Welcome back, everyone, to part two of our interview with Round 2 Models’ senior designer, Jamie Hood. If you missed last week’s interview, where we discuss the new Discovery Enterprise kit’s development and the relation of modern Trek to modelling, be sure to check it out HERE.
This week, we are covering the long-awaited Galileo shuttle, other Trek modeling thoughts, and looking at the state of modeling in general.
A NEW TAKE ON A CLASSIC
Long awaiting in development, a completely new Galileo shuttlecraft from Star Trek: The Original Series is on track for a late summer / early fall release. When asked about the appeal of the subject, Hood said, “I’m not going to say ‘I don’t get it’, but I was surprised when the Galileo ranked so highly when put it up against other kit possibilities. I think the primary appeal is that it comes from TOS and it has never been kitted accurately.” Hood’s observation is an understatement.
For those unfamiliar with the history of the Galileo in plastic, Aluminum Model Toys (AMT), upon seeing previews for Star Trek in the summer of 1966, recognized the potential for a modelling boom from the show, and so the company signed a contract with Desilu Studios to produce a model kit of the Enterprise in exchange for AMT producing exterior and an interior full-scale shuttlecraft. In wake of the success of the Enterprise model, AMT expanded their offerings and, in 1974, produced a 1:50 scale kit of the Galileo. Ironically, given AMT’s involvement in building the full-scale filming assets, the kit is notoriously (some would say hideously!) inaccurate. The kit went through three production runs, the last one being in 1991-92 with branding for the 25th Anniversary of the franchise.
“Builders are all familiar with the original AMT Galileo kit,’ said Hood, “and that is just about the only Star Trek kit Round 2 has never reissued. And that has been on purpose. I just never saw enough quality in the kit and when we examined it from the standpoint of ‘what can we do to make this old kit better?’ it was a never-ending list.”
Round 2 began looking into creating a new model of the Galileo, lovingly researched and developed with significant input from Gary Kerr. “We definitely couldn’t have done it without Gary. His research is impeccable and he was still finding more details about the ship as we worked on the project.” Given the scope of this new rendition (coming in at 1:32 scale), the detail is going to be very important.
As far as key features, Hood shares, “The main hull is about the size of 2/3 of a loaf of bread. It definitely looks the part (again, thanks to Gary) and it has a few cool little areas of detail like the rear landing gear and the rear access panel that the crew worked in a couple of episodes. The ship can be built with the panel closed or opened to show the mechanical details inside.”
Lighting possibilities have been kept in mind in the process of designing the kit, even though a light kit isn’t in the cards right now. “In one scene of the show, they opened what looks like a rear taillight and details could be seen inside that. We included that too as a clear piece because sparks were shooting out of it in one scene. It should be simple enough for resourceful modellers to light the ship.”
One significant difference in this release will be the lack of an interior for the kit. “The interior became a casualty of the budget,” says Hood. “I was hesitant to do the ship without it which is why it has taken us so long to come back around to it. Whenever someone asked if or when we would ever do a Galileo, I always responded with the question of ‘If we do it, would it have to have an interior?”
“In most cases,” continued Hood, “modellers said no, they just wanted a model of the ship. So with that in mind, we took a look at it and found that we could make the kit a reality if we could proceed without the interior for now and come back to that later.”
“Strong sales of the kit now could mean an interior add-on down the road, but the kit is not specifically designed to accommodate the addition of an interior after the fact. “It might be possible to do that if some parts can be left unglued,” says Hood, “but even then I’m not so sure.”
RESPONDING TO THE FANS
From time to time, modelling conventions and hobby-themed online sites poll participants with regard to the Star Trek line. Round 2 has even done so at venues like WonderFest (an annual Sci-Fi modelling show held in Louisville, Kentucky). Hood recognizes that these polls exist, but observes that they “generally offer a pretty wide-open berth of possibilities that are too large or are more tertiary ships. They offer pie in the sky possibilities and don’t consider the realities of tooling budgets or available data for a given ship. So we give them a look, but don’t always find them to be enlightening.”
Hood also offered a bit of background on Round 2’s history with polling. “We did a lot of polling early on to get a general understanding of what modellers were looking for as were just starting out and learning the market. Over time we have taken those results, created new kits and mixed them in with improved reissues, etc. As time went on it seemed like respondents ignored questions when we asked them to choose from a limited number of choices that we saw as viable possibilities and they would just write in their favourite. Or they would only answer a question about their favourite model and avoid the rest of the questions on a sheet. So, on one hand, we get a very clear picture of “We want a 1/350 scale Klingon K’t’inga” or now it’s “We want a 1/350 scale U.S.S. Reliant.” And our answer is kind of We would love to do a 1/350 scale Reliant, but we aren’t in a position to do that right now for a number of reasons. So what else should we do? We find that once we get past the top 2-3 choices, there is much less of a consensus. That gives us a little pause because, with the slim budget we have that serves a pretty niche market, we can’t have kits that fail.”
