The sci-fi diorama and the road to artistic freedom

One of the great things about the science fiction diorama is the “fiction” part. This means that unlike the historical diorama artist, you’re less constrained by the bounds of realism and authenticity. You don’t have to worry about custom mixing the correct shade of PRU blue for a WWII reconnaissance Mosquito, or wondering how dirty a Panther tank would get after a 1944 tour in North Africa. (I’ve asked myself both these questions.)

When you set your science fiction diorama on another planet, no-one can accuse you of a lack of realism, because no-one has actually seen the planet. Freed from the constraints of verisimilitude, you can set your sci-fi figure/car/spaceship in a field of purple grass and trees that have three trunks and fuchsia coloured bark, if that’s what you want to do. You’re limited only by your imagination. The only extraterrestrial setting that wouldn’t afford you this creative freedom is the moon (in the unlikely event that the person giving the critique is one of the gentlemen pictured above). Barring this, your diorama can be a blank slate.

When designing my Eagle Crash diorama, I planned to set the scene on an earth-type planet. But rather than dressing the scene with oaks, conifers or other earth-type trees, I decided to create my own. Fans of Space: 1999 will recall that after the moon was torn out of earth’s orbit, the denizens of Moonbase Alpha never saw earth again. But they visited many interesting planets, some of which looked like earth and some of which didn’t. So I could dress my diorama however I wanted and still be true to the premise of the show.

This was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at creating a tree from scratch, using the “wound wire” method described in Advanced Terrain Modelling by Richard Windrow. What I ended up with looked like a tree, but not one that you’d find anywhere on earth. And it didn’t matter, because on this particular planet where the Eagle had crash landed, the trees just happen to look exactly like the one I made by winding wire together. And said tree is now an integral part of the finished scene, with no further explanation necessary.

I revisited the Eagle Crash diorama a few years later and added a third ship to the scene. I call it the Eagle Gunship, and in case you’re wondering, it didn’t appear in any episodes of Space: 1999. But I enjoy kitbashing models and had some extra Eagle parts in the spares box, so I decided to create my own variant of the Eagle. And again, I was able to do this because of the “fiction” in science fiction.

-Ivar

Lose yourself in your art

Many artists relish the experience of losing themselves in their art. Think of the guitarist who closes his eyes during a solo, immersed in his music, or the painter who talks to his painting (yes, I’ve met painters who do this). In the act of creating art, the artist temporarily enters another world. In this world, the four walls of the studio disappear, and reality fades away.

The connection the artist establishes with his work is vital. The stronger this connection, the more successfully the artist’s talent and energy can be transferred to his work. So losing yourself in your work is a good thing. It means you’ve optimized the connection.

The success with which the artist can immerse himself in this other world varies from artist to artist. Experience is a big part of it. A novice musician at his first piano recital will be more conscious of his teacher’s presence in the front row than the nuances of the piece he is performing. At the other extreme, a master performer like Keith Jarrett will lose himself completely in his performance, to the point that he’s unaware of his humming and squealing as he plays. (This has been an endless source of consternation to the recording engineers at Jarrett’s studio sessions, but most of his fans don’t seem to mind.)

The diorama artist has it even better than the musician or painter, because he not only loses himself in another world temporarily as he creates his art, but actually creates a permanent fictional world as the end result. Novelists and filmmakers (documentary filmmakers excepted) also create permanent fictional worlds. We can add poets to this small and exclusive club if we include epic poems like Beowulf.

For those of us who enjoy a respite from modern day civilization (which is frequently less than civil), there’s something intensely satisfying about the ability to create a fictional world of your own design. Even one that fits on a bookshelf.

-Ivar

Is a diorama ever completely finished (and should it be)?

If you ever went to Boy Scouts as a kid, you may have heard the maxim that a Boy Scout always finishes what he starts. This seems like sound advice for young minds. It encourages the development of persistence, focus, and personal discipline. But like most well intentioned advice, it shouldn’t always be taken too literally.

Take dioramas for instance. Unlike other works of art which are formally completed at a point in time, dioramas invite constant tinkering. As your skills develop, you’ll be tempted to make improvements to dioramas you finished long ago (or thought you did). This is appealing for a couple of reasons, one being that reworking an existing diorama is a more manageable project than starting a new one, and the other being that it doesn’t require you to free up more shelf space.

