Monday, October 13, 2008

Diorama: The 41st Elite Legion's assault on Prairisuno

The first time I saw Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, I was excited to see a variety of specialty units within the Grand Army of the Republic. The 41st Elite Legion, led by Clone Commander Gree, quickly became one of my favorites. The unit can be seen in RotS on Coruscant (wearing their grey-marked Phase II armor) prior to deploying with Master Yoda, and then again on Kashyyyk (wearing their camouflaged Scout armor). This diorama depicts the 41st Elite Legion (in their previously mentioned Phase II armor) making an assault on the industrial mining planet of Prairsuno (yes, I made up the planet name). I wanted to portray an urban battlefield with lots of destruction that gives the impression of a ferocious battle (think along the lines of the final 30 minutes of the Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket).

Construction -
The base is actually a piece of the shelving that I installed in my SW workshop specifically to hold dioramas. It measures two feet long and six inches deep. The background wall is a piece of masonite two feet long and about six inches high. It was attached to the base with small angle irons and some screws. The background wall was painted light grey and will be used to simulate a long duracrete wall. The two small structures were made from styrofoam sheets. The pieces were cut to the size I wanted and then assembled using glue and toothpicks.

Additional glue was used to fill and strengthen the corner areas. Once the glue had dried, I spray-painted the buildings and quickly found that the paint soaked in too much. They looked like dirty styrofoam houses! I solved this problem with a bucket of elastomeric patch (something I already had on hand due to a leak in the basement). Using a flat edge, I spread the stuff smoothly and evenly over all of the styrofoam surfaces. When it was dry, I spray-painted it light grey. This time, I was very happy with the way they looked. Once again, the intent was to simulate industrial structures that had to be constructed rapidly and remain durable for an extended amount of time. I decided that the building on the left would be a small two-person living quarters for some of the workers assigned to the planet. I attached a combination entertainment center & storage unit to the wall next to the doorway. I also added a chair (that originally came with an Episode One Yoda figure), a pair of small beds and a small table (that was left over from the Shalo's Cantina diorama Jen and I did a few years ago). The building on the right is so badly damaged that I don't think it really matters what the original purpose was! The conduits attached to the side of each building were made from pieces of straw from the inside of a Windex bottle. The conduit was twisted, painted and then scorched before being glued to the buildings.

As for the damage, I originally built both buildings intact and then cut away large sections of it with a hobby knife. Portions of the building on the left were broken or "chewed" with a Leatherman tool. I considered doing more of it, but I was concerned with overdoing it and then not being able to un-do. In order to make the styrofoam look a bit more realistic, my 5 year old son and I played "squish the styrofoam". He had a blast! We basically crumpled a large amount of it up, broke up some previously unused sheets and threw them all into a large paper shopping bag. We then added in several small shovel-fuls of regular old garden dirt and shook the heck out of the bag. THEN, I alternated spray-panting the bag's contents a very light grey and shaking the bag up over and over again. The results were awesome! Most of the pieces are grey, with a really gritty texture. The bubbles in the styrofoam are no longer an issue because we squashed 'em! The really neat thing is that some of the broken and jagged edges did not hold the paint well. An unintentional side effect, but it looks pretty realistic.

Small sections of bent paperclip were used to simulate something like rebar sticking out of the damaged walls where the duracrete had broken. Small shrubbery was added to the side of one building using lichen. A huge amount of gritty dirt and concrete dust was scattered throughout. The Clone Troopers of the 41st Elite Legion were all completed prior to the beginning of this diorama. Recipes for each of them have been posted on the blog. They were added in once the scenery was completed.

The Separatist troops were made from Titan A.E. figures. They each got a new head and two of them received combat helmets that originally came with the Jedi Training Armor Obi-Wan Kenobi. The destroyed Separatist Assault Mech also came from Titan A.E. Basically, I spray-painted the body a dull grey and then painted the legs and other moving parts a steel color. Select bits of trim were done in dark grey and black. The cannon was taken from an old Voltron action figure. It actually fit onto the walker without any modification at all. After the walker was "done", I used a butane lighter to melt one of the legs off and scorch a lot of the body. The walker was positioned on the battlefield to appear as if it had lost it's leg to a missile strike. Bits of debris and lots of dust were thrown over the wreckage.

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