design

Original animatronic 'E.T.' model used in Spielberg classic sells for $2.56 million

Updated 19th December 2022
The sale of the E.T. memorabilia coincides with the 40th anniversary of the beloved film.
Credit: FlixPix/Alamy
Original animatronic 'E.T.' model used in Spielberg classic sells for $2.56 million
Written by Toyin Owoseje, CNN
E.T. has a new home.
The original mechatronic model of the little alien from Steven Spielberg's 1982 sci-fi classic "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" sold over the weekend for a staggering $2.56 million, according to the auction organizers.
The model was created by Carlo Rambaldi in 1981.
The model was created by Carlo Rambaldi in 1981. Credit: Julien's Auctions
The filming model, created by Oscar-winning special effects master Carlo Rambaldi in 1981, went under the hammer as part of the "Icons and Idols: Hollywood" sale put on by Julien's Auctions and Turner Classic Movies (TCM). (TCM , like CNN, is owned by Warner Bros. Disovery.)
"Considered an engineering masterpiece, this one-of-a-kind animatronic figure, featuring 85 points of articulation, pre-dates the advent of CGI (Computer Graphic Imagery) effects in filmmaking, and was designed, developed and engineered in 1981," the lot description read.
"E.T." pre-dated the advent of CGI.
"E.T." pre-dated the advent of CGI. Credit: Julien's Auctions
The big-eyed alien, whose movements included facial expressions, neck movements, as well as the famous pointing of its glowing finger, was brought to life by a team of animators using electronic and mechanical elements. According to the auction listing, Spielberg described the E.T. model as "the eighth wonder of the movie world."
A maquette of E.T., made for Spielberg to approve the character's design, also sold for $125,000, while the Kuwahara BMX bike ridden by the character "Greg" in the film was bought for $115,200. The sale of the E.T. memorabilia coincides with the 40th anniversary of the film's release.
"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," starring Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore, told the story of a friendly alien's bid to return home after getting stranded in a suburban US neighborhood.
E.T.'s childlike innocence melted hearts across the globe, and the film won four Oscars at the 1982 Academy Awards, including Best Visual Effects. According to website Box Office Mojo, by the end of its theatrical run, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial had grossed more than $359 million at the US box office.
"It speaks to our universal human compassion," Thomas told CNN in October this year. "And we all have that. We all have the nurturer inside of us, right? So I think it speaks to that. It brings us back to being young."
Other highlights from the "Icons and Idols: Hollywood" auction, which offered more than 1,300 artifacts from Hollywood, included the staff that Charlton Heston used to part the Red Sea in the Cecil B. DeMille classic "The Ten Commandments," which sold for a thumping $448,000. A black wool dress owned by Marilyn Monroe went for $256,000.