Slated for a spring 2022 release, The Batman puts Robert Pattinson in the lead role under the direction of Matt Reeves. A newly redesigned Batmobile features prominently in the trailers that are now appearing for the film. The design is a complete departure from recent incarnations of the famous vehicle. It’s a hi-tech muscle car whose closest cinematic relative is the Pursuit Special from Mad Max. It also looks a bit like a first generation Chevrolet Camaro on steroids. From the flared fenders and sharply creased bodywork to the massive wheels and exposed engine bay, the design is unabashedly masculine.
In the engine bay sits a motor that looks like a regular piston engine. Although in keeping with the time-honoured Batmobile tradition, flames shoot out the back, which usually means a turbine. Turbine engines have long been a staple of Batmobile technology, going back as far as the 1960s TV series Batmobile designed by George Barris. Car manufacturers actually experimented with turbine engines back then but none of the prototypes made it into mass production.
The new Batmobile has an unrefined appearance reminiscent of a kit car. The body panels fit together like they were assembled in a garage rather than a factory, which means the car gets full marks for realism. After all, this vehicle is supposed to be something that Bruce Wayne made himself.
While most previous Batmobiles maintained a defensive posture on the streets, this one is ready to go on the offensive. The massive front bumper is designed for the express purpose of ramming vehicles when giving chase, as we see in the trailer. We’ll have to wait for the movie to come out to see what other gadgets are lurking under the car’s matte black bodywork.
There appears to be a hood scoop, although given that the car has a mid-engine layout, this element presumably serves some other function. There’s a mysterious red glow emanating from the hood—a weapon of some kind?
The new Batmobile is a refreshing interpretation of the classic comic strip vehicle that Dark Knight fans have always considered part and parcel of the character. The retro, form-follows-function look of the new design appeals to everyone’s inner mechanic and gives a tip of the hat to the muscle cars of the 1970s. Let’s hope the Batmobile gets plenty of screen time in the new film, and that at least one model kit manufacturer will have the marketing savvy to release an accurate miniature of the car.
Clocking in at over four hours in its uncut form, the 1963 epic Cleopatra featured an all star cast headed by Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison. The lavish production spared no expense in bringing the ancient worlds of Rome and Alexandria to life on the big screen. And what’s even better is that this film featured not just one diorama, but two.
About three hours into the film, Marc Antony prepares to engage Octavian’s forces at Actium, on the western coast of Greece. The first diorama we see on Cleopatra’s flagship captures the topography of Actium and the positions of the opposing fleets.
Antony has the option to abandon his ships, which are now blockaded by Octavian’s larger navy, and fight Octavian on land. However, he decides to confront Octavian’s forces at sea. He erupts in anger when his generals question his decision to send ground troops into a naval engagement they aren’t trained for.
As the battle begins, every step of the engagement is duplicated in miniature on a second diorama. On her flagship, Cleopatra watches in horror as the miniature Egyptian ships positioned on the diorama are set ablaze, mirroring the fate of their full size counterparts at sea. This is one of the few movies in which a diorama is used to illustrate the main events taking place, retelling the story in miniature.
Unlike many Hollywood epics, this one is based on actual events. The Battle of Actium is well documented and represents the pivotal point in history when Rome changed from a republic to an empire.
Some of the details have been altered for dramatic effect, but the film captures the essence of the events which took place. And for diorama aficionados, the icing on the cake is the inclusion of two dioramas which are much more than set dressing. These miniatures help draw us into the conflict that serves as the climax of this fascinating story.
Iron Studios has released a 1:10 scale replica of the Batmobile, along with a Batman figure and base, from the movie Batman (1989). This product is notable not only for its sheer size, but for its polystone construction. Polystone is a compound made of polyurethane resin mixed with powdered stone. Attributes like hefty weight, a porcelain smooth finish, and the ability to capture fine detail make the material a good choice for cast sculptures.
The Batmobile, Batman figure and base come fully assembled and painted. The Batmobile is advertised as having removable machine guns. It’s not known if the wheels turn. The Batman figure comes in a standing pose and isn’t articulated, so those wishing to position the figure in the driver’s seat will have to do some cutting and filling.
Lighting the car would make a worthwhile project. The large scale makes it practical to add dashboard lights, although it’s not known how much of the vehicle is hollow, so there may be lots of drilling involved. If you’re curious to see what a Batmobile miniature looks like with lighting added, check out Batmobile Winterscape and Contemplating Gotham. Comprehensive case studies of these dioramas are featured in Diorama Design and Forced Perspective Dioramas.
Interpretations of the Batmobile over the years have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, and many are forgotten soon after they appear. The fact that replicas of this particular version are still being released three decades after Batman’s debut proves that it is one of the most enduring Batmobile designs ever. Conceptual illustrator Julian Caldow, who worked with director Tim Burton on the film, created the original design. It received additional nips and tucks from production designer Anton Furst before the final version was reached.
