Kotobukiya has just released a charming Battle of Endor – The Little Rebels diorama based on the jungle battle scenes from Return of the Jedi, the final installment of the Star Wars saga (see this post for an explanation of why Disney films don’t count).
Although no scale is specified, the diorama is approximately 20cm (8”) tall. It’s very well designed, with an AT-ST serving as the focal point and several stylized Ewok figures performing various battle duties. Credit for the cartoon-style look of the piece goes to the designers at Gurihiru Studios, an illustration team specializing in comics.
The diorama is made of PVC/ABS and requires some minimal assembly. All parts are pre-painted.
This is a well thought out product that gives a refreshing take on a beloved subject. It will no doubt appeal to younger Star Wars fans.
The 1970 television series UFO is considered a cult classic, famous for its superb visual effects and production design. One of the highlights of the series was the Interceptor, a one-man spacecraft designed to stop alien invaders before they reached earth. Three interceptors were housed in an underground hangar at SHADO’s Moonbase facility, ready to leap into action whenever the enemy appeared.
Sixteen 12’s limited edition UFO SHADO Interceptor With Launch Crater Display captures the look of the Interceptor as it appears on the launch pad ready for lift-off. It’s a relief to see that they finished this diecast miniature in white (as it appears on the show) rather than the metallic green featured on the decades-old Dinky Toys version. Sixteen 12’s rendition of the Interceptor appears to have accurate proportions, and they got both the missile and cockpit canopy right (unlike the Dinky Toys and Bandai kit versions). The launch pad is surrounded by the walls of a protective crater and a photo of Moonbase is provided as a backdrop.
Ambitious modellers may wish to go a step further and build a lift mechanism to raise and lower the launch pad. Part of the underground hangar could be built up as well.
The Interceptor is one of the great sci-fi spacecraft designs of all time. It began as a sketch by Mike Trim that was tweaked and finalized by UFO effects director Derek Meddings. The craft has a compact and efficient layout, with wide track landing skids for good stability, rocket engines for forward and vertical flight, and one large atomic missile on the nose. The design is not only functional, but attractive: a medley of soft, flowing curves that brings to mind the sensuous look of a Ferrari coupe.
The Interceptor has been called impractical (by Meddings himself) since it carries only one missile. However, there are three short barrels on the fuselage just in front of the cockpit that could be additional weapons. One illustrator suggested that these are ‘high velocity machine guns’ in a cutaway drawing of the Interceptor from a 1973 publication called Countdown For TV Action. In addition, a Century 21 Tech Talk on the Interceptor (currently on YouTube) describes a rarely used ‘autocannon’ which can be used to pursue damaged UFOs. Here is a screenshot from the video:
This is pure speculation since no weapons other than the missile were used during the course of the series. At any rate, short range weapons would be of little use. Being much slower than the alien ships, the Interceptors would have no hope of engaging them in a dogfight and bringing guns to bear at close range. A guided missile, launched from a distance under computer control, is the only practical way to stop the invaders.
Fans of UFO might want to check out SHADO Yards, a diorama that features two Interceptors. This work is the subject of a detailed case study inDiorama Design. SHADO Yards is a conjectural design that speculates as to how the Interceptors were assembled before being delivered to the moon for front line service.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Fresh Retro is releasing a 1:24 diorama kit which is the latest in their Scene In Box product line. It’s described as a fortress but looks more like a high tech factory or military base.
With a footprint of 375x250mm and a height of 449mm, this kit will provide a sufficiently large backdrop for several 1:24 figures plus a vehicle or two. The scale is perfect for injection molded civilian vehicles, which are abundantly available in 1:24 and 1:25. It’s unclear if the kit can be assembled in multiple variations, but customizing it should be fairly straightforward either way.
It’s evident that a great deal of design work went into the kit—in fact it could pass for a set from a sci-fi film. The walls are comprised of dark square panels combining a cross graphic with an industrial grid, and railings are rendered in contrasting blue. With three levels in total, there are numerous possibilities for telling the story of your choice. I discussed the benefits of creating topographical variety in Diorama Design.
Kits like this are ideal for the diorama builder who doesn’t have the time or inclination to create a backdrop from scratch. The well thought out design makes this kit a great starting point for the artist who wants to concentrate on creating the figures that will populate the scene.
This kit is one of a series that will be available from Hobbylink Japan in May.
Part of the appeal of designing a diorama is the ability to arrange elements so they suit the scene you want to portray. This isn’t an issue if you’re building from scratch, but if you’re looking for a kit, most have a fixed layout which makes customization difficult. Enter Phoenix Model, who offer a modular garage diorama product line that provides design flexibility.
These kits can be assembled in various combinations to create a single, double or triple wall diorama. The choice of 1:35 scale means that if your interests lean towards military subjects, you’ll have no shortage of vehicles and figures with which to populate the scene. Civilian vehicles will be more difficult to find; you may have to look for something in diecast in 1:32 scale.
The TV series Lost In Space was a staple of 1960s sci-fi. Many of us grew up watching the adventures of the Robinson family on black and white television sets that buzzed and flickered when you turned them on. There was no remote control, just a couple of dials on the front of the set to select channels and adjust the volume. Sometimes you had to fiddle with the antenna (‘rabbit ears’) to get a good signal.
Moebius Models offers two dioramas that capture the experience of what it was like watching Lost In Space half a century ago. One diorama features the Jupiter 2, that iconic UFO-inspired spacecraft which I covered in a previous post, and the other showcases their electronic helpmate, who was simply known as Robot.
The dioramas won’t take up a lot of space, as each measures only about 10cm (4”) across. The old fashioned TV set has been cleverly repurposed to serve as a display cabinet for the subjects. On the front of each set is the cover of a TV Guide, the weekly magazine that contained the schedules of our favourite programs.
The dioramas were released as part of a 50th Anniversary Lost In Space commemorative offering. They’re available at monstersinmotion.com.
Hong Kong based Suyata International Co. has created a unique, stylized diorama kit featuring the Titanic, which tragically sank on its maiden voyage in 1912.
The scene depicts the Titanic leaving port, capturing the mirth and optimism of the occasion with a cute, cartoon-like depiction of the ship and harbour. The architecture of the port buildings takes inspiration from the Art Deco style, with strong geometric shapes rendered in soft pastel colours. Suyata is to be commended for breaking out of the straightjacket of realistic model kits. Their alternative interpretation of this famous subject is a positive step towards the acceptance of the diorama as an art form—an ongoing debate which I discussed in a previous post.
Suyata’s kit includes a waterline Titanic model measuring 15cm (6”) long along with port buildings and a somewhat incongruous steampunk style dirigible. The modeller will have to add their own sea surface to complete the diorama.