin. After spending about three weeks on it, he took it into the studio for a trial run. 


Chestburster hand puppet (source Memory :The origins of Alien dvd)


c) Dicken finishes Giger's initial concept

However Dicken reproduced it very faithfully  and took it into Ridley and the gang. Dicken wasn't particularly happy with it although he accepted the job and that's what they wanted. Once they took a look at it,  it could be seen that what looked great on paper didn't translate itself very well into Dicken's puppet making and they they needed something else

Dicken normally worked everything like a glove puppet and he brough this thing in and propped it on his knee. 

While he was talking, he kept moving the head around so the thing kept looking back and forth across the room, from Gordon to Carroll to Ridley and then up his nose. 

The thing looked winkled and ancient looking like a malevolent Muppet. 

The way Ridley talked about was Dicken was doing with it on his hand might make one think about the old Rod Hull and Emu act. 

So the whole thing was entirely comical for Ridley and the thing looked like some kind of plucked demented turkey. and Ridley feared getting a giggle at this time in the film and so they ditched the whole concept and started again.

d) A memory of Giger displaying a puppet.
Ridley would remember a very similar event with HR Giger who was known to have been trying to continue to finish his Chestburster design. Was it a memory of Giger presenting Dicken's chestburster puppet or had he created his own?

Giger created this chestburster puppet and showed it off to Ridley with dismay.

He appeared with great frustration in Ridley's office with a large black bag over his arm, obviously hiding something.

Giger said "So I've done it"

Ridley responded "Whats it look like?"


Giger then said " You want to see it now"

Ridley replied "Sure, okay"

Giger then slowly peeled back this black bag and it actually looked like he stuck his hand up the backside of a lumpy turkey with these teeth at the end of it's neck stump and Giger looked at Ridley saying "No good, uh?"

Ridley responded "Don't think so. I"m trying to work out how I get that inside John Hurt's chest"

To Ridley it looked like a twenty four pound turkey

Giger responded " Okay, it's impossible,  I must concentrate on the other things."




Chestburster hand puppet (source Memory :The origins of Alien dvd)
  1. Cellulord: It seems quite unusual for one man to take a monster through from the paper design stage right through to animating it on set.

    Roger Dicken: “
    Hm, I suppose. Of course, originally, Giger’s design for the Chest Burster looked more like a turkey; a horrendous, demented turkey. So, I faithfully reproduced that turkey model for them, then took it in to Ridley and the gang. I wasn’t particularly happy with it, but I’d accepted the job, and that’s what they wanted. Well, they took one look at it and decided they didn’t like it either, that they needed something else.  (http://cellulord.blogspot.com/2009/10/a30-alien-30-pt-5.html)
  2. Roger Dicken was given Giger's design and, despite his objections to it, he was asked to build it as Giger had painted it. Dicken constructed a hand puppet sculpted in plasticine, cast in  foam plastic with a latex rubber skin. Dicken showed Ridley Scott and the producers the finished puppet, and it was then that the decision was made to completely change the concept. (Alien Laserdisc Archive)   
  3. Cinefex: Roger Dicken was given Giger's approved design for the intermediate form, which came to be known as the chest-buster. "To me , it looked like a plucked turkey, "Dicken remarked, " a veined, repulsive looking thing with fangs. I said: "You want me to make this? It looks like a turkey." And they said, yes, thats what they wanted. Well there wasn't a need for anything very complicated, since all it had to do was force its way through the chest and then flop onto the table; so we figured the best approach was to build it as a hand puppet, about three times life-size, so I could get my hand up into the neck. Obviously, you couldn't get something the size of a large turkey out of a human chest, but initially they were going to cheat it somehow."
    Working out of his home at Pangbourne, about an hours drive from Shepherton - Dicken began on the chest-burster in Mid-March, sculpting it out of plasticene, and then casting it in foam plastic with a latex rubber skin. After spending about
    three weeks on it, he took it into the studio for a trial run.

    "Giger's drawing was a kind of a Francis Bacon-type thing," Ridley Scott explained, " and it looked just hideous. It was covered in blood and had a large underhung jaw with some really lethal teeth on it - totally obscene and very frightening. And in fact, roger Dicken reproduced it very faithfully. The problem was that what looked great on paper didn't in actuality. Dicken normally works everything like a glove puppet, and so he brought this thing in and propped it on his knee. And while he was talking, he kept moving the head around so the bloody thing kept looking back and forth across the room - from Gordon Carroll to me, and then up his nose. The whole thing was entirely comical - it looked like some kind of a plucked demented turkey. I was frankly terrified at the thought of getting a giggle at this time in the film, so we ditched the whole concept and started again." (Cinefex 1, p43)
  4. Ridley Scott: And the only thing Giger had a problem with was the chest burster,
    And er, he designed some, one day with great frustration he appeared in my office with this large black bag over his arm, he was obviously hiding something and
    erm.
    He said "so I've done it"
    "
    I said er "
    whats it look like"

    And he said "you want to see it now"
    I said "
    sure, okay"

    So he slowly peels back this black bag and it actually looked like he stuck his hand, if you excuse the expression, up the arse of a turkey, and there was this lumpy turkey with these teeth at the end and he looked at me like saying no good, uh


    I said "Don't think so. I'm trying to work out how I get that inside John Hurt's chest"

    It's like a twenty four pound turkey

    He said, "okay, it's impossible", I can't get.." I must concentrate on the other things."
    (RIDLEY SCOTT on ALIEN Little Beast _ TIFF, 2003)
  5. Ridley Scott "We went back and re-examined various illustrations and ideas, and tried to come up with something we thought would be the most frightening, I wanted more of a biological link between the baby which is what we were really designing, and what the final creature would look like. And I wanted it to be a very smooth object. The other was all wrinkled and ancient looking like a malevolent Muppet. And when it came out,  I wanted it to look very rude - and totally carnivorous. So to be honest, that beast was very much the product of several people - Giger, Dicken and me, and even a bit of Gordon Carroll."(Cinefex 1, p43) 
     

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  1. "Alien: Hand puppet created by Roger Dicken based on HR Giger's early chestburster design" was posted on 12th October 2019

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