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).

May 18, 2009

"The Discovery"--Scene Construction

This last week I worked on the "Discovery" scene, the point in the movie where Professor Aronnax and Conseil find the "monster" that destroyed their ship, the Nautilus. The perspective of this scene will be really low like the last scene, to get an angle like the first shot you see of the Nautilus in the movie:

In addition to building a model of the front half of the Nautilus, I'm also going to make Aronnax  and Conseil in the foreground in the water hanging on to some wreckage while looking on as they do in the movie. 

Building the Nautilus was something that I wasn't looking forward to, considering it has a very distinctive look and there isn't one straight line on the whole vessel--which makes it an uneasy model to build from scratch. Luckily for me, the Disney Experience  website has a paper model version of the Nautilus which is available for download and print. I will use this as a template, since all the difficult angles and curvatures are already figured out and broken down. I printed out all the parts of this paper model and I determined which parts I would need (I wasn't going to build the entire model, since I'm only going to make what you're going to see). The parts I chose were blown up in the computer, printed out, and spray adhesive-d onto some card-stock. This will be my Nautilus template, since I need to make two of theme (I might even use the actual template parts for the second Nautilus)

I cut out the template parts and crudely taped them together to make sure they all fit together and I wasn't missing anything. Shown in the foreground is the first paper model that I used to determine which parts I needed to enlarge and print.

I traced all the templates onto sheets of .010" styrene. I went for the extra step of embossing every panel with rivets, using a pounce wheel. Since this is thin styrene, when one piece was made, I backed it with card-stock for strength. Part of the model shown below was given a coat of primer so any imperfections could be seen and sanded out. This shot was taken just before the first coat of paint went on:

The model was given a coat of primer...

and a coat of dark brown (you can really see the rivets here!)

I gave the model several dark washes and a couple of rust spot runs with some powder paint. Silver Rub-N-Buff was applied to the rakers. Here is the model with the washes drying in the sub:

Here is the finished model, with a penny in the front for a sense of scale:

Onto the floating characters. Since I only needed to sculpt the back of Aronnax and Conseil, and only the top half of them, this job was relatively easy, considering sculpting someone's face with a likeness is perhaps the hardest task an artist can do. I didn't need to worry about faces (though I'll need to in a month when I get to the dinner scene ) but even sculpting the back of Peter Lorre's fat little head took some patience in getting the right shape. If you look at the front of heads, there isn't even a face, they're completely blank! But that doesn't matter, since you won't even see them from that angle. Here are the figures, ready to baking:

Once the characters were baked, I painted them up and placed them in the scene with the cardboard sea and sky. There isn't much to the background since it's all foggy, so a gray spray-painted backdrop was created. Unfortunately, I made a mistake in building my Nautilus--I built too much of it. It turns out I made the waterline too low, and I had to cut down the model in order to be accurate. Here is the cut down Nautilus and the figures, awaiting a coat of Mod Podge "water":

This is what the scene will look like when viewed at the right angle.

The "water" of Mod Podge applied. When this stuff dries, it will be completely clear and the scene will be finished