On arrival at our studio, Leonardo had seen better days! The highly specialized foam latex Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume had been in a box for many years, as the client was unsure what the best approach to preserving it would be. He hoped to have a full display of the character. He wanted to turn the screen used costume parts into a life sized TMNT statue! That happens to be our specialty and after extensive discussion and planning, we set about preserving and restoring this amazing foam latex and polyfoam costume. An exciting project, given the rarity of Henson created costumes and puppets in private collections!
A custom mannequin would be required, both because of the suit’s small stature (just over 5 feet tall) and because of its unique nature. A normal mannequin just can’t flex and bend into a tight foam suit the way a stunt man can! Tom Spina created a custom body form that was a mix of rigid and bendable parts, with a metal frame and foam padding. Tom also handled all restoration of this movie prop costume personally.
Various areas of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume exhibited damage from on set use, a side effect of a movie prop being used in film where the actors have to do martial arts! Many of the joints needed repair, and the suit had a number of cracks throughout. Restoration of original foam latex costumes is a painstaking process and the conservation of this suit took several months. As with all of our conservation work, our approach to this project emphasized maintaining the integrity of the original foam costume, preserving the original “feel”and not making it look like a replica. Wherever repairs were made, Tom in-painted those areas. This means only the repair or patch is painted and the original material is left intact. The only exception was the tip of the snout, which had been (badly) repainted prior to arrival at our NY studio, and needed to be gently brought back to a more original color.
While the creature portion of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume arrived to us with most parts present, the prop elbow/knee pads and belt he wore in the movie were missing. On occasion, our crew will make replicas of costume pieces to help complete the display of an original movie costume. In this case, Kitty Hebert recreated the elbow pads in a mix of foam and vinyl. These, along with custom leather belts we created, completed the Leonardo costume for his ultimate display. A custom manhole cover base, also by Tom, added some appropriate theming and context and really finished off the display of this very rare, very special movie costume.
Have an original tv or movie prop in need of restoration or display? Email or call today and let’s discuss your project!