Movie And TV Characters That Were Made Using Practical Effects

List Rules
Vote up the coolest examples of practical effects.

Movies and television shows typically rely on complex computer-generated imagery (CGI) to bring various monsters and characters to life. What used to be technologically and financially impossible has become the industry norm such that almost everything you see in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film is rendered via CGI. This is accomplished with motion-capture suits and a team of artists who create whatever the script calls for so that it looks as natural as anything else on the screen.

That said, several filmmakers choose not to go this route. Many prefer the old ways of character creation, so practical effects are used to accomplish something a computer can do. This is typically an aesthetic decision the filmmakers make because of a personal preference. Still, it can be difficult telling what movie and TV characters were created using practical effects since CGI is so ubiquitous, and the final product doesn't always show a difference between practical effects and CGI.

This list features some of the most impressive characters created via practical effects. Some of them may surprise you, as far less practical SFX work is being done these days than in the pre-CGI era. Take a look down below, and if you see your favorite creature, be sure to give it an upvote before you go!


  • 1
    28 VOTES

    'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' - T-1000

    You're probably thinking the T-1000 was rendered via CGI in T2, and while you're correct for most of the film, one pivotal scene wasn't accomplished with the technology. The film was absolutely amazing where CGI was concerned, and decades later, the effects still stand up, which is impressive. The T-1000 was rendered digitally for the scenes showing it morph into various characters and objects, but one scene, in particular, required practical effects.

    To be clear, it could have been done in CGI, but James Cameron and his SFX crew went in another direction. In the scene showing the T-1000 right after it blows up, the Terminator is all kinds of messed up. Its head, arm, and legs are somewhat okay, but the torso is a mass of liquid metal. That's not CGI: it's a life-sized animatronic puppet! The puppet was designed to break apart suddenly, achieving the necessary look for the scene. This could have been accomplished with CGI, but Stan Winston and James Cameron decided to do it practically.

    In addition to the T-1000, the T-800s in the film are animatronic robots created and shot practically. The robots were life-size and, fortunately, not actually programmed by Skynet, so they didn't do much terminating on the movie set. This was an advancement made over the first film, which used stop-motion animation and models to achieve the right look for the T-800 after losing its organic covering.

  • 2
    38 VOTES

    'Hellboy' - Hellboy, Abe Sapien, & Much More

    When Hellboy was released in 2004, there were plenty of options to render the character digitally using motion capture technology. Guillermo del Toro opted to work practically, which is something he's chosen to do throughout his career. In order to create the Hellboy character, Ron Perlman was painted red and fixed with various foam prosthetics, so there isn't a part of the character that's rendered digitally.

    He was designed by the people at Rick Baker's Cinovation Studio, and the film won Best Make-Up at the 2005 Saturn Awards, among other impressive accolades. Hellboy wasn't the only character created practically for the film. Doug Jones brought Abe Sapien to life practically, and both returned for the sequel to keep the trend going. The various monsters they fight in the films are also brought to life practically, making Hellboy something of a masterclass in modern makeup special effects work.

  • 3
    43 VOTES

    'Pan's Labyrinth' - Faun

    In Pan's Labyrinth, the real world and a mythical world come together around an overgrown labyrinth and a creature known as Faun. The main character, Ofelia, interacts with Faun numerous times throughout the film, which takes place in Spain in 1944, just five years after the Spanish Civil War. Ofelia finds herself interacting with numerous magical creatures and several trials of the labyrinth in an effort to save herself and her mother, Carmen.

    The creatures of Pan's Labyrinth were created via makeup, animatronics, and some CGI. The central character, Faun, was made practically via several methods. Some CGI is used to digitally erase Doug Jonnes's legs from the two characters he played. Outside of that enhancement, the costume and makeup department brought Faun and the other magical creatures to life for the film. This is common in Guillermo del Toro's movies, as he prefers to use practical effects whenever possible.

  • 4
    43 VOTES

    'Jurassic Park' - Most Of The Dinosaurs

    Jurassic Park was one of the most important special effects movies of the 1990s, as it demonstrated what was possible with CGI. There are tons of CGI creatures in the film, but not as many as you might think. Most dinosaurs interacting with humans are incredibly detailed and complex animatronic puppets. The T-rex, which is effectively the centerpiece of the film in terms of effects, was a life-size animatronic puppet designed by Stan Winston that up to 20 puppeteers controlled.

    The finished puppet weighed in at 4.5 tons and was almost 40 feet long, making it one of the largest working puppets created for a movie up to that point. There were several issues with the puppet, as it shuddered whenever it rained. Since most of its scenes occur in the rain, there were numerous problems on set. Other dinosaurs created practically include the velociraptors, which were created as both puppets and suits worn by actors. When you see CGI in the movie, you're looking at the gallimimus herd and the wide shot of dinos at the beginning of the film.