Monday, 6 August 2012

Alien Unseen: Part One - Ridleygrams

During Alien's pre-production, Ridley Scott drew up a story board presentation of Alien for 20th Century Fox. Impressed with what Ridley had presented they doubled the budget from $4.5 million to $8.5 million. These storyboards are known as 'Ridleygrams'. This story board presentation contains scenes and FX shots that were later re-written or dropped due to budgetary reasons. Here we are going to take a look at some of these early scenes and concepts Ridley envisioned for Alien at this early stage.

Well, It's time to turn back to the old roots and art direct or draw a sequence very specifically for myself.  It's helps me think; once the pictures are right, everything else starts to occur from them.

- Ridley Scott, Book of Alien

The Flying Mice:
Ridley Scott originally wanted to have small flying objects that would fly up and down corridors and fix any problems.  These flying objects were to be called 'Mice'.

I wanted to have small flying objects, like sensors, which flew up and down the corridors.  They would find a problem, stop by a computer bank and fix it like little handymen.  I wanted to call them 'Mice'.  At the beginning of the film they would be the only things that were alive on the ship.  We'd have shot a long empty corridor so you'd hear them coming before you actually saw them.  Then WHOOSH!  It would pass by the camera, going through the corridor.  I think FOX felt it was too much int he direction of SF, and we dropped it.

- Ridley Scott, Fantastic Films -- © 1979 James Delson

Original awakening sequence:
Originally, the awakening sequence ran much longer. It starts off with a close-up of Kane's nostril followed by his Cryo-tube opening. Kane wanders into the Gallery. He switches on a monitor above the table which has a view inside the Hypersleep vault. He proceeds to the auto chef and prepares coffee. While doing this, he watches the monitor hearing the sound of the Cryo lids opening one by one,  guessing who's who and whose next. This scene was supposed to introduce the Nostromos crew one by one for the audience.  The scenes of Kane entering the Gallery were filmed but not all of this sequence was.

Dallas,  Ash and MU/TH/UR: 
Dallas and Ash enter MU/TH/UR to chat.  Dallas forgets his key code and can't activate MU/TH/UR's console.  Ash helps him remember.

Radio Antenna:
Ridley envisioned the Nostromo having a large radio antenna to make long distance transmissions. This dish-shaped antenna would open up like a flower.

Parker and Brett Pedalo Sequence:
Ridley planned to have a sequence which would have had Parker and Brett go outside  to the Nostromos exterior to inspect  the ship's intake valves.  While inside the intakes,  Parker notices one of the seals is damaged.  This damaged seal is what cause problems with dust during the Nostromos landing on the Alien planet.  This scene was meant to show the size and scale of the Nostromo,  but the budget wouldn't allow it.   Ron Cobb designed the small craft Parker and Brett were to use, which was later dubbed 'The Flying Bedstead'.

Ron Cobb's Flying Bedstead Concept Drawing

They find out that they have to do a repair on the engine. I really wanted to do this , desperately wanted to do this because the visual would of given the ship a huge sense of scale. They would come out of a small hatch on the side of the Nostromo, floated around on the flying bedstead, and gone inside an inspection hatch...We called it the flying bedstead. Seemed to be a logical as a maintenance thing. A man could stay on the vehicle, but still be able to use his hands to do deliberate work.

- Ridley Scott, Fantastic Films -- © 1979 James Delson

Lambert's Guide-visor:
A dust storm rages on as Dallas, Kane and Lambert walk blindly toward the source of the alien transmission. For the crew to see Ridley wanted to have small visors inside the helmets enabling the crew to see the terrain they are walking on. This visor would make 3d images of their surroundings, plus, a type of holographic map. Lambert uses this 'Guide-visor' to locate the Derelict space craft.

The Egg Silo:
Originally, The eggs were not inside the Derelict but in a pyramid type structure known as the 'Egg Silo'. The crew found nothing inside the derelict and decide to explore further. They pick up on another structure. They climb the side of the structure to the top, once at the top, they enter a small room where they discover a hole that leads inside. The hole is covered by a membrane which Kane has to cut open with a knife and is then lowered down inside.

The pyramid and the Derelict - two different elements - were still the subject of a seesaw debate when i came onto the project.  I would love to have shot it, but the more I thought about it the more i realized it would have been wonderful in a three hour version.  What finally cracked it was the budget.  We just had to get rid of it.  And you know, sometimes financial practicalities force you to do a certain amount of editorial work, and I'm glad we simplified it.

- Ridley Scott, Book of Alien

As Kane is lowered the chamber is lit by his helmet light. As he reaches the bottom Ridley had the idea that Kane's suit would light up almost like a Christmas tree. Ridley never got to develop this concept.

