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Astronaut with Ape Diorama

By Marco Scheloske - images & text © 2003

Scale: 1/6
Parts: 14 Resin (huge!) plus 5 sheet-styrene
Instructions: 2 black & white pages
Decals: None
Molding Quality: 3-4 - really nasty offset of parts, many bubbles and holes
Detail: 7 - some areas a are sharp and crisp, some not
Accuracy: 7 - kit is a compromise between two variants
Fit: 3 - without a LOT of putty none of the parts will fit to each other
Ease: 4 - you really need experience in sculpting new details all over the kit
MSRP: $149.99 USD (~$200.55 CAN/ 119.53 EUR) (I got for $85 from eBay) available from Monsters in Motion
Overall Rating: 5 - 9 (?!) - hard to work with, high retail-price for the given quality, but a really unique kind of model when finished. You should love the scene it represents if you want to build it. I do, and so I would buy it again despite all difficulties.

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There are a lot of SF-movies out there meanwhile, but a few masterpieces will really be everlasting milestones. One of those is doubtless "2001 - A Space Odyssey".

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Image: Using putty to re-create detail at the joints

Image: Astronaut's arm, as it came in the kit

Image: Ape, after drybrushing

Image: Ape's face

Image: Astronaut's helmet

Image: Astronaut, left/rear view

Image: Rear view

Image: Skull

Image: Monolith

Image: Back side

Image: Good look at the base

Image: Closer look at the ape ....

Image: ... and at the astronaut.

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The "Astronaut & Ape" diorama made by Lunar Models doesn`t really fit in my modelling interests, usually I stick to spaceships and the one or other vehicle. Figures aren`t in my focus - but this kit is one of those famous exceptions.

Why? Well, the scene it shows is the pure essence of the whole movie: The mystic monolith and its huge role in the raising of mankind, being the link between the deep past and the far future. I loved it since I saw it for the first time, and a couple of months later I was the lucky winner of an ebay-auction of this kit. Really lucky? Hm, I guess I should tell you a bit more...

...about its accuracy:

Is the kit accurate? To say it with a single word: No. Does it have to be accurate? Not necessarily. As I wrote above, it is not a model of a specific scene of the movie, more a model of the idea or soul of "2001". The astronaut is also available as a single model without the ape to represent the Discovery-version of the spacesuit; besides different chest- and backpacks, the same mold is used, so this Clavius-version has some details it shouldn`t (e.g. the touchpad on the left arm). The helmet is also a bit wrong in its dimensions. The Monolith is much too thin, but the one in the movie also has this error (reffering to the 1:4:9 ratio it should have). So it's "canon". The apeman - well, he looks like one.

...about its casting and resin quality:

Also a one-word-statement: Nasty. The molds seems to have been off at least one millimeter on each side, there are a lot of evil seamlines all over every part. I had to sand and rescribe nearly every detail of the suit (especially all those "ribs"). The parts didn`t really fit together, so this kit forced me to use epoxy sculpting putty for the first time of my modeling life. The arms of the astronaut fitted so-so, but the ape had to be re-sculpt at each attachment point (the legs, the arms, the head) and on both sides (an evil seamline just like on the astronaut). I made some pictures of the sculpted areas so that you can see it by yourself. To make it even worse hundreds of small bubbles appeared while sanding - hmgrpfl!

I wondered a while if my kit was just a bad casting, but meanwhile I have had contact with other fellows who have this kit, and they all have the same problems. So you can really proof your patience while working on this model.

Another problem was the resin used : Nice to work with (not too hard, not too weak), but no primer or color wanted to stick on it, although I washed the parts several times with different detergents. I found a primer that works more or less in my fifth attempt, but the color is still very scratch-sensitive. By the way, this is not my first resin kit, so I have first tried primers/colors that worked very well on earlier models.

The included sheet styrene for the monolith was lop-sided, cutting it to really rectangles made it too small, so I was forced to buy new sheets by myself.

...about the way I finally made it:

Because of the above mentioned patience-proofing problems I didn`t work vey often on this kit. Well, I told to myself that I should end the year with a finished model, so I finally put it back on my workbench. Sanding and re-sculpting came first, then the primer experiments. A light grey one has been used at the end. I painted most of the models with acrylic colors from Citadel / Games Workshop.

The ape got a basecolor of black, followed by a middle-gray drybrushing to bring out the fur. The instruction talked about a grey ape, but in the movie all the prehistoric humans were black, so I went this way too. I gave him brown eyes with a lot of white in it (more than a real ape has) to hint at the raising intelligence. The teeth were painted "bleached bone" first, then drybrushed with white. Inspired by a zoo visit, I gave him a silver back.

The spacesuit was painted with "chainmail", a sort of "flat" silver. The metallic details are painted with "mithril silver", a very shiny color. The insides of the gloves are semigloss black, the boots light tan. The helmet is gloss white with a black visor, surrounded by a semigloss dark stripe. The patches on the helmet and the left arm are pictures from the internet, printed on self-adhesive film. The chest- and backpacks are painted with "shadow gray", a very nice blue/gray color. Details are done with "mithril silver" and "chaos black".

The Monolith, made of sheet styrene, got a semigloss black color by Revell out of a spraycan - I did this three times because every time a few dust particles managed to make themselves self-important... so I had to sand and spray again. Finally it worked very well.

The bones at the apeside of the base and the skull have a basecolor of "bleached bone", drybrushed with flat white. The base itself was painted in two ways to show the different places (earth / moon): The earth side is painted completely with Revell #89 "sand", then drybrushed with a lighter shade of the same color. The moon got a layer of Testors / Model Masters "gunship gray". Following that it was drybrushed with "canadian voodoo gray" and "FS light gray". I used no airbrush fot this task (I feared to damage the black paint of the monolith, either by color-splashes or with masking tape), but blended the colors into eachother where the bases met just by drybrushing.

The position of the astronaut is given by a few footprints on the base, while the ape can be placed free. I choose a posture that let him raise his hand to the monolith just at the same position the astronaut does, only mirrored.

Conclusion

Summarizing it was a pain to build it, but I`m proud to finally have it in my showcase. At this time it is really the heart of my collection. But I will definitely go back to starships and vehicles now... (including some 2001-ones, headword "christmas ornaments").

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the reviewer.
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This page copyright © 2004 Starship Modeler™. First posted on 4 February 2004.