March 15, 2002

On the Wire

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Although I was only two years old in 1982, there is one event from that year that vividly stands out in my mind. No, it was not the trip to Florida to visit my grandparents that I can remember, nor is it my first flight on an airplane or the afternoon spent at the beach. Rather I remember my initiation of sorts into the realm of popular American culture — my first trip to the movie theater, to see none other than the ever-growing American favorite, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Although it was nominated for nine Academy Awards during the year of its original release, I was quite unaware of the magnitude of this experience.While my retrospective tale is perhaps sentimental and touching, the aftermath gets increasingly sappier. This year for Chanukah, at age 21, I received my very own talking E.T. doll from my parents (which somewhat frightens some of my roommates). Better yet, the first thing that I am going to do when I step off the plane from my Spring Break trip to the Bahamas on March 22nd is go to the movie theater with my parents to see the special twentieth anniversary release of my childhood favorite. Until then, though, I have become aware of several web sites that are revving up classic E.T. fans for this near-future movie release. While the phenomenon of E.T. traversed everything from dolls to t-shirts, the advent of the Internet was one venue that was left untouched, and unknown, until recent years.

In the wake of recent cult movie sites, Entertainment Weekly has featured myriad sites dedicated to our favorite extra-terrestrial that, although reminiscent of a once past phenomenon, are anything but obsolete. On, the visitor is encouraged to enter various links, as information from the 1982 debut is upgraded and rekindled for the upcoming re-release of this twenty year-old classic. With hidden links and intricate graphics, this web site brings a new meaning to the futuristic concept of this science-fiction movie that has become a cultural icon. The characteristic symbol depicting E.T. and the moon is embellished on every page as one journeys through the site, to be enhanced by a computerized version of several of the movie’s settings.

As the various links pop up when dragging the mouse across the screen, one is taken on a cyber journey through the world of Elliot, the young boy (played by Henry Thomas) who discovers the extra-terrestrial in his backyard. Once you’ve entered the actual site about the movie, the visitor is given numerous choices in which he or she can participate. From Elliot’s recreation room to his bedroom, the visitor is able to interactively participate in the magic of E.T. In the rec room, one is able to insert his or her picture in an official postcard with E.T., Elliot, and Gertie. In addition, there are links to Elliot’s storybook of his adventures with E.T. as he tries to help him “phone home.” Of course shopping links are also included so that any visitor can purchase his or her very own talking E.T. doll complete with light-up heart and fingertip.

In Elliot’s bedroom, there are numerous games that the visitor can explore, and thus interactively participate in one’s own extra-terrestrial fun. From dressing E.T. in mix-and-match clothing to E.T. trivia games, any child or adult can enjoy the vast content of this site. In addition, downloadables, such as computer wallpaper, coloring book pages, and screensavers are available through various links. Avid E.T. fans can also participate in the “Friends of E.T. PhotoQuilt,” in which individuals can upload their favorite memories, collectibles, and photographs to add to the growing online database that viewers h”> Accordingly, while links are in the process of uploading, E.T. info is revealed to the viewer about the actual making of the original film. Would anyone really ever guess that the model for E.T.’s facial features was based on the combined features of Albert Einstein and Carl Sandburg? (There are numerous other fun facts throughout the site that are there to enhance any trivia buff’s movie knowledge.) Other information about E.T. is available throughout the site, such as E.T.’s alliance with the promotion of the Special Olympics (which will be benefited by the film’s re-release).

Original sound bites throughout the site, as well as information about the movie’s innovative score are prevalent when clicking on the links that are provided. With its link to other E.T. related sites, this official E.T. database can leave visitors occupied for hours on end, and that’s only until the 20th Anniversary Edition comes to theaters on March 22nd complete with “enhanced visual effects,” “never before seen footage,” and its “original score.” With this site, avid fans can tap into unknown resources and information about this classic film, and its re-release. And, it’s much more user friendly than E.T.’s communicator device, which he used to communicate with his home planet from the Earth’s surface. My, have times changed since 1982!

Archived article by Barbara Seigel