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This Freaky Skinless E.T. Animatronic Model Just Sold for $2.56 Million

And it will haunt me forever.

Skinless head of a mechatronic E.T. alien model used for filming looks like a skeleton with blue eyes peering out.
Let E.T. stare deep into your soul.
Julien's Auctions

Hey, '80s kids, remember how attached we were to E.T., the extraterrestrial? I was pretty young when the 1982 Steven Spielberg movie came out, but I vividly recall bursting into tears in the theater when I thought we'd lost the charismatic alien. I'm tempted to start wailing again as an adult after seeing "the original, first mechatronic E.T. character skeleton" from the production.

This full-size E.T. model was an important part of bringing E.T. to life in the movie.

Julien's Auctions

The animatronic sold through Julien's Auctions on Sunday as part of a large sale of Hollywood memorabilia. The final price reached an impressive $2.56 million (£2.1 million, AU$3.8 million). The winning bidder hasn't been revealed, but it's clearly someone with an iron stomach.

The full-size model has no skin, so you can see all the motorized bits that made it work in the days before CGI. Multi-Oscar-winning special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi designed the animatronic, which has 85 points of articulation. It took up to a dozen operators to make E.T. move on set. It's an impressive machine. 

Rambaldi's family consigned the model to Julien's Auctions, which described its condition as "museum quality."

Yes, the E.T. is amazing. A stunning achievement in special effects. It's also utterly terrifying, but I'm not exactly seeing this from an impartial standpoint. I can't separate myself from the sobbing child in the movie theater all those years ago.

Even with all the skin gone, E.T. still has soulful eyes. I'm just intensely weirded out by the see-through skull and body and the funky teeth with no lips. This is the horror-movie version of E.T. I worry I won't be able to shake.

But if E.T. taught me anything, it was the importance of resilience and hope. I won't let skeleton E.T. take over my memories. I will reclaim them. That tearful child in the dark is speaking to me, saying, "It's going to be OK. It might seem like a nightmare right now, but it will all turn out in the end." I think it's time for an E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial rewatch. Maybe with less crying this time. Maybe.