A.K.A. That seriously long article about that shark photo:
For the production of our many filmshark collectibles and honestly from the experience of making so many actual scale mechanical sharks since I was a teen, I think that I have scrutinized every Jaws shark photo that so far has been released publicly. And many not ever seen by others. I mean seriously scrutinized too. In my day growing up there was no Google or Youtube to detail for you anything, let alone every facet of Creature Creation. You just learned by research and by doing. Sure you daydreamed, but you did stuff practically.
And in my day you researched at a library and poured over and studied everything Starlog, Fangoria, Cinemagic and whatever a few other publications had to offer. To learn about materials I studied encyclopedia’s, Firefighter manuals and labtech journals. To learn the FX trade I examined photos of ILM [Industrial Light & Magic] artists working on the latest Star Wars or Sci Fi film. And I mean studied under a magnifying glass. What is that tool, what kind of paint is that, what material is that made from, what’s in the garbage can or on the floor? That’s what you studied to learn trade secrets.
While others had their videotapes all stressed from pausing all the saucy scenes from 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High', my stressed tapes were all from The Making of Documentaries like Star Wars and the like. And of course you had to experiment to get the hands on side. If it didn't look or move right then it just wasn't done yet. That’s how you learn, by doing.
If you needed latex rubber you had to buy it under some industrial name found only by trial and error. For rubber I often had to use a craft product called ‘Safety Back”. Sold at hardware stores and used to paint the back of rugs to keep them from slipping on tile floors. That’s what you had to do to make Stop Motion Animation dinosaurs, monster masks, severed fingers and mechanical sharks back in the late 70’s and 80’s. Either off the shelf or you had to risk the majority of your profits from your lawn mowing route on some iffy product quickly blurted at you by some corporate salesman too busy to deal with you over the phone. Products that sounded more like naval ship designations and NEVER came with good directions. I tell you it is a miracle anyone matured into the FX field it seemed so cloaked in unknowns.
Here is where I plug Burman Foam Latex and thank Sandy Burman for all her in-depth and patient help well over 20 years ago. She spent more time schooling me on materials and what was used for the Jaws sharks than anybody before or since then. You modern FX practitioners owe great thanks to trailblazers like Sandy for bringing those incredible FX materials from the labs and corporate factory closets out to the weekend warriors of Practical FX like I considered myself to be.
Anyway, such an upbringing makes you work for it and live it. Today my wife and I watch CSI often. And watching these guys only reminds me of all my years of actually using CSI-like techniques to glean every bit of data possible from every Jaws or FX photo that I was exposed to. Today thankfully I can take a new Jaws photo into Photoshop and torture out of it the secrets it holds in minutes instead of days. Today it is so much easier to stand on the backs of giants and reach greater heights, as has so well been said on film.
So the following is the kind of material I see when I look at a Jaws shark photo. I cannot think of many photos that I cannot deduce which shark, when in the production, how old or fresh is that particular skin or paintjob, which new skin or backing experiment are they testing, which shark filming set-up is this and what other scenes was this particular shark and set-up used for etc.. Don’t let me ruin anything for you if you don’t dig this level of fandom. As if this wasn’t long enough as-is, now for the almost-main course!
Foremost I have 3 main points to make.
Most Major Point first -
#1 Photo credit to Richie Helmer & Jim Beller, thank you for sharing with us all these incredible photos!
#2 The following are my personal observations and opinions based on my study and FX work experience.
Nothing here is dogmatically fact or meant to make me look any better than anyone else etc, and I only share for the sake of having some fun among friends online. If I get a detail wrong then let’s all laugh about it and not get upset about it. So no drama from the peanut gallery or any would-be armchair Jaws generals. I share with a smile and I come in peace. Read no further if you are just looking for trouble or a flaw to pry on.
#3 There was a long and dreary age before the days of Facebook wherein feuds were fought over rights to every single Jaws-Shark photo. And rarely, and I mean RARELY would you see more than one or two new photos online for a year’s worth of image searches. Many a friendship was strained or broken based on who had which photos. A few odd types actually sought the attention of having but never sharing what others wanted. Something unfortunately common to all manor of fan circles that I know of.
