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).

December 10, 2009

12/10/09 Update--Still almost finished.

Well, it's December 10th, guess what still isn't finished? Luckily I have a few extra days to get it done before Saturday (that's when it needs to be done) so I'll get some major work in. I've been extremely busy working on other stuff besides the 20k project, but now that some school finals are done and out of the way, I can get back to the project.

Because I was so busy the last week or so, not much was done unfortunately. I did get the entrance door completely finished and the burial scene given it's water effect back. I've also started on the "caption books", which explain what's going on in the scene as well as give extra info to transition from the scene before or to the next. Here's an example, which will go below the Discovery scene.

I kind of did it like a book of the period. The illustrations are filtered screen shots from the movie, since I have no time to actually draw them out myself. Even then, they look pretty good. Although color probably wasn't used at the time in books, but it adds that much more in my situation. These caption books are going below every single scene. Here's another which goes below the Burial scene.

These work pretty well since I have no more room for what's being depicted in the caption books!

I'm working on the sign, which is going to be very similar to the Submarine Voyage sign I did a few years ago with the backlit letters. The overall shape is being lasercut at the moment, but here's a concept art I did of it to kind of show what it might look like:

As of Friday night, pretty much all of the caption books are installed. All the lights for the captions are lit by 12V lights along my new 12V line that I installed through-out the table. Now I can just tap into the line if I need power for a set (if it runs of 12V).

 Now it's a matter of doing touch-ups and cleaning everything up. Almost finished.

I'm also happy to say that the squid fight is finally done. The characters were added today and now the squid has something to battle now. The characters are very rough sculpts of crew members. I was able to get away with not sculpting any faces, by either turing the head away, or wrapping it with a tentacle.

Not the best shots, but here's what it looks like with the lightning going off.

Since I am working on the project the over the next two days, I will be constantly updating this post with more stuff, so check back often! 


gerG said...

The aging on the books looks good...the screen captures are fine, and there's no problem with the color. They kinda look like they've been hand-tinted...like some old silent movie print.

Sign's great! It looks really dynamic, and the bounce light behind it is cool. (in a dream world, with months more time, it would be great to have the bounce-light be water ripple) Laser cut? Where are you getting it laser cut, and what kind of material? Cool.

Water ripple is so fun. You know about Carl Hannigan's (PPS...Precision Projection Systems) WaveLight projector? When i was at WDI, we used his projector for water ripple...and many other illusions. (OMG, they bought 300 of them for the 20k ride at TDS...but that's a whole other story...) When a friend worked on the twirling leaves for that series of entry doors for d'land pooh, he used the WaveLight, and replaced the ripple plastic disc with a laser-cut leaf pattern disc. It was fun to turn that ripple projector into other illusions.

I bet the whole room looks great painted black. It's kinda freaky how different colors change our sense of size. I always love working on projects and perceiving how they seem large and small and large and small depending on the construction and the paint job...and then when an audience arrives!

your work looks great.

Sam Towler said...

I'll look into those wavelight projectors, they must be pretty good if Disney uses them!

gerG said...


PPS is a good company to know about, if you're a designer of themed environments, which you are. Carl Hannigan is one of the main guys there, and although he's mainly a laser expert (one of the top laser guys in the industry), he and his fellows have developed a few charming lighting devises, the WaveLight being one of them. Here's his website:

I kinda wouldn't recommend buying a wavelight, only because they're real expensive. But if ya got lots of money, hey, why not! I have two of the wavelight, but only because i bought them as scrap from a metal recycling place, and they didn't know what they were.

Maybe i think of it this way: there are home-made, private projects, and then there are corporate public projects. If i'm working on a project for some corporation...like diz or universal, i'll specify the wavelight. But if i'm doing some project at home, i'll probably cludge-together something cheaply.

There are so many ways to create good water ripple. So many ways to modify projectors. My favorite (but kinda impractical) is the water ripple i saw decades ago in the smithsonian Natural History museum. They have a full-size model of a blue whale, mounted against a wall, kinda like this:
And above it was a flat pan or tray, made of plexiglas, filled with water. A fan agitated the water, and a bright light above shot thru the rippling water, down onto the whale. It was beautiful and perfect water ripple.

There are so many other ways to create water ripple. You have some very good ways in your display.

Glad your opening went well!