James and the Giant Peach Puppet Head Conservation

Conservation and display of a stop motion James and the Giant Peach puppet head

An original, screen used stop motion James and the Giant Peach puppet head from the Tim Burton-produced film came to us in need of some light restoration and a custom display to help support and conserve the piece over time. Our client actually had 2 unique pieces, one was the prop foam latex skins for the James puppet’s face and hair and the other was a resin casting of his head from production. The resin copy was really helpful to our artists as it gave them the perfect reference while creating the custom insert while saving stress on the delicate foam skin.

We started by creating a gentle mold of the resin head, using safe materials and being extremely careful not to cause any damage to the original piece. Using that mold we were able to create a rigid foam copy of the head which we could shape into a perfect support to fit within the soft rubber face.  Working with the rigid foam copy of the head, our artists shaved away material, eventually sculpting a custom insert that would perfectly fit under the delicate foam latex and support that skin over time.

Once the custom insert was the proper shape and size we mounted the foam latex skin on to it. With the pieces secured and in the proper shape, we were then able to do some light conservation around the mouth area and seal the entire head to help ensure the foam latex would hold up better over time. We also added replica eyes and even tiny teeth to complete Jame’s signature look for display. Sometimes, small details like that can really help showcase a prop and make it pop. To keep the display minimal and all of the focus on the original puppet’s head we used a simple acrylic rod to float the movie prop puppet head over a wood base.

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Roald Dahl's classic novel comes to life in this stop motion film!

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