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).

July 20, 2009

7/20/09 Update -- "Sculpting Edition"

Even though last week I said I'd finish the scene up, I didn't. But that doesn't mean that nothing was done. I made a break through this last week and got the most daunting and difficult task of the entire project completed--the character sculpts.

When I took on this 20,000 Leagues project, I knew I'd have to step up my game. Knowing that more is expected of me since I'm older and I've been doing what I've been doing for a while, I think that my work needs to reflect that. Human figures are certainly something that I don't enjoy making. They really aren't my thing, since I'm more mechanically and geometrically minded when it comes to making things that have sharp edges, corners and flat surfaces. When the idea of telling the story of 20,000 Leagues under the sea came up, I knew a scenes with characters were required, and there was no way I could avoid them; they're part of the story as much as the Nautilus and the scenery. I tried to go the route of using action figures like the burial scene, but nothing even close could be find for any of the characters. I knew that I had to suck it up and actually make the figures myself, from scratch.

Making human figures aren't something new to me. I've done very crude figures for versions of Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. I would have a very difficult time just trying to make the figures look natural and real, let alone make them match a certain animatronic in the real ride. It was my skill level at the time and the fact that I didn't want to sit and work on a figure for hours at a time when I just wanted to get them done quick.

Before I started sculpting, I had to determine a scale for the figures, since they were in a forced perspective scene. I decided the push the table that they were sitting at towards the viewer, unlike in the movie, for a larger scale. (Refer to an earlier post with the press shot in it) Technically, even though Ned Land and Conseil are suppose to be slightly smaller in scale when compared to Nemo and Aronnax because of the forced perspective, I decided to make them the same scale because having different scaled people at the same table would look kinda weird.

When I started the first figure, I had to accept the fact that these figures weren't going to get knocked out easily and they could only be done if I had the patience and took the time to get them right. Figures with a likeness to a real person is not an easy thing to do at all, and that takes some serious time and effort to create. Not to mention the small scale is incredible tough to sculpt in. The goal was to get a likeness in the characters to the real actors as close as possible. And the patience paid off; I created the most correct anatomically and human proportioned I've ever done!

Professor Aronnax was the first figure to be made, and I must say, he came out the best despite him being the first to be made! Nemo on the other hand was a challenge since his features on his face are very subtle and any little difference can affect a lot. Not to mention his beard had a whole set of problems in the sculpting process. Unfortunately, I made his head way too big, almost twice the size (I'm sculpting the heads separately from the bodies) and I ended up having to redo it. Ned and Conseil were a little easier, since they have more distinct features like Ned's big dimpled chin and Peter Lorre's bulgy eyes and cheeks. All and all, it took roughly 7-9 hours a figure, with 3-5 hours for just a head. So I clocked in a hefty amount of hours this week.

Here are the characters sitting at the table, as of a few days ago. The head on Nemo is the "bad head"; the one that was too big and would later be redone. The armature for Conseil is made, awaiting clay. His pose will be when he's holding his napkin when he realizes that his "lamb" is actually a "brisket of blowfish with sea squid dressing basted in barnacles" while Ned's is more of "what the heck is this" when he holds up a spoonful of pudding of "saute of unborn octopus".

To give you an idea of what it's like to make these heads, here a POV shot of the new Nemo sculpt in production which really gives you a sense of scale:

Here are the figures, ready for paint and hands (the hands are going to be molded off action figure hands, since I really don't feel like making 4 sets of hands). I've sharpie-d in Nemo's beard and hair, to kind of give myself an idea of what he'll look like when he's finally painted.

And to show how far I've come when it comes to sculpting, here's my first human figure ever made, done for Pirates of the Caribbean, standing next to one of my latest creations.

This week WILL be the week were I finish the scene. If I don't, too bad, I'm moving on (I'm not going to dwell on little details, I'll save those for later). Next week I'm kicking into high gear since I need to get two more scenes done before the month is out. I'll get into those next posting.