Dioramas also require occasional repairs. If you move frequently, you may find that your diorama doesn’t travel well. It may not get along well with pets either (don’t let your cat see that realistic field grass you just bought for your latest tank battle diorama—he’s likely to tear it up as soon as you’ve glued it down, adding a new slant to the term “battle damage”). Repairs may not disqualify a diorama from being “finished,” but they can subtly alter it. This is something other visual artists don’t have to worry about too much. Photographers, for example, don’t generally bother trying to fix a print which has become dog eared or has had coffee spilled on it. They just run off another print.

Dioramas can also be altered by adding new content. Some of my earlier dioramas were visually quite sparse, featuring one or two vehicles surrounded by lots of unused real estate. A few of those dioramas have since benefitted from the addition of an additional vehicle or figure.

Artists often struggle with how much content to put into their diorama. In the world of design, unused space around the main subject is called negative space. Although negative space is not intrinsically undesirable, it has to be carefully balanced with—you guessed it—positive space. This principle holds true in most forms of visual art. There has to be balance.

Dioramas tend to look empty if they have too much negative space. Of course, going to the other extreme and cramming in too much content is no better. I’ve noticed at model shows that “cramming” is quite prevalent among novice diorama artists. They seem to be nervous about having any empty space in their diorama, so they fill it up with something, like a baker spreading chocolate chips over cookie dough. One drawback of cramming is that your main subject tends to be drowned out by everything else. It also leads to weak composition. And finally, if there is too much going on, no-one will be able to discern the story you’re trying to tell.

So back to the original question. Is a diorama ever finished? I would answer this with a resounding “sometimes.” About half of my dioramas remain as they were the day I finished them. But others have been modified in some way over the years, some more than once. My earlier dioramas are the ones I’ve modified the most. They weren’t as carefully planned, since I used to go from one sketch straight to the construction phase.

My more recent dioramas have benefitted from better pre-planning. I sketch, assess, tweak, and sketch some more, until I’m convinced I’ve arrived at the best possible composition. Only after several sketches do I begin construction. This approach means that fewer design changes are needed after construction has started. And I prefer it because it’s a lot cheaper and easier to make changes in two dimensions than three.

So although it’s great advice to finish what you start, it also makes a lot of sense to treat your dioramas as perpetual works in progress. The occasional tweak or embellishment keeps them current, reflecting your evolution as an artist, and ensures that you’ll continue to consider them as valuable pieces in your collection.

-Ivar

The Force Awakens is a Disney movie, not a Star Wars movie (no spoilers)

The Force Awakens opened on December 18. I’ve discussed Star Wars modelling previously in this post: http://creativedioramas.com/2015/10/lag-time-or-why-it-takes-so-long-for-some-models-to-be-released/. So now seems like a good time to revisit the silver screen’s most famous sci-fi franchise. Predictably, mainstream media critics are tripping over themselves to praise the movie. It’s hard to find a negative review in a printed publication.

There’s a small but honest minority who point out that the movie is a tepid rehash of Episode 4: A New Hope. To make the film politically correct, Disney enlisted J.J. Abrams (the same director who turned Kahn into a white guy in the last Star Trek movie) to rewrite the Luke Skywalker character as a girl. And the stormtroopers, who were supposed to be clones of Jango Fett, have mysteriously changed nationalities and genders as well.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Hollyweird has been applying the same revisioning formula to movies for several decades. It’s all part of the media’s cultural brainwashing agenda, which Disney supports and enables. This organization bears no resemblance to the Disney of old which delighted children with harmless fairy tales. Disney now provides impressionable young minds with role models like Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus, who shed their squeaky clean child star personas and go off the rails with alarming regularity. You can set your watch by it.

Since J.J. Abrams knows he’ll never approach the artistic level of a Gene Roddenberry or George Lucas, he doesn’t attempt to create original characters on his own. Rather, he confines himself to copying and/or rewriting existing characters, destroying any continuity established in previous films. This is euphemistically called “rebooting the franchise” but in reality it’s a joke on movie fans and a testament to the creative bankruptcy of film studios.

Some fans blame George Lucas, accusing him of selling out and abandoning Star Wars. Sell it he did, for the reported sum of $US 4.05 billion. But no-one can call Lucas greedy, given that he’s planning to devote a large chunk of the proceeds to charity.

What many don’t realize is that Star Wars would have met the same fate even if Lucas had stayed at the helm. He’s told reporters that he plans to divert his attention away from making movies for 12 year old boys, and redirect it towards making movies for 12 year old girls. Not surprising for a dad who now has two daughters.

