Friday, January 23, 2009


When I was small, my dad and I used to watch monster movies together. I liked all the Godzilla flicks and their relations, but the one I remember the most is THEM. Those giant radioactive ants scared me thoroughly when I was little. It's a very well made movie, good creepy tension building, the ant puppets are super for their time, and the sound design is great. So for this holiday, I decided to commemorate this experience with a diorama as a gift for my dad.

Pile of stuff I bought for this project (didn't end up using all of it):

The Ant:

The Ant (the most important part, obviously) has a base of a tarantula purchased at Michaels. Details of the figure here. I made a head out of Sculpey to slide over the pedipalps, turning a spider (two body segments) into an ant (three body segments), then joined it with some Magic Sculpt. The thorax was filled out and given segments with some more Magic Sculpt, and small pieces of cheap paintbrush bristle were stuck into the clay for the back bristles.

I cut off the rear legs of the spider, carved down the lower segments of the legs and added small spikes at the joint out of Kneadatite. The internal part of the eyes was sculpted and painted, and then a plastic outer eye was added, made of the clear portion of a "wiggly" or "googly" eye. The jaws are Kneadatite, with a wire embedded to keep them stiffer. They are slightly hinged, connected to the head with pins. Antenna are just heavy craft wire covered in "fur". Most of the fur on the ant is craft marabou, with some doll hair for texture on the back segment.

The Army Guys:

The Army Men, meant to represent the guys who invade the final giant ant base at the end of the movie, are from two sets of "Forces of Valor" figures, scale 1:32. They are sold as WWII army guys, and are highly detailed. I decided that if their details are slightly different than the National Guardsmen or whoever from the movie, it's subtle enough not to matter to anyone but students of military history. All I did to these guys was pick the ones I wanted and paint them in a detailed grayscale.

Set up from when I was trying out the guys before painting: (I didn't end up using all of them)

The Base:

The Base is built on the base of a large model car case (about 9" by 13"). The Forces of Valor sets came with some broken scale walls and rubble that I glued down and painted. The large rocks are from a plaster rock kit intended for school projects. The plaster kit also came with a bag of small gravel, which I colored and added throughout. The base was finished off with a layer of sand and plaster mix, sprinkled with rocks, and imprinted with a few ant-footprints, which ties it nicely into one piece. Only the walls and rocks are attached to the base, the army men and the ant are able to be moved.

The Sign:

Final touch, I sculpted the letters out of Magic Sculpt and glued them to a sheet of thick plastic packaging.

The most complicated piece I've done in some time. If only I'd had time to add sound effects. Completed Dec 2008


  1. You obviously put an enormous amount of effort into this gift. It is probably the best present a Dad could receive for Christmas with the possible exception of yourself.

  2. I am very glad that you like it :)

    Also, there's more pictures of the army guys here:

  3. I thought there were black ant figures at Michaels. Were there?

  4. Not at the size I needed when I needed it. Of course, the ants in THEM don't actually look that much like real ants, so it wouldn't have helped that much. ;)