So how does that mix in with the overall flow of the franchise? Hood shares that when opportunities come along to do ships based on a new show, they will go that route as long as it makes sense. “Even though we have done polling, we aren’t left with the clearest of indications of what will appeal to the widest berth of Trek modellers right now. We’ve done nearly all of the capital ships on a smaller scale, and we’ve managed to do a few in large scale. We know the market wants more on a larger scale, but we have to temper those with more affordable releases too.” Hood sums up the quandary by observing, “It becomes tough to read the tea leaves.”
But if you were to ask Hood for his opinion on what deserves to be kitted, he’s got some ideas of what he would like to see. “I think it would be cool to see more figural kits in 1/12 scale similar to the AMT Mr Spock kit. I’d like to see a Kirk in his captain’s chair or fighting the Gorn, Bones with a Horta and Uhura with a Nomad Probe. But, unfortunately, sales history at Round 2 has proven that figure kits don’t do well enough for us.”
While that might nix your itching to build some figures soon, Hood also reflected for us on starships he feels hold prime candidacy for kitting. “I’m a fan of the Reliant and I’d love to see a kit in 1/350 scale just as much as everyone else. It probably ranks tied with the Klingon Bird of Prey as my favourite Star Trek ship.” Perhaps surprisingly, Hood observes that “balancing affordability of tooling with its place in canon, I think a Borg Cube would make a great kit.” A headscratcher, however, in their quest for input is a lack of requests for a 1/1000 scale U.S.S. Enterprise-D. “That’s the only big-name ship that hasn’t been kitted in that scale. As much as I hear about people wanting us to backdate our 1/537 Refit kit back to a “smoothy”, no one seems to be bothered by the same type of engraved texture or inaccurate phaser strips on our 1/1400 Enterprise-D.”
While the senior designer thinks these are prime candidates for kits, he offers those observations cautiously. “We choose kits based on what we see the market is hungry for and balance that with what can be done affordably. I’m here to please the modellers that buy, build and love these ships. So my own personal preference is the least of the factors that go into these decisions.”
Hood also discussed with us the reissue of earlier kits, as the classic AMT kits seem to be in shorter supply in hobby shops. Some (like the updated Command Bridge kit or the Romulan Bird of Prey) are becoming very difficult to find in stores or at reasonable prices. “We will continue our re-issues of the classic kits,” shares Hood. “In some cases, I feel they were retired too early.” The team at Round 2 keeps an eye on rising prices and availability as they make decisions. “Besides the ones you mention,” shares Hood, “the clear Enterprise-D and clear Deep Space 9 are kits that are under consideration to bring back again.”
A LOOK AT MODELLING TODAY
Hood briefly discussed with us Round 2’s lines of Sci-Fi kits. In addition, their wide array of Trek kits, the manufacturer holds a license for kits from Space:1999, with several releases in various scales over recent years. Many are also looking forward to the Moonraker shuttle release from the James Bond franchise. “We would love to do a wider range of sci-fi kits,” says Hood, “but we can only do so much. If another franchise gains enough popularity to pursue it, we are open to looking into it.”
The current state of television and film licensing has become more challenging with studios merging together. “From their standpoint, they want to deal with fewer licensees and expect larger guaranties. We offer a limited range of product and at a relatively low volume. So it is tough to meet some of those expectations.” In order to make a license pursuit-worthy, the property needs to have enough subject matter to be made into kits to help the manufacturer deliver against a guarantied royalty. “We have been very fortunate to work with CBS on Star Trek and ITV on Space:1999. They have allowed us enough freedom to do what we think should be done and we’ve been able to return great sales success with our products.”
Hood also reflected briefly on a theme we discussed last year, surrounding the hobby’s ageing population and competition with other forms of entertainment. With Coronavirus keeping many at home, several media outlets have run stories discussing the ‘revival’ of the hobby. During COVID-19, Hood notes that they have heard the same thing. “Distributors report great sales and we are doing well as a company. That said, we have seen a slight improvement over last year, but not a huge boom in sales.”
And so, as we reach the mid-point of 2020, it’s time to stock up on supplies, clear the bench, and prepare for late nights with music, a cool drink, and plenty of styrene goodness coming our way. We here at Treksphere thank Jamie Hood for taking time out for this interview, and we look forward to sharing with you all the latest in Trek modelling as we continue the journey together.
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