Fantastic Plastic’s Galactic Raider

Posted by GT on October 4th, 2008 — Posted in Hobby blog

Originally published July 13, 2006, at GJSentinel.com.

Galactic Raider

“GALACTIC RAIDER”
Galactic RaiderInspired by the Cylon Raider from the Sci Fi Channel series “Battlestar Galactica.”
Master by Alfred Wong.
Produced by Fantastic Plastic Models.
Scale: 1:48. Dimensions: 7 inches x 4.5 inches.
Solid-cast resin; 11 pieces. Casting and scribing by BLAP! Models.
The display stand does NOT come with the model. It must be ordered separately.
Price: $75 plus shipping. Display stand is $7.
The display model pictured painted by Allen B. Ury.

In 1978, “Battlestar Galactica” was a network TV show with great (albeit frequently recycled) special effects, wonderful sets and generally bad writing and acting. As I recall, it got off to a roaring start and then crash-landed at the end of the season. Two years later, after hearing from a lot of fans begging to give it another chance, ABC debuted “Galactica 1980″; the cancellation of that one was a mercy killing.

Fast-forward to the 21st century. The call to give “Galactica” another shot was again building; I wasn’t one of the people all that concerned about it, but I knew of a couple of groups trying to revive the show. It was the Sci Fi Channel that finally did it with a 2003 miniseries, which led to a continuing series that quickly became bigger and better than its predecessor.

*Sigh.* OK, it’s confession time: I saw the 2003 “Galactica” miniseries and was IMpressed, but also DEpressed. A show about a ragtag fleet of spaceships carrying human refugees wouldn’t normally inspire me to use the word “realistic,” but this “Galactica” was so convincingly done that I found it hard to stomach a scene – presumably inspired by “Daisy,” Lyndon Johnson’s notorious anti-Barry Goldwater campaign commercial of the 1960s – in which a peaceful girl is killed in a nuclear flash. I just wasn’t in the mood for that, so it kind of soured me for the whole effort.

However, in the months that followed, I read more and more from people who flat LOVE the new “Galactica.” They called it the best sci-fi show around, possibly the best sci-fi show ever done, so I checked it out again and it was good. Intriguing, even, and the actor playing Cmdr. Adama – Edward James Olmos – never fails to impress me. I could see getting hooked on it if only I could catch up on the story line, but I didn’t get a chance to because we moved to a new home and still haven’t connected to a cable or satellite service. I’ll bet the series is available on DVD, so I’ll check it out eventually.

Galactic RaiderOne thing I’ve liked from the start about the new “Battlestar Galactica” is the ships, particularly the updated Cyclon Raiders. The design is interesting; the strobing red lights in front make an instant connection with those who remember the same lights on the Cylons in the original series, but the rest of the ship is a sleeker design that manages to be new while incorporating a few familiar elements. I was happy to make Fantastic Plastic’s “Galactic Raider” the first hardware kit profiled by “Resin the Barbarian.”

Allen B. Ury, owner of Fantastic Plastic, is the gentleman marketing this Raider. Allen, 52, lives in Costa Mesa, Calif., with his wife, Rene. They have a son, Robert, 20, who is a junior at the University of Southern California. In addition to running Fantastic Plastic, Allen’s occupations include being a senior copywriter at The Peterson Group, Newport Beach (communications marketing); a screenplay analyst for The Writers Network, Beverly Hills; staff writer for FADE IN Magazine, Beverly Hills; and a part-time screen/TV writer.

The Fantasic Plastic Web site, which displays Allen’s “ever-expanding collection of X-plane, concept aircraft, real space, concept spacecraft and pop culture models,” went online in 2002, he wrote in an e-mail. “Fantastic Plastic Models, an offshoot of that ‘hobby’ site, was legally founded on May 29, 2005 and released its first model kit, the Avro 730 bomber, on Oct. 1 of the same year.

Like most garage-kit producers, Fantastic Plastic Models is essentially a one-man operation. Allen chooses the kits to produce, finances their development and production, and does all the marketing and distribution. Sound like an interesting way to pass the time? Then read on to find out more.

Galactic Raider

Q&A WITH ALLEN B. URY

Allen UryResin the Barbarian: Alfred Wong created the master for this ship. Does that basically mean he sculpted the ship and castings were made of that sculpture?

Allen: Alfred Wong created the original 1:48 pattern. This means that he sculpted the pieces that were later used to make the mold for the resin castings. Before the molds were made, additional surface details were added by Dave Guertin of BLAP! Models, who then did the actual castings.

RtB: Looking at your photos, I think I recognize some influence of H.R. Giger’s Alien design in the Raider’s cockpit area (the ship’s “face”?) and the area behind. Do you agree? Am I just finally catching onto something fans of the new “Galactica” have known from the start?

