by Kimberley Laws
The great thing about creating an alien is that no one has a clue as to what one actually looks like – except, perhaps, for a few Government employees in the Nevada Desert, but that’s a whole other story. For the most part, writers and animators have the pleasure of starting with a blank slate.
Over the years, some have opted to give these otherworldly entities a human form. Everyone fell in love with Robin William’s portrayal of Mork from Ork – sitting on his head, greeting humans with a “Na-Nu Na-Nu,” waving a Vulcan-like salute, and cursing in his native tongue with an audible “Shazbot.” John Lithgow’s performance as 3rd Rock from the Sun’s Dick Solomon was also sublime. He convincingly played the role of the book-smart commander of an alien quartet who had been commissioned to pose as a normal family to study life on planet Earth.
Others, however, chose to eschew the “alien-taking-on-a-human-form” recipe and have attempted to imprint their own rendition of an alien on the public’s mind – to recreate, revamp, and revise the traditional “little green man” that generations before us had devised. Let us now count down the top 10 original alien designs that we have come to love.
Upon first glance, Ripley is not exactly what you’d call cute. For that matter, he is far from “aesthetically pleasing” at all. As his name suggests, he resembles a vastly scaled down version of the hideous creatures that his namesake battled in Sigourney Weaver’s Alien movies – bulbous head, death-grey pallor, and all. And don’t get on his bad side, whatever you do. Just ask the mailman. Oh, but wait. You can’t. He’s dead.
But Ripley, like the other nine aliens who have earned a spot on this list, has a number of lovable traits too – particularly when his “doggy” side shines through. He lifts his leg, scratches for fleas, and regularly lynches himself on his leash just like his hairy, earth-bound counterparts do. He also displays canine-like loyalty to his friend “Rover,” a robot who seems more faithful hound than preprogrammed spare parts.
Before long, the audience finds themselves wanting to adopt their own Ripley to lavish them with puppy kisses, despite his sticky, fly-paper tongue. And it is this inner cuteness that lurks behind a face only its mother could love, that has earned Ripley a spot in this extra-terrestrial top ten.
A.L.F., short for Alien Life Form, was the quintessential 1980s alien – furry, funny, and very ill-behaved. In an age that seemed addicted to Garfield, ALF ate cats. He hailed from the planet Melmac – a name which, for some reason, conjured up images of melamine and mac-tac. And this burnt sienna puppet landed his adopted family in one convoluted mix-up after another- in true ’80s sitcom style.
Despite his penchant for epic burps, his insatiable appetite (eight stomachs will do that), a snout as bumpy as a Klingon forehead, and an unmatched ability for mayhem and destruction, we felt compelled to cheer him on. What he lacked in height, he made up for in heart – even if his was located in his head. And we loved him for it.
Roger Smith is… er… interesting. So interesting, in fact, that FOX has dubbed him the “most interesting alien in the world.” He may look like E.T., but the similarities stop there. Compared to E.T.’s “phone home,” Roger’s vocabulary is grandiloquent. While E.T. did don the occasional human outfit for disguise, Roger appears to harbor an obsession with wearing women’s clothes. E.T. developed a hankering for Reese’s Pieces, and Roger nurses a yen for toilet plungers. Yes, Roger is one “interesting” dude.
Despite the fact that he is solely responsible for the creation of disco music, Roger has wormed his way into our hearts and on to this Top 10 list. Hey! Wait a minute. How did he do that?
In this day of sky-high fuel prices, we’d all love to have an alien pet that pooped fuel. Nibbler can do exactly that. But with each lump of feces weighing ten thousand pounds, this is no job for an ordinary pooper-scooper.
Nibbler appears to be a cute, dumb animal—a doting pet to the one-eyed Leela. But don’t let his looks fool you. In reality, he is a highly intelligent and benevolent force who has been charged with protecting the Earth from destruction by the evil Brainspawn. And to keep the bumbling Fry from harm – which is a full-time job.
Barely one foot tall, with long, knuckle-dragging arms, a single antenna that houses a third eye, and teeth that can devour the mightiest of beasts, he is one strange-looking little dude. Oh, and did I mention that he wears diapers?
Kang & Kodos
Let’s face it. Matt Groening and his merry band of animators can make anything look cute—even a pair of slobbering, one-eyed, green aliens with large mole-covered heads and tentacles. And for those of us who have always wondered why creatures from galaxies far, far away speak English, they have managed to solve the mystery. It’s all merely a big coincidence. Kang & Kodos, from the planet of Rigel 1V do, in fact, speak Rigellian. It just happens to sound an awful lot like English.
We first met this intergalactic duo in the series’ Season 2 episode of Treehouse of Horror, which featured the abduction of the Simpson clan. After being force-fed top-notch cuisine, Lisa suspected that they were being “fattened up” not as dinner guests, but as dinner. The aliens, insulted by this insinuation, quickly returned the family home.
