Survivor Stomper Boots: 25 Years Later [Part Two]



Author: Blake Dumesnil


July 24, 2018



Expanding the SMB Prop Archives: Survivor Stomper Boots & More


When I first began my quest for screen used and production-related items from the film back in the late 1990s, my initial goal was simply to track down what I considered to be my “holy grail” of props – the Stomper Boots – however, as I delved into the true artistry of the film’s production design, props, costumes, etc., I gained a much greater appreciation for the effort that went into designing the look and feel of the film. I realized that what appealed to me about it went far beyond being mesmerized by the boots a kid; it was the concept of seeing some of those famous pixelated 8-bit sprites from the video games translated into the rough around the edges world of the film that I really found fascinating. As I spoke to more and more crew members who worked on the film, I quickly saw past the drama and on-set chaos that the film had become known for and recognized just how much passion and creativity these people had injected into every little facet of that bizarre world. I saw that there was so much more detail and pure imagination that had been poured into what made the film special and if there were any items out there remaining, they were absolutely worth saving.


Unfortunately, early on in the process of tracking down what was left from the production, I found that there was very little that survived in the way of props or costumes, and much of what did turn up was not always in the best condition. It was a bit of a sad reality that so many of the things that us fans relished seeing on screen had either been destroyed, scattered from coast to coast, or were slowly being lost to time as they deteriorated away in a closet somewhere. The reality of it was that movie props are rarely ever meant to stand the test of time; they are more or less disposable and simply meant to survive the production of the film – not live on for 25 more years. But as Super Mario Bros.’ box office annihilator, Jurassic Park, put it so eloquently – life finds a way.



Hero Thwomp Stomper before the Restoration


More Survivor Stompers

In 2013, a couple of years after the foam Stomper Boots turned up, an anonymous individual sent me a message about two other Stomper Boots that he had out in California. Much to my surprise, the photos showed that these two boots were not stunt boots, but rather, a hero and semi-hero boot. The hero boots were used for the close-up shots in the film and were constructed of metal parts, fiberglass, and had electronic lights installed. The semi-hero boots were of an identical construction, minus the electronics. Needless to say, I was ecstatic – up until this point, there had been no trace of any hero boots other than those that I originally saw on display at Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando in 1993 and it was a complete mystery as to what happened to them over time. Yet here was one of them.


Both boots were in quite rough condition with broken or missing pieces, chipped paint, and foam loss, but they were absolutely salvageable. After working out a deal with the owner and upon receiving the boots, I assessed what would be needed to restore each one. The hero boot was in better condition and would take priority in being restored first. In the world of movie prop collecting, there is one gentleman whose studio is world renowned for breathing new life into worn out props and costumes and has gone to astounding lengths to save some of Hollywood’s most iconic treasures – Tom Spina of Tom Spina Designs in Long Island, NY.



Restoration Work on the boot and the Thwomp logo.


I quickly reached out to Tom and sent him some photos of the damage on the boots and got his assessment of what it would take to at least get the hero boot back in original, but complete, restored condition. He found the project to be very manageable and was happy to take on the work. Going into the project, one challenge of the restoration was recreating the Thwomp logo that served as a sort of hood ornament on the front of the boots since the original one was unfortunately missing. However, since the foam rubber boots luckily had that emblem cast into the boots themselves, Tom said he would be able to get a negative casting off of one of them, clean up the mold, and then create a new casting of the design that could then be painted and re-attached to the boot. So, both the hero boot and the best stunt boot I had were sent to New York for Tom to begin the work.


Over the course of about 3 months, Tom and his team of artists professionally rebuilt the missing foam pieces and Thwomp logo, reattached components that had been separated from the boot such as the Bullet Bill chamber on back and the front toe cover, and touched up some of the missing paint in areas. One of the studio’s goals is to not only restore, but to preserve items, therefore when original aspects of the item at hand can be saved, they try to do so. This meant that rather than touching up every blemish or completely repainting the boot, Tom aimed to let it maintain some of its two decades of wear, which I completely agreed with. The studio team found a nice balance in touching up the major areas of paint loss while still keeping the boot’s production-used appearance intact. A very tasteful restoration.


I could not have been happier with the results of the restoration and it was incredibly rewarding seeing such an iconic aspect of the film freshened up to what we remembered it as 25 years ago. Given that the semi-hero boot was in considerably worse condition, I did not send it on for restoration at the same time as the hero boot so the necessary attention could be given to that one, but am happy to report that I have begun discussions with Tom Spina Designs about tackling the semi-hero boot and it should be restored in 2019.



Finished Restoration on the Hero Boot.


Unearthing Other Treasures


Since my last report in 2011, I have been very fortunate to have tracked down some other incredible items from Super Mario. Bros. as I branched out beyond saving just the Stomper Boots that were left. Some of those items include the metal dagger that Lena stabs Yoshi with later on in the film, two of the black waste worker “Snifit” masks that Mario and Luigi disguise themselves with as they sneak back into Dinohattan, as well as a quite interesting production-made mushroom cap that was never seen on camera but is reflective of the smaller mushrooms seen in the film. I was also incredibly happy to add one of Princess Daisy’s dresses to the collection thanks to SMB Archive Staff Steven Applebaum and Ryan Hoss.


In addition, one of the static, rubber stunt Goomba heads of the lizard variety came up for auction and was also added to the collection in early 2018. As I have more recently turned my attention to what happened to the Goomba puppets, I am very thrilled to report that there will soon be a full restoration done on one of the hero animatronic Goomba puppets and it will be brought back to its towering 7’5” glory, potentially in an operational manner as well! There will be more on this story as events unfold over the next few months.


While I continue to diligently search for SMB items from the production, it remains pretty clear that not a lot survived after the film, regrettably. At the time the film was made, there just was not a lot of value placed on collecting movie props as there is these days, therefore the studios didn’t bother saving much to capitalize on. Over the past 10 years, the prop and costume collecting hobby has become a huge business and while a lot of iconic items from other films have come out of the woodwork in recent years, items from Super Mario Bros. remain few and far between. It will never be a film that demands attention like Star Wars or Back to the Future in the prop collecting world, but the people who grew up with the film, whether they liked it or not, won’t deny the iconography of items like the Stomper Boots, Bullet Bills, or Bob-ombs.


As adults who were once the original target audience for the film get older and revisit the film, I do think the appreciation will grow and I will always believe that all of the hard work and artistry those men and women on the crew poured into the film is worth saving. I encourage everyone to enjoy the 25th anniversary of this modern cult classic and re-watch it for the details and charisma that it has. As bizarre as the film is, there is a lot to love about it and it’s hard not to smile at the zany ways elements from the games were incorporated into the film. For all of its flaws, Super Mario Bros. is still an incredibly fun product of the era it was created in.


Here’s hoping more items from the film can be found and saved as time goes on!


-- Blake Dumesnil


Be sure to read Blake's 2011 first article for the 25th anniversary in Part One!



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