It's hard to believe that 1.3 tonnes of (mostly) plastic was once enough to have several million filmgoers swearing they'd never swim again. But things were more innocent back in 1975.
When creating his aquatic killer with a taste for teenage limbs, Steven Spielberg didn't have today's assortment of CGI tools at his disposal. And the cinema audiences hadn't yet been spoilt rotten with fancy computer-generated effects.
Animatronics was hardly new then (the idea of mechanised puppets dates back to the Middle Ages), but it was Jaws that helped show its potential in film, despite some well-known hiccups on set (during one test in water one of the shark's hydraulics exploded).
Spielberg went on to use animatronics to great effect in ET (this time cuddly) and later Jurassic Park (back to enormous and terrifying). Films such as Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, along with The Terminator and Aliens also showed what a clever combination of cables, hydraulics and latex could achieve in the hands of the right puppeteer.
But by the late 1990s, blue screens and mightily powerful computers had diminished the need for such complicated (and expensive) creations. And when you could store an entire, controllable creature on a hard-drive rather than requiring space for three physical models (in case the first two fall apart), it does make obvious sense. Whether you liked them or not, films such as Avatar and the Lord of the Rings trilogy would have been logistic and financial impossibilities with computers to generate many of the more elaborate creatures.
Which is why news that a remake of The Wind in the Willows was in the works, using a combination of action and animatronics, has made several ears prick up. The story, an adventure involving four anthropomorphised animals - Mole, Rat, Badger and Toad - will apparently be filmed in New Zealand, with Peter Jackson's visual effects maestros at Weta Workshop making the creatures. And with a US$30 million (Dh110m) budget and Ricky Gervais recently confirmed as voicing the good-natured and home-loving Mole, it's clear that its no small deal.
But why use animatronics when several powerful computers are just waiting to have Mr Toad's dangerous driving around the lush English countryside carefully mapped on their inviting monitors? There are production advantages to using animatronics - unlike CGI, it's not a simulation of reality; things are actually moving in front of the camera. But with The Wind in the Willows, although nothing has been said, a major factor is almost certainly that it just wouldn't feel right if given the full computerised makeover.
Written by Kenneth Grahame and first published in 1908, the classic story has seen several big-screen adaptations already. It was animated in 1949 for the Disney double-header The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad. In 1983, the UK's celebrated Cosgrove Hall studios used stop-motion animation with scale model sets to create a much-loved full-length feature (and followed this up with a 52-episode television series). Then in 1996, Terry Jones did the almost unthinkable by dressing up his former Monty Python colleagues, along with a few other major British names, in furry costumes and setting them loose. Jones himself, as Mr Toad, was given a somewhat greenish complexion. The film was adored because of its silliness and because of its clever Pythonesque humour.
To jump from that to a 21st-century Toad Hall designed on a MacBook could be a leap too far for many and might take away some of the elements that have made the various adaptations of The Wind in the Willows so loveable.
Several years ago, there were sharp intakes of breath from Roald Dahl fans when they heard that Wes Anderson was directing a film based on Fantastic Mr Fox, especially when he brought in the voices of George Clooney and Meryl Streep. But the 2009 result was adored by almost all who saw it, not least because of the gorgeous, stop-motion animation that had been used to give it an innocent, almost childlike charm. Had it been a seamless computer-generated production, it's difficult to imagine the same response.
In the case of The Wind in the Willows, we'll have to wait until 2012 to see the final results, but expect other big names to sign up soon.
Given Gervais's most recognisable television persona as a rather loveable, if slightly arrogant sort, lacking in common sense, perhaps he would be better suited to Mr Toad (which, after all, is one of his nicknames in The Office) than to Mole, but that's another argument.
* Alex Ritman