Thursday, November 26, 2009

Toy of the week, Monday, November 23, 2009

Ever since I was a kid I have admired toys that were nothing less than working models of real machinery.  I mentioned this before in my post on the scratch built railroad crane.  This is one of the aspect of the live steam hobby that is appealing.  Miniature steam engines can be made from the same materials as their full size counterparts-- in some cases replicating full size machines down to each individual nut and bolt.

Today's model is not steam-- instead I bring you a working model of an internal combustion engine.  This model is made in germany of CNC machined parts.  As a desktop curiosity this toy is one of the coolest things around.  It runs on butane or propane.  To run the engine you simply open a small gas valve and spin the flywheel.  The engine roars to life-- occasionally shooting small blue flames from the dual exhaust pipes.  It uses a piezo igniter to provide a charge to a miniature working spark plug.  To get a closer look at this miniature working piece of engineering set your throttle to full and visit the Maier Internal Combustion Engine in the Machinery Gallery of the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities.

Full steam ahead...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Toy of the week, Monday, November 16, 2009

Released over twenty years ago, the movie Aliens still stands as a benchmark in film making.  Made in a time when digital visual effects were not the go-to technology, the beautiful practical effects in the movie Aliens still stand up today.  Effects including creatures and vehicles were all done with extensive use of miniatures and animatronic puppets.  This combined with unparalleled art direction add up to a gritty and realistic look for the film that only contributes to the excitement of this classic action sci-fi thriller.
Director Jim Cameron drove the art direction in the film to create a believable world.  The military hardware in the film looks modern but still reflects the style of Vietnam war era technology.  Fitting for a movie where a well equipped squad of marines is essentially wiped out but a primitive foe.  The weapon and vehicle designs set a new standard for the science fiction genre and the designs are so pleasing that they remain the favorites of sci-fi geeks nearly a quarter of a century later.

This brings me to today's offering.  From my previous post on the Aliens Action Fleet APC I hinted that some of the most spectacular examples of Aliens toys come out of Japan.  Three years ago Aoshima released stunning die cast metal models of the Dropship and APC.  A close look at these vehicles will reveal details that might make nitpickers cringe.  This is an interesting artifact of having an accurate model of a movie vehicle in your hands.  For example, a close examination of the Dropship, which is a VTOL aircraft like a Harrier jump jet, and you see that the thrust nozzles are not centered on the aircraft.  This would make the Droship nose heavy and unstable.  This shows you that absolute perfection in engineering design is not critical for a successful movie vehicle.  To create something believable on the screen is an entirely different matter.  

That aside, the Aoshima Aliens toys are by far some of the most stunning models of movie vehicles you will ever see.  The Dropship is over a foot long and weighs in at over two pounds!  It has all the moving parts seen in the film.  As a companion piece, the APC is finely detailed and it stows neatly in the cargo bay of the Dropship.  To give a sense of scale, the vehicles each came with tiny detailed figures of the colonial marines.

This is not a toy to be missed, so stay frosty, move on into the Vehicles Gallery of the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities, and secure the area by checking out the Die Cast Metal Aliens Dropship and APC.

Full steam ahead...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Toy of the week, Monday, November 9, 2009

I still remember when my parents took me to see Back to the Future.  It was 1985.  I honestly had no clue what the movie was about.  I also had no clue what a Delorean was.  Well I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I remember wishing I could ride a skateboard the way Michael J Fox's character did, and I remember instantly realizing how cool Deloreans were. I also remember being excited at the prospect of a sequel.

Fast forward to 1989.  I was in eighth grade.  It had been four years since the first film and Robert Zemeckis was back at the helm for  Back to the Future II.  Boy was I excited.  In the end though I left disappointed.  Like many movie goers I did not expect to have a large "to be continued..." slapped in my face.  I felt like Universal pictures was nickel and diming me into seeing part three.  For me that was it.  I actually vowed not to see the third movie.  It was a vow I kept.  I didn't see the third movie for many years-- probably until the mid 90's when I watched it on video.  I didn't think much of it until a couple years ago.  For Christmas of 2006 I asked for the Trilogy set of films on DVD.  While watching the special features I learned that Zemeckis battled Universal to advertise the second movie as part of a continuing series.  Instead Universal said no and decided to market the movie as a complete film which left me and many other fans feeling ripped off.  Strangely after learning this I was ready to watch the entire series with a new attitude, and to my surprise, I really like the third movie.

The first film still is my favorite but it does place an emphasis on materialism with Marty's (Fox's character) ultimate goal to obtain a really cool Toyota 4x4 and get the girl.  The third movie is more of a relationship movie and we learn a lot more about the wild haired inventor of the time machine Doc Emmet Brown (Christopher Lloyd).  The movie takes a decidedly steampunk spin and in one of the great action sequences they attempt to push the Deloeran time machine up to speed on Railroad tracks under steam locomotive power.

Naturally, If I were to have a model of any movie vehicle it would be one that rides on R.R. tracks right?   Today I continue my series of movie vehicles and bring you a model of the Delorean time machine as seen in Back to the Future III.  I preformed extensive surgery on this model to convert it to run on standard 45mm "G" gauge track so it could be pushed by a live steam locomotive.  There are many fine details on this model so power your time circuits on, and gun it to 88 mph. into the Vehicles Gallery of the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities to check out the R.R. Delorean time machine.

Full steam ahead...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Toy of the week, Monday, November 2, 2009

If you were to think back, what would you vote for as the coolest movie vehicle of all time?  The Delorean time machine from Back to the Future?  How about the Ghost Busters' vintage ambulance also known as Ecto 1 ?  Or, for fans of the more obscure, maybe the giant twelve wheeled truck, known as the Landmaster, from Damnation Alley?  This month I begin a special series of toys, all representing famous movie vehicles.  These vehicles have captured movie goers imaginations and now the vehicles themselves are captured in miniature size in die cast metal and plastic.  On with the show...

The 2005 movie Batman Begins told us some important details about the caped crusader.  First of all, he was trained by ninjas in a secret compound in Asia, second of all he gets his cool toys from a defunct military technology division of his own company, and finally, all the whacked out bad guys he fights are the product of a hallucinogenic drug that was dispersed through the water supply of Gotham City.  OK, cool, now Batman is grounded in reality right?  In one scene in the movie he discovers a vehicle prototype under a tarp and takes it for a test spin.  The vehicle, called the Tumbler, looks like the bastard child of a stealth jet fighter and a military truck.
Historically batman drives a dragster like car that, while fast and powerful, actually makes very little sense for a vigilante crime fighter.  A military vehicle is a much more reasonable choice.  Batman Begins' production designer Nathan Crowley designed the Tumbler through an organic process of clay models and plastic model bashing.  The actual movie car is quite impressive.  It is capable of speeds over 100 mph. and was jumped 30 feet as part of the production.

Today I have for your consideration a 1:18 scale model of the Batman Begins Tumbler in it's original military prototype camouflage paint scheme.  This toy was released primarily as a collectible item several months after the films theatrical release.  A regular black version was available first.  The black version is still quite easy to find on EBay for around $35  The camo version is considerably more rare.

Many of the details of the movie vehicle are featured on this toy, and I have included many notes about the actual movie vehicle, so roll into the Vehicles Gallery of the Cabinet of Curious Frivolities and take a close look at the many details of the Batman Begins Tumbler.

Full steam ahead...