Gremlins: Gremlins Screen Used Puppet
Less than ten original Gremlins puppets remain in the world, and one lucky day this somehow found its way into our collection.
The Gremlins Museum
An Original Gremlins Movie Prop
screen used in dorry's tavern & movie theater
The puppets from the 1984 film "Gremlins" are considered some of the most iconic movie creatures of all time. These hand-operated puppets were designed to be as lifelike as possible, with intricate movements and facial expressions. The gremlins were created by a team of some of the most talented puppet-makers and effects artists of their time. Lead by Chris Walas, they used a combination of traditional puppet-making techniques, such as sculpting and foam fabrication, and cutting-edge technology, such as animatronics, to bring the creatures to life.
Back in September 2020, we had the rare opportunity to purchase an original Gremlins movie prop, though typical for its age, it arrived completely beheaded with foam exposed throughout. Thankfully there are talented foam-latex restoration artists around now who are able to reattach and bring puppets like this back to life.
Beginning the Restoration
We hired Tom Spina Designs to carry out the restoration of this one of a kind historical piece. Their team has an extensive background restoring both Gremlins and Gremlins 2 props and their expertise in this small niche is unmatched. The condition of the prop was rather concerning at this stage as the puppet was extremely brittle and fragile.
Upon reception, they cataloged each body section, noting the hands being fused together, left shoulder breaking loose, and left ear curling in. The head being detached from the body is very common as the weight can put excessive stress on the much lighter and hollow body.
Reassembling the Gremlin
Tom Spina's team, lead by artist Ricky Vitus was able to reattach the head to the body using internal supports to the neck area. Supports were also added to the ears to help them retain a more natural looking shape over the years. Finally the hollow interior was filled to keep the much heavier head aloft and looking good for years to come.
With the age of the poly foam and foam latex, it was all the more impressive that they were able to fully get all the facial features arranged in a way that really captured the original expression of the Gremlin.
Finalizing the Restoration
After reinforcing all the damaged foam latex, the Tom Spina team then matched all the old original textures with new archival material. With extensive areas like the neck missing, getting it to look seamless was both difficult and necessary. The final step was then fixing one of the eyes and then painting / color matching the damaged areas.
How was it used?
This Gremlins puppet was one of the more common Gremlin prop styles called a "butt puppet". The name comes from the 3/4 size form and well, where you put your arm up. The puppets were a bit more limited in what they could do- mostly biting motions and occationally rods were inserted into the elbows for more directed hand motions. These puppets were most commonly seen in the Dorry's Tavern and Theater scenes. If you look really closely you can see some puppeteers arms holding them up in Dorry's around the bar area (a whole other layer of charm in the movie, in my opinion).