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E.T. in Xfinity's commercial "A Holiday Reunion"

If you were shocked to see Xfinity’s new ad, featuring the beloved stars of E.T., you weren’t alone. In the nearly 40 years since the film was released, Steven Spielberg has resisted a true sequel. So it’s surprising, to say the least, that we finally got one by way of a commercial for cable. Fan response to “A Holiday Reunion” has been somewhat mixed, but Henry Thomas recently offered some insight into what Steven Spielberg thought of the long-awaited reunion between Elliott and E.T.

A week after the ad launched, Xfinity shared a behind-the-scenes feature on YouTube that detailed how it all came together. And E.T. star Henry Thomas, who played the young protagonist Elliott, addressed why he decided to get on board. He made it clear that he’s always deferred to Steven Spielberg as to whether or not a sequel would be appropriate. And he admitted he was surprised to learn the director’s reaction to plans for the ad:

You know, there's always been talk of sequels and things like that. And it's really funny because 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. And then they said, well, Steven signed off on the story. He loves it. And I said, ‘What?'

After he found out that Xfinity had Steven Spielberg’s blessing, Henry Thomas eventually also agreed that the ad’s story was a natural next step for Elliott and E.T.:

Looking at the storyboards and everything, I could see why Steven was really behind it because the integrity of the story isn’t lost in this retelling or re-shaping of it.

The commercial, directed by Lance Acord, is filled with nostalgic homages to many of E.T.’s iconic moments, from the film’s tear-inducing finger touch to the moonlight aerial bicycle rides. It also packs more than 30 easter eggs into its 4 minute and 18 second runtime -- including blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpses at a Raggedy Ann doll, some Nike Diablos, and E.T.’s snack of choice, Reese’s Pieces. And despite Hollywood’s technological advanced since the ‘80s blockbuster, the commercial’s creative team employed some old-school puppeteering, in addition to CGI, to bring Steven Spielberg’s lovable extraterrestrial back to life.

Check out the behind-the-scenes feature on the making of "A Holiday Reunion":

E.T. is easily one of the most beloved blockbusters of all time. Though some have argued that bringing it back via an advertisement feels a little cynical, others found it to be a heart-warming and genuine modern rendering of the film’s story and themes. Thus far, “A Holiday Reunion” has been viewed over a million times on YouTube.

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