Stan Winston was a special effects legend, and we love his school’s YouTube channel because it’s always showing off some great behind-the-scenes looks at how Winston’s teams made movie magic happen.
Today’s video is no exception, showing off puppet miniatures used for filming Small Soldiers. While the finished film is one of those movies best viewed with your nostalgia goggles on, this peek behind the curtain at how the characters were brought to life is very cool.
With CGI still cutting edge and expensive, Winston and company were tasked with breathing life into action figures through elaborately crafted puppets. Each character was animated by several people, using sticklike controllers that would be edited out of the scenes in postproduction. The results were neat (although a little quaint looking by today’s standards).
Check out the clip below, which showcases early test footage of two characters squaring off. The range of motion on these puppets is astounding, as is the coordination required to make them work. Sure, we might be able to do this more easily and realistically with CGI today, but there’s no denying the charm of good old-fashioned practical FX work.