Bluebird Marine Systems has been asked to look at the possibility of building the biggest shark in the world






WARNING - How do you stop people going into the water? That's right, you put up a big sign saying not to swim and enforce that with a bunch of sheriffs.  Conversely, how do you get people to want to go into the water, or into a building for that matter? Yup, you show them the scariest creature in the ocean and frighten the hell out of them - safely of course. People 





Bluebird Marine Systems had been asked to look at the possibility of creating one of the most exciting displays in the world, but could not afford to stop their work on ocean plastic. If the project had gone any further it may have produced one of the largest and potentially most profitable showcases ever built that to suit many operators of exhibitions of all kinds. The company ceased trading in 2017.


The brief was to create the largest interactive robot shark in the world. It must be capable of thrilling viewers with a combination of movement, lighting and sounds. That's a tall order where such a large exhibit will weigh quite a bit. Thus, the starting point might be the jig which might double as a launch platform and transport trailer, if we want to keep costs down and reduce complexity and workshop space all at the same time.








Animatronics creator Walt Conti tells PM how building two ferocious sharks for Shark Night 3D, out Sept. 2, is "a marriage of art and technology."

Any filmmaker tasked with creating realistic marine predators has to measure up to a larger-than-life specter lurking just beneath the waves: Steven Spielberg's iconic animatronic shark, Jaws. Walt Conti—whose company Edge Innovations has created robot creatures for Free Willy, Deep Blue Sea and now Shark Night 3D, out Sept. 2—is used to hearing the comparisons. But Spielberg's 1970s icon can't compare to the technology behind today's Hollywood predators. "People bring up Jaws all the time," he says. "It's like comparing a Model T to a Ferrari. They both have four wheels and engines, but the animatronics we create today are highly tuned machines. From an engineering standpoint, they're a completely different level of power."

There are six different types of sharks—including cookie-cutters, makos, and bulls—in Shark Night. While most of them were created using visual effects, director David Ellis knew he wanted animatronics for the two drawn-out attack sequences, in which the actors try to fend off a hammerhead and a great white. "In a lot of the other attacks in the film, the sharks come out of nowhere, grab the character and they're gone," Conti says. "Those tended to be visual effects, because you can choreograph exactly what you want. But the great white and hammerhead were more hand-to-hand. And with animatronics, the big advantage is that if you think of the shark as a character and the actors as characters, then you have all the characters on stage and can direct them at the same time. And sometimes you get these happy accidents—like the animatronic will knock a spear out of an actor's hand, and we'll rewrite the sequence to include that."





Conti began by looking at hundreds of photos of great whites and hammerheads. To ground the anatomy in reality, Conti's team started with a real set of jaws from each shark. "That way, you can't cheat," he says. Artists made a sculpture of the shark based on the size of the jaw, then created a mold from the sculpture. Conti poured urethane rubber into the mold. When the material dried, it became the sharks' skins, which the team then painted using the photos as a reference.

Next, Conti slit the bellies of the rubber skins so he could insert the internal robotics that power the sharks. He built two different models of shark, a "swimmer" and an "attacker," each of which required very different internal mechanisms. "Sharks are this total contrast of stealthy, cruising lurking and these intense bursts of power," Conti says. "We split those two behaviors into two different types of models, and optimized each to do one of those things best."

The swimming model for the great white is a hulking, 9-foot-long, 600-pound 200-hp robot. "The Swimmer is a self-contained model that swims literally on its own," Conti says. "There's a tiny little tether [that connects it to the power source], but it's all electrically powered with servos." The biggest challenge was making sure the animatronic shark was neutrally buoyant, like a real shark, and was balanced correctly so it hovered in the water as a real shark would. "Everything you're putting inside the shark [that's] heavier than water - the rubber, the motors—wants to make it sink," Conti says. "So you have to make [anything you put into the model] out of incredibly light materials, like aluminum and titanium. It's like an aircraft." Two divers with waterproof joysticks controlled the sharks in real time. "They're customized," Conti says, "but you're basically pushing a joystick around like you would an RC car. [The sharks] are kind of big, expensive toys."

Conti created attack models for both the great white and the hammerhead, which had to be more powerful than the swimmer. "It kills me when mechanical effects are slow, or repetitive," Conti says. "The thing that gives animatronics life is the feeling that these animals are thinking, or doing something intentionally. You're trying to create, through technology, intent and decisiveness and powerful movements." Unlike the swimmer, the attack sharks were hydraulically powered, connected by umbilical cords to 5000-psi cylinders.

