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Star Trek Model Kits: The Why’s And Why Not’s

posted by JamieH 10:31 AM
Monday, June 1, 2009

Isn’t it better to have than to have not? Lost in the buzz of naming our next great release is the fact that we are producing Star Trek model kits and other sci-fi model kits. While hard at work on our past releases, our competitors have been busy with their own creations with their various properties. The sci-fi model kit market has been flushed with product where a vacuum had been left just a few years before.

I don’t say this to pat ourselves on the back, but to point out that we’re churning out the product as steadily as we can with all of the resources we have. Starting with our first release of the classic AMT Enterprise kit, we’ve been at this for only about six months. In that time, we’ve come out with 12 sci-fi kits from three licenses, Star Trek, Forbidden Planet and Speed Racer. By the end of the year, we will have released another 10-12 kits. All this is in addition to another 40 (or so) automotive kits combined by the end of the year. That sounds like a pretty good start.

Sure there have been bumps in the road and none more significant to our fans or us than our delay on the Akira Class Star Trek ship. To be honest, we just announced it prematurely. It was in our plan from the beginning to do that as our first new tool to cut our teeth on. It would have been something we could have learned from in preparation for other significant kits down the road like a 1/1000 scale Refit and 1/350 scale TOS Enterprise. We learned but not the lessons we had hoped. Several factors derailed the kit.

  1. When originally planned, we didn’t realize how big the ship would be at 1/1000 scale. We figured it would be another 11”- 12” long kit. When we realized the size issue we figured we could still proceed even at the larger size. So, we presented it as such at Wonderfest last year.
  2. We had made an arrangement to have the kit digitally created by a respected source. When the source had to back out for very valid reasons, it was getting a little late and we didn’t have a backup lined up.
  3. By that time, we had made the decision to sign the licensing agreement to do the Aurora Batmobile kit. Mockups had to be fast-tracked on this to start earning our guaranty. It was a case where we were presented with an opportunity that we could not pass up.
  4. By that time we also knew that even though we didn’t have a formal agreement, we would probably be signing on to produce kits based on the new Star Trek movie.

So to summarize…

Big kit + Late development + Other high priority kits = Push back the Akira.

Then we took a look at our rough ideas for the next year and found another problem. We couldn’t just push it back into next year. We had plans for the 1/350 TOS, new movie kits, and other kits for previously signed licenses and all of this in a stiff economy that limits our tooling budget. Our plan for next year is still in flux but it is just too crowded to plug in the Akira. I can say there will be new kits coming soon and we’ll also keep rolling out improved repops that we’ve established our first six months upon.

23 Responses to “Star Trek Model Kits: The Why’s And Why Not’s”

  1. phicks says:

    Firstly, I would like to say that we all appreciate the honesty and inside insight into the product development process.

    Secondly, we love getting repops of our favourite old Star Trek kits back into the stores. Even if that’s all R2 accomplished, we would be pleased.

    But thirdly…and remember I just said 2 very positive things…there is a huge difference between repoping some other company’s old kits, and creating your own new kits from scratch. So far, your new Star Trek kits are the equivalent of “vapourware”…lotsa talk, but now you gotta do the walk.

    My understanding is that the first new Star Trek kit we will see will be the 1/1000 Enterprise-A, and I thought it was due in stores in December 2009. Is that in fact the right date? And whatever the scheduled delivery date is, is the CAD design and mold tooling process where it should be at today to deliver on the scheduled date in the future?

    Realistically, it doesn’t matter when the kit comes out, in that we will all buy the same number we would have if it showed up today. But you don’t want to get a reputation for lateness or broken promises either. Peace.

  2. JamieH says:

    We did not go into business intending to only repop existing kits. Our best intent is to have the 1/1000 refit out by the end of the year. It is a kit that won’t go to market unless it holds up to the quality expected of previous Polar Lights kits. With that said, believe me, it does hurt us in more ways than just our reputation if a kit does not ship on time.

  3. derric1968 says:

    Thanks for laying that out there, Jaime. It totally get it. I also assumed that a 1/1000 Akira would be about 12″ long. It doesn’t seem to be very big on screen in First Contact. Oh well.

    However, as someone who appreciates the smaller kits (due to limited space to build and display them), I would be completely fine with a 1/2000 Akira. Or some other scale that would result in a 10″-14″ model. I know there are guys here, on Hobby Talk and Starship Modeler that are always saying, “Bigger! Bigger!! BIGGