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.
Phoenix dioramas can be found at Amazon Japan and HobbyLink Japan.
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.
Italeri recently announced a new 1:72 scale diorama kit depicting the momentous event in WWII when Soviet forces overran the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany in the spring of 1945. The taking of this landmark building symbolized the defeat of Germany by Allied forces at the end of the war, as the building was the seat of the Reich parliament.
Italeri’s kit includes the building itself in laser cut MDF, along with decals, 32 German infantry figures, 32 Soviet infantry figures, a T-34/85 tank, and an 8.8cm Flak 37 with 7 crew figures. The generous supply of supporting accessories will allow the modeller to create a truly epic scene of this famous battle.
Battle for the Reichstag is one of many historical diorama kits offered by Italeri in its Battle Sets product line. I covered their gladiatorial combat set in a previous post.
The kit is due in the first quarter of 2021.
Yamashita Hobby is a manufacturer of warship kits focusing on 1:700 Japanese WWII subjects. The company has just announced a new product for September 2020 release which will be of interest to naval modellers.
The ‘3D Sea Surface Diorama Board’ is a ready-made one piece base designed to work with a 1:700 warship. The appeal of this product lies in the amount of time it can save the diorama artist in creating a realistic ocean surface for a naval diorama.
The most popular technique for creating an ocean surface is with a solid, sculptable material which is built up on a flat support and then painted the appropriate shade of blue. The problem with this approach is that it fails to capture the translucent quality of water.
The more ambitious modeller will use two-part casting resins to achieve a more realistic effect. Dye can be added to the resin to create a very nice translucent look. This approach is time consuming as it involves building up the surface gradually with multiple layers, as resin can crack if poured on too thick. I used several layers of resin to create the river surface for Drug Runners.
Yamashita’s new base will provide a realistic translucent ocean surface right out of the box, saving the modeller a ton of time in creating an attractive naval diorama. Details at HobbyLink Japan.
Italeri are set to release a 1:72 diorama of a Roman era gladiatoral arena, complete with figures. The product is scheduled for a September 2020 release and is the latest in a long line of 1:72 battle sets from various historical periods offered by Italeri.
For anyone who enjoys Roman epics like Ben-Hur, Quo Vadis, Spartacus and Gladiator, this diorama is sure to please. Components include a circular stadium made with laser cut MDF, an arena fence, spectator seats, animal cages, two chariots, and dozens of injection plastic figures. The arena is approximately 43cm in diameter when assembled.
More ambitious modellers could use the arena as a starting point for a broader scene with additional elements. The possibilities are endless.
My new book, Forced Perspective Dioramas, has just been reviewed by Indies Today, a leading editorial reviewer of fiction and non-fiction books. The book received a four star rating. The review is reproduced here:
Whether in a museum or any other setting, detailed dioramas grab the attention of all who see them. It is fascinating to examine a well-conceived scene in miniature! In this book, Ivar Kangur details a practice commonly used in artwork but far less frequently in dioramas: forced perspective. By means of using forced perspective techniques, a diorama creator can give depth and perspective to their handiwork.
Despite being a relatively short work, all necessary considerations are provided for creating realistic depth in the models, from determining the proper scale when composing the subjects to the proper use of lighting. In the first half of the book, a number of examples are given of how forced perspective is used to enhance and add realism to artwork, architecture, photography and film. Much of the second half of the book consists of forced perspective diorama examples, including photographs that show the components and final product. These examples provide a detailed and visual explanation of the process that makes even a novice like myself feel like they could craft a competition-worthy diorama.
Ivar Kangur provides insightful suggestions and shares a great deal of passion and expertise in diorama design. Forced Perspective Dioramas is perfect for anyone looking to add a wow-factor to their next diorama.
A subject as out of the ordinary as forced perspective dioramas can be challenging for readers who aren’t familiar with this niche art form to appreciate. This makes it especially gratifying to receive such positive feedback. My thanks to R.C. Gibson and Indies Today.