The attack sharks were not neutrally buoyant—(the 12-foot-long attack hammerhead weighed 1100 pounds, making this nearly impossible)—so they were either attached by wire to a crane and put in the water, or mounted on rigs that could launch the sharks forward at 30 mph. "We can record and play back movement," Conti says. "We laid a track for the tail, another for head movement, one for the teeth and a bunch of other functions. You record at slower speed, then crank up the speed on the whole performance. You can preprogram things that happen in a split second and totally sell the reality of it being a shark."

The end result: Two fierce predators that truly look like sharks and can be shot that way, too. "That's a big development from Jaws," Conti says. "Back then, there was a left shark and a right shark and specialized pieces. Now, there are no limitations."




MEMORIES - Most of us remember this shark. It thrilled audiences back in 1970s but the movie was almost a flop without a sound track, and the unreliability of several left and right models nearly floored Spielberg's career before it began. Thankfully, Steven proved to be more resilient and simply adapted his script in the face of mounting technical and financial issue - the mark of an adaptable director and true producer.





LOFTING - We are treating this feasibility study much the same as we build boats. As with the Jaws team, we start with a scale drawing. The above is one of the drawings that Universal Studio subcontractors worked from. You can see that from tip to tail they were working to 24 feet at the OAL.








The design of the display is just as important as the engineering that goes into the shark. The shark robot is the starting point for the mechanicals of the exhibition, but they should be joined at the hip. Check out the making of our revolving display for a model boat exhibit at the Old Billingsgate halls in London, November 2015. Note how the stand compliments the exhibit and the two work together to put on a good show.



Machanics of a shark bite  Bare frame of a mechanical shark model





The right honourable George Osborne, Conservative member of parliament


OPEN WIDE - If you are going to make a shark replica, you must get the teeth and jaws right and the tilt angle of the head. We wouldn't want to be his dentist. What toothpaste would a shark use do you think? Aquabite or Dentasharp! Sharks don't need toothpaste, instead they have an armory of replacement teeth.



Frame or skeleton - Steel, aluminum, plastic, and wood are all commonly used in building animatronics but each has its best purpose. The relative strength as well as the weight of the material itself should be considered when determining the most appropriate material to use. The cost of the material may also be a concern.


Exterior or skin - Several materials are commonly used in the fabrication of an animatronics figure's exterior. Dependent on the particular circumstances, the best material will be used to produce the most lifelike form. For example, "eyes" and "teeth" are commonly made completely out of acrylic.


Raft for lauching and recovering the Jaws shark robots


LAUNCH PLATFORM - Not exactly elegant, but this is the floating rig or raft from which 'Bruce,' one of the animatronic sharks used to make the Jaws movie was launched and recovered. Obviously they did not care about longevity, using untreated softwood for the frames. We are taking a different approach.


KONTIKI - One of the most famous rafts in history was that used by Thor Heyerdahl for his Kontiki expedition in 1947. Thor was born in 1914 and celebrated his 100th birthday on the 6th of October 2014. The Kontiki raft covered 4,300 nautical miles in 101 days at an average speed of 42.5 miles per day.





Anyone who has a passing interest in the Jaws movie knows that the animatronic shark kept breaking down. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because Steven Spielberg had to add more character development and depth to the script to build tension. Not though a great beginning for marine animatronics.

The film though was a great success, mainly from the concept of the giant shark that is hunting humans. When we do see the shark, it is superbly scary. If the 'great-white' robot had not been effective, even in the brief flashes it’s shown, Jaws wouldn’t be the masterpiece of ocean terror we know and love today. 




BRUCE - was built with plywood formers as you can see, mated to steel frames wherever there is a hinge for movement. We are not sure if any of the Jaws sharks were designed to emulate a real swimming stroke authentically, but if we get to make our shark, we'll be sure to study a real fish and replicate that movement as far as practical.


Nature has already done the design work for you. The first port of call is the cartilaginous backbone, then the muscles. An exoskeleton arrangement with flexible skin over the sections would be just too stiff. You'd be better off with a backbone and a soft polyurethane foam former (or foam latex sandwich), onto which is stretched a flexible skin. Then, if the robot mechanism (muscles) has the same degree of movement as the real fish, it will move and even swim like the real thing. Imagine if you will a scuba diver's flipper. The blade is flexible, a human foot is relatively inflexible. It is the flexibility of the flipper blade (fin) multiplied by the area that allows a scuba diver to swim so fast, converting to-and-fro movement into thrust efficiently. Fish rely on the same principle. Why not try it for yourself in the water.



When Jaws was first set up at Universal, the book by Peter Benchley was still in galleys, and the biggest names attached to it were producers David Brown and Richard Zanuck. The first person onboard to work on Jaws was art director Joe Alves. Once Bob Mattey had confirmed to Joe Alves that the shark could be made, he was given the green light to get to work. 


