In 2008, collector, sci-fi & horror film historian and friend, Bob Burns contacted Tom about the deteriorating condition of the original full size wolf used in the 1981 film, An American Werewolf in London.  It seems "Oscar" (a name given to the wolf by Bob, to acknowledge Rick Baker's win of the first ever Best Makeup Oscar for his work on the film) was in need of restoration.


This gallery is an in-depth look at the effort to save this important piece of film history!

Restoring the Original American Werewolf

Movie Prop Doctor Makes a House Call


Project Diary by Tom Spina


Created by Rick Baker and his team of special effects artists, the lifesize wolf seen in An American Werewolf in London was realized as part costume, part puppet and part wheelbarrow!  Be sure to check out the DVD special features for more on this and all of the incredible work produced by Baker's crew.  For that work, Baker received the first-ever Academy Award for Best Makeup (it would prove to be the first of many for the talented young effects artist).


Eventually, Baker presented the original prop wolf to his long-time friend, collector Bob Burns, who proudly displayed the piece alongside his other historic sci-fi and horror movie props and costumes.


As of 2008 "Oscar" (as Bob had affectionately dubbed the wolf) was a nearly 30 year old foam latex movie prop, and as too often happens, age and handling had taken their toll.



In hope of preserving this important movie artifact, Bob, who's been a friend for years, contacted me to discuss "Oscar's" condition.  Due to the size and fragile nature of the prop, it was determined that an on-site restoration would be the best approach. 

When we arrived, "Oscar's" condition was poor.  The foam was dry and brittle.  Large sections of his cheeks, lips and eyelids had crumbled to dust and other pieces hung on by a thread.  To further complicate things, some of the areas in need were covered in hand-punched fur.


Extremely fragile areas were strengthened and pieces were painstakingly affixed in place, much like assembling a puzzle.  Cracks were filled and blended where possible and the remaining gaps and missing details were then rebuilt and sculpted to match the surrounding textures. 


Paint was only applied to the repaired areas and colors were carefully blended to match the original, aged paint.  Several large areas that had once been covered in fur were rebuilt and painted so that hair (which was "borrowed" from other areas of the wolf) could be carefully applied and blended into the original hairwork.



Throughout the process, efforts were made keep the piece as original as possible and, most importantly, to make all of the areas that were repaired visually consistent with the age of the prop.


The goal was not a result that looks "brand new" (the way a replica head might) but a piece of movie history brought gently back to life...  something that now looks "great for its age" while maintaining the integrity of the original work and preserving the "feel" of the character.


I am extremely honored to have been asked to work on this piece and proud of what was achieved in a relatively short time.  Bob expressed a great deal of joy with the result, and that means quite a lot to me.


For years, I probably would've called the wolf "David" but after the long days of work, listening to Bob tell stories about about "Old Oscar", he will now forever be "Oscar" in my mind and in my heart!




I'd like to express very special thanks to:

Bob and Kathy Burns for their hospitality during the work. John Ciarlone for years of friendship and for playing host during my stay.  Kelly, for his assistance & photography, and of course, to Rick Baker for igniting the imaginations of artists & filmgoers everywhere with his brilliant work!

And be sure to visit our

Movie Prop Restoration Services Page

for photos of other projects like this!

Star Wars Empire Movie Ugnaught Mask Restoration
An American Werewolf in London Movie Costume Restoration
An American Werewolf in London Movie Costume Restoration
An American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration
An American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration
An American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration
An American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration
Tom Spina with Werewolf London Movie Costume
An American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration
An American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration
American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration
American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration
American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration Tom Spina
American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration
An American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration
An American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration with Tom Spina
An American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration
An American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration with Tom Spina
American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration Bob Burns Tom Spina
American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration Bob Kathy Burns Tom Spina
American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration Tom Spina Bob Burns
An American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Restoration Rick Baker John Landis Bob Burns

Bob's photo of "Oscar" in June of 2008, showing the poor condition of the head prior to Tom's work

Sections of the eyelids were also missing and the bridge of the nose was damaged as well.

Overal condition was dry & fragile with chunks missing (including the temple, cheeks, lips & upper lip under the nose).

Carefully strengthening the extremely fragile and dry areas as work begins.

The snout, which was cracked along the bridge of the nose, was removed so it could be reinforced from the underside

Rebuilding the lower lip. Missing areas are filled and re-sculpted to blend into the surrounding details and texture.

Painstakingly putting pieces back together and rebuilding the eyelids, temple & lips.

Note the large gaps in the cheek.  Hair would be carefully removed from the cheeks & bridge of nose to facilitate repair.

Adding the proper texture to areas that have been rebuilt, to ensure a near seamless blend to the original work

"Oscar", the original full size wolf used in An American Werewolf in London --- restored!

A wideshot shows Oscar's full body.  The larger than life movie prop costume has an imposing presence!

Only the repaired areas were repainted, leaving the bulk of the paint 100% original.

Hair was carefully glued in place on the cheeks & widow's peak in a way that blends with the existing punched hair

Repaired areas were carefully matched to the original aged paint and blend smoothly with the untouched sections.

A closer look at the texture match of the recreated top and bottom lips.

A nice close look at Oscar and the work done to rebuild his eyelids, temple, cheeks and snout

Tom Spina and Bob Burns pose with the restored and rejuvenated "Oscar"

Tom stands proudly beside the finished movie prop restoration... a piece of film history preserved!

Bob and Tom have a little fun for the camera.  No one makes a "sad hobo clown" face quite like Bob!

Collectors Bob and Kathy Burns with Tom and "Oscar".  It was difficult to say goodbye!

A Werewolf Reunion!  Director John Landis and makeup artist Rick Baker join Bob with the newly restored "Oscar"

Click any of the below for larger images

Movie Costume Restoration, American Werewolf in London Movie Prop Wolf

Click to see the dramatic before and after!

Bob Burns discusses the Americnan Werewolf in London Restoration

Click to see a video about this project!

An American Werewolf in London Jack Puppet restoration

Want to see what we did for David's friend Jack?  Click the above pic for a FULL GALLERY OF IMAGES!