I spotted something last night in the ‘next week’ previews for The X-Files. There were a couple of glimpses of a middle-aged man in a light colored coat wearing a straw hat with a red band. I immediately said to my wife “That’s Kolchak!”. To which she said “Who?”…So I explained about Kolchak: The Night Stalker, an X-Files-esque show from the mid-70’s. X-Files creator Chris Carter has cited Kolchak as an influence on the show, and it looks like they may be giving the character a tip of the hat in next week’s show. Here’s a shot from the preview side-by-side with Darren McGavin of Kolchak fame.
I like tech, especially when it can be used for fun. That’s largely why I have a 3D printer, to make toys. Truth be told, it’s really why most anybody has a 3D printer at home, to make toys. Sometimes I’ll just hop onto the big library of 3D files on the Thingiverse website and waste an hour looking for something cool to print.
And sometimes I design something reasonably cool myself. Tonight I was inspired, and the thing I designed turned out pretty great. At least I think so.
Earlier this week I’d run across a design on Thingiverse for a Lego version of Han Solo frozen in carbonite. Neat! But it was lacking a bit of detail, so I grabbed the model, threw it into my design software, and before you knew it I had a nicely detailed Han ready to be hauled away by Lego Fett. Still, I had just cleaned up someone else’s design. I wanted to do my own.
Suddenly I was interested in legos. I tried to think of other designs I could attempt. I remembered that there was a Doctor Who lego set due out, I’d heard about it on a the Radio Free Skaro podcast. A quick search and there it was on Amazon – it has Daleks, a weeping angel, and the entire Tardis control console. This is definitely on my list for Santa (hint, hint). And then it dawned on me. The Doctor was headed back to Gallifrey in the season finale, he was headed home. But the lego kit didn’t have any Gallifrinians or Gallifrayans or whatever they’re called (I’m a bad fan). But you know what every member of the Gallifrey high council has? You betcha, a super-high three-winged Gallifrey collar! That’s what I’d build!
I broke out my handy digital caliper, went down and dug out our daughter’s old legos, and began measuring. I mocked up a little helmet, something simple just to test that I had connector design right. Why put all the effort into sussing out the entire design only to find the thing didn’t fit? So I took a baby step, and about half an hour later I had a little lego minifig wearing a silver helmet from the printer. It clicked on and off quite nicely. I like small bits of success.
I then became absorbed. I think I lost a couple of hours, designing and fiddling and designing and tweaking. When I was ready to print I discovered two things. The helmet was too thin, and the supports the software automatically built into the design were too thick. But it fit. My lego minifig looked like a Time Lord. 🙂
Another hour of work and I had it. The helmet was thick enough that it didn’t fall apart, and I replaced the automatic supports by designing my own breakaway struts. I finished the model off by dropping the Seal of Rassilon onto the shoulders. The Time Lords are ready to greet Doctor Who! If you’d like to print one yourself, the file is up on Thingiverse. Enjoy!
Do you think the show will have a warm, happy reunion between the Doctor and his home world? With an episode title like ‘Hell Bent’ I’d think not. It would be quite the twist for Timothy Dalton to give the Doctor a big hug and invite him in for tea…
Yesterday was quite a day. A good friend works at Universal and was able to get us backstage onto the lot to wander around. So after a healthy breakfast we headed off to the studio!
We parked by some production trailers and you could already see the building facades. Weaving between the buildings we came out right in the middle of town square. This is where the finale of Back to the Future was filmed!
We were able to crawl all through the buildings and see the lights, facades, and props. That city hall building has two facades – you can’t see it but the Back to the Future town hall facade is behind the one in the photo.
We walked around street after street of fake buildings – New York on this side of the street, London across over there, modern architecture just around the corner. Any type of city street you’re looking for is only a few steps away. I couldn’t take any photos though, they were shooting an episode of Agent Carter. And you don’t take photos of shoots in progress. There’s a lot of security, all designed to keep you from walking through a shot or leaking information. So the iPhones stayed in our pockets. We wouldn’t want Hulk to smash them.
After that it was on to Amityville, where we wandered around the docks watching the trams full of people go by the mechanical shark. Quite fun to see things from the other side.
My friend taught me one thing that was hugely entertaining. He pointed out that the passengers on the trams are constantly looking for ‘famous people’. So every so often when a tram would go by he’d tell me to pull my baseball cap down and quickly look away from the tram. Sure enough, people would grab their phones and start snapping photos.
Next up was the taping of a tv show, which I’ll get into in another post. But after the taping we were given the keys to the kingdom – access to a golf cart! We were able to tour all around the lot quickly and without climbing any of those pesky hills. Want to stop and see the houses on Wisteria Lane? Sure! Or maybe snap a photo on the porch of 1313 Mockingbird Lane? Of course! We’d watch the trams cruise by as we enjoyed the various neighborhoods around the lot.
I even got to ding-dong ditch Norman Bates’ house!
We toured ‘Little Europe’ as well, the area where all of the classic Universal monster movies were shot. The village sets here were used in Frankenstein, Dracula, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc etc. As well as Pirates of the Caribbean.
My friend was especially excited to see that the ‘Frankenstein Arch’ has been opened again. It had been boarded over during the production of Pirates, but is now once again as it was during the filming of Frankenstein. Neat!
Sadly the replica of the Hunchback fountain has been disassembled and is slowly withering away in the hot California sun. We found pieces of it behind the village.
We finished off the day with a visit to the prop warehouse on the lot. This is a huge building where everything and anything needed for a shoot can be found. It’s a bit like that giant warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Aisles after aisle, floor after floor of props. An aisle here of stuffed taxidermy animals. An aisle of nothing but toasters. Another aisle full of old computer equipment (which looks a lot like my garage). You name it, they’ve got an aisle for that. Production designers roam the halls marking pull tags for the various objects they need to dress their sets. You’ll see them all over – we saw a number of tags for the TV shows Scorpion and CSI Cyber.
We wandered the floors for about an hour, and asked the guys working there what some of their favorite things were. Here are a few:
I was told this organ was from The Munsters. It’s definitely old!
And this iron maiden is definitely from The Addams Family:
This is from one of the old Mummy movies:
I was in hog heaven! I could have wandered around that shop all day long. What a day! I was just sad that it had to end. Thanks to everyone that made it such a fantastic trip!