Oscar nominee Joel Harlow’s love of monsters goes all the way back to his childhood. “When I was a child my father took me to see the original King Kong,” he said. “Sitting there watching that stop-motion gorilla terrorize New York, that’s what made me fascinated by character creation. I knew I wanted to do something like that, create unbelievable characters that would suck the audience into the story.”
Harlow studied what was available to school himself in his chosen field (animation, and stop-motion animation) but the creations in John Carpenter‘s The Thing “pushed me toward makeup,” said Harlow. He set himself to learning the art of makeup, which was mostly “trial and error.”
Star Trek Beyond had fifty-six different alien races. “Well, it didn’t start off as fifty-six aliens,” said Harlow. “It started as a design process. Those designs are presented to the director, producer and the other departments, and then we’ll decide which will move forward. We knew we were going to populate the universe with a vast array of alien characters, as is the Star Trek tradition.
“Once we got our main characters we just started building. And building. And all of a sudden I counted them one day and we had forty-six different aliens. And my wife, who works with me, said you should make it fifty, because it’s the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek, to honor the franchise. And ultimately we needed six more than fifty.
The difference between Trek aliens and aliens from other sci-fi franchises is “the aesthetic of its alien characters,” said Harlow. “They’re primarily humanoid, and they’re almost always practical makeup. We wanted to give the audience, the fans something they hadn’t seen before. Especially for the fiftieth anniversary.”
Does Harlow have any favorites of the aliens designed for Star Trek Beyond? “Jaylah is absolutely one of my favorites,” he said. “Krall. The alien where the back of her head opens up. That was my homage to the facehugger from Alien.”
Expect to see a book on the aliens of Star Trek Beyond. “There’s probably gonna be a book out soon,” said Harlow. “There’s a wealth of eye candy that deserves to be seen. I took more photographs on this film than I’ve ever taken, because there was so much to photograph.”
Until then, fans will have to be content with a “special feature on the alien designs on the Star Trek Beyond Blu-ray…called New Life, New Civilizations,” said Harlow. “It’s got time-lapses [and] behind-the-scenes details.”