Vox producer Edward Vega explains how directors such as Wes Anderson and Chris Nolan have helped revive the art of miniature models for their films. To learn more, Vega spoke with veteran propmaker Simon Weisse about his work with Anderson.
Miniatures in movies are way more common than you may realize, and one of the most stylish filmmakers keeping them alive is Wes Anderson….we spoke to Simon Weisse, prop maker and model marker for some of Wes Anderson’s recent projects, like The Grand Budapest Hotel, The French Dispatch, and Asteroid City.
Vega also notes that older films, such as Star Wars IV: A New Hope, which was released in 1977, relied on models due to technological constraints. However, newer films have had the benefit of CGI to create stunning backdrops, forgoing the use of models in many cases. Anderson, along with other directors, chose to go with Weisse’s expertise in order to get the type of realism they sought.
Older movies, like 1977’s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, had no choice but to use miniatures to make their worlds feel real. But even in the modern day of CGI, filmmakers are still using minis — just look at projects like The Mandalorian, Blade Runner 2049, Harry Potter, and The Dark Knight series. In those movies, miniatures are used for expansive sets that establish the world of a film, otherworldly vehicles like spaceships, and more.
Weisse further explains that miniatures, when done well, are an excellent way to convey a message.
Most of the time, if miniatures are done right the audience isn’t supposed to know that they’re tiny. But if you keep an eye out, you can see it used in a few commonplace. For expansive sets that establish the world of a film like The Grand Budapest Hotel… or the castle from Harry Potter… or the opening gates of Jurassic World… and fantasy vehicles that would be too expensive or too impossible to build at human scale. Like the spaceships from E.T. or Asteroid City or the Razor Crest from The Mandalorian. And if you’re trying to blow up an entire building for real, a miniature helps make that possible.