At 70cm (27.5”) in length, this replica is sure to be an impressive addition to any bookshelf. If it had been released back in 1989, it would probably have been offered as a glue-together kit rather than a finished replica. Ready to display miniatures have been stealing market share from styrene kits for many years, reflecting the dwindling number of customers who enjoy crafting things with their own two hands—but that’s another story.
Now all we need is a 1:10 scale Vicki Vale, and we’d have all the ingredients for a great diorama!
Creative Dioramas turns six today. This blog is my small contribution to keeping the creative spirit alive. If you’re a regular reader, you probably realize that the pursuit of artistic endeavours is becoming increasingly rare in today’s world. The many distractions of modern life seem to fragment our energies, discouraging us from undertaking projects that demand substantial time and effort. Yet for those of us with the will and the self discipline to pursue our creative goals, the rewards can be great.
Much has been written about the connection between creativity and independence. To create something original requires independent thought. So it comes as no surprise that many artists are mavericks who like to do their own thing and aren’t concerned about how others view them.
If you’re in this group, the upheaval of normal life around the globe during the past year and a half has probably affected you more than most. Stay true to what you believe, feed your creative spirit, and keep creating.
Macau-based Inno Models specializes in diecast automotive subjects in scales ranging from 1:18 to 1:64. Launching in October is their new LBWK Auto Salon Diorama in 1:64 scale.
Featuring a chrome plated Porsche 997 and three figures, the design of the product is well thought out. The trade show booth scaffolding commonly seen at auto shows forms the perimeter of the diorama. There’s one solid wall acting as a backdrop and the sides are left open. Several accessories are included, such as wheel racks, tables, audio speakers mounted on stands, various signs, and a DJ booth.
Although no lighting appears to be included, the scaffolding would make it easy for the modeller to add a few LED lights to illuminate the scene. Model railroad spotlights could be placed on the front scaffold to highlight the car and figures and give the diorama more visual punch. For tips on how to light your diorama, check out Forced Perspective Dioramas in paperback on Amazon and in e-book format on Apple Books.
Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is a compelling novel about the politics of creativity. It follows the tumultuous career of a visionary architect who refuses to compromise the integrity of his work under any circumstances. Rand exults the nobility of the independent thinker over the conformist mentality of the collective.
The 1949 film adaptation of the novel, starring Gary Cooper as architect Howard Roark, successfully condenses the story into a feature length format. The latter half of the film concerns a housing development designed by Roark (but credited to architect Peter Keating), which falls victim to creative meddling by the developers. A diorama of the development provides the visual touchstone for a tense scene between Keating and the developers.
The diorama showcases the purity of Roark’s original design. It’s true to the modernist aesthetic, free of ornament and ostentation. Like most architectural models, it appears to be constructed of card stock and foam. The diorama is of considerable size, and the camera pans luxuriantly over it as the scene plays out. It also serves as a reference point for later developments in the film—we see that the finished project doesn’t live up to the original design.
The Fountainhead takes its place alongside other films featuring architectural models that I’ve discussed: The Cooler, Die Hard, Darkman, and Quo Vadis. Diorama artists can take inspiration from these supersized works, which show what can be done with a generous budget.
The 1970s TV series Space: 1999 is fondly remembered for its outstanding special effects, which were well ahead of its time. One of the iconic visuals of the show was the launch pad used by Moonbase Alpha’s Eagle transporters. (The venerable Eagle is one of the great sci-fi spacecraft designs of all time, and the subject of a diorama I discussed here.)
Sixteen 12, which specializes in limited edition replicas of Gerry Anderson subjects, has announced that pre-orders for their new electronic Space: 1999 launch pad are now open. The company decided to scale the launch pad for a 13cm (5”) Eagle to keep it down to a practical size. This necessitated launching an entire line of compatibly scaled Eagles, which are available separately. The vast majority of Eagle replicas have averaged 30cm (12”) in length over the years, but at this size, the launch pad would be impractically large. The pad features working landing lights as well as a motorized extending boarding tube, and comes with an Eagle and moonbuggy. It would make a great start to an Eagle diorama.
The launch pad is a striking design, featuring a bold orange cross centered on a circular platform. The perimeter of the cross is punctuated by landing lights. The pad is an elevator. It descends to Moonbase Alpha’s underground hangar, where the Eagles are kept. An Eagle is placed on the pad using a crane. The pad then rises to the surface, and crew members board the Eagle using a telescoping boarding tube.
