The First Star Wars Diorama

These are probably the nerdiest things ever constructed... which is saying a lot considering power tools were involved.  My point in posting it here is that I really didn't think I could do this, but obviously I did... which means that you can probably draw on my ideas and your own ingenuity and make your own.

This page was created when this was the first and only diorama I had built at this point.  Since then I have moved on to the other episodes, and an additional page detailing that process is

Action Figure display cabinet/diorama
I used to have loads of figures and vehicles jammed together on several bookshelves in pitiful attempts to re-create scenes from the movies, but it was just embarrassing, and not for the obvious reason that I'm in my 30s and have toys all over my room.  I also no longer had any room on my bookshelves.  Nor room for my bookshelves either, for that matter, now that I had moved in with my partner.

Then I saw on the web that people had taken to just displaying their figures in cases along these lines, which is a much more orderly thing to do anyway.  I went to Home Depot with a friend and brainstormed what I could make from the available materials.

Back: 2'x4' sheet (~1/2" thick)

Sides: 1" thick, pine 2x4s cut to length

Sides and back fastened together with sheetrock screws

Shelves: 1/4" strips of hobby wood

Wood dowels cut with a Dremel to ~1" lengths used to hold up shelves (these were necessarily thicker than the ones on the Micro Machines case due to the heavier shelves; use you own judgment on your project.)

Ticky tack to secure the figures' stands to the shelves

Held to the wall with a wire run between another pair of sheetrock screws (be sure to nail the wall hangers into the studs!).

A little more than one can of black spray paint for the cabinet, plus additional paint for the figures' stands (they were a distracting shade of white to begin with.)

Total cost: ~$40

Diorama backgrounds
These were downloaded from Niub Niub's Universe and/or Toys Empire as well as a few other sources which I've since forgotten.  In some cases, these were scans of Hasbro packaging materials such as backgrounds from the Cinema Scenes line of figures.

The images were then adjusted for brightness/contrast and cropped as necessary before being imported to Word.  Once in Word they were resized to ~4.44" (in most cases) and printed.  The images were trimmed and they were laid out to determine where overlaps could be "tiled" to approximate a seamless image.  Separate pieces of paper containing the images were then attached to one another with double-stick tape before being affixed to the backboard with ticky tack (the tape wouldn't hold against the more porous wooden surface).

Note: To create the tiled desert scenes on the second and third shelves, I cropped a "slice" of the graphic containing Luke's homestead, then cut and pasted sections within that to "smooth" the edges such that both left and right sides were roughly the same color of sand/sky.  When tiled, these edges are close to invisible.

Additional details
Actually, I built this before the Micro Machines cabinet above, although I didn't finish it until afterward due to the painting and additional details.

Originally, my idea was to have this case rotated 90° such that it would be longer than it was wide, but this works better with the diorama approach (which was an afterthought, to be honest) in that it keeps the "scenes" shorter.  Then again, I guess it depends on how "epic" you want to make your scenes or however you wanted to approach this.

As it turned out, by jamming so many shelves into the case, the figures often lack the headroom they really require.  Chewbacca ends up scraping his head.  I should have gone  with one less shelf and divided the extra room among the remaining shelves.  I had thought that I had more room than was actually left once you subtract the thickness of the borders and the eight shelves, which total up to 4 inches... just enough to make things uncomfortable.

I probably could have spent a little more time sanding it as well, but since it's black, you really can't tell that the pine edges are rough.  Just a thought for next time.

I didn't think I had the talent to create graphics from scratch, but I would liked to have done a better job of fitting backgrounds to the scenes than this half-assed effort.  Also, I suppose I could have better matched the scenes by having more appropriately colored shelves than just black.  For example, the Tatooine scenes look a little odd with the figures standing on black sand.

Not a regret so much as a cautionary tale:  We originally tried using a relatively light gauge electrical wire... and it did not hold.  When it broke (about two minutes after the shelf was hung), the whole thing came crashing down.  We quickly went to a hardware store and bought a thin plastic wire that reported the amount of weight it was rated to hold (75 lbs. in this case) so that there would be no more surprises.

About the toys...
As with the Micro Machines display on this page, everything is arranged in chronological order, only it just covers the first Star Wars film at the present.  The plan from here (and this may just be my sometimes manic personality speaking) is to build additional shelves for the other movies, particularly the rest of the original trilogy.

One surprising thing about assembling this case was that I found that I was missing some of the most basic figures (e.g., R2, Darth Vader, etc.).  See, I had only collected one figure for each character, but now I discovered that you actually need duplicates of the major players if you are going to pull off a series of dioramas.  Fortunately, the weekend we were putting this together, Dani and I found that there was a sci-fi convention in Dallas, so we went there and picked up some loose extras for a $1 a piece (Only the "mint" packaged rarities fetch prohibitively high prices).

Copyright 2005-2007 in a gAle[X]y far, far away.

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