Rather than being angry or bitter about what’s happened to Star Wars, let’s remind ourselves that all things are temporary—movie franchises included. George Lucas created a modern myth—a sci-fi epic that sparked our imaginations and stood the test of time. We should thank him for his great contribution to science fiction film.

I won’t be going to see The Force Awakens. It’s a Disney movie, not a Star Wars movie. But I’ll continue to enjoy all six episodes of the Star Wars saga. I watch them every Christmas—a time when we reflect on the things we loved as children—and this year will be no exception.

-Ivar

Do dioramas need figures?

There’s a generally accepted “rule” that a diorama must contain figures to qualify as such. If, for example, your A6M2 Zero is shown parked on a runway strip, along with a generous assortment of palm trees, sandbags, oil drums and spare parts, it is not considered a diorama, but merely a “base” for your Zero model. As soon as you add a couple of figures (let’s say a pilot talking to his mechanic), it is magically lifted to the status of a diorama.

The rationale for this dictum is that a diorama should tell a story, or at least depict an event. Thus, figures are needed.

I find this argument somewhat short-sighted. It’s quite possible to tell a story without figures. Consider the example of a 1:200 scale scene of a large aircraft (let’s say a B2 bomber) crash landing in a forest. Due to the scale, no pilot or crew would be visible through the cockpit canopy. And the forest would presumably be uninhabited, unless you count small animals (which would be difficult to model in 1:200 scale). This is a much more dramatic event than a pilot talking to his mechanic. Yet some would say the crash landing scene is not a diorama because it lacks figures.

There are many examples of great works of art which don’t depict people, yet still tell a compelling story. The science fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey is famous for the “machine ballet” which opens the second act of the film. Director Stanley Kubrick devotes several minutes to showcasing elegant spacecraft gliding through the void to the strains of The Blue Danube. He makes a powerful point by contrasting the beauty and harmony of these machines with the stilted, shallow and dull interactions of the characters in the movie. This is storytelling at its finest.

So how did it come to be that all dioramas are supposed to have figures? I’ll venture that it was a lack of imagination. No-one could figure out (pun intended) how to tell a story without putting people in it, so someone decided to dumb things down by mandating an easy fix: thou shalt have figures in thy diorama. Like most easy fixes, this one is a bit problematic: it makes false assumptions about how a story should be told. In fact, it’s a lot like the characters in 2001: stilted, shallow, and dull.

-Ivar

The model railroad and the diorama

German toy maker Marklin produced the first model train set in 1891. According to www.marklin.com, it consisted of a wind-up locomotive with cars and an expandable track system. Electricity came to model railroads much later, and wasn’t popularized until the introduction of a 20-volt system in 1926, which replaced the former household current setup. These early train sets were commonly in O Gauge, which translates to 1:43 scale.

In 1935, O Gauge was “halved” into HO (1:87 scale), opening up model railroads to a wider audience. Although little historical data exists on the subject, it seems likely that this was the point when it became practical to begin creating realistic miniature train layouts. By the latter half of the 20th century, HO was the worldwide standard for model trains. To this day, many model train retailers continue to emphasize HO stock in their stores, although N Gauge (1:160) is also very popular.

About half a century after model railroads appeared, plastic kits came on the scene. Like model train companies, kit manufacturers introduced a series of scales (including 1:32, 1:48 and 1:72 for aircraft and 1:35 for military kits) which have been adhered to consistently ever since.

It would have made things far easier for the diorama artist if model railroad and plastic kit manufacturers had agreed to a common set of scales, but you can’t have everything. This lack of matching standards means that we sometimes have to resort to a bit of poetic license when adding items from the model train store to our dioramas. If you’re creating a scene in 1:72 scale, HO scenery and landscaping products will work quite well, but HO vehicles will look a bit too small.

Whether or not you like to get diorama accessories from the local model train store, diorama artists owe a great debt to the model railroad world. The whole concept of recreating vehicles—and entire scenes—in miniature was introduced by model railroad manufacturers a century ago. There were commercially available model trains well before plastic kits came out. You could argue that diecasts also predated plastic kits, but unlike trains, they weren’t usually used to create a complete scene like a model railroad.

It would be oversimplifying things to say there was a direct evolutionary path from the model railroad to the diorama. A better suggestion might be to think of them as following parallel paths, with the model railroad getting a head start on the historical timeline. There’s a lot of overlap between them. Both use realistic miniatures to depict places and events. Not all dioramas feature the lights and moving vehicles common to model railroads, and not all model railroads place as much of a premium on realism as do dioramas. But the similarities are there.

