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 22, 2009

6/22/09 Update

Construction has been going ahead on the Salon scene, one of the most detailed scenes (probably the most) that I will be created. Because of the complexity of the scene, I've divided construction into phases, mainly so I can get my head straight why working on it

• Phase 1 -- Basic structure of the scene; pipes, walls and ceiling
• Phase 2 -- Large pieces of furniture; couches, tables, shelves
• Phase 3 -- Fine details and figures; bottles, books, utensils, and the sculpted character figures

Phase 1 is pretty much complete and I should be starting on Phase 2 pretty soon. I want to get the scene done by mid-July, and for the rest of that month will be work on more underwater scenes which should be easy to do considering I've done the burial scene where a lot of ideas and problems were worked out.

As shown in my last post, I figured out a plan view of the scene, which would include forced perspective. Using a better drawing, I corrected the proportions of the distortion that I would do to the drawing according to some measurements that I took. I printed the drawing out in sections full-size for the scene construction.

Once I figured out the floorplan, I was able to scale the elevation drawings for the tubes and pipes which are also the supports for the scene.

As you can see, each "layer" gets smaller and smaller due to forced perspective.

And to make sure I did my math correctly, I cut out the centers of the elevation drawins so I can preview the desired effect,

Using these drawings of the "arches", I started to create the actual pipes that would be used for the scene. There are a number of ways to create the arches in the scene, some techniques are hard and time consuming, others are expensive and unnecessary. Not to mention having curved smooth pipe with a diameter 1 1/4 is not easy to do with out the proper equipment. I chose to use PVC pipe because of it's very low price and it's easy to work with. (I got about 25 feet of pipe for $7; pretty good price if you ask me!)

The pipes I'm using range from 1 1/4" to 1/2" diameter because of the forced perspective involved. To curve the pipe, I cut the pipe up into sections at specific angles on the chop saw and glued them together to achieve the right curve. For smaller pipes, like the one in the very back, I heated and bent the pipe to achieve the curve. Here are the sections all glued together and ready for more tubing.

The Austin Powers figure is there for scale purposes (it looks like he's digging the scene so far!) Figuring out the scale for the figures was a challenge because of the forced perspective involved, since as you move towards the back, the scale in constantly changing. I'll get into more on my scale issues when I sculpt my figures later on.

More piping was added to the "ceiling". Pipe junctions of the style and size and angle were not easy to come by, so I had to make them myself. Once the piping was added, I filled in the joints with self hardening clay.

The seams and joins may look sloppy from above, but they create the right look when viewed from the right angle.

Then came the very tedious task of installing the hundreds of rivets needed for the scene. Although they'll be hard to notice, the rivets add so much to the scene. To create them, I made every one of them from a ball of clay and I glued them to strip of paper in single and double rows. All I have to do to install them is glue the back of the strip to the pipe. Even though this technique creates sort of a "riveted band" that isn't something the real set had, it actually works in this motif.

One of the sections with a coat of primer:

Even though the rivets are a little big, they were exaggerated so they can still be seen when they are painted dark gray and the scene is lit dimly.

Here is the entire scene at this point all primered and ready for paint. As I move towards the back, I start to phase out the rivets. The rivets in the back portion will just be done with dots of silver Sharpie. The next step will be to put the removable walls and ceiling, and then phase two will start with some paint, furniture, carpeting, tables, shelves and much more.