In physically realizing the boundless imagination of the moviemaker’s vision, the art and craft of creating convincing model miniatures is key. From the beginning of filmmaking, the model builder has been a talented workhorse, fabricating worlds that never were, prehistoric creatures long gone, and entire cities for those creatures to trample into rubble. A masterful miniature is an expert marriage of materials, technology, perspective, knowledge of relationship between camera and subject, and general artistry. The modelmaker is an unsung hero for, if they do their job well, their finest work accomplishes invisibility to an audience’s eye. While the craftsperson’s alchemy is composed of carved wood, castings, filigree, lichen, styrene and endless miniscule materials, an audience only sees the expansive lost city of Atlantis, a massive Roman war ship from Ben-Hur, or a gargantuan ape atop the Empire State Building.
For the Hollywood movie fan, there can be no more integral part of filmmaking than the model miniature. It is an active participant in the process of bringing our favorite stories to life. It was there on set. sometimes it WAS the set. And for the collector, what other example of an Alien Spaceship, Atomic bomb, or WWII Sherman tank would fit on a mantle? What version of the iconic Grauman’s Chinese Theater or the bustling city of Pompeii would take up no more than the space of a card table? Model miniatures represent the best of the best in movie magic. The advancing use of CGI can never replace the wonder of gazing upon a meticulously detailed, tangible Death Star, that appeared to occupy every edge of the galaxy on the big screen, but could actually fit in your garage. It’s been said that good bread must be “blessed” by kneading it with human hands. The model maker’s hands have surely blessed their craft.
In our June 18th Hollywood Signature auction, you’ll find model miniatures from across the spectrum of filmmaking, spanning every genre. Some highlights will include:
Titanic Lifeboat Miniature from A Night to Remember (Rank Films, 1958). Vintage original model miniature lifeboat constructed of wood, cast composite elements and with a light canvas cover. Expertly painted and detailed to represent the lifeboats on the doomed ocean liner. The 22″ x 6.5″ x 6″ model is visible on deck in the many scenes that employed a miniature Titanic.
Miniature “HMS Bounty” Ship’s Cannon from 2nd Unit Director James Curtis Havens for Mutiny on the Bounty (MGM, 1962). Vintage original miniature ship’s 4-pounder canon and other related ephemera. The cannon is constructed of heavy cast brass barrel affixed to a swiveling axel, attached to the weapon’s rolling wooden carriage by 2-brass u-brackets. The brackets can be slipped off their anchoring pegs to allow the cannon barrel to be removed. 19″ x 11″ x 9.”
Set of (3) Model Miniature Missiles and Launch Pad from Irwin Allen’s City Beneath the Sea (Warner Bros. TV, 1971). Vintage original (3) miniature props including (2) missiles constructed of carved wood cone and embellishments, including flight fins and grooved rings around the body, expertly studio painted in red and white with stenciled “USA” on one side, and (1) launching pad hub constructed of wood and carved rigid foam, painted in industrial gray.
Producer Joel Silver’s Personal “Bomb Strapped to Office Chair” Filming Miniature from Die Hard (Warner Bros., 1988). Original 17.25″ x 12″ x 8″ model miniature constructed of cast resin, wood, vacuum formed plastic, wire and other multi-media components. Used in the unforgettable FX sequence when “John McClane” (Bruce Willis) drops the explosives-loaded chair down an elevator shaft, blowing up terrorists occupying the building and halting their assault on Swat Officers mounting a rescue.
“Predator Alien” Spaceship Filming Miniature from Predator (TCF, 1987). Original model miniature spacecraft constructed of cast fiberglass, resin, acrylic and multimedia components. Expertly studio assembled, painted and finished in industrial gray, black and amber. The filming miniature features a custom pipe and wood base display stand and is outfitted with electronics to be triggered by a button on the base. Electronics present but untested. The model ship measures 15″ x 12″ x 7.”
Windsor Airlines Filming Miniature from Die Hard 2 (Warner Bros., 1990). Original Studio model miniature constructed of cast resin, vacuum-formed plastic, metal and multi-media components, expertly assembled and finished with paint, paper and tape badging, and studio distressing, to appear as a hyper-realistic “Windsor Air” Douglas DC-8-72 passenger jet.
As a new generation of collectors acquires movie memorabilia to share with friends and the community, display space can be inhibiting. Model miniatures solve that problem by occupying no more than a well-lit corner or shelf, while providing the biggest visual impact. You don’t have to be a model collector exclusively to acquire one central piece that ads visual depth and impact to your collection. Imagine a miniature deck chair on a pedestal in front of your Titanic poster, a section of the Nostromo displayed with your shooting script from Alien, an actual stone from the caves of Dathomir to set beside your Rancor action figure from Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi!
It doesn’t always take big guns to win small treasures. There’s opportunity for any collector to be the colossal winner in the miniatures game.
Wishing you a LITTLE luck at auction!