How To Build The Black Hole’s Cygnus

The Black Hole was one of the most heavily-promoted flicks of the late seventies’ burgeoning category of post-Star-Wars sci-fi blockbuster-wanna-bes. Back then, the Star Wars universe was not yet a wholly-owned subsidiary of Disney, and so Disney – like the rest of the studios – desperately tried to play catch-up with George Lucas’ (and 20th Century Fox’s) blockbuster.

The result was a flawed, but much-loved-by-fans-of-a-certain-age, epic. With the marketing might of Disney behind it, there were puzzles, read-along storybooks, model kits, and – perhaps best of all – Mego’s line of Black Hole action figures.

[Via] Action Figure King.Com

But what the model kits of the time couldn’t hope to duplicate was the sheer intricacy of The Black Hole’s delicate spacecraft. And you can’t really fault them for that: the complicated, visible girders gave the movie’s main setting, the wayward U.S.S. Cygnus, a cathedralesque look. Trying to mass-produce a replica of that in lightweight plastic would be begging for trouble: a model too delicate to stand up under its own weight.

But we live in the future now, and enterprising fans with mad 3-D skills – and no readily apparent budget ceiling – have finally put the Cygnus within your reach…for a price. (To quote a robot from a much more recent Disney sci-fi epic, it’s high…it’s very high.)

Industrious, and quite possibly even-madder-than-Dr.-Hans-Reinhardt Black Hole fan “Primitive Dave” has made it possible, via 3-D printing service Shapeways, to accumulate and assemble the pieces necessary for an almost-filming-ready model of the Cygnus.

This is not a project for the faint of heart, the scarce of budget, or those short on skills: some assembly, to put it mildly, is required. Better assemble some funds, too: all of the pieces necessary to put together the model itself run nearly $1,200.

A Flickr album by “The Lazy Modeler”, a.k.a. Jeff Bond, shows the painstaking construction of not just a complete U.S.S. Cygnus model from the Shapeways page, but one with internal lighting and blue LEDs for the engines.
Cygnus - Jeff Bond
Cygnus - Jeff Bond

(Jeff Bond played Dr. McCoy in some of the final episodes of the incredibly well-produced fan-made series Star Trek: New Voyages, and wrote the liner notes to the long-overdue official cd release of the complete soundtrack from The Black Hole itself. If building this model – and the eye-popping selection of other models in the background – doesn’t earn Mr. Bond serious geek cred, then those credentials, and the wealth of liner notes he’s written for many other soundtrack CDs, should put him over the top.)

The other thing about this entirely 3-D printed Cygnus model? It’s huge. Clear a shelf…a shelf that runs the length of an entire wall.
By the time it’s completed, and LED-lit, the only thing missing…is an equally detailed scale model of the relatively tiny U.S.S. Palomino berthed in the docking elevator.

Maybe “Primitive Dave” will have us covered on that in due time. (By the way, I suspect that Jeff Bond is not lazy, nor is Dave really very primitive. Call it a hunch.)

If you seek a massive modeling challenge, go in(sane), through (your entire bank balance), and beyond (the available space in your living room) aboard the Cygnus! Floaty robot buddies not included.

Grand Jester Studios Q and A

You’ll recall that a few weeks back Grand Jester Studios was kind enough to share some photos of a few of their awesome collection of Disney character busts. They also graciously agreed to answer a few of your questions that we sent them, so I want to thank everyone that contacted me on that and without further ado let us get to those questions!

1) How do you decide upon the subject matter of your work, is it a group effort on behalf of the studio? For example with the Rocketeer bust, did the Disney studio itself see there was a lack of high quality collectibles and approach Grand Jester Studios or were you the ones who approached them?

GJS: It’s a very collaborative decision between the Disney Studios, Disney Consumer Products and the Grand Jester Studios artists, developers and marketing. The whole reason for the launch of the Disney mini-busts was that we felt there was a void in the market for collectors of quality mini-busts that represent the Disney films and cast of characters. We wanted to use our expertise on Disney collectible lines (such as on Walt Disney Classics Collection) to make the characters very true in form and color (“on model” as the animators say). So, we drew up some concepts and presented to Disney. We wanted to portray them in some forward poses that capture their personality and with a sense of action. We also wanted to include icons from the film where possible, usually in the base or with architectural elements. We also knew we wanted to cover subjects from live action films, comics, and classic animated films and shorts. We had the Rocketeer in mind from the very start noting that it has its origins in comics and then became a Disney live action film.

2) What is the average time it takes to come up with an approved design? I assume that it is a back and forth with Disney. How long does it take to go from approved design to having the product available for purchase?

GJS: Yes, there’s a good deal of back and forth once we have added a subject to the bust assortment. We usually look at film sequences, sometimes freezing frame by frame or other reference ask the creative director to generate multiple rough concepts. We then meet as a team internally, make selections and tweaks. That may take one to two months. We then go to a tighter concept with some color and then present to Disney who will of course have feedback. Once the concept is approved we go into sculpting and then color model with several rounds of approvals. It takes about a year from initial concept to having product available to purchase.

3) Has there been any character that Grand Jester has wanted to create that perhaps Disney didn’t approve?

GJS: Oh, funny you ask! Yes, there have been some and usually there is an issue with the Studio not having the legal rights to the actor likeness or the character or complex rights assignments for merchandise. Some examples which come to mind might be Zorro and Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. (That’s a shame because I know I would kill to have a James Mason inspired Captain Nemo bust on my mantle! -Vic)

Talking about upcoming busts…what is the possibility of a Maximillian or V.I.N.C.E.N.T. bust from the Black Hole?

GJS: Ahhh, we have received those requests! The somewhat obscure villain from the Black Cauldron, The Horned King, started out with requests like these and ended up with the release of a mini-bust, so you never know….

I want to give a huge thanks to Grand Jester Studios for taking time from their busy holiday schedule to answer all of the questions we were able to send them. I cannot wait to hear from them again on what they have coming out for purchase because my mantle always needs a few more things to showcase. I’ll leave you with two very nice Flynn busts from those hardworking geniuses, make sure to click on the pictures to really check out the detail!

Saturday Supercade: Mego V.I.N.C.E.N.T.

I can honestly say that I’ve never seen this R.C. Mego toy in my entire life until just the other day…now I wish very badly that I had known of its existence so I could have begged my grandparents for this to be under the tree back in 1979. Except that sadly all that begging wouldn’t have worked anyway, thanks to The Mego Museum I’ve learned that this commercial posted below is an unaired Toyfair presentation. After spending $100,000 for two working V.I.N.C.E.N.T. prototypes they deemed it too expensive for the average family. Of the two prototypes, one was destroyed in the last days of the Mego Corporation, and the second was luckily saved by by a former employee as you can see looming behind its 8″ brother. Rumor is that if V.I.N.C.E.N.T. would have been successful the company had plans to release a Twiki from Buck Rogers.