Mysterious Island: The Bees
Another addition to my Ray Harryhausen collection is from the 1961 sci-fi adventure film “Mysterious Island”. As the title of this writing suggests, this part of the film is when Herbert and Elena get trapped by a gigantic bee when the couple inadvertently find their way into the insect's hive. Though there no gigantic animals in the Jules Verne novel on which the film is based, it is fun seeing what Mr.Harryhausen can dream up to add a little excitement to what is an essential a slow moving Robinson Crusoe type of tale. Tossing logic aside, one has to wonder about how large must the flowers be on this island considering that the bees are roughly twelve feet long!
But I digress. There is a nice resin kit out there by Saturn Ltd Models showing the bee about to land at the entrance of its hive thus trapping Herbert & Elena but it was a bit too expensive for my wallet. I ended up dusting off my 3D printers and accessing the web to see what kind of bee stuff was out there for my own version. As luck would have it, there was quite a bit.
For the scene I wanted to make, I needed a honey comb, some bees and two figures of a man and woman crouching. I already had a crouching man 3D print file that I used in my King Kong log roll diorama. I managed to find a kneeling woman figure wearing a bathing suit 3D print file that matched Elena's outfit albeit significantly more busty than the actress it was portraying. I downloaded the 3D files for a large wall of honey comb, the kneeling girl and a stationary and flying bee files from Thingaverse, my go to source for free 3D printer files.
I tried each type of printer (resin & filament) for the bee assembly but the detail just wasn't there with the filament printer so I went with the resin printer instead. On the other hand, the filament printer worked just fine for the honey comb since it was a fairly simple structure and the size I needed just wasn't possible on my resin printer. The honey comb took a little over three days to print which is not unusual for something of that size and the various bee parts and woman on the resin printer took anywhere from forty minutes to four hours to print.
The poster art for this 1961 science fiction adventure film based on the work of Jules Verne.
A so-called "God' shot of the entire diorama which measures 20" x 10" x10". I tried to capture the various action scenes of the film.
The bees were quite delicate and I found myself doing lots of repairs particularly with their legs. Since I had printed more bee parts than I needed, replacing broken parts wasn't that amount of an issue aside from the aggravation factor. I 3D printed the wings using a clear resin which worked out very well because of the off yellow tint of the resin. The next step was to add the veins to the wings by using dark brown thread that I adhered to the wing's surface with more of the clear resin and sealing it with a UV light.
After I spray painted the three bees with gloss black paint from a rattlecan, the next step was to add flocking to the bees to give their stripes a fuzzy appearance. Unfortunately, the flocking idea just didn't look that great so I ended up using yellow felt cloth instead. I used TackyGlue as an adhesive for everything. I should mention that I had held off on attaching the bee wings until the flocking step was completed simply because they had a tendency to get in the way. For the light brown fur on the bee's back and undersides, I air brushed a medium brown hue which looked fine in this particular application.
The base was made up of several layers of green insulation board which I carved with a hot knife to make it look like rock. Once I got a general shape of the terrain I was happy with, I came back with a random wash of acetone to melt the foam into less uniform man made shapes. (Note: Be sure to have lots of ventalation for this step should you attempt it). I followed with an irregular coating of Sculpt-a-Mold to give it a lava like texture and to fill in any gaps in the foam board arrangement. After everything had hardened or cured, I painted the entire rock surface with Mod Podge to seal the surface from any of the solvents I would get from rattle can paints that I might use later on.
Close up of the bee on the left. Note the man figure trapped in the hive. Believe it or not, there's a female figure in there right behind him, trapped as well.
An angle shot of the bee hovering about to enter the hive as seen in the film
A photo of the right side of the hive. If you look closely, you can see the female character peeking over the top of the man's head.
The final step for the base itself was to add real live dirt to the floor of the hive area which I secured with a heavy application of a 50/50 solution of water and PVA glue. To achieve a more finished appearance, I covered the outside flat surfaces with plaster cloth. I painted these areas with a gloss black latex paint once they cured. On the back panel, I mounted a thin piece of Plexiglas sprayed with clear orange on the honey comb to allow light to penetrate through so any background light could illuminate the interior of the hive to a certain degree.
The hive entrance in the film was covered in various plants and flowers and, to duplicate this appearance, I used aquarium and terrarium plastic plants which I use frequently because of their small size (or scale) and the variety of leaf & flower shapes available. I used a mixture of ground cover, vines and flowers to achieve this look with clumps of grass here and there.
All in all, this build took me about 100 hours to complete including the print time for the various objects. This was significantly longer than I had anticipated but I still had fun building it which is the whole point, isn't it? 2/24/23
My attempt to copy this scene from the film. The photo on the left is an actual still from the movie with mine on the right.