The various forums could be quite a Soap Oprah at times. That’s the way it was and to ignore it endangers the new openness that social media has to offer. My point is for all of us to learn from the past and not to repeat it. Such wisdom that is only followed by the wisest of men in any age. So wise that it could even save nations if enough folks listened. Rare is it that wisdom is appreciated let alone collected or followed.
Anyway, today with the advent of social media and the numerous recent publishing's of several new books and videos us Finfans are practically bathing in Jaws Shark reference materials! There are still a few hoarders out there with their selfish excuses for not sharing with their fellow Jaws fans; however those that have shared have more than made up for those petty types with a virtual avalanche of never-been-shared before materials. And those that share are far better people than those selfish hoarder types if you ask me, simply based on their expressed level of care for their peers in other matters. I say from my experience these things.
So, my personal thanks to you real authors and publishers of all of this incredible material that you have provided everyone today! You guys did not just pretend to be writing a book to gather all these rich materials, you actually went trough all the risk and trouble to literally publish your books and videos. And you have shared them with us all. The few remaining and complaining hoarders should learn from and emulate such contributions to the fan community. I am grateful to you, and well done social-media! Achievements unlocked! Now on with my bloated opinions!
2. Rare Bruce photo showing his eye Looking forward. Note the clear protective bubble over the eye. There is also a skin separation-depth to the eye socket around the eye bubble that has not been replicated by other artist’s other than us. A detail perhaps only noted by those that work mechanical sharks in the FX industry. The devil is in the details and the eye is one of the first places any beholder’s own eyes go to first, so you don’t want to get the eyes wrong even if the subject is all about the jaws, am I right?
On rare shark-descending shots when the water is rising quickly inside Bruce’s hollow head, all the escaping air pressure has nowhere to go but to vent out forcefully around the unsealed eyes and upper lip area. Depending on shark angle of descent that is.
Yes, one open side or the other on the platform sharks helped to equalize the air to water pressure inside, but not far enough up into the face and head on ‘drop-down’ sinking shots like the chumming pop-up sequences or sinking back out of the cabin scene. For our SyFy mechanical Ghostshark we sealed around the eyes and of course being a much smaller shark the releasing air pressure was next to nil. And I strongly point out that without the ground-breaking Jaws sharks back then, that we lucky FX workers today would be stumbling in the dark learning it all the hard way from scratch today!
3. Teeth heavily carved into that ‘Ragged/Jagged’ wilted flower-petal look mostly notable in the end scenes. In the famous boatshed footage taken by Ron and Val Taylor you can see some of our favorite men working on placing teeth into a Platform Shark, and one is whittling down with a knife an upper tooth for placement into the upper jaw. Notice how far onto the teeth that the rubber gore is actually spread. Many things were tested to hold the teeth in besides the rubber material itself, things like wiring them into the jaw-frame, to even trying at least 2 different types of glue. What kind of glues were those?
4. This is an open-sided Platform shark. The open side is on the opposite side of the shark here as clearly seen in many other behind the scenes photos of this particular shark-set-up. This image is not flipped as some have speculated as one clue clearly being the eye scar on the proper side facing the camera. Over the years to avoid watermarking it became common practice to mirror images or crop them oddly to track who was sharing photos without permission, but yet deceptively claiming credit for them. We all know the false-identity behind that decades long saga.
As noted in other posts this is the Sink-on-demand Fiberglass and framework Orca 2. The Estuary Red-Rowboat attack was filmed here very close to this time and I have been told with this same Platform Shark whose paint, gore and tooth placements are very close but not exact matches to it; as well as the brief scene of the shark leaping into the camera as filmed from the primary-Orca’s pulpit.
Some of these shark pop-up scenes were shot out of film-sequence-order during this same shark set-up, which was rare for this film as almost all the rest was shot in-order as far as the shark was concerned, save some pickups, longshots and of course the 4th full Bruce, the Studio Tank Hooper sharkcage attack sequences shot back at the studio much later. To explain in further detail would triple this article’s length.
And besides that, Jim’s book details lots of this clearly anyway, so why dwell?
5. Note the gray & white demarcation line is far darker and more softly airbrushed. It is nearly a straight line and not a jagged hard-line stencil as earlier in the film. There are no two scenes in the entire movie wherein you will see the exact same demarcation line+ paint+gore+teeth arrangements or wounds, period. Paint did not stick on that skin any better than a politician’s promises today! I could write a book on the skin and paint alone, trust me. When I was a kid I had to make skins and paints from the craziest off-the-shelf materials, and there was only the local library for research, no Google!
