Jaws East Coast Tour '88: Experience the Toothy Magic (Updated)
Way back in August of 1988, my folks were kind enough to take us to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA for an exhibit about movie special effects. This was the first time I had ever seen a museum of any sort devote space to the art of creating illusions in cinema, so that in itself impressed me to no end. However, what really knocked this exhibit out of the park is that it included a working mechanical shark from the Jaws movies. Click below to see the pictures I took of the mighty animatronic beast.
Even though the full-body shark on display was the one used for Jaws: The Revenge, some modifications were made to the shark for the exhibit. Every few minutes, the shark would roll its eyes back (a feature I didn't see in any of the four Jaws movies) and its head would move back and forth while snapping its jaws. The rest of the shark's body--namely, the torso and the tail--didn't move at all. I tried to get pictures of the shark doing its jaw-snapping routine, with my only regret being that I couldn't get it recorded on video tape.
It should be noted that the exhibit only featured a full-body mechanical shark, not any of the other partial sharks that were used in the Jaws movies. Also, the full-body shark did not include the larger mechanical apparatus that was used to move the shark around in the water, so I guess you could say that the exhibit only had a partial full-body mechanical shark.
The exhibit did include special effects props from other movies, such as matte paintings and demon dog stop-motion puppets from Ghostbusters. Yet the other big attraction at the exhibit was a full-sized Alien Queen and Power Loader from Aliens, which you can see in the pictures below. Unlike the Jaws shark, neither the Alien Queen nor the Power Loader moved--no Alien Queen vs. Jaws action at this exhibit, unfortunately. (I think the emergency lights on the Power Loader and the display background flashed every few moments, but that was it.)
What I didn't know at the time was that after the Franklin Institute, the exhibit was moved northward to the Boston Museum of Science, where it stayed until January 1989. Below are some pictures of the shark in transit to Boston and a copy of an exhibit flier from the museum, courtesy of the Jaws Collector site.
Alas, this traveling exhibit was a swan song of sorts for the Jaws franchise. As far as I can tell, the exhibit was the last time the public could see a working mechanical shark that was used in a Jaws movie; none of the mechanical sharks from the four films were preserved and all of them were junked at various locations. The only places where you can see an official Jaws-licensed mechanical shark these days would be at one of the Universal Studio theme parks in California, Florida or Japan, each of which feature a Jaws boat ride. However, each of these other sharks were built exclusively for the theme park rides, so it's just not the same.
Yet all is not lost, Jaws fans. A group called Shark City Ozark is determined to write a different ending to this fish tale. Their sculptor Mike V. Schultz built a 37" long "Bruce Nose-to-Tail (NTT)" maquette, a scale-accurate replica of the full-body shark used in the first Jaws movie. So even though all of the original mechanical sharks are gone, they live on through groups like Shark City Ozark. Their Bruce NTT maquette is a dead ringer for the original mechanical shark used in Jaws, unlike the Jaws maquette which was released by Sideshow Collectibles back in 2006.
Update, 06/07/10: A few days ago, NPR ran a story called "Hunting Bruce" about reporter Cory Turner's search for one of the surviving shark models from the original Jaws movie. He eventually found a shark cast from the original Bruce mold, which was made for use at the Universal Studios Theme Park in Hollywood between 1975 to 1990. It now is mounted on two poles at Adlen's U Pick Parts auto yard in Sun Valley, CA. However, while I was looking around the Internet for this article, I found a photo of another shark instead:
I can't find the details behind this picture (such as location and date), but between the shape of the snout, the empty eye sockets and the width of the mouth, I think that this is the same shark that I saw on display many years ago. For shame Universal Studios, for shame.