Close Encounters

Deviles Tower in the Bear Lodge Mountains of Wyoming – Background for the Movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind 

After completing The Last Dinosaur, we took a break for a few days but our mind started working again on a new diorama. A monthly contest for the IPMS was to create something from TV or the movies. I went through a number of my favorite movies. I saw Sunset Boulevard for about the tenth time the other night and there was a big desire to do one of the two famous scenes from this film. One is the seventh most memorable quotes from all movies is when Norma Desmond says, “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” The other quote and scene from the film is the one where Norma Desmond comes down the steps of her mansion at the end of the film in a state of delusion and says, “All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close- up.”

However, there were problems modeling either one of these scenes as I could not find a good Norma Desmond doll that looked anything near Gloria Swanson in the movie. (Perhaps this task was too great for any premade doll?) And, I wasn’t up for trying to create the famous Noram Desmond myslef. I was more interested in creating a context for characters rather than the characters themselves, especially when they could usually be obtained elsewhere via that a Google search. I even thought of working with a 3D modeling company like Shapeways to create a Norma Desmond doll but my heart was not in creating dolls but places to put dolls in.

The Norma Desmond Doll Available for Purchase

I shuffled through a number of those lists on Google listing the top of everything. I Googled the top film scenes of all time and top TV scenes of all time. I Googled the top quotes from films and TV as there is always a connection between powerful dialogue in a scene and a powerful scene. A few of my favorite films like The Year of Living Dangerously and Witness were difficult to pull scenes from. Besides, I wanted to test out the new LED strip from Amir that had the remote control for all types of lighting effects. At around $7.00 it was not difficult to justify putting into a diorama. And, I also wanted to put the new Anker Bluetooth speaker into the diorama. It seemed I needed to go more in the direction of the Science Fiction genre.

After a lot of searching on Google for best scenes, moments and quotes from movies and TVs, after thinking back to the scenes that stuck in my mind for a diorama, I began considering Close Encounters of a Third Kind. I was never all that impressed with the overall film. But certainly it’s special effects were spectacular and Spielberg had produced another blockbuster that appeared on many of the greastest film lists. I started thinking that the scene of the “encouinter of the third kind” when the aliens are communicating with humans through music (of all things) with the lights of the mothership wildly flashing. This could utilize the Amir LED light strip and the Anker Bluetooth. In fact, the viewer of the scene could even be handed the remote device to operate the lights of the alien craft.

The Amir LED Light Strip and the Anker Bluetooth Speaker

The scene would be on a large base for a diorama. I envisioned a 2′ x 2′ plywood board. At the SE corner of the board, a young boy in O scale (1/48) would be standing on the top of a hill that reaches its peak in the SE corner of the diorama board. The left, front and right side of the board would be built up so that steep hills surround the scene the boy looks at below. Then, a change of scale figures as N scale figures are positioned around a large alien craft that is emitting flashing colors of lights and this strange type of classical computer music. The craft sits at the top North part of the diorama with many N scale figures around it, many wearing white lab jackets. They stand on some old airport runway with cracks and weeds running through it. Desert surrounds the runway. Small N scale vehicles and structures are seen surrounding the huge alien craft. We’ve decided to use the Area 51 UFO AE-341.15B as our model rather than attempt modeling the alien craft from Close Encounters. Anyone really interested in seeing how the alien craft exactly looked can visit the Smithsonian Institute and see the scale model Spielberg built for the film.

Mothership Model From Close Encounters at the Smithsonian

To sum things up, we have a perspective directly behind a young boy standing on a ridge in the SE corner of a scene. He is looking down into a type of cove in the desert at a strange event. A great alien craft sits at the north part of the cove/diorama. It is flashing in many colors and music is coming from it. A crowd of white-jacketing people stand on the old runway in front of it. It is not at all what he expected when he thought about alien contact and all. It was difficult not to think about it these days.

So, perhaps one might say, the viewer obtains the same perspective (shot) as someone observing this key scene from Close Encounters of a Third Kind. Or perhaps more specifically, observing a new scene in life based on this scene. The scene is inspired by Close Encounters. At the same time, it also goes its own way by suggesting that the film perspective in Close Encounters was not the only perspective. It does this by not attempting to create again the scene from Close Encounters. But rather, to add to the scene and show how it might have evolved into a new type of scene for a new time in history. A movie scene from 1975 compared to scenes from 2018. The hopes and fears of people almost half a century later. In other words, this diorama we’re called Close Encounters of a Boy is seen not as a replica of Close Encounters but rather a type of modern criticism, comment and story based on it. A story based in this particular diorama scene.

Pegasus Model of the Area 51 U.F.O.

The greatest dioramas, it seems to me, are also the greatest first scenes in novels or films, or any stories in/of life. Biographies. Autobiographies. Memoirs. Journals. So much depends on this first scene that sets up the context of the story and then the action in it. All dioramists are part of that group of media ecologists out there. Many followers of Marshall McLuhan and his ideas and theories about the power of unseen things in life. Like media. First and foremost, it seems to me, a great diorama presents a slice of media ecology on a piece of plywood. Here, the diorama is inspired by a famous film scene to go beyond the scene and not simply duplicate it with a model of it. The diorama will attempt to pay respect to the old movie scene but at the same time acknowledge contemporary interests in alien contact. Somewhere, a young boy (or girl) stands on some ridge, looking down on some strange magic event below. Perhaps it is some secret government event filled with government agents and scientists. In fact, a young boy looking at a modified version of the famous scene from Close Encounters.

Forced Perspcetive Box Diarama From Sheperd Paine

In the diorama, two different modeling scales are combined to give the illusion of distance. The boy observing the scene is closest to the diorama viewer and is in 1/48th O gauge model railroading scale. The alien craft and the people surrounding it in the cove below are modeled in 1/166 N gauge scale, two scales down from O gauge. By using the different scales, the diorama attempts to trick the viewer’s sense of distance by making the event in the cove look much farther away than it is in the diorama. In order to illusion of distance, there are folds in the hills below the observing boy. Uusally forced perspctives are confined with box dioramas at which modeler Sheperd Paine was the master of. But this diorama is not a box diorama and attempts to test forced perspctive outside the boundaries of a box diorama.

The Dazzling Special Effects of The Mothership in the Close Encounter’s Film by Speilberg

Like the boy in the scene, the viewer peeks in at the strange events in the cove below, the flashing lights and the strange music. The music in the diorama from the famous Japanese composer Isao Tomita who composed “Close Encounters of a Third Kind.”. This is the music that plays from the Anker Bluetooth inside the alien spaceship and it comes from the Tomita piece downloaded from my iPhone Music Library into the speaker. The remote-control switch for the LED lights allows the viewer to controll all types of lighting colors and effects of the alien craft.

The “Alien” Craft Known as Apple Computer?

The ideas for this project continue to evolve. I even think of having the boy on the hill be observing the alien-craft-like appearance of the new Apple Headquarters in Silicon Valley. Certainly this would add a humorous social comment to the scene. Perhaps the alien craft should be modeled after the Apple headquarters? The ideas for the new diorama continue to evolve.


NOTE: Press below play arrow to hear Isao Tamita’s original music coming from the contact between aliens and humans. Interestingly, first contact with aliens from the perspective of music rather than battles.


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