My personal opinion is that it is a miracle that they were able to make a paint to work with the raw materials available back then for a synthetic skin. Especially for a flexible ocean prop! Today a DIY weekend-warrior can order anywhere from at least several dozen superior elastomers online. Back then they were forced like the A-Team to adapt from off the shelf materials in extraordinary ways to fabricate these skins and paints.
Imagine trying to adapt industrial materials for high-end FX work! Now imagine trying to make it all work together in-between scenes out there on the water with some of the worst weather and even some of the worse attitudes in Hollywood leering at you!
6. Upper jaw is dropped pulling upper lip forward and changing contour and profile shape of the entire snout. This explains the odd dimple in the snout and the difference in the nostril contour details that still seem to be confusing other artists today.
This also pulls down and slightly stretches out the upper lip. This in turn widens the cheek area above the jowls on lower-jaw closing, and draws the skin back in on the reverse movement during the opening stroke. This can be seen in frame by frame study, or if you have made over a dozen mechanical sharks like we have then you see it all the time. The face and skull contour changes are even far more exaggerated when the upper skull is in the lowered position. There is a core shape-frame under the skin, but that skin dynamically buckles and budges all over with movement and especially with air pressure rising or dropping inside.
Just another detail that contemporary artists have not understood not having actually made or operated mechanical sharks as we have. Which explains the loss of accuracy in other models wherein they are trying to copy conflicting contours and details from totally different sharks in different poses but trying to make them blend into one particular work. This is art, yes. But this is not scale model work, nor historic preservation and replication. Not even close. Which explains why artistic sharks look o.k. from one angle but nothing like historic Bruce from any other angles. Art is art, but scale models are precise all around.
Our SCO sharks are mathematically accurate scale model replicas based on over 10 GB of painstakingly measured data of the location sharks. And more so than this, our models discriminate between the different sharks and their changes throughout filming. Of course my family soundly believes that we make the very best sharks. There is nothing wrong with any artist or athlete doing their best, working their hardest, and believing in their works. None of any of it possible of course had it not been for the original masters providing us great material to copy from!
7. Inner mouth details and throat are removed and/or secured back further than normal for Quint and FX access. Padding altered on lower jaw interior and exterior and tongue area as seen in other photos of this sequence.
Note the Jowl has been flattened and blended closer to the face on the outer-rear cheek area, far more than in other shots or sharks. This through additional padding from behind and extra material thickly blended in on the skin’s surface. I am still not sure if this is a cosmetic change or a rip-repair. The same for the lower jaw area where it meets the jowl. It has been padded-out far more to bring it out to meet the jowl so less gap is noticeable in-between.
My guess is someone didn’t love the Bruce-jowl-look like we all do today. In my opinion had any of the sequel sharks had the strong-jaw-look of these pronounced jowls that the original Bruce had, and his awesomely realistic high-detail paintjob, then those movies would have been far more successful!
My proof? Jaws 2 had great actors, and good everything else for script, plot and action but the shark was no Jaws 1 Bruce... Had the first Jaws shark looked like any of the sequel sharks then I doubt the fever would have caught on much nor been anything near what it has been for 40 years! That first shark made the franchise if you ask me!
8. Many teeth missing, many are smaller here on lower jaw than in other scenes. Maybe low on replacement teeth that day? Note those teeth arrangements, there were a base of 7 types and sizes spread throughout the mouth. On average 82 to 86 teeth in all can be counted, depending on the shark and the scene.
Also note their relation to the shark’s face details. The teeth were placed into the gums, not sculpted in as some of the late sequel sharks had [upper jaws]. So their position as well as the type of tooth placed in were very transient all throughout filming. Our SCO sharks are all accurate right down to the correct teeth, the right sizes and numbers and even the exact placement locations and setting angles for the exact shark modeled. There’s 86 more reasons why we think our sharks are the best right there.
