This blog is here to document my latest 2009 project, an extensive recreation of the Disney 1954 movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea through a series of detailed miniature dioramas, all contained under my model railroad table. This will be a "crawl-thru" type attraction (What is a crawl-thru? Read about it here).

Like Disney, I usually tend to keep everything under-wraps until I unveil the final product at the end. However, by keeping everything a secret, I end up not taking any photos of my projects and it is often disappointing to not have any documentation in the end showing how everything worked and was constructed. This time, however, I will document every step in the process of the creation of the project with photos and drawings (and maybe some video) illustrating each leg of the construction. Even though the posts here will be chock-full of spoilers, it will show the amount of work that goes into this and other projects--which is often under-appreciated.

This blog includes weekly updates that consisted of notes, ideas, photos, and maybe some video of what was worked on each week up until the estimated completion date of December 2009. (It was officially finished on December 10th, 2009).

June 15, 2009

6/15/09 Update

In a contrast to last week's update, this post will be a super-size one. So much happened this week that I've broken the post down day-by-day.

Last Tuesday I decided that the Burial scene was taking way too long and was soaking up the time slot that I allotted for the Dinner scene (which will take a really long time to do since I've made some changes!). So last week I decided to kick into high gear and just get the scene done. Tuesday, the mold pictured in the last post was poured and by Wednesday, I was ready to cast up divers.

Here is the mold with resin poured in for one of the divers:

And the parts fresh out of the mold:

The parts came out surprisingly easy, despite the amount of detail and undercuts. At this point I decided to go for the max and do a complete set of 7 divers rather than the planned 5.

As the parts were coming in, I started blocking out the scene using the helmets that were cast, to figure out where the figures would go. Realizing that the scene would not be viewed in Cinemascope unlike the movie, I was worried that you wouldn't be able to see all the divers in the scene (I didn't want any finished divers to go to waste!). I was able to overcome that problem by arranging them in such a way. This shot shows the divers helmets being used to block out the scene as well as more aluminum coral forms being figured out before they are covered in Celluclay. This photo is actually shot under show lighting and through the 'bubble box' which explains the look of it.

Once 63 resin parts were made, they were all grinded down and sanded and sorted into plastic bags for organization. Each bag contains parts for one diver.

Thursday was basically assembly day, gluing all the parts together and adding a few wire details here and there for hoses. I changed the positions of the ligaments for variation by cutting the parts and gluing them into the new position and then filling in the joint with self-hardening clay. I also modified two helmets to create Nemo's helmet and the "baldy" one.

I temporarily glued all the figures to a strip of wood to make painting easier.

Once they were given a coat of primer, they were all painted on Friday:

After the acrylic paint dried, the divers were all given a wash of clear matte medium mixed with black paint.

I was very pleased with how the divers came out. One of the scenes I'm planning on doing is the part where Conseil and Ned stray off from the underwater expedition and get attacked by shark (only to have Nemo come the rescue). This scene was originally going to be a larger scale, with larger divers, but since I don't want to do more retooling and more molding that I'm thinking I could knock down the scale of the scene to the scale of the Burial scene so I could use the same divers from the same mold as the Burial. It would be a lot easier to do. And since the scale is smaller, I could split the space into two scenes, getting a two for one deal with the same quality scenes. I've definitely got some stuff to think about, though that's for after I do the Dinner scene.

Before the divers could be installed in the scene, I had to create the stretcher with the body first. I created a sculpey body and placed a glue and water soaked tissue for the blanket. This took all day to dry so installation couldn't be done. Same with the extra coral pieces. With nothing to work on the Burial scene on Saturday, I decided to focus my attention onto the next scene--Dinner with Nemo

The dinner scene is a scene that I'm not really looking forward to. The amount of detail required for this scene is insane, considering it takes place in the beautifully designed Salon room of the Nautilus. And since I'm not a sculptor of human faces, getting a likeness of the characters will be a challenge. I couldn't avoid the scene because it's kind of an important scene; it introduces Captain Nemo (he says "You can call me Captain Nemo"), it sets up the whole "jail-break" aspect of the story (warns them that they are on the strictest probation and advises them to not attempt to escape), it feature the four main characters at once, it provides a perfect transition into the expedition scene(s) and it's a memorable moment in the movie. The view of the scene will be very similar to this shot from LIFE:

The only things that will be different from the photo above is that the viewer will pretty much be where the fountain is (it's going to be a straight on shot) and the expressions of Ned and Conseil will be a little more disgusted because of Nemo's food.

When I was planning this scene, I was mainly focusing the scene on the characters. In other words, I wasn't going to build the whole scene; at some point a backdrop would come in to continue the Salon at the end. I wanted a good size scale for the figures, considering I'd have to sculpt them. I didn't have room for an entire Salon scene at the same scale of the figures. I was hoping I'd be able to fit the the whole Salon scene but I couldn't--until I put forced perspective into the equation. Using a floor-plan drawing of the salon, I mapped out how I could fit the entire Salon on the plot that I had for it. By pinching and squeezing the drawing I was able to fit the entire room on the piece of cardboard. Success! Despite the construction challenges of building this complex scene in forced perspective, this scene is gonna look really cool!

Here's the drawing I was messing around with:

Also, Because of the size and shape of the Salon, I ended up creating room for another scene (where the question mark is) that I wasn't planning on doing anyways--Whale of a Tale. But since I didn't want to tack on another scene to my schedule and I don't know how character sculpting will go on the Dinner scene (plus I really don't want to make all of those sailors!) I have no plans to do the scene, though I will always leave the option there if I want to do it in the future.


Back to the burial scene on Sunday, the divers carrying the body where ready to be installed:

I haven't glued down all the divers yet, so I can position them whenever I want (Nemo, however, is glued down) The extra coral I created helps give the scene a little more depth and looks "fuller". I added some "foreground" coral that goes right in front of the window, like the shot in the movie. It's mounted on a piece of armature wire so I can adjust and fuss around with it if I feel that too much of it is in the shot or too little of it is in the shot. Here's what the finished scene looks like, sans Nemo's coral cross and another bulb in the light box to brighten the scene a little more.

And here's another shot without the bubble effects running and with a longer exposure (which looks kind of neat--looks very aquarium-y!)

Be sure to ignore the 'Marblex' clay box that is reflecting in the plexiglas--I was using it as a tripod at the moment!

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