Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Return to Oz: The Gump

"I should've quit when I was just a head."
Loosing one's head was a concern for pretty much everybody in the 1985 film Return to Oz.  The Gump, however, had to get by with only a head. Nevertheless, the stuffed hunting trophy, brought to life by a sprinkling of magic powder, was one of the most charming and delightful characters in the movie. 

Click on all of the pictures to make them huge!
Magic powders can only accomplish so much, of course.  In actuality a team of puppeteers were required to coordinate the Gump's moves through a system of long cables.  I believe the Gump in these photos to be a second version which was radio controlled for shots where the cables needed to be out of sight.  Packaged in the crate alongside the Gump was a Futaba (model airplane) radio transmitter  with toggle switches for controlling his movements.  Rechargeable batteries went into both the transmitter and inside the Gump's head.

The Gump's horns were hollow cast resin and beautifully detailed, just like everything else about him. 

Those big baby blues give him a sweet, soft look.  I like how the Gump has a slightly worn, musty appearance just like an old taxidermied animal.

Open up and say "AAHHZZ."
A pliable foam rubber skin was fitted over the Gump's mechanized fiberglass underskull. His mouth and lips were very expressive when speaking. Incidentally, the Gump's deep voice was provided by Lyle Conway who was in charge of the animatronic design for the film.

Some of these photos are a little intense!  Beautiful work, though.

All this leaves one to ponder what a whole living Gump might look like.  It's easy to imagine a four-legged beast, but no one can say. Would he have toes like a camel?  Hooves like an elk?  Even Baum in his original stories (and John Neil's illustrations) offer no answer.

Only one rare example of Oz merchandise—a hand puppet— has ever been produced that attempted to solve the age-old mystery of the Gump's body:

Yeah, I'm not convinced either.

Part One: Jack PumpkinheadPart Two: Tin WoodmanPart Four: Tik-Tok


Sweetie Suz said...

Thank you thank you thank you for these awesome Return to Oz blogs! This has to be my favorite movie of my childhood. I was lucky enough to also own a recording of a Wizard of Oz special which featured some great interviews by the cast and crew of RTO as well. Wish I knew where I could get my hands on that now. When I'm in an antiques store and I spot something green i cant help but want to place my hands on the item and say "Oz!!" ;)

Britni Brault said...

Thank you for the post, Kevin.

Satweavers said...

A remarkable film. The claymation of that rock creature in this film was amazing, too.

Snow White Archive said...

Amazing detail. The eyes and teeth look real to me.