A good example of the overlap between model railroads and dioramas is Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany (http://www.miniatur-wunderland.com/). Billed as the “largest model railway in the world,” this permanent HO exhibition features several distinct sections depicting both actual and fictional locations.

What’s interesting about Miniatur Wunderland is that it’s much more than a model railway. There are moving cars, buses, ships, and even aircraft (not only can you see planes taxiing on the runway, but taking off and landing as well). To call it a model railway doesn’t really do it justice. With the variety of vehicles and scenes featured, you could call it a mega-diorama.

For the diorama artist, no trip to Germany would be complete without stopping in to marvel at this impressive exhibition. Is it a diorama or a model railway? The answer is “yes.”

-Ivar

Whither the hobby shop?

Not too long ago, there seemed to be several hobby shops in every city. And plastic model kits were popular enough that they were a staple of the toy section in most major department stores. I remember those days fondly.

The toy section was the only saving grace for young boys forced to accompany their mothers on shopping trips downtown (I speak from experience). With a little prodding, mom could be persuaded to drop by the toy section after all the boring necessities (clothes, household supplies, etc.) had been purchased.

As a teen, I remember embarking on long bike rides and trips on city buses to visit local hobby shops whenever possible. Sometimes a friend and I would organize a day trip to another city to see the sights, which inevitably included a hobby shop or two. Even our family vacations were not complete without a visit to the local hobby shop. This was before the advent of the Internet, so who knew what unique products might be found in a hobby shop located in another city or country?

Sadly, many hobby shops have closed their doors over the last several years. Some of these closings are due to the shift in retail from bricks and mortar to online, which can be seen in many retail categories. But research from IBISWorld confirms that profit margins for hobby shops have been steadily declining over the past decade, and this has forced many small independent stores out of business. Only the larger online retailers, who can negotiate volume discounts that small mom and pop stores have no hope of matching, are surviving. Model kits are ideally suited to online retail, since plastics are lightweight and inexpensive to ship.

For buyers, the advent of online shopping is nothing short of revolutionary, and in a good way. I can now locate the most obscure decal sheet, aftermarket part or thirty year old kit in minutes and have it delivered from anywhere in the world.

Another benefit of the online shopping revolution is the surge in producers of garage kits. Now, with the help of a website, any talented individual can produce and sell resin kits to buyers worldwide. This also increases choice for the buyer, since subjects which are too obscure for major manufacturers to mass produce are covered by garage kit producers who can make a profit on very low volumes.

There’s a part of me that misses the bricks and mortar shopping experience. That sense of anticipation: “what cool new items am I going to see on the shelf when I open the door and walk in?” And once you enter, the chance to talk about the fine points of modelling with the store owner. This is missing from online shopping. Yes, we have online forums where people can talk about modelling, but it’s not the same. People act much worse online, protected by a cloak of anonymity, than they do face-to-face. This is why online forum discussions tend to resemble food fights in a school cafeteria.

Another trend I’ve noticed is that model kits in hobby shops have begun sharing shelf space with fully assembled (or almost fully assembled) diecast miniatures. Diecast cars from the likes of Corgi and Dinky have been around for decades, but now diecasts of aircraft and science fiction subjects have become popular. And they are offered in the same scales as plastic model kits, meaning that they are being positioned as direct competitors. It appears that diecasts are popular with adults as well as children.

If hobby shop owners are sacrificing plastic model kit shelf space for ready-made diecast miniatures, there must be a reason for it. The obvious one is a shift in demand. Perhaps fewer people are willing to spend the time to assemble and paint a plastic model kit. They want the payoff—a realistic aircraft replica to display in the living room—without the work.

In today’s world of condensed sound bites and abbreviated text messages, few can muster the focus needed to devote several hours to reading a novel or putting a plastic model kit together. Parents equip their kids with smart phones and video games, which reduce attention spans and train them to expect instant gratification. Public schools are not helping either: although children are still taught to print, the teaching of cursive is being phased out. The elegant art of handwriting will soon be a thing of the past, replaced by typing at a computer keyboard.

How will this impact the manual dexterity of future generations? Picking up a pen and learning cursive is an important part of developing motor skills. Someone who doesn’t know how to manipulate a pen may find themselves challenged by other tasks requiring fine manual motor skills as well. These skills are de rigueur for gardening, cooking, and home repairs, to name just a few. Where will the next generation of surgeons (whose level of manual dexterity can have life or death consequences) come from?

