Original ‘E.T.’ Mechatronic Model Could Fetch $3 Million at Auction

The metallic skeleton, created by special effects pro Carlo Rambaldi in 1981, features 85 movement points

E.T. and Elliott
E.T. looks out the window with Elliott (Henry Thomas) in a scene from the 1982 movie.  Universal / Getty Images

Forty years have passed since movie-goers first laid eyes on the lovable alien known as E.T., who waddled alongside human co-stars Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore in the 1982 flick E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Now, fans of the iconic movie have a chance to own a key piece of the E.T. legacy—for a small fortune: The mechatronic model that brought E.T. to life is going up for auction.

Auction organizers expect the special-effects artifact to fetch between $2 and $3 million at next month’s “Icons & Idols: Hollywood” sale, organized by Julien’s Auctions and Turner Classic Movies.

Hero Mechantronic Model from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

The model, created by Italian special effects designer Carlo Rambaldi in 1981, served as the metallic skeleton inside E.T.’s short, fleshy body. It’s made from a lightweight yet durable aluminum alloy known as “duraluminium” and has 85 mechanical movement points, including its mouth, eyes, eyelids, neck, shoulders, fingers, arms, chest and abdomen.

During filming, 12 professional animators operated the model, known as “Hero #1.” For his work on the movie, Rombaldi won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

Other E.T. items are also up for grabs at the auction, including the original maquette model Rambaldi made out of plaster to give director Steven Spielberg an idea of how the film’s alien star would look. After examining the maquette, Spielberg gave Rombaldi the go-ahead to begin building the animatronic version.

The mechatronic model
The mechatronic model Courtesy of Julien’s Auctions and Turner Classic Movies

Fans can also bid on seven preliminary blueprint mechanical illustrations of E.T.’s body, which include sketches of the little brown creature’s skeleton, supporting structure and surface musculature, as well as dimensions.

The 1982 film, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, tells the story of a 10-year-old boy who discovers and befriends an alien accidentally left behind on Earth. Together, they orchestrate a plan to get the extraterrestrial back to his home planet.

One of the preliminary blueprint mechanical illustrations of E.T.’s body Courtesy of Julien’s Auctions and Turner Classic Movies

Crews filmed the movie from the perspective of a child, and while the plot dabbles in science fiction, it also touches on issues that are closer to home, including sibling dynamics, divorce, single parenting and more.

“This movie is about how we should always fight for the things we love, and just because something or someone is different—unfamiliar—we shouldn’t be afraid to protect that,” says Barrymore, who was just 6 years old when Spielberg picked her to play little sister Gertie, on a recent episode of the “Drew Barrymore Show,” as reported by Rolling Stone’s Larisha Paul. “We shouldn’t turn our backs on that, we should embrace our differences and learn from each other.”

As the name suggests, the auction goes beyond artifacts from E.T. It also includes a Marilyn Monroe black cocktail dress, an original Nimbus 2000 prop broom Daniel Radcliffe used while filming Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a prop Mjolnir hammer Chris Hemsworth used while filming Thor: The Dark World, the 1943 Oscar given to W. Howard Greene for his color cinematography work on Phantom of the Opera and more.

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