Diorama Build: Kong vs Godzilla

It’s no secret I love bad movies and with it, the cheesy monster flicks of old. One of my favourites has to be the 1962 King Kong vs Godzilla with a plot so insane you’d probably think I’m making it up. Essentially, a pharmaceutical company has decided they want King Kong ot become their mascotte, and in an excellent PR strategy they force him to fight against Godzilla. So when I saw NECA released a figure based on the original 1933 King Kong (which looks way better than 1962 Kong) only one thing came to mind. I need to set him and Goji up like this:

Step 1: Planning

Now I could had just posed these figures and called it a day, but I wanted to go all out and try my hand at making a diorama. I’ve never done this before but luckily we live in an age where all information is freely available on the internet. Starting by taking screenshots of the fight scenes in the movie, I drew draw a layout on paper. Trees would be used to give a sense of scale to the monster figures, with a hill on the back adding depth. This is a common tactic in building games like Cities Skylines, Planet Coaster and Minecraft. With the materials ordered It was time for the next step.

Step 2: Styrofoam cuts and front plate

I had some left-over styrofoam foam sheets which made for a perfect base after being cut down to fit a single IKEA Expedit/Kallax shelf. Placing the posed figures and marking down their feet and tail meant I knew where I could freely go mess with the terrain. Using rough pieces of foam I added hills to the back, slopes and what not. To help keep the foam pieces in place I used white wood glue and toothpicks. At this point I also played around with different tree placements.

Once pleased I cut down a piece of scrap wood to act as the front plate. This plate will eventually cleanly connect to the top of the clay layer. Adding two nails and wood glue I connected the front plate and did the same to the back plate. As the sides would be covered by the closet I didn’t bother to add side plates.

Step 3: Adding the clay top layer

To smooth down the styrofoam mess I applied a layer of wood glue and air drying modeling clay. I found the best approach to be doing small patches of thin clay, keeping everything wet until all parts were covered. To smooth the clay I simply used a wet spoon. It didn’t had to be perfect as I would mostly be covering up in the next two steps. I also made sure to connect the front plate to the rest, making it look like a solid piece.

The only clay part that did matter however were the hills. These would be left exposed so texturing them was important. Making a few dents with my fingers to roughen up the terrain helped a lot, but for the final texture I wrapped up some aluminium foil into a ball. By gently rolling the ball over the clay I got a nice rocky texture, exactly what I was looking for. After this I headed to bed to let the clay dry overnight.

Step 4: Painting

With the clay dry it was time to add paint. For what would become the grassy and gravel area I applied a single layer of brown acrylic paint. Most of it would be covered up, so the brown is mostly there to cover up any “bald” patches of grass in the next step. The front plate received three layers of black to match the closet it would be placed in.

The hills require way more work to get right as these would be left exposed. I started with a fully covering layer of black. After that, I drybrushed different shades of grey. This way the deeper parts would remain dark, thus adding depth to the rocks. Adding coloured tints to the rocks helps make them look more natural. For this I watered down carmine red and cadmium orange in their own containers, applied them with a brush and dabbed off the majority with a tissue. I repeated this with a graphite paint, this would add tiny shiny particles like the metals in rocks would. Playing around with several of these coats I let it all dry. Finally, to retrieve a few accents, I drybrushed white and light grey “scratches” and patches and finished up with severely watered down brown to add a bit of filth.

I know, it sounds like a lot of work but honestly it’s all just rough painting. Mistakes are easy to cover and you can always wipe the paint off and start over. No stress, just making deliberate a mess as that’s how nature is.

Step 5: Rocks, tufts and flocking

Time to the fine details. I picked up rocks, tufts of grass and flock (fake grass and gravel) from The Army Painters. Using wood glue I started to place down rocks (actually made out of cork). A lot of them went to places where the ground got smashed or pushed away like at the feet and godzilla’s tail. I also added a few rocks on the hills, random ones in the fields and just wherever it felt right. wherever I had a pile of rocks I made sure to sprinkle watered down wood glue over them, just to make sure they would all stay in place. Tufts of grass glued on as well, some on the hills, some in the gravel and others in the grass field. These just add a bit of detail and don’t cost a lot anyway.

With these pieces nice and dry I was time to add the flocking. I brushed down wood glue everywhere I wanted grass and sprinkled the grass flocking on top. Flipping the diorama and tapping it over a newspaper removed all excess flocking and allowed me to easily get it back into the container. I did the same with the gravel parts and once in place I sprayed ethanol over the flocking which helps it bond together, followed by sprinkling watered down wood glue to seal everything. It was also at this point where I threw random pinches of gravel around to break things up a bit.

Step 6: Place and enjoying!

That’s all! Once the glue dried I placed the figures in place, popped it into the closet and occasionally look it with a smile on my face knowing I made this. All in all I really enjoyed the process of making a diorama. I’ve never done anything like this before and it really does compliment the figures. Best of all, it’s anything but expensive and I’ve got at least 90% of the materials I ordered left. So… Gundam reclaimed by nature next?