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Geronimo! or: Beware of the window-cleaner

n by Frank Spahr

Wallace (surname unknown), somewhat doughy-looking knitwear-loving inventor and cheese aficionado, has set up a business in window-cleaning. Aided by his faithful canine companion Gromit, he forms a rapid deployment force against grimy glass. Aided by a launching system faintly resembling the good old S.H.A.D.O. days, the intrepid cleaners hazard English city streets on their motorcycle with sidecar, the latter harboring some very useful gadgets ...

So far, Nick Park´s brainchildren have starred in three animated movies, becoming extremely popular. So, there is no wonder that merchandising has discovered the popular duo. To my delight, Airfix has produced two Wallace & Gromit kits after scenes from the latest movie A Close Shave, the one presented here on the motorcycle and the second - Gromit alone in the fighter plane sidecar, firing the devastating porridge gun. I choose the former, since I was looking for something very politically correct and non-violent to display in my dentist's practice. I wasn´t so sure how far some people´s tolerance would go facing a porridge gun point blank.

Getting the kit wasn´t so easy. I tried to order it from one of my favorite mail orders in Braunschweig, but they were out of stock almost immediately after initial release. It took some weeks, but - alas - there was that big package. The kit is packed rather nicely, with color pictures on all sides on the box. Beside the styrene parts and the decals plus a steel axle for connection between bike and sidecar, there was glue, a kind of a brush and acrylic paint in all necessary shades included, prompting a friend of mine to the comment: "This one is for the kiddies."

I don´t know about the glue or the brush, but the paint is a big helper in achieving this kit´s unique goal: not making oit look like a real thing, but like to replicate a clay model. The acrylic paint gives plastic the appropriate play-dough surface quality. I used the acrylic paint for everything I brush-painted, but not for the red parts. I spray-painted these with Revell red, since I preferred the even surface and did not dare using the supplied paint in my airbrush. All the rest was brush-painted like in the (good) old days.

This leads me to a sentence I had in my head since assembling Gromit´s body: There are those who lament the passing of the good old modeller's days, when sparsely detailed and ill-fitting kits had to be assembled using - ehm - blood, sweat and tears, the days when men were still men, women still women, and furry little aliens from Alpha Centauri ... well, you know about that, don´t you? Anyway: Build this kit, and you are straight back into these days. Honest.

You don't look for much crisp detail or recessed panel lines or authentically reproduced fabric covered ailerons in a kit like this, but you might expect a more than basic fit in the figures, especially since the „clay" originals never show any seam lines. So this is where work really starts. I used mainly wax as a filler, since it's easier to use than conventional putty, and my model wouldn't be touched or used after completion - no kiddies going brrm-brrm with it...

I read Magnus Fridsell´s article on the Wallace & Gromit kits when I was just at this point of writing, and, although I only built the sidecar and cannot speak for the plane, he´s perfectly right. Well, the kits are something for real fans of Wallace & Gromit plus modellers with some experience, definitely not for the 8-years-old mentioned on the box.

I completed the motorcyle plus sidecar first, before assembling the two figures. This gave me the opportunity to adjust the arms correctly. There were a few errors  in the kit. The gun should have a swivel mount - it should be easy to correct, but I didn´t use the gun anyway. What really angered me was the connection between motorcycle and sidecar. Airfix provided a very strong steel rod for rigidity, but it is to be glued into a hollow footrest that itself is attached by styrene pin less than 0.5 mm thick. Well, given this assembly, a styrene mount would have done equally (poor). Moreover, the mounts do not fit at all, and you have to do quite a lot of adjusting work until you have the sidecar in the proper distance and angle with the motorcycle. Besides, the mount is nowhere like the one in the movie - with the peg that vibrates out and leaves the sidecar alone.

Having completed the vehicle, I mounted the figures' arms, Gromit's arms lifted as he does when Wallace races towards Wendolene's shop. Having sanded, filled, smoothened and polished, I spent an afternoon with the acrylic paints and completed the model. As always, I discovered some paint job flaws only on the pics, be assured that I corrected them in the meantime ...

Summary: Strictly not for the kids, overpriced when considering value for money, but the only available Wallace & Gromit kit anyway.


Aardman Animation studios have a fine website covering much of their activities at http://www.aardman.com/wallaceandgromit


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