I recently asked a hobby shop owner if he thought the increase in demand for diecast replicas was due to a downturn in the popularity of model building. He wouldn’t admit to it, despite the fact that there were several shelves of diecast aircraft in his store. He pointed out that buying a diecast replica and displaying it on a bookshelf doesn’t give the buyer the feeling of accomplishment that he gets from putting a plastic model kit together. And he seemed strenuously opposed to the idea that building models was going out of style. But then why was he carrying diecast products?

Based on the IBISWorld research, discretionary spending on hobbies in general has been down since the 2008 recession, so it’s probably safe to say that there are fewer plastic model hobbyists today than a few decades ago. If I had to guess, I’d say the golden age of modelling was somewhere around the end of the 20th Century. Long-time manufacturers like Revell and Airfix had been joined by newer companies such as Tamiya and Hasegawa, and the latter elevated the quality and accuracy of their products to new levels. Lots of people seemed to be building plastic models. On a positive note, most of the top plastic model manufacturers are still in business, and they continue to introduce new products every year.

In the end, what matters is not whether everyone else loves what you do, but that you love what you do. It’s inevitable that the popularity of plastic modelling will wax and wane over time, just like everything else, so why worry about it?

I’m reminded of a great scene from the movie Spinal Tap, in which the band’s manager, Ian Faith, is being interviewed. The interviewer mentions that the band is playing much smaller venues than it used to, and he asks if this is because the band’s popularity is waning. Faith brilliantly replies, “Oh no, not at all. I just think that their appeal is becoming more selective.”

-Ivar

A three-dimensional photograph

Thinking of your diorama as a 3D photograph is a good way to evaluate its visual impact. Although a photo is two-dimensional and therefore less complex than 3D art like dioramas and sculptures, it’s easier to start with the basics. In other words, it makes sense to master 2D design principles before moving on to 3D.

Here are some questions a photographer asks when composing a photo: Does the eye naturally gravitate towards the main subject? Is colour used effectively? Is the composition visually balanced?

The discerning photographer will go a step further, and consider how well a photograph creates a mood. A photo can be positive and upbeat or sombre and depressing. It can create tension. It can arouse anger. It can create a sense of awe.

Many years ago, on vacation in New Orleans, I walked into an antiques shop which included large format original prints by famous photographers. Turning to take the stairs to the second floor, I looked up. At the top of the staircase was a 4×6 (feet, not inches) print of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico by Ansel Adams. This was one of those rare occasions where everything seems to go quiet and time stands still. I slowly made my way up the stairs and paused in front of the photo for several minutes, mesmerized. To this day, I don’t recall seeing any work of art that could rival that photograph for its power to inspire a sense of awe. And that includes anything in The Louvre, MOMA, and countless other galleries and museums I’ve visited.

Think back to the last time you saw a truly memorable photograph or painting—one that you found yourself still thinking about after you left the art gallery. Chances are it touched you emotionally in some way. When you embark on your next diorama project, think about how you can create an emotional connection with your viewer.

-Ivar

Is the diorama art?

As someone who loves art, I’ve often wondered how many diorama builders see themselves as artists, and see their creations as works of art. We accept without hesitation that a photograph, sculpture or painting is a work of art. But what about dioramas?

We could take the easy way out and remain agnostic, like The Joker who said in Tim Burton’s Batman: “I don’t know if it’s art, but I like it.” But let’s explore the issue and see what happens.

Since the vast majority of dioramas are populated with commercially available plastic models, the purist might argue that they contain content which is not 100% original. Therefore, they cannot be considered original works of art. And although some dioramas rely more than others on off-the-shelf models, the purist would argue that any non-original content immediately disqualifies the diorama as a true work of art.

I would argue that the “original content” argument is of little or no relevance in the present day world of art. Ever since Pop Art emerged in the 1950s, measuring the amount of original content in a piece of art has become irrelevant. I recently saw a sculpture at an art show which was made entirely of Lego blocks.

Photography is another art form which does not hold up particularly well to the “original content” argument. The landscape photographer does not construct anything that appears in his photo. The content was conveniently created for him billions of years ago. He “borrows” content from his immediate surroundings every time he presses the shutter release. By manipulating variables such as lighting and composition, he creates a work of art which qualifies as “original,” even though the physical content depicted in the photo is not of his own making. Most of the time, the photographer is able to borrow the content for his photos with little or no protest—but not always. Photographers have gotten into costly and embarrassing legal scrapes for photographing people and places without permission, which is arguably worse than being unoriginal. I have yet to see this fate befall a diorama artist.

