Touring the Creature Effects Shop StudioADI

StudioADI Amalgamated Dynamics Inc

In 1992, I attended the Showbiz Expo at the LA Convention Center.

One of the booths was for a publisher called Cinefex, who was promoting their latest issue of their incredible behind-the-scenes special effects magazine, and the upcoming film Alien3. 

This was my introduction to the work of Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr and their company, Amagalmated Dynamics Inc., aka StudioADI.

The duo were veterans of the legendary Stan Winston Studios and,  bootstrapping their way along, they had managed to win the contract to design and build the Alien for the third installment in a huge franchise, and it was only their second film after Tremors. 

Hopefully that trailer will serve as a refresher if you haven’t seen Alien3 in a long time (or at all). If you have never seen it, I recommend it. It’s better than reviews would suggest. Following Tremors and this film, Amalgamated Dynamics would go on to create the creatures for a litany of films that runs the gamut in terms of genre. Sci-fi, horror, comedy, action, commercials, live events, art installations, you name it, they’ve done it.

In 2012, StudioADI took to YouTube in rolling out their archive of behind the scenes videos for everyone to see, and in the intervening years since, they’ve been connecting with fans more directly until in 2018, they opened their facility for a series of intimate tours and I got to see firsthand the scope of their incredible work in person, including pieces that figured prominently in Alien3. It was a pilgrimage to say the least and an experience I will never forget.

My tour was led by Alec Gillis, a gentleman and scholar who has a rather hilarious IG account and who should add comedy to the list of services provided by StudioADI. The tour was of particular interest to me as Alec not only covered the making-of and cultural aspects of the effects industry, but also the business-of-the-business and memories of the Winston days as well.

At times along the tour, we were allowed to take photos, and then there were times when we couldn’t due to the nature of upcoming projects or works that Gillis knew studios wouldn’t be happy with him sharing with the world.

The trophy room (that’s what I’m calling it), was spectacular. The walls were made up of discarded flats used for the interior of the Auriga space ship from Alien: Resurrection. As Gillis tells it, the director (Jean-Pierre Jeunet of Amelie fame) had instructed foremen to simply through the flats out, and then Gillis intervened, figuring they would make for an excellent showroom back at StudioADI’s facility in Chatsworth, California. Jeunet didn’t have a problem with that and so the flats were hauled from Fox on over.

The trophy room contains souvenirs of StudioADI’s work dating back almost thirty years, including items that had been screen used in Alien3 and featured in that first Cinefex issue I got. You can see a plethora of them in the panorama at the top of this screen and it’s a challenge to try and name every single movie that has an artifact displayed here.

Below are more pictures, so take a look and see if you can identify every piece and what movie it’s from (I have tried!), and after you’re done there, you should hop on over to StudioADI’s YouTube channel as it’s full of great behind the scenes videos showing how some of our favorite movie creatures were made and then operated behind the scenes.

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