In January of 1974, Jaws the novel was published and it was a best-seller, somewhat accelerating the film. Hence, Universal Pictures decreed the movie had to be shot that summer, which gave Mattey no time to perfect his mechanical monster-piece.



Superb picture of Bruce the Jaws great white animatronic shark


ENGINEERING - A lot of steel goes into the making of an animatronic showpiece



The animatronic shark in Jaws showed how effective a robotic special effect could be. While the stories of it malfunctioning are legendary, it is completely believable and terrifying onscreen - for the its time. The climax, where the shark and Roy Schieder battle to the death, is utterly dependent on the creature's effectiveness and though it had a relatively stiff or restricted movement, it delivers. While Steven Spielberg hid the shark until the climax, Bob Mattey's monster lives up to the film's build-up by being as scary as we potential audiences were told it would be - up to that point.

Jaws was snubbed for an Oscar for special effects, which went to the bland Hindenburg, as the shark led us into the '80s and early '90s, which became a boom time for animatronic creatures that made millions for their studios - including Spielberg's own Jurassic Park.

Three sharks were built for Jaws at the cost of $150,000 each. They were collectively named Bruce, after Spielberg's lawyer. Roy Arbogast, who was honing his monster making skills as Mattey’s assistant, is quoted as saying that the sharks had a skin of hard polyurethane rubber over a tubular-steel skeleton. As special effects supervisor Kevin Pike recalled in "Just When You Thought It Was Safe," when painting the shark, “We used chopped-up walnuts, sand and dust in the paint to give the skin texture on the surface."




DAILY EXPRESS JUNE 2015 - The more than 20 feet (nearly 7m) long sea beast was filmed by cage divers in Mexico. The sheer scale of the monster fish is jaw dropping when seen next to the divers.

One, who was precariously on top of rather than in the cage, even patted it away after it approached the metal structure teeth bared. 

The Megalodon was a now extinct prehistoric shark that grew to 60 feet or 20 metres and devoured whales, but some believe some specimens may have survived the extinctions and still lurk in the depths of the ocean. The massive shark has actually been seen before and is nicknamed Deep Blue.

The latest sighting of her was in water near Mexico's Guadalupe Island. It is estimated at 50 years old and thought to be one of the biggest in the world today. The shark, who is estimated to be around 50 years old, is believed to be one of the largest great white sharks ever seen.

Shark researcher Mauricio Hoyos Padilla has been able to tag the shark. He posted the new footage on facebook, saying: "I give you the biggest white shark ever seen in front of the cages in Guadalupe Island…Deep Blue.” The shark gets nerve-rackingly close to the divers, but does not appear to show any aggression.


Sketch of the proposed shark robot


ART - It all starts with a drawing of the big fish. From there it is possible to plan out the stages of design, the complexity and the method of display.





A mechatronics engineer unites the principles of mechanics, electronics, and computing to produce a robot that looks and acts like the real subject .....







Three animatronic giants: Camarasaurus, Tarbosaurus and Gallimimus, were the big stars in Age of the Dinosaur exhibition that opened on Good Friday, 22 April 2011. Paul Gallagher, their exhibition Project Manager, is quoted as saying: 'I am really impressed by the skin quality and the realism of the dinosaurs up close,' after inspecting the 1.5 tonnes Tarbosaurus inside the Museum.

The installation is in the Waterhouse Gallery. Age of the Dinosaur will take visitors back millions of year into the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras. It will feature six life-size animatronic dinosaurs, one animatronic bird, and about 75 specimens and specimen replicas with hundreds of insect, plant and tree models.





Developed with palaeontologists, animal behaviour experts, biologists and Museum curators, Age of the Dinosaur is a unique journey through the three periods of the Mesozoic era - the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. Travelling back between 65 million and 250 million years, visitors are immersed in scientifically accurate habitats, witnessing the sights, sounds and smells of the world of the dinosaurs.

Featuring around 50 real specimens, lifelike models, full-scale animatronics and stunning film footage, Age of the Dinosaur paints an evocative picture and tells a compelling scientific story of a vital period in Earth’s history. As visitors enter the exhibition they will see the history of Earth presented on a large-scale timeline covering the Triassic period to the present day. They will then explore Jurassic specimens that reveal the climate, biodiversity and geography of that era.






MOUNTED - Most of our models are fitted to revolving displays where the stand is motorised. This humpback whale model is fixed to a modified camera tripod for static showing. The detailing of this particular artwork is to follow the Refill event in Eastbourne on January the 26th 2019. This model is made of fibreglass over a core of polyurethane foam. The GRP is overlaid with a flexible putty for shaping, surface preparations and painting. Copyright © Jameson Hunter December 24 2018.