Another protest we often hear when debating the diorama’s place in the world of art is its association with children’s crafts. But children make lots of things when emulating adults. A child’s sand castle is a sculpture, but no-one would accuse Rodin’s sculptures of being glorified sand castles. Children also love to finger paint, a technique appropriated by numerous modern artists of the 20th Century. Painter Jackson Pollock liked to lay his canvases on the floor and then fling, drip and spatter paint over them. Luckily, his parents were not around to make him clean up the mess.

If we adopt the position that anything exhibited as art is a work of art, then the diorama easily qualifies. Several have been featured at art fairs, alongside art of every description. And in countries around the world, people pay admission to admire professionally built dioramas. I’m not talking about museums which often contain historical dioramas to support the exhibits, but dedicated diorama galleries.

So how did the diorama become a wallflower at the art world’s high school prom? Without a dedicated PR team, perhaps it was inevitable. We diorama artists tend to be quiet types who don’t care what the world thinks of us. We are not likely to be found trumpeting our achievements on Facebook or Twitter, or taking selfies in our studios. And it’s a safe bet we’ll never have our own reality show. We prefer to create, not promote. And for most of us, the satisfaction we get from finishing a project is enough.

But if you feel that recognition is an important part of the experience of building dioramas, I have a simple suggestion. And you don’t need a PR team. Here is what you do: The next time someone asks you how you like to spend your spare time, don’t hang your head sheepishly and mumble something in hushed tones about plastic models. Look them in the eye and tell them you’re an artist. I guarantee you’ll feel a lot better by the end of the conversation.

-Ivar

Lag time (or, why it takes so long for some kits to be released)

The introduction of a new model kit based on a subject from a movie is an eagerly anticipated event for many hobbyists. I remember when MPC released its Millennium Falcon kit back in 1977, coinciding with the release of the first Star Wars movie. MPC’s marketing department was on the ball and capitalized on the movie’s success by being quick on the draw with the release of the kit.

Not all kit releases are timed as perfectly as MPC’s Falcon release. The same subject was released by FineMolds nearly three decades later, in 2005. The FineMolds Falcon, although late to the game, was a dramatic improvement over the MPC kit. It featured the usual high level of accuracy and detail associated with the FineMolds brand, in correct 1:72 scale. The MPC kit did not even specify a scale, and Star Wars aficionados have enjoyed debating the scale of the kit since it was released.

When I first heard about the FineMolds Falcon release, my first thought was, “Wow, it sure took them long enough.” But FineMolds actually did something very clever.

The price differential between the two kits is considerable, even with a few decades’ worth of inflation factored in. The result is that they are not in direct competition with one another. The MPC kit was clearly aimed at kids and teens with little or no money. The FineMolds kit, on the other hand, was targeted at advanced modellers with generous budgets. The funny thing is, even though the markets for the two kits are distinct, the person buying them could quite often be one and the same. If you were a teen when Star Wars was released, and bought the MPC kit back then, there’s a good chance that you’d be willing to upgrade to the FineMolds version several decades later. My guess is that this is exactly what FineMolds planned.

The FineMolds Falcon has been so successful that Revell is now re-releasing it under their Master Series label. It will still be manufactured in Japan by FineMolds but will have revised packaging and English instructions.

It’s less clear what Bandai was thinking with their recent release of 1:72 models of the classic X-Wing and Y-Wing. Chances are, anyone who wanted a 1:72 scale kit of either of these subjects would have picked up the FineMolds version by now. Price, accuracy and quality for both brands are similar. There just isn’t that much difference between them. Bandai will also be releasing a 1:144 Millennium Falcon, which has been done before by FineMolds as well. How Bandai will be able to turn a profit on these “me too” products is a mystery. A much better move would have been to produce a 1:48 Y-Wing to complement the FineMolds 1:48 X-Wing. This would have filled an empty niche in the market.

When Episode 7 of Star Wars comes out this December, a newly designed X-Wing will grace the screen. It looks good—smaller and sleeker—and can be glimpsed in the teaser trailer for the film. Fortunately, Bandai has made one good decision, which is to launch a kit of the new X-Wing just before Episode 7’s release in December. Unless the movie is a complete disaster, this kit will be a guaranteed cash cow. The new X-Wing will be followed by a kit of the new TIE Fighter, which looks like a lot like the classic TIE but with an inverted colour scheme. This kit should be popular as well.

-Ivar