Kang & Kodos have become regulars on the annual Treehouse of Horror installments and have made frequent appearances throughout the years. They have shed their original benign personae, having attempted to take over the earth several times. During one such episode, they impersonated Bill Clinton and Bob Dole and ran against each other in a Presidential election. Kang won and enslaved the citizens of Springfield into forced labour, to which Homer simply shrugged and stated, “I voted for Kodos.”
Little Green Men (LGM)
Toy Story franchise
Most depictions of creatures from afar involve highly developed minds. Aliens, after all, are traditionally our superiors, capable of masterful manipulations, mind-play, and at times, the harbingers of massive destruction. Pixar thumbs their nose at tradition by taking their aliens in a whole new direction.
These tiny, green men are more squeaky toy than towering menace. Wearing little blue Star Trek-like suits, these three-eyed, three-fingered, rubbery dudes are discovered in a claw machine. The “claw” is in charge, deciding who will stay and who will go. Ironically, in Toy Story 3, it is their mastery of a claw (crane) that saves the day.
There naiveté is part of their charm. That and their constant echo of “ohs and ahs.” And the fact that large dogs keep putting them in their mouths. But, you need not worry about them. Mr. & Mrs. Potato head adopt the hapless trio – and they all live happily, ever after.
When we think of aliens, we tend to picture them in futuristic Jetsons-like worlds. Enter the Great Gazoo – an intergalactic visitor who finds himself trapped in stone-aged Bedrock, surrounded by woolly mammoth dishwashers and foot-powered cars. Banished from his home planet for creating a doomsday machine – he claims he built it so he’d be the first one on his block to have one – he befriends Fred & Barney.
A tiny, green man with a suit and helmet the color of his skin, he seems to perpetuate the Martian stereotype. He regularly appears out of thin air, hovers over the prehistoric numbskulls’ heads, and refers to them as “dum-dums.” And his favorite way to wile away the time is to cause mayhem and chaos in their lives.
Interestingly, he has come to this prehistoric age from the far-away future year of 2000 AD and, originally, The Flintstones’ creators wanted to name him Professor Ogg. But we love the Great Gazoo just as he is – earning him a spot near the top of this Top 10.
Why do we expect aliens to recognize every day earthly things? We shouldn’t. It’s what Dr. Phil would call an unrealistic expectation. That’s one of the reasons we love the Yip-Yip Martians. They clucked at a phone in case it was a chicken. And this seemed like the logical thing for them to do. After all, they’re aliens.
These inquisitive little Martians puzzle over many human inventions – a book, a radio, and a computer. They even have a brief encounter with the letter A. With massive under bites, antennae, and a proclivity for repeatedly uttering the words “Yip” and “Uh-huh,” their young audiences enjoy a moment of Einstein-like superiority. Next to these intergalactic explorers, everyone seems bright.
Plus, it would be cool to be able to pull your bottom lip up over your head.
“You make me very angry.” Never has the utterance of these five words been said in a funnier voice or been received with less concern than when they exit the lips of Bugs Bunny’s alien nemesis, Marvin the Martian.
No matter how hard he tries, this Napoleonic little extra-terrestrial is rarely taken seriously. For one thing, he dresses funny – even by alien standards. Traveling the galaxy in running shoes, a court-jester skirt, and a scrub brush on his head has caused his foe, Bugs Bunny, to refer to him as a “bowling ball wearing a spittoon.” He also has an annoying nasal voice, reminiscent of Sesame Street’s Bert and sitcom star Ray Romano, which is ironic because he doesn’t have a mouth.
After years of studying the planet Earth, Marvin has determined that there are no signs of intelligent activity present and refers to humans as simple insects. Earth also blocks his view of Venus, and, therefore, must be obliterated. No one succeeds when pitted against the clever and extremely lucky Bugs Bunny, but in Marvin’s case, it’s not due to a lack of ingenuity. Quite simply put, the Looney Tunes gods (in the form of Jones & Freleng) are against him.
And it is the futility of his efforts that makes us love this strange, little, fellow named Marvin.
It is impossible not to fall in love with an alien that likes Reese’s Pieces. After all, there is nothing more human than a sweet tooth.
Factor in, his vulnerability, loyal friendship with the human child “Elliot,” and longing to simply go home, and you have Hollywood’s most heart-wrenching alien character ever. Simply known as E.T., short for Extra-terrestrial, this short-legged being has big, blue eyes, a long, thin neck, and a head shaped like the binoculars on the Empire State Building Observation Deck. I know it sounds like an odd slurry of features, but on him, it works.
His perennial cuteness, gentle heart, and trademark phrase, “E.T. phone home” have earned him the top spot as the most lovable alien ever.