An atmospheric underwater area depicts ocean life from the Jurassic period. Animals, fish and ammonites swim past as visitors see specimens from the deep close up. There's also a Cretaceous period watering hole. Strange sounds fill the air and accurate recreations of trees, plants, animals and insects complete the sensory experience. 

In a special discovery area, visitors can learn how our planet looked in the days of the dinosaurs. Here they can interact with exhibits, handle real specimens and experience the Museum’s impressive scientific resources.

In the final part of the exhibition, visitors learn about the extinction of dinosaurs and travel forwards in time to the present day, before being asked to imagine what the world will be like in 65 million years. What kind of animals will roam the Earth then?

And, because no exhibition visit is complete without a browse of the gift shop, they also offer a wide range of dinosaur merchandise at wholesale prices.

The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road
London SW7 5BD

Switchboard: +44 (0)20 7942 5000



Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge



Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge became Patron of the Natural History Museum on 19 April 2013. The Duchess opened the Museum’s Treasures exhibition in the Cadogan Gallery in November 2012.

Museum Director Sir Michael Dixon said: ‘I am delighted that The Duchess chose to be the Patron for the Natural History Museum. It is a testament to how much this place inspires all who visit.’

Since becoming Patron of the Museum in April 2013, the Duchess has visited the Museum privately to find out more about its scientific work, and attended the premiere of David Attenborough’s Natural History Museum Alive 3D in December 2013 with The Duke of Cambridge.




In 2004 a television crew created an animatronic plesiosaur (named “Lucy”) for their reality TV show, Crawley Creatures. Lucy was operated by three divers using motorized pods and made an appearance at two locations filled with tourists and in front of a cruiser near Fort Augustus. Despite Lucy sinking to the bottom of the Loch in an accident, the show was responsible for generating 600 new sightings of the Loch Ness Monster.



Lucy the animatronic plesiosaur was used as hoax Loch Ness Monster



A video surfaced on YouTube in 2007 claiming to be Nessie jumping high into the air. Later, it was found to be part of Sony Pictures viral marketing campaign for the film “The Water Horse” and the YouTube clip was said to contain scenes from the movie, latterly disputed.






It may seem strange to you ....






Great White shark animatronic display


Sea Life Sydney Aquarium (formerly Sydney Aquarium) is a public aquarium located in the city of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It is located on the eastern (city) side of Darling Harbour to the north of the Pyrmont Bridge. It is a full institutional member of the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

The aquarium contains a large variety of Australian aquatic life, displaying more than 700 species comprising more than 13,000 individual fish and other sea and water creatures from most of Australia's water habitats. Additionally, the aquarium features 14 themed zones including a Bay of Rays, Discovery Rockpool, Shark Walk, and the world’s largest Great Barrier Reef display. Along the way, visitors encounter animals unique to each habitat, including two of only six dugongs on display in the world, sharks, stingrays, turtles, platypuses, penguins and tropical fish, among others.


The Sydney Aquarium has distinctly Australian themes and exhibits, which take visitors through the continent's waterways and marine ecosystems. Exhibits cover the rivers of Australia, exploring the Southern and Northern River habitats, as well as the oceans of Australia, through the Southern and Northern Ocean habitats. The complex and fragile nature of Australia's very different and unique aquatic environments is emphasized.

Some of the displays are housed in the main exhibit hall and others are housed in floating oceanariums. The Seal Sanctuary and Open Ocean exhibits comprise two massive oceanariums, amongst the largest in the world, and have underwater tunnels allowing visitors to examine marine life at close quarters. In the Open Ocean Oceanarium, Sydney Aquarium houses a large collection of sharks. Some of the sharks weigh up to 300 kilograms (660 lb) and are over 3 metres (9.8 ft) in length.




MORE ART - These are a few superb drawings that show how sharks stir the imagination in all of us, with the fortunate few being able to capture those thoughts on paper. Even fewer will be able to bring these sketches to life. Film and cartoon companies are the exception.














NHM National History Museum nature plus blogs whats new March 2011

Popular mechanics culture movies shark night 3ds predators blow jaws out of the water

NHM London touring exhibitions age of the dinosaur







LEFT: A heartwarming adventure: pirate whalers V a wounded whale and three kind people out to save the cetacean, with a $Billion dollars riding on the conclusion. RIGHT: A big fish roams a shoreline ripe with tasty morsels until three men get in a boat to hunt it down.
















Flying Fish






Manta Ray







Salmon - fly fishing


Sea Angler







Tuna - Bluefin









This website is Copyright © 2021 Bluebird Marine Systems Limited.   The names Bluebird™, Bluefish™, Miss Ocean™, RiverVax™, SeaNet™, SeaVax™ and the manta ray fish logo are trademarks. All other trademarks are hereby acknowledged.