POSTER ART - The developers spent around six months working on the poster art for Jaws, more time than it took Peter Benchley to dream up the plot. Steven Spielberg cut his teeth on the meaty role Jaws presented, directing a film using a giant rubber shark model, sometimes on submerged rails, that was camera shy. Oddly enough, having to resort to Alfred Hitchcock like suspense building, in not showing 'Bruce,' as the flawed animatronic became known, the lack of props actually helped to make the film a success.







Chief Brody, Roy Schieder, Jaws 1975 movie


Chief Brody




Captain Quint, Robert Shaw, Jaws 1975 movie


Captain Quint




Matt Hooper, Richard Dreyfuss, Jaws 1975 movie


Matt Hooper




Steven Spielberg, Director, Jaws 1975 movie


Steven Spielberg




Bruce the shark, Jaws 1975 movie






Peter Benchley, Screenplay, Jaws 1975 movie and novel


Peter Benchley




Chrissy, first victim of Jaws the great white shark 1975


Chrissie Watkins




Ellen Brody, Lorraine Gray, wife to the Chief, Jaws 1975 movie


Ellen Brody




Larry Vaughn is the Mayor of Amity in Jaws the 1975 movie


Larry Vaughn











Anyone who has a passing interest in the Jaws movie knows that the animatronic shark kept breaking down. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because Steven Spielberg had to add more character development and depth to the script to build tension. Not though a great beginning for marine animatronics.

The film though was a great success, mainly from the concept of the giant shark that is hunting humans. When we do see the shark, it is superbly scary. If the 'great-white' robot had not been effective, even in the brief flashes it’s shown, Jaws wouldn’t be the masterpiece of ocean terror we know and love today.

When Jaws was first set up at Universal, the book by Peter Benchley was still in galleys, and the biggest names attached to it were producers David Brown and Richard Zanuck. The first person onboard to work on Jaws was art director Joe Alves. Once Bob Mattey had confirmed to Joe Alves that the shark could be made, he was given the green light to get to work. 

In January of 1974, Jaws the novel was published and it was a best-seller, somewhat accelerating the film. Hence, Universal Pictures decreed the movie had to be shot that summer, which gave Mattey no time to perfect his mechanical monster-piece.

The animatronic shark in Jaws showed how effective a robotic special effect could be. While the stories of it malfunctioning are legendary, it is completely believable and terrifying onscreen - for the its time. The climax, where the shark and Roy Schieder battle to the death, is utterly dependent on the creature's effectiveness and though it had a relatively stiff or restricted movement, it delivers. While Steven Spielberg hid the shark until the climax, Bob Mattey's monster lives up to the film's build-up by being as scary as we potential audiences were told it would be - up to that point.

Jaws was snubbed for an Oscar for special effects, which went to the bland Hindenburg, as the shark led us into the '80s and early '90s, which became a boom time for animatronic creatures that made millions for their studios - including Spielberg's own Jurassic Park.

Three sharks were built for Jaws at the cost of $150,000 each. They were collectively named Bruce, after Spielberg's lawyer. Roy Arbogast, who was honing his monster making skills as Mattey’s assistant, is quoted as saying that the sharks had a skin of hard polyurethane rubber over a tubular-steel skeleton. As special effects supervisor Kevin Pike recalled in "Just When You Thought It Was Safe," when painting the shark, “We used chopped-up walnuts, sand and dust in the paint to give the skin texture on the surface."



Captain Quint, Chief Brody and Matt Hooper watch Jaws pull their boat apart






BRUCE - was built with plywood formers as you can see, mated to steel frames wherever there is a hinge for movement. We are not sure if any of the Jaws sharks were designed to emulate a real swimming stroke authentically, but if we get to make our shark, we'll be sure to study a real fish and replicate that movement as far as practical.

Nature has already done the design work for you. The first port of call is the cartilaginous backbone, then the muscles. An exoskeleton arrangement with flexible skin over the sections would be just too stiff. You'd be better off with a backbone and a soft polyurethane foam former (or foam latex sandwich), onto which is stretched a flexible skin. Then, if the robot mechanism (muscles) has the same degree of movement as the real fish, it will move and even swim like the real thing. Imagine if you will a scuba diver's flipper. The blade is flexible, a human foot is relatively inflexible. It is the flexibility of the flipper blade (fin) multiplied by the area that allows a scuba diver to swim so fast, converting to-and-fro movement into thrust efficiently. Fish rely on the same principle. Why not try it for yourself in the water.






LAUNCH PLATFORM - Not exactly elegant, but this is the floating rig or raft from which 'Bruce,' one of the animatronic sharks used to make the Jaws movie was launched and recovered. Obviously they did not care about longevity, using untreated softwood for the frames. We are taking a different approach.


KONTIKI - One of the most famous rafts in history was that used by Thor Heyerdahl for his Kontiki expedition in 1947. Thor was born in 1914 and celebrated his 100th birthday on the 6th of October 2014. The Kontiki raft covered 4,300 nautical miles in 101 days at an average speed of 42.5 miles per day.






WALT CONTI - Any filmmaker tasked with creating realistic marine predators has to measure up to a larger-than-life specter lurking just beneath the waves: Steven Spielberg's iconic animatronic shark, Jaws. Walt Conti—whose company Edge Innovations has created robot creatures for Free Willy, Deep Blue Sea and now Shark Night 3D, out Sept. 2—is used to hearing the comparisons. But Spielberg's 1970s icon can't compare to the technology behind today's Hollywood predators. "People bring up Jaws all the time," he says. "It's like comparing a Model T to a Ferrari. They both have four wheels and engines, but the animatronics we create today are highly tuned machines. From an engineering standpoint, they're a completely different level of power."






MEMORIES - Most of us remember this shark. It thrilled audiences back in 1970s but the movie was almost a flop without a sound track, and the unreliability of several left and right models nearly floored Spielberg's career before it began. Thankfully, Steven proved to be more resilient and simply adapted his script in the face of mounting technical and financial issues - the mark of an adaptable director and true producer.






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