For the most part, the crew was able to reuse the creature designs from the first Alien film. The alien in the first film was (for most scenes) a seven-foot man in an intricately designed alien costume. For close-up shots (ex: the head of the alien), an animatronic was used. This method was reused for some scenes in Aliens. However, in this sequel, the Queen alien was significantly larger than the other aliens (about twice as tall). As a result, a new design would have to be implemented (Aliens Special Edition Blu-Ray).
Other body parts of the alien, such as the legs, utilized the puppeteer method. Another creature effects coordinator commented, “Her legs are puppeted externally by puppeteers, rods, etc that would move her legs.” Specific parts of the Queen’s face, such as the lips, jaw, and tongue were controlled by cables that allowed complete movement. Ultimately, 14-16 operators were needed to make the Queen alien completely mobile. The producer of the film, Gale Hurd, noted, “She was huge, she weighed a lot, and to choreograph the movements of the Queen with the two people that were creating her movements was always a challenge and did eat up quite a bit of production time. On the other hand, we got every shot that we needed within our shooting schedule, which remained on budget and on schedule” (Aliens Special Edition Blu-Ray).
Written by Anthony Watkins
Aliens. Screenplay by James Cameron. Dir. James Cameron. Prod. Gale Anne Hurd. 1986. Special Edition Blu-Ray. Twentieth Century Fox, 1986.