Creating cool alien creatures for TV and movies is no easy feat. It requires constant innovation, an ability to create characters who are at the same time surprising and believable, and the magic power to smother actors in pounds of makeup and foam without killing them. Here are galleries showing off the work of our favorite six artists and studios who use makeup, prosthetics, and animatronics to keep pushing alien life to the next level.Even as CG threatens to overwhelm science fiction media, these artists use physical materials and ingenuity to create beings that are sometimes frightening, sometimes inviting, and always intriguing. Click the links to see dreamy-crawly galleries of what these artists have done:
When all of space-time is your playground, you're bound to run into some exotic characters. Neill Gorton and his team at Millennium FX are currently responsible for bringing the many worlds of Doctor Who to life, from anthropomorphic Catkind and the Forest of Cheem to the disembodied Face of Boe. Gorton has also contributed creatures to Doctor Who spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures as well as Hex.
When John Vulich and Everett Burrell, founders of Optic Nerve Studios, took the reigns of the Babylon 5 makeup department, their goal was to set a new standard for TV ETs. More recently, the studio has turned to humans, creating special effects for Heroes.
Michael Westmore won an Academy Award for his work on Mask, but he is better known for his otherworldly creations. Westmore has worked on every iteration of Star Trek since The Next Generation. He is responsible for creating the original makeup for the Cardassians, Jem'Hadar, and Borg, and updated the designs of the Klingons, Andorians, and Tellarites.
Dave Elsey was asked to join the Australian branch of the Jim Henson Creature Shop just two months before the launch of Farscape. Elsey not only managed to complete the show's unfinished designs, he consistently raised the bar for creating intricate and visually stunning alien life. Elsey later took on the Star Wars franchise in Revenge of the Sith and a zombie ungulate in Black Sheep.
Todd Masters has kept busy heading makeup for Stargate Atlantis, designing characters such as the menacing Wraiths. Masters and his studio, MastersFX, also worked on Star Trek: First Contact, bringing the Borg Queen and her serpentine spine to life. They also showed off their prosthetics chops – and their eye for the bizarre – with the alien mutation comedy Slither.
You may recognize KNB EFX founders Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero's work from a wide range of films, from Serenity to Sin City to Land of the Dead. And when KNB does aliens, the results are always impressive. They have created physical models to complement the CG in Transformers, critters for The X-Files and The Outer Limits, and numerous rubbery cast members for Men in Black.