Original Jaws restored (it looks a lot better than this, now)

Chris Burns - Jun 21, 2019, 2:05 pm CDT
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Original Jaws restored (it looks a lot better than this, now)

The Jaws you see at the head of this article was first given to the Academy Museum back in January of 2016. Back then, it was the “only surviving Jaws shark” and it was (and remains) the largest object to enter the Academy’s collection thus far. The restoration was made “just in time for the 44th anniversary” of the original Jaws (1975) film directed by Stephen Spielberg.

This Jaws prop wasn’t actually in the movie itself – but it is the last (of four) made with the original mold. The shark is identical to the version(s) used in the film for all intents and purposes, save one. This shark survived. The other three were trashed and torn to bits over the last several decades.

This model was originally created for display at Universal Studios Hollywood when the original film was released. It was kept at Universal Studios Hollywood until the year 1990, available for photos right up until the end of 1989 – so if you’ve got a photo of Jaws before 1990, there’s a pretty OK chance that this was it!

ABOVE: The shark in the year 2016, as it was transferred to the Academy. BELOW: The shark as it arrived at the effects lab* where it’d be restored, earlier this year (2019).

This Jaws was hauled away to Sun Valley, to Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking, where it’s been ever since. This auto yard was also the final resting place of many screen-used vehicles from Universal Studios over the past handful of decades. You’ll notice the teeth – they’re not the originals. The restoration restores to this model some ORIGINAL TEETH too!

The restoration took approximately four months, and was done by special effect make-up creator, producer, and director Gregory Nicotero. Since his first major work on a motion picture (George A Romero’s Day of the Dead (1985)), he’s likely worked on more zombie video productions than any other person on this planet. He and his crew began work on the restoration of this monster earlier this year.

ABOVE: After stripping away old nastiness, the shark was painted and renewed innards were constructed. The original teeth were meticulously placed in their correct place in the monster’s mouth, one by one.

Nicotero worked with original Jaws production designer Joe Alves and a number of original Jaws effects techs like Cal Accord, Kevin Pike, and Toy Arbogast to make this new model as much like the original as possible. “An honor to work with these brilliant artists and the folks at KNB working feverishly,” said Nicotero. *KNB EFX is the effects group that commands The Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead, and others – founded by Nicotero.

“Honored to restore the last original casting from the original molds for the soon to open [Academy Museum of Motion Pictures],” said Nicotero. “We have spent the last 4 months restoring this piece to go on display.”

Above you’ll see another view in-process, with reference images for teeth and detailing to the left. Here you’ll see additional paint work and shred marks according to placement in reference images in the film. Below is what’s likely the final product sans-teeth (which will be in-place at the Academy Museum when the exhibit start).

Does it look better now, do you think? I don’t think Bruce has ever looked finer!

This shark’s restoration will be done in time for the official grand opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in LA. It’ll be at 6067 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036 later this year – exact date to be announced soon.

BONUS: Have a look at this restored-to-original-quality shark above and prepare yourself to see the real thing, if you do so dare – at some point in the second half of 2019. Below you’ll see a video from the Academy showing the museum in all its glory, as it’s build and and it’ll look later this year at opening.


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