...I wanted his suit to become a beacon light, illuminating what's around him.  So i wanted like 10,000 bulbs on the suit.  He said "I am going to light myself up, can you boost me?"  And he switches on and becomes a Christmas tree.

- Ridley Scott, Fantastic Films -- © 1979 James Delson

Ridley's first idea for the auto doc had Kane worked on my remote control tools. Being completely isolated from Kane and the facehugger the remote tools remove his helmet piece by piece and attempt to pry the facehugger off Kane.

Kane's Funeral:
The original idea for Kane's funeral had two of the crew members put on space suits and push Kane's body into space; it slowly drifts out. The remaining crew watches via monitors on the bridge. He wanted the crew to go outside the exterior of the Nostromo to help give it scale. He also wanted to use the Pedalo craft, dubbed the flying bedstead, to have Kane's body on it and have two crew members release Kane into space.

Love Scene:
This is Alien's most famous unfilmed scene. While Parker and Brett are working on the net's and cattle-prods Ripley pays Dallas a visit who's sat inside an observation dome. Ripley tells Dallas she needs some relief meaning she wants to make love. Some people claim that the love making scene was filmed. It was, but not for principle photography, but for one of Sigourney Weaver's screen tests.

An Early Rendering of the Observation Dome by Ron Cobb

Brett's Original Death:
The Alien appears behind Brett, upon turning around the Alien stares at him and then strikes Brett's chest removing his heart. The others find Brett, and they see the hole which resembles the hole through the chest of the Space Jockey.

Also, at this time i didn't have the alien take Brett away. I wanted it to remove his heart. When the others find him and turn him over, there's a huge cavity in his chest, reminiscent of the hole in the Space Jockey. But that was too much like Kane's death, so we eventually changed it.

- Ridley Scott, Fantastic Films -- © 1979 James Delson

Dallas and the Alien:
Inside the air shaft, Dallas blasts his flamethrower all around him. The Alien, with incredible speed, runs towards him bouncing from the floor, to wall, to ceiling. This would have been similar to how James Cameron's creatures move inside the air ducts in Aliens.

The Airlock Sequence:
In this version after the Alien has trapped its appendage, causing the acid to eat through the airlock door, decompression begins. Lambert is caught full on and is sucked out through the small hole. Parker is holding on and is about to share the same fate as Lambert when Ripley saves him at the last minute. Strangely, Lambert reappears in later Ridleygrams.

Kane's Corpse:
As the remaining crew hunt for the Alien they hear a tapping sound coming from the direction of Ashes' blister. They enter and see Kane's bloated corpse caught on one of the Nostromo's stanchions.

A full-size shroud was made for Kane. According to Martin Bower this shroud was intended for a scene that was deleted.

Parker and Lambert's Original Deaths:
Even though Lambert was killed earlier in the story, Ridley had drawn another version of her death along side Parker. Both crew members have resorted to waring oxygen masks as the air was low due to the decompression previously. Hunting for the Alien it suddenly steps behind Parker. Picking him up and killing him Lambert tries to burn the Alien with a flamethrower. The Alien uses Parker's body as a shield and walks through the flames.

In part two we will take a look at the unused and alternate material featured in the production storyboards. More info will be added to this feature over time.

To be continued...


  1. Great article! I enjoyed seeing the story boards up close. Ridley got to use his "mice" or a version there of in Prometheus. I wonder if he recalled them after all these years or if he consulted his original story boards for Prometheus for details like that?

  2. I think Ridley looked over at least some of his old storyboards and concepts for Prometheus. I believe he used a lot of elements from Ron Cobbs early renderings of the Snark & Leviathan as you can see them all over the place on the Prometheus ship itself. Also, a lot of stuff Ridley wanted for Alien but was either limited or unable to do also turned up in Prometheus.

    Don't get me wrong. It's nice to see some of these past concepts being used finally, such as Giger's Harkonnen castle, and Cobbs. Also gives one the sense of how the Nostromo Bridge and Med lab could have looked and so on.

  3. Wow, Ridley is a great artist. I would love to see a book made of the whole movie using his storyboard art. I'm surprised one has never been made. BTW, that Observation Dome idea was taken directly from Dan O'Bannon's "Dark Star" film from 1974. Dan did the script for ALIEN.

  4. I think the reason why you were confused that Lambert was suddenly back after being sucked out the airlock was because she actually hadn't been. In the story outline I read it is Parker alone who finds the Alien. Ripley and Lambert are on the bridge talking to him on the com. There is even a deleted scene showing this. Of course, as we have seen in earlier story boards huge changes were made from the beginning to the actual filming.


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