Belafonte Scale Model: Part One (Let me tell you about my boat)

still-of-bill-murray-in-the-life-aquatic-with-steve-zissou-large-pictureIn this series I will be building a scale model of Steve Zissou’s ship, the Belafonte. Part One covers some background information.

The Life Aquatic

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is Wes Anderson’s fourth feature film.  I’ll let Matt Zoller Seitz tell you all about it.

The Calypso

Zissou is, of course, heavily inspired by legendary Oceanographer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau. Cousteau’s ship, the Calypso was recreated in great detail (and exaggeration) for the film.

The Calypso was originally a British Yard class minesweeper (BYMS class) built in the 1940s. After its military career, it served as a ferry briefly before being converted into an oceanography vessel for Jacques Cousteau.

The Calypso’s story gets interesting again in 1996 when it sank in the port of Singapore. She was re-floated, but hasn’t moved under her own power since. It’s all terribly interesting but let’s get back on topic.

The Belafonte

For The Life Aquatic, Disney bought a former British Navy Ton-class minesweeper  built in the 1950s to convert into the Belafonte. This ship was originally called the HMS Packington (all Ton-class ships were named after British towns ending in -ton) and was used by the British Navy for less than a year before being sold to South Africa and renamed the SAS Walvisbaai.  Disney bought it in 2003. After filming the Life Aquatic, the ship was sold, and has been converted into a yacht called Mojo which now calls Dubai home.More about the Calypso.

The Belafonte really is a caricature of the Calypso. It’s all there – the helicopter, the balloon, the mini-sub, the observation bubble thought up in a dream – and like all of Wes Anderson’s characters, it’s details are delightfully exaggerated.  The observation platform on the bow rises up majestically and proud. The additional deck raises the bridge. The high sides of the hull are extended further towards the stern. It’s got a taller funnel. This all gives the Belafonte what I think is a much more interesting look for the film.

The Ocean Exploration Vessel

Revell Ocean Exploration Vessel Model

Revell sells a plastic scale model kit of the Calypso. Or, rather, they did sell a model of the Calypso. They recently re-released the model as the Ocean Exploration Vessel, with no references to Jacques Cousteau or the Calypso. This is likely due to legal issues, of which there were plenty of following the death of Cousteau in 1997. Nonetheless, the model sold by Revell is still a faithful recreation of the Calypso.

Because the Belafonte is built from a Ton-class minesweeper, and is only very slightly different than the older BYMS ship, the Calypso, this Revell model is a perfect starting point when building a scale model of Zissou’s ship. Clearly the set designers agreed – both the model that Steve holds in the film, and the full-scale cutaway film set of the Belafonte are based on the Calypso, not the Belafonte as seen in the film. The model in the film is just a Revell model of the Calypso with light blue paint on the hull.

So, building the Ocean Exploration Vessel out of the box and painting it blue is technically screen-accurate. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a model of the Belafonte as seen in the film.

The Build

I should probably mention that while I have built a handful of model cars from kits before, I have very little experience with building plastic models and no experience modifying them. I am learning as I go, and expect that the results will be far from perfect. I’m sharing the build here so that others with little or no experience might be able to build their own Belafonte.

Several people have built models of the Belafonte before. This is one of the more accurate ones, from another OCD Wes Anderson fan. And a scale model of the cutaway view. Amazing.

In Part Two, I will lay out the plan for all of the modifications needed to convert the Ocean Exploration Vessel in to the Belafonte.


Computer Advice

  • Jiggle the cable.
  • Blow in the cartridge.
  • Put it in rice.
  • Defragment the hard drive.
  • Install Directx10.
  • Degauss the monitor.
  • Rub an eraser on the contact points.
  • Press the ‘Turbo’ button.
  • Back up your data.
  • Remove the ball from the mouse. Clean rollers with cotton swab.
  • Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A
  • Replace the gum holding the antenna together on top of the phone booth.
  • Start in safe mode.
  • Replace the CMOS battery.
  • Let it cool down.
  • Let it warm up.
  • Put it in the freezer.
  • Put it back in rice.
  • Remove tab.
  • Be kind. Rewind.
  • Delete your cookies.
  • Update Java.
  • File->Add Printer.
  • Install Diskette 2.

Underscores: a WordPress Starter Theme Generator

Creating a custom WordPress theme can be a bit of a pain. Not with though… Enter a theme name (and some other info, optionally) and hit “generate”. A nice blank theme, including default styling for elements will start downloading in a zip file. Very slick, and a great starting point for building your own custom WordPress theme. You can find out more about the Underscores project in this Themeshaper post: “A 1000-Hour Head Start: Introducing The _s Theme”.

The lineage and continual development process of _s gives you what I like to call a 1000-hour head start. That’s the approximate number of design and development hours you get for free every time you use it in a project. Weeks and weeks of refinement by dozens of WordPress theme experts over several years that you don’t have to do.

CSS Media Queries are a Hack

Ian Storm Taylor tells us that Media Queries are the wrong tool for responsive design. What we really need is Element Queries.

Writing modular code is about making small objects, and making them self-contained. Media queries don’t let you do that. In most cases, you don’t actually care about the width of the entire document (or screen), you care about the width of your element.

Read all about how Media Queries are a Hack over at Ian’s site.