It’s time to start building my haunted house diorama. I’m going borrower-style here, using as far as possible stuff I find around the house and elsewhere. I begin with a rough sketch of what I’m trying to build.
The finished room will have just three walls – the front will be left open. The rear wall will be fixed in place and the two side walls will be removable. I guess what I’m trying to build here is a kind of miniature film set and the removable walls will allow me to more easily take pictures looking into the room from the eye-level of the Playmobil characters.
The starting point is an old noticeboard, 30cm x 40cm.
The walls will be 8.5 inches (215mm) high, which feels about right as a two-story structure for figures around 3 inches (75mm) tall. I drill out holes in the base and add six removable wooden dowels that will help to support the walls.
Next, I begin work on the floor. This is made from two layers of card, the lower one black and the upper yellow.
I’m planning to include secret areas and clues for Scoob and Shaggy to discover. The first is a secret trapdoor in the floor that will be hidden by a rug – the black card is used to suggest a dark area below the main floor.
Then, I use a black marker pen to add cartoon-style floorboards and the structure of the trapdoor. The trapdoor is held in place with simple sticky-tape hinges.
I also add steps leading down into a hidden area below the trapdoor – acrylic washes are used on pale card to mimic steps disappearing into the darkness. This is my first chance to see how the figures will look in-situ and I’m fairly happy with the result.
With the floor done, it’s time to start working on the walls. I begin with the wall on the left side that includes the front door. All the walls will be constructed by gluing thin coloured cartridge paper to thicker scrap card taken from a discarded box. Then, details will be added.
This is the completed left side wall with door, windows, skirting-board and ceiling moulding. All colours are either acrylic washes or felt pen to give bright colours and that cartoon feel and the details are cut out of thin card and glued to the wall. I don’t need to make the front door open so it’s just fixed in place.
With the characters in position it looks OK, though a little tall. That’s because this is the only wall that won’t feature a first-floor level.
Next is the fixed back wall which is created in the same way. The lower right portion of this wall will be hidden by the staircase and the lower left features an opening secret door that will be hidden by a dresser. The upper part of the wall will feature a non-opening door accessible from the first-floor level, but I’ll add that later when the first floor level is done.
And with the characters in place…
Then it’s on the third and final wall. This includes two windows, one on the ground floor and one on the first.
With that done, the basic structure of my Scooby Doo set is complete.
In the next part, I’ll be building the staircase and the first floor and adding all the details.
Zoinks gang! It’s time for a very different bit of modelling to start off 2022. I mentioned in my last post (a review of a set of 1/35 German infantry from 1914) that I was getting a bit jaded in my kit building. My jadedness (is that even a word?) was increased when I messed up a shadow wash while painting those figures and ended up dumping the all-black figures in the bin. Sigh…
So, I’m now going to attempt something very different indeed. It’s a kind of, sort of, vignette in approximately 1/24 scale featuring Scooby Doo and friends. No tanks, no military stuff at all, and not a kit in sight… This is just about nostalgia-fuelled fun. I hope!
OK, now that most of my regulars have gone elsewhere for their fix of regular military-themed kit-building, what’s this new project all about?
Way back in July 1969, man first walked on the Moon. Which I, as a ten-year-old, regarded as surpassingly cool and exciting. But just two months later, something else happened that had a huge effect on my pre-teen self: the very first episode of a new kid’s cartoon series, Scooby Doo: Where Are You? launched on CBS. Produced by Hanna-Barbera, the show featured a truly Gothic aesthetic supported by wonderful painted backgrounds (even if some of the foreground animations were a little creaky).
How can you not love this? Like most of the art from Series 1, this painting was created by Walt Peregoy, a background artist who had previously worked for Disney.
The show was produced in an attempt to create a non-violent kid’s show that would avoid the criticism that many existing superhero series were attracting from parent’s and media groups. The outcome was utterly formulaic: in each of the 17 episodes of the first series, the four teenage protagonists (Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and Fred) plus their Great Dane Scooby Doo would turn up at a new location in the Mystery Machine.
When the Mystery Machine arrives in town, bad things are going to happen…
They would encounter some sort of paranormal (ghosts, zombies, etc.) or cryptid (Yeti, sea monster, etc.) problem. The gang would uncover clues and set a fiendishly complicated trap (that usually failed) before finally discovering that the ghost/monster was really a baddie in disguise. Nothing startling really, but the atmosphere (at least until the final unmasking) was rather dark and scary for a kid’s show.
Another of Walt Peregoy’s wonderful backgrounds
There were jump scares, a brooding atmosphere of menace and lots of scary establishing shots. As a ten-year-old, I found some of the episodes genuinely scary. But here’s the thing: I love the horror genre, whether it’s books, movies or television. I’m certain that my enthusiasm for this began with Scooby Doo and I still retain fond feelings for the original couple of series (but not anything that features Scrappy Doo, OK?). You could argue, if you were so inclined, that these cartoons introduced a new generation (including yours truly) to the tropes of Gothic horror – from a creepy house on a remote island to an abandoned airfield, all were laden with dread and the unspoken promise of very bad things.
If you want to remind yourself about just how great the early episodes were, the YouTube video below provides the first five minutes of the very first episode of Scooby Doo: Where Are You? from 1969, What a night for a Knight.
Jump forward over fifty years and I was in a toyshop in a large town. I was hoping they might stock model kits (they didn’t) and instead I found myself captivated by a new range from Playmobil featuring the characters from the original series of Scooby Doo. I grew to love Playmobil when my kids were growing up – the sheer quality and diverse design of everything they make really impressed me. The combination of Playmobil and Scooby Doo was almost irresistible, but my kids are now rather too grown up to appreciate these as presents and as yet, there is no sign of grandchildren to allow me to indulge my joy in train sets and Scalextric.
My latest kit failure made me think about this again. Of course, I could simply buy the Playmobil Scooby Doo Haunted Mansion, but where’s the challenge in that? Would it be possible instead to use the Playmobil characters in a home-made haunted house that reflected the cartoon aesthetic of the original? Could this then be used as the basis for a series of photographs that can be presented as a comic-strip or even a video? Essentially, can I make a new episode of Scooby Doo using these models?
That’s a lot of questions and I really don’t know the answer to any of them. I’m not even sure whether this represents revisiting my childhood or the first signs of approaching dementia. And I don’t really care, I am looking forward to something that’s a little more light-hearted than my usual modelling subject. There’s a fair bit of work involved, so I’ll be updating progress in several parts. If I ever get the comic strip/video done, I’ll post that here too. Let’s start by looking at the cast for my new episode.
Playmobil offer all the main characters from the original Scooby Doo as well as most of the monsters/ghosts from the early series. The monsters are particularly nicely done, because all can be revealed as being other characters in disguise…
I want to keep it as simple as possible, so I went for set 70287, Scooby and Shaggy with Ghost. This provides the figures fof Scooby Doo and Shaggy as well as a third character who can wear a glow-in-the-dark ghost outfit. I would have liked to have the other members of the gang, but they are only available as a large set that includes the Mystery Machine.
Scooby and Shaggy are presented in the traditional Playmobil semi-cartoon style and the ghost is particularly nicely done with a separate hood (complete with eye-holes) that can be removed to reveal the person underneath. It really does glow in the dark too, and how many 1/72 tanks can you say that about…
There are also some accessories including a bag of Scooby Snacks, a flashlight, a burger and a lead (though I can’t remember Scooby ever being on a lead in the series).
The next step will be to start to create the haunted house set and I’m looking forward to it. What do you think? Am I losing my mind or would you also like to try something completely different in terms of model-building? Stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment…