Tools of the Trade || Miniatures, Models & Costumes

No CGI – only superior craftsmanship. And utmost respect.

Moon and Discovery Spacecraft Miniatures, 2010 (1984)

The Discovery spacecraft model for 2010 had to be reconstructed by analyzing film clips from 2001: A Space Odyssey, since the original model used in that film had been destroyed. The shot of the Discovery spacecraft moving past the moon was achieved with an optical printer, which combined elements of previously photographed images on a single, new negative. Optical printers have since been made obsolete by the advent of computer generated images.


Miniature of the Tyrell Skyscraper, Blade Runner (1982)

Because of the high cost of building full-scale sets, filmmakers often create realistic environments by combining life-size models or miniatures with live-action photography.

This construction is only one part of a very large and complex miniature of the Tyrell Skyscraper. When combined with atmospheric lightning, aerial-view camera movements and fire and smoke effects, this model appears, on film, to be part of an authentic cityscape.


Regan McNeil Mechanical Puppet, The Exorcist (1973)

The single most shocking image in The Exorcist occurs when the head of Regan MacNeil, played by Linda Blair, rotates a full 350 degrees. To achieve this shot, special effects makeup artist Dick Smith built a life-size dummy of Blair, complete with a mechanically controlled rotating head, engineering by effects specialist Marcel Vercoutere. To create the figure, Smith made a mold of Blair’s body and filled the mold with foam latres. The head has radio-controlled eyes that could be made to move during shooting.

Smith and others made the puppet’s mouth appear to move by photographing Linda Blair and then superimposing the image of her moving mouth onto the image of the puppet. This superimposition was done using an optical printer. Today, this sort of shot is achieved more efficiently with computer graphics.


Razor Glove, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984-1991)
Costume designer, Dana Lyman
Mechanical effects designer, Jim Doyle, Theatrical Engines
Worn by Robert Englund

”Chest of Souls” Prosthesis
A Nigthmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Four separate makeup effects teams were hired for the fourth sequel of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Steve Johnson, of XFX, Inc., was responsible for the spectacular final sequence, in which Freddy Krueger is killed. Johnson used mechanical puppets attached to actor Robert Englund, as well as tween-foot-high groin-to-neck puppet of the character with fully articulated arms.

The ”Chest of Souls” was worn by Englund in long shots. The sweater was used on the oversize mechanical puppet. Inside the torso of the puppet were four assistants and actors, who thrust their arms out and shredded the sweater to created the effect of souls trhying to escape Krueger’s body. The torso was made out of enormous strips of specially ordered dental dam (the stretchy rubber that dentists use), with skin-textured foam latex set on top. The hole in the middle of the sweater was covered with the dental dam to simulate Freddy’s skin.


Left to right:

1/ Dress worn by Hedy Lamarr as Delilah in Samson & Delilah (1949)
2/ Reconstruction of Costume worn by Diane Keaton as Annie Hall (1977)
3/Costume worn by Sarah Jessica Parker as Donna in Honeymoon in Vegas (1992)


Hat worn by Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing in Dallas (1978-1991)


Figures made by Tony Walton for costume maker Barbara Matera to use as a guide in fabricating his elaborate designs for The Wiz (1978)


Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, New York

May 13th, 2018

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