The road to E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial started with the idea for a sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Steven Spielberg had turned down the idea of doing a sequel for Jaws noting that “making a sequel to anything is just a cheap carny trick.” Jaws 2 went ahead with out him and it became a big hit, but Spielberg was unhappy with the result and the tarnish it left on his original movie. Spielberg reluctantly accepted the work for the Close Encounters sequel in order to continue the vision, themes, story and style of the original.
Night Skies (originally called Watched the Skies but changed due to rights issues) revolved around a farm family terrorized by aliens. The movie was loosely based on a true incident known as the Kelly Hopkinsville Encounter ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelly-Hopkinsville_encounter) that took place in 1955 in Kentucky. John Sayles was hired to write the script and creature and makeup effects guru Rick Baker was commissioned to design the alien creatures.
The five creatures (whittled down from an unwieldy one minus dirty dozen) named Scar, Hoodoo, Klud, Squirt and Buddy each had their own personalities. Scar was the evil ring leader and an eager vivisectionist with a specialty for cattle mutilation. He dissected the poor cows with a long bony finger that lit up. Klud and Hoodoo were his henchman. Squirt was the comic relief character. Buddy was the only good alien who befriends the family, especially the family’s autistic child. You can probably see where the plot is going based on these details.
During the very long pre-production downtime Spielberg started filming Raiders of the Lost Ark. One day Harrison Ford’s then girl friend and soon to be future wife, screenwriter Melissa Mathison (The Black Stallion) visited the set. Spielberg showed Mathison the script for Night Skies and she was overcome with emotion over Buddy, the good alien character. “The idea of an alien creature who was benevolent, tender, emotional and sweet… and the idea of the creature striking up a relationship with a child who came from a broken home was very affecting,” Mathison noted in an interview.
With the seed of the E.T. storyline blooming in his head Spielberg scraped Night Skies and hired Mathison to write the E.T.script. Rick Baker who had spent over $700,000 on designs, models and animatronics was so furious over Night Skies cancellation that he refused to have any thing to do with E.T. Carlos Rambaldi, who designed the aliens for Close Encounters took the assignment and the rest was movie history.
Recently Rick Baker opened a Twitter account and posted some photos of sculptures and animatronics of the Night Skies aliens. Clearly, Carlos Rambaldi was very impressed by Baker’s aliens that he incorporated a lot of their features into his final E.T. design, proving that with homage, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Read more at http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/nailbiter111/news/?a=100748#CeMbTGs7FLuaOwS1.99
and also http://www.slashfilm.com/rick-baker-night-skies-aliens/
Rick Baker @TheRickBakerHere was a quick clay sketch that I did in 1980 for one of the nicer younger NIGHT Skies aliens
Rick Baker @TheRickBaker As requested The Night Skies alien. Not finished, no eyes. Cover the top of his head and tell me who he looks like.
Rick Baker @TheRickBakerHe does look like Edward G and the others.But painting out the top of the head, adding eyes,and small tweaks.ET”S dad
Rick Baker @TheRickBakerHappy days sculpting the prototype arms for the Night Skies alien back in 1980
Rick Baker @TheRickBakerUnhappy days,film shut down. I wanted to change the body of the ET,the mantis like arm placement just didn’t work imo