*batteries not included

[Universal Pictures]

Faced with eviction by an evil land developer, the poor residents of a slum aid flying saucers that need electricity to survive. The grateful spaceships repay the kindness of their hosts by battling the developer and all ends well.

Director: Matthew Robbins
ILM Visual Effects Supervisor: Bruce Nicholson
ILM Studios: San Francisco

Case Study

*batteries not included

Release Date: December 18, 1987

The alien saucer characters were designed by ILM concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie and featured cutting edge fabrication and robotics work from ILM’s famed Model Shop and stage crew. The effects team used an elaborate on-set marionette rig that allowed the director to shoot the saucers alongside the principle actors.

The film was a marriage between motion control, stop motion, and practical work that matched seamlessly in the film’s final product.

The film is also notable for being the feature film screenwriting debut of Brad Bird who would later go on to direct Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Tomorrowland both films for which ILM would serve as the lead visual effects house.