Allen: I believe the works of H.R. Giger (“Alien”) were the influence for the “head” of the new Raider design. The wings look a whole lot like those of the Kilrathi Raiders from the popular “Wing Commander” video games of the 1980s and 1990s. The alien fighters from “Independence Day” – which were themselves influenced by the original Cylon Raiders – also provided some inspiration, I suspect.

Galactic RaiderRtB: How difficult would it be if a kitbuilder wanted to put real lights in this kit, specifically the famous moving red Cylon light in the cockpit’s “eye”

Allen: I don’t light my kits. However, there’s enough room inside the cockpit “head” for an LED. Where the wiring and power source would go, I have no idea.

RtB: Do you prefer the original “Battlestar Galactica” or the new one, and why?

Allen: I find the new “Battlestar Galactica” to be far superior to the ABC-TV original from 1979. Not only is the new Sci Fi Channel series more technically advanced, but its storylines, characters, acting and direction are significant more sophisticated and mature. The original “BSG” was written for 12-year-olds. The new “BSG” is written for adults. It’s as mature, complex, sexual and politically sophisticated as any show on prime time – if not more so.

RtB: So, do I correctly understand that you have been involved with the hobby since the age of 7? Was there ever a period in which you weren’t buying and building model kits?

Allen: I built models continuously from the time I was 7 until I was 18 and left for college (1972). I had to stop while I was living in the dorms, but took it up again when I moved to my own apartment during my senior year (1974). I then took another hiatus when I graduated and moved to Orlando, Fla., to work as an entertainer at a hotel in Walt Disney World (1975), but resumed about a year after that. The building has continued ever since.

Galactic RaiderRtB: What made you decide to become a kit producer as well as a hobbyist?

Allen: My decision to become a kit producer was based on my frustration with not being able to get kits of many subjects I wanted to build. Over the years, I had developed online relationships with many “garage kit” producers, including Igor Shestakov of Unicraft (Ukraine), Ren Magnallon of Sharkit (France) and Arnold Chiu of Anigrand (Hong Kong). I greatly admired what they did and how they did it. In 2005, I ran across information about the Avro 730 bomber project and thought it would make a great kit subject. I suggested this to all three of these gentlemen but, much to my disappointment, they passed.

Coincidentally, the marketing company I work for was in the midst of a period of “strategic planning,” and we were discussing the concept of “core competencies” and the fact that you can always subcontract for those skills you don’t have in-house. I’m not a pattern-maker. I don’t know anything about casting. But through my many garage kit purchases and correspondence with other kit-makers via Web sites like Starship Modeler and CultTVMan, I knew people who did this stuff. So I found someone who could do the Avro 730 pattern (Scott Lowther) and someone who could do the casting (Erin Lantz of Controlled Energy Designs) and paid them (via credit card) to do the work for me.

Since I already had my Fantastic Plastic Web site with a mailing list of several hundred – and was an active member of many hobby bulletin boards – marketing the kit was no problem. When the Avro 730 proved successful, I went on to produce and market other kits, including the “Galactic Raider.” (Actually, it was Alfred Wong who contacted ME about this particular project. He was already making the pattern and offered to sell it to me. Dave Guertin heard about this and offered to cast it. All I had to do was front the money and then market it.)

I should note than none of this would have been possible 10 or 15 years ago without the Internet. The fact is, I’ve never actually met any of the people I work with. Everything is done either via the Web or by phone. And, to date, all my marketing and sales activity has been Web-based as well.

Welcome to the 21st century.

RtB: Roughly how many hours per week do you spend on your hobby? Has this time remained pretty much constant over the years or has it changed?

Allen: I devote about one to two hours per day to either building models, developing the Fantastic Plastic Web site or running the model company. This has been my pattern for the past five years.

RtB: As a man of mature years, do you ever feel silly discussing model kits with people who aren’t fellow hobbyists?

Allen: I have no problem discussing model kits with others. Everyone has their passion, whether it’s cars, fishing, motorcycles, video games, rare coins, stamps, sailboats, etc. We’re all still kids at heart and we love our “toys.”

RtB: You speak glowingly of your wife on your Web site. What has she done to support you in your hobby?

Allen: My wife, Rene, and I met at college and married shortly after she graduated in 1977. I’ve always been a writer, which is a solitary activity much like model-building, so she know that giving me “time” was part of the bargain. She recently discovered watercolor painting and has become as obsessed with it as I am with models, so now she does her “art” while I do mine. It’s a nice arrangement. (And, by the way, she’s a damned good painter!)

RtB: Anything else you’d like to add?

Allen: I hope to continue producing kits as long as there’s a market for them, and I have the physical and mental acumen to build them. My only disappointment is that the hobby continues to shrink. Fewer and fewer people have an interest in model-building, which was once THE hobby for young boys. I play video games, too, but there’s nothing like building something fantastic and permanent. Games are ephemeral. Models last forever. And now, with the Internet, we can share them with the world.

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