Conservators at the Academy Museum Are Preserving a Piece of ’80s Movie History

We got a sneak peek at painstaking work that’s underway to restore a six-foot-tall puppet from Jim Henson’s 1982 film ’The Dark Crystal’

The upcoming Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is set to open in September with famous movie props and costumes—from the ruby slippers featured in The Wizard of Oz to the stone tablets from The Ten Commandments—on display. Conservators Sophie Hunter and Rio Lopez have been hard at work readying one of the larger objects: the Skeksis Gourmand, a six-foot-tall puppet created by the Jim Henson studios for the 1982 film The Dark Crystal.

Every inch of the creature required conservation, from the glass eyes to the poured-in-place foam skin. Hunter and Lopez used high-tech analytical equipment but also fashioned their own tools for sanding and picking, utilizing coffee stirrers and toothpicks. They kept a DVD of the original film nearby as well as original production photos shot by the late Henson. “It’s so special to see the original object that you love from that movie,” says Hunter. “[It’s] part of the history.”

The pair introduced new materials among the crumbling original polyurethane bits. Fingers that had literally rotted off the bone were resculpted and fitted back onto the underlying armature.

“You can’t stop anything from deteriorating, but we have a lot of tools to prolong its life span,” says Hunter.

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