9. Paint job is much darker above. All early sharks were much lighter in gray and had much less black above. Many missing paint spots around face. The bare skin color was an amber to yellow color depending on how much water was absorbed or drained from the rubber. If you see yellow-ish spots in the frame by frames, and you will, that was a paint rub off spot. Amazing how well they hid these problems for us in-between scenes with everything you can imagine like grease paint and spray paint. Often but not always, but often if it looks like a wound then that was some last minute gore to hide a fresh skin tear or paint rub-off. Absolutely brilliant if you want my opinion!
10. Pectoral fin is not blended to body at all and forward tear between facing fin and gills hidden by gore. We replicate this fit-discrepancy feature in our Bruce and Brucette sequel sharks. The more the shark’s skin got waterlogged the worse the fit between the pectoral fins and body got. In the end when gore could not hide the ragged gaps then they were just kept out of frame, underwater or covered by debris.
The 4th Bruce, the Studio Tank Bruce that attacks Hooper in his cage was the only shark to have his pectoral fins fairly well blended to the body for shooting. This because it was detailed in place in the tank before water was added. Otherwise with pectoral fins on they were like trying to move Cessna airplanes with their enormous wingspans!
So we copy those pectoral fin-fit problems instead of hiding them fearing that an incorrect public opinion may cost us sales. Face it, if we tried to model based on public opinion then we’d never make anything that looked like historic Bruce because everyone has their own opposing mental perceptions of how they see Bruce. We just measure and compare the gigs of reference material and leave the emotions out of the equation. Something from our providing museum displays era that I believe makes these sharks possible, let alone superior. Again fellow artists, we of course feel our sharks are best and that is normal & healthy.
11. Jowl heavily adapted and re-padded for mouth to close further than sculpted and neck area skin patched in and padded/blended to allow for extra skin stretch range for the closing lower jaw action. Originally the shark was sculpted with the mouth wide open. They found out the hard way, as I did when I made my first mechanical rubber shark at age 11, that if the mouth is sculpted wide open then you have a world of trouble closing it properly in a rubber puppet copy.
For one, the skin on the neck will tear in several places trying to stretch far enough for the connected lower jaw to swing upward as it closes. For another, the cheeks bow outwards as the jaw closes. Every additional skin pulled from those first molds had to be heavily modded with extra stretchy fabric backing and basically re-sculpted with rubber and fabric around the jowl-lower jaw connection and neck area. This is why sequel sharks never looked the same. Afterwards the heads were always sculpted and molded with skulls lowered and mouths nearly closed all the way, and with the neck area more streamlined to help flex that area more smoothly when the mouth opened, instead of bagging and buckling like the original shark’s necks did.
12. Harpoon is off angle to other shots. Harpoons moved around a little bit depending on the shark used. Nothing major unless you are making a shark to sell and are claiming it as screen accurate. With Bruce screen accurate must be nailed down to which shark, when in filming and which filming set up. Because he was the grand experiment in the works and all while the camera‘s rolled! And Bruce broke ground and laid a foundation that without him and his A-Team of brilliant FX tradesmen would have left us without almost 4 decades of the fantastical creatures that those Jaws location educations granted us all. Only life begets life and it is those Practical Creatures like Jaws, and because of Jaws, that start and maintain fan communities.
Please don’t take any of these comments as ‘Nit-Picks’, or some armchair general pride-fest. I love these film sharks to death and they are the main reasons why we have today such awesome practical effects that are so darn memorable such as Jabba the Hut or all of the practical and life-like animatronic dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. Not to mention the practical FX werewolves, Tremor’s worms and other practical wonders.
All who owe their existence[es] to ALL the various Bruce sharks, in more than just my opinion.
Ask us and we’ll declare that our sharks look so close to the historical film sharks as we appreciate and love them! We have recreated them in static display and for private commissions and for premiere films in mechanical form. So we know them inside and out and feel that we connect and understand them better than most people, save the incredibly wise and talented men that created and maintained them like Marty Milner and Cal Acord.
So don’t take these observations as picking out flaws, but take them as we share them. And how I mean to share them no matter how anyone reads this is this: I am in total awe of what they accomplished for us all. Say what you want about script and actors and directors etc, had those sharks not looked so undeniably monstrous and worked so very visually well then Jaws would have been NOTHING like it turned out to be. Our hats are off to Cal Acord and Marty Milner and the other FX men behind the real success of Jaws, those first sharks! The sharks are the real story if you ask me, and that’s my 2¢.
Mike V. Schultz
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