Making the Dioramas
Not that you asked, but here's the story of how Dani and I built the dioramas.

This project went on for nearly a year off and on.  At first I was focused more on the product than the process.  I just wanted dioramas, but it turned out to be a lot of fun building them.  Each stage took a while, but I was always doing something else at the same time.  For example, near the end Dani and I were usually watching a dvd in the living room.  I got the bonus disc for Revenge of the Sith at one point, so that took about three days to make it through and was a nice compliment to working on the dioramas.  It may be nerdy, but it was really, really fun for me because I was able to relive the movies as I did them as dioramas.  Instead of it being a passive experience, I was actively creating and editing as I went.  It wasn't merely recreating something.  I was able to cast and block scenes like I was directing them.  I can see how people get into things like this.

I made the original diorama for the first movie (along with another case for the Micro Machines collection, pictured left; it is painted black as well now) about a year before I started on the dioramas for the rest of the saga.  Originally I was going to build one case, but it worked out perfectly to showcase just one movie, so why not make more?  When we were getting ready to move into the new house, my plan was to build the rest of them to put up somewhere down the line.

You can see the making of that first case on this page, and it gives a bit more of a "how to" than just this section alone.

Even as we were in the process of moving into the new house, I started getting the materials and we constructed the remaining five in rapid succession.  The first diorama served as a pilot study for the process, so we became an assembly line on this round.

This is back when the outside of my house was still pink.  Do not adjust your monitor.  The whole place has since been repainted.

With all of the sounds of sawing and spraying off and on over the weeks after we first moved in, the neighbors must have thought we were, first, home improvement nuts, then, later, paint sniffers.  The latter is especially true because during warmer months I tend to do a lot of spraying on guitar bodies and necks late at night, usually in small amounts.  Paint dries better (i.e., more evenly) when it is applied repeatedly in light coats and allowed to dry away from the heat of the sun.  Of course, to my neighbors, it sounds like I am only spraying enough to fill a bag to huff!

Believe it or not, painting took far, far longer than anything else in the construction.  I used cheap wood (i.e., pine since it's lighter and I'm cheap) for all except the shelves, and porous wood like that just sucks up paint like you can't even imagine.  This is in spite of using a series of thin layers to try to seal it up before attempting thicker applications.  In hindsight, I should have just bought a can of black paint and did a first coat with that, then sprayed everything to the exact color I liked.

After all of the painting was finished, I had to "block" the scenes.  I had a cast of action figures and a huge set of scenes from the movies in which to determine what the figures were going to represent.  I set up everyone on the shelves to see how much space everything was going to take up and which scenes I could do.

One problem with my style of collecting was that I only bought one figure per character.  I mean, I would buy a Luke in his "A New Hope" farmboy outfit, then in his pilot uniform, then another from when he was on Bespin, etc.  However, characters like Chewbacca, Darth Vader, C3PO, R2D2, etc. look exactly the same through the whole saga.  I only had one Chewbacca figure though, for example, so it was hard to complete a lot of scenes where he needed to be present.

I didn't have a lot of "armies" either.  I mean, Stormtroopers are a ubiquitous feature in the original trilogy, but I think I had maybe three of them to start off (i.e., one per diorama).  Similarly, I had failed to buy a lot of figures over the years.  They either didn't really interest me or I never bothered looking for them because I hadn't anticipated ever getting into this project.  I had to turn to eBay to fill in the gaps.

A good strategy on eBay is look for large "lots" of loose figures.  I searched for auctions that offered a lot of figures I needed.  Even if there were extras I wouldn't use in a given lot, I could always turn around and sell those back sometime later.  The advantages are that typical collectors tend to want to keep their figures "mint-in-box" rather than loose, and they don't like mixed lots since most collectors are looking for specific figures (they already have the majority of them since, after all, they are *collectors*), so fewer bidders are interested in auctions of those kind.  You also pay a lot less for shipping for a box of figures than the sum of the individuals.  Shipping one figure may be, say, $3.  Shipping a box of twenty figures may be around $8.

Believe it or not, there were a few figures I had purchased along the way that I just didn't end up using.  They didn't fit into any scenes, and I couldn't justify making any new scenes just to accommodate them.  For instance, I had a very attractive figure of Padme (who has a nice figure indeed; see photo at left) from the Tatooine scenes in AotC.  Unfortunately, she only wears this outfit in transitional scenes devoid of any action (e.g., meeting Anakin's family, his mom's funeral), and Hasbro has (thus far) never deigned to make any (young) Owen and Beru figures precisely because they lack any interesting scenes.

On the flip side, there are a handful of unique figures I don't own.  I'll make you a list if you really feel the need to get me something for xmas.

Once I had all the figures, it was clear which shelves would represent which scenes.  In a couple cases we found that the even spacing of the shelves wouldn't accommodate a couple of the scenes.  For instance, the early scenes from tESB featuring the Wampa's cave and Luke in the rejuvenation chamber (or whatever it's called) were too tall to fit as were the wookies on Kashyyyk in RotS.  These shelves were shifted as well as a few adjacent shelves in order to redistribute the shortage.  I would also have liked to have made room for a rebel cannon for the Hoth battle, but the Wampa already had eaten more than his share, so I didn't bother with any more reshuffling.

Copyright 2006 Alexplorer.
Continue to Part II