If you've ever been to a movie theatre between the months of June and August, chances are you owe Stan Winston a debt of gratitude. You know how the effects in the Terminator series were awesome? You know how Jurassic Park blew your mind? You know how even though Small Soldiers sucked, the little animatronics were pretty good? He did all of that.
Stan Winston was the weird kid who spent all his time in class building little models out of sticks and ignoring his English teachers. And while he went on to make millions of dollars, his English teachers exhausted their meaningless existences in the same tiny room reading the same eight books to endless waves of ungrateful brats. Score one for Stan.
Only now he's dead. I’m sorry to report that Stan Winston passed away a few weeks ago of a massive heart attack, although his death wasn’t reported until this week, as most of his friends had assumed it was just a spectacular special effect. This confusion was compounded by the fact that Mr. Winston had rigged his body with astoundingly lifelike animatronics. In fact, it’s been reported that through a combination of robotics, miniatures, and seamless CG integration, Mr. Winston will actually be officiating his own funeral.
But before that ghastly event unfolds, I thought this would be a good time to look back on some of Stan’s most generous contributions to film, and what we might have been stuck with if he hadn’t stepped in.
Most Notable Addition: Upgrading the effects significantly enough to give me nightmares about dreadlocked, squid-mouthed monstermen for the remainder of my childhood.
What The Movie Would Have Been Like Without Him: The movie was pretty terrible with him, and without him you’ve got no predator, which would basically reduce the movie to Danny Glover policing Los Angeles. And we’ve already got Lethal Weapon for that.
Most Notable Addition: The hands in question and, indirectly, the death of Vincent Price.
What The Movie Would Have Been Like Without Him: First of all, the title would make no fucking sense. Secondly, Johnny Depp’s character would just be a really quiet, whiny goth kid, and it would be a lot harder not to cheer when he gets beaten up.
Most Notable Addition: Showing us why
Toy Story opted to go all-CG, and successfully developing dramatic tension between two six-inch high dolls perched atop an electrical transformer.
What The Movie Would Have Been Like Without Him: Yet another installment in the Chucky tradition of dolls gliding across floors, never moving their mouths, and shaking as if held by a grip just off camera.
Most Notable Addition: Providing the most gripping visual evidence ever of Darwin’s theories, and helping to prove that reading isn’t dead.
What The Movie Would Have Been Like Without Him: It probably would have stayed a book, where it belonged. Apes and lasers don’t mix on film; just ask the producers of Laser Chimps: The Reckoning.
Most Notable Addition: Finally turning Jude Law into a literal sex machine, and building all of the freaky half-robots that get tore up in the robot derby.
What The Movie Would Have Been Like Without Him: Considering that the only things I remember from
A.I. are the awesome-looking robots and an incredibly lame, drawn-out ending, I’d say a shitty movie.
Most Notable Addition: The wicked medieval version of the Iron Man suit Stark builds in the terrorist encampment.
What The Movie Would Have Been Like Without Him: Still awesome, but with far less potential for action figure branding and live action role-play.
John Carpenter’s The Thing
Most Notable Addition: Mutating human flesh at his own hideous whim, distorting the form of man to a degree never before witnessed on film and rarely matched since, and causing me to actually poop in my pants a little bit.
What The Movie Would Have Been Like Without Him: It would have just been called John Carpetner’s The.
Most Notable Addition: Making Danny DeVito look markedly more hideous than usual.
What The Movie Would Have Been Like Without Him:Batman and Robin. Or, alternately, the “classic” Batman, when the penguin looked like an oil baron and sported a monocle and purple cummerbund. I can’t decide which is worse. No, wait, I can: Batman and Robin.
Most Notable Addition: The decision to make Alan Rickman look like an alien by giving him a prosthetic forehead. As all Star Trek fans know, this is the only true indicator of an alien species.
What The Movie Would Have Been Like Without Him: They might have given him antennae or claws or some shit, and that just don’t fly.
Most Notable Addition: That T-Rex that chases them in the jeep? Not CG. Winston actually built a remote controlled, two-story animatronic T-Rex. Which we can only hope he then used to terrorize everyone on set.
What The Movie Would Have Been Like Without Him: Watch a movie from the 90’s that relied totally on CG for its effects. Didn’t hold up, did they? The fact that we can still watch Jurassic Park and be awed by the dinosaurs is thanks to Winston at some point shouting “Fuck you! I’m building it!”
Terminator, T2, T3, et al.
Most Notable Addition: The assumption that a robotic society would fashion itself after our skeletons instead of what we actually look like.
What The Movie Would Have Been Like Without Him: Without the robot skeletons to fall back on, there’s a good chance the filmmakers would have just used actors to play all of the robots, and then what would you have? Answer: Battlestar Galactica. Which might not have been so bad, actually.
Most Notable Addition: The technology to make rubber look constantly wet.
What The Movie Would Have Been Like Without Him: Well, the guy who actually designed the look of the aliens, H. R. Geiger, would still be around, so I’m thinking they would have just used cardboard cutouts. Of course, Geiger’s etchings also included many depictions of robot babies strapped into a device that forces them to perform felatio (I’m not joking; look it up), so it was probably best that Stan was there to modulate the content.
Thank you, Mr. Winston, for everything. Here’s hoping that by the time I get to Heaven, you’ve constructed enough animatronic robots, dinosaurs and aliens to make it actually worth my while.
When not blogging for Cracked, Michael designs and operates a robotic doppleganger who is head writer and co-founder of Those Aren't Muskets!