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Watch How the 'E.T.' Sequel Xfinity Ad Got Made (Video)

“They said, well, Steven signed off on the story. He loves it. And I said, ‘What,’” original Elliott actor Henry Thomas says

Over the Thanksgiving holiday we got quite the early Christmas present when a commercial gave audiences a surprise sequel to Steven Spielberg’s beloved “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.”

The ad featured Henry Thomas reprising his role as a now grown-up Elliott, and in a new behind-the-scenes spot about how it was made, he said he was astonished to learn not just that he’d been asked, but that Spielberg loved the idea.

“It’s Steven Spielberg’s baby, you know? And he’s very particular about this film. So I’ve always viewed any attempt at revamping the character or showing it in a different context as the thing that’s never going to happen,” Thomas says in the video. “And then they said, well, Steven signed off on the story. He loves it. And I said, ‘What?’”

The ad was a commercial for Xfinity created by the ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, or GS&P. And you may know the ad agency as the same ones who filmed a commercial at Ferris Bueller’s old house for another nostalgia driven spot.

But in speaking with TheWrap, GS&P’s executive creative director Jim Elliott said that after the idea for an “E.T.” sequel was hatched in July, Spielberg gave incremental notes on the process and feedback on the special effects, and he even saw the final product before it had shipped, which wrapped just a day before Thanksgiving.

Elliott acknowledged the project was a “moonshot,” but said that every decision made on the short film was done with the original in mind.

And this video shows the care and dedication that went into making this ad something special. Lance Acord directed the short film called “A Holiday Reunion,” and the behind-the-scenes video explains that if you look carefully, the film is loaded with dozens of Easter egg references to Spielberg’s 1982 classic. For instance, one shot has a photo of Elliott’s dog from the movie or Elliott’s original drawing of E.T. as seen in the film.

The other important key to keeping the legacy of E.T. intact was using a puppet alien rather than a fully CGI character or a robot. The technology however has advanced immeasurably, and there’s a wonderful sequence in this video of a visual effects designer controlling E.T.’s eyes, head and mouth with a remote control.

“Such an iconic character. Steven never wanted to do a sequel. This is a character that is beloved by everybody for generations. So you can’t screw it up. We had a team of mechanics, painters, mold makers that all have to recreate this character,” Alan Scott, the animatronic effects supervisor of Legacy Effects said. “With a rod puppet, you get a really fluid, connected performance. Little subtleties of head movement and arm movement you can’t get with internal robotics. And the easier thing for CG to do is to remove the rods and remove the puppeteers than to do a full CG character.”

It’s a real labor of love, and the finished product is just as adorable. The ad already has over 12 million views on YouTube since its debut on Thanksgiving. Watch the original ad below, and check out the behind the scenes segment above.

'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial': What Has the Cast Been Up to Since E.T. First Phoned Home? (Photos)

  • “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” came back into our lives over Thanksgiving courtesy of a new holiday ad from Comcast’s cable and internet provider Xfinity.

    In the spot, E.T. travels to Earth to reunite with a grown-up Elliott and his new family. Henry Thomas, the actor who originally played Elliott in the 1982 film, is now a married 40-something father of two.

    It’s been more than 35 years since E.T. first came to Earth and change Elliot’s and his family’s life. Since E.T.’s back to check in on his old friend, but what have the actors been up to since E.T. phoned home?

  • Henry Thomas (Elliot)

    Thomas has had a steady career since his breakout role as Elliot in Steven Spielberg’s 1982 hit. He worked with Martin Scorsese in “Gangs of New York,” and most recently played the young version of Hugh Crain on Netflix’s “Haunting of Hill House.”

  • Drew Barrymore (Gertie)

    Barrymore of course rode her role as Elliot’s adorable little sister to super stardom and a storied career with iconic performances in films such as “Scream,” “Never Been Kissed” and “Whip It,” which she also directed. Barrymore has spent a lot of time recently producing, including an executive producer credit on the new “Charlie’s Angels.” Her Netflix show “The Santa Clarita Diet” wrapped up its final season in March 2019.

  • Robert MacNaughton (Michael)

    MacNaughton continued to act throughout the 80s following “E.T.,” appearing in “I Am the Cheese” and the TV series “Vietnam War Story.” It was 27 years until he returned to the screen, with roles in “Frankenstein vs. the Mummy” and “Laugh Killer Laugh” in 2015.

  • Dee Wallace (Mary)

    After playing the maternal figure in “E.T.,” Wallace went on to star in “Cujo” and a host of other films. She’s worked with Rob Zombie on a number of occasions. Wallace has also had guest appearances on TV shows such as “NCIS” and “You’re the Worst.” Wallace is still acting, recently appearing in Rob Zombie’s 2019 film “3 From Hell.”

  • Peter Coyote (Keys)

    Coyote has since acted in such films as “Patch Adams,” “Erin Brockovich,” and “A Walk to Remember.” He’s had guest appearances on “Law and Order,” “NCIS,” and “Blue Bloods.” In 2020 he’s set to appear as Robert Mueller in the TV mini series “A Higher Loyalty” on CBS.

  • C. Thomas Howell (Tyler)

    “E.T.” was Howell’s first credited role, but he turned that into a part in “The Outsiders” the next year and has since built a solid acting career across film and TV. Howell has had recurring roles on “Animal Kingdom,” “Bosch” and “Seal Team.” 

  • K.C. Martel and Sean Frye (Greg and Steve)

    Martel and Frye, who played friends of Elliot’s older brother Michael, didn’t do too much acting after “E.T.” Martel was in “White Water Summer” with Sean Astin and Kevin Bacon, and he had a recurring role on “Growing Pains,” but hasn’t appeared on screen since. Frye’s last role was the 1988 film “For Keeps?” He also had an uncredited role in “This is Spinal Tap.” 

No flying bicycles, alas

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” came back into our lives over Thanksgiving courtesy of a new holiday ad from Comcast’s cable and internet provider Xfinity.

In the spot, E.T. travels to Earth to reunite with a grown-up Elliott and his new family. Henry Thomas, the actor who originally played Elliott in the 1982 film, is now a married 40-something father of two.

It’s been more than 35 years since E.T. first came to Earth and change Elliot’s and his family’s life. Since E.T.’s back to check in on his old friend, but what have the actors been up to since E.T. phoned home?

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