The few episodes of Space: 1999 where we see the Eagle hangar reveal an interesting anomaly. Keen eyed viewers may have noticed that exterior moon surface shots show most of the orange part of the pad (three legs of the cross) emerging from the hangar, but interior hangar shots show only a rectangular section of the pad in motion. So on its way from the hangar to the surface, the pad mysteriously changes from a rectangle to a cross. This is one of the biggest continuity errors of the show, leaving us to wonder how it escaped the watchful eye of special effects director Brian Johnson.
Putting this minor quibble aside, the launch pad remains one of the visual trademarks of Space: 1999. Thanks to Sixteen 12, fans of the show are finally able to get an accurate replica of the pad that won’t take up too much space on the bookshelf.
One of the defining characteristics of an aircraft carrier is that it’s massively huge. So it’s fitting that a miniature version of something so massive would also be suitably big. This 1:72 scale model of the USS Iwo Jima, on display at the Estonian Aviation Museum just outside Tartu, doesn’t disappoint when it comes to size.
Custom built by Scale Reproductions of Foley, Alabama, USA, this miniature is about three and a half meters (12’) in length. It appears to be made of multiple materials, including wood and various plastics. The chosen scale allows the use of off the shelf kits for the aircraft showcased on the flight deck. An aircraft carrier is of course only as good as the planes it carries. The Iwo Jima initially had a complement of 30 helicopters and eight AV-8B Harrier II VTOL jets.
The Harrier was ideally suited to carrier operations, thanks to its ability to take off and land vertically. Its prowess was demonstrated during the Falklands War of 1982, where it established air superiority over the numerically superior opposition. The Harrier is the subject of a diorama I discussed here. Although the F-35B which replaced the Harrier has vertical flight capability, it’s rarely used. The main engine swivels and several doors swing open on the top and bottom of the aircraft before vertical flight is undertaken, so a lift fan (separate from the main engine) can be operated. The whole procedure seems cumbersome and awkward. The Harrier used a single engine with four swivel nozzles for both conventional and vertical flight, which was a much more elegant (and practical) solution.
This is the second vessel operated by the US Navy to bear the Iwo Jima name. It’s a Wasp Class amphibious assault ship. The Iwo Jima doesn’t feature the ‘ski jump’ take-off ramp featured on some newer carriers, which allows aircraft to become airborne with a shorter take-off roll. It has the look of a classic aircraft carrier with a completely flat deck and is based on the same general design as WWII era carriers. Commissioned in 2001, the ship is still in service today.
Until now, this blog has focused on dioramas populated with model kit miniatures. In addition, the completed works that have been showcased are all three-dimensional.
Somewhere between the two-dimensional world of paintings and the three-dimensional world of dioramas lies a hybrid known as the relief sculpture. The above photo of an ancient Egyptian relief shows how a sense of depth can be achieved by carving the subject so it protrudes slightly from the background. Relief sculptures are usually sculpted from a single piece of stone.
A variant of the relief sculpture, which I call 2.5D, achieves the same effect but uses separate materials for the subject and background. I chose the name 2.5D because this type of work has more depth than a 2D painting but less than a 3D diorama. Rather than incorporating model kits, everything must be made from scratch. The benefit of 2.5D is that a sense of depth is achieved with a minimum of space, so the finished piece can be hung on the wall like a painting.
In my book Forced Perspective Dioramas, I talk about how forcing perspective allows the artist to represent greater distances in miniature without making the diorama impractically large. 2.5D represents another approach to tackling this challenge.
If you’re wondering what a 2.5D work looks like, stay tuned. The next post will feature one. It’s called Zero.
Model railway giant Bachmann is reboxing Aoshima’s Thunderbirds kits (based on the original 60s TV series) in Europe under the Adventures in Plastic name. One of the highlights is a transparent Thunderbird 2 in 1:350 scale, which works out to a kit measuring 21.5cm (8.5”) in length.
Thunderbird 2, designed by special effects guru Derek Meddings, was the heavy duty VTOL transporter which ferried vital equipment to the disaster scene in the Thunderbirds world. The interchangeable pods carried amidships were the beetle-shaped aircraft’s defining feature, making it the most versatile of all the Thunderbirds.
The transparent moulding gives us a good look at the inner layout of the aircraft. The interior appears to be well done, with a full cockpit section and detailed engines. The kit includes a selection of ground-based pod vehicles seen in the original show, moulded in multiple colours.
The publicity photos of the assembled kit are impressive. The transparent fuselage breaks with the familiar green skin we’ve grown accustomed to and gives the ship a fresh look—part aircraft and part Svarovski crystal.
The Thunderbirds franchise got a new start in 2015 when it was rebooted as Thunderbirds Are Go. The vehicle designs were refreshed and CGI was substituted for the puppets used in the original series. The redesigned Thunderbird 2 is the subject of one of the case studies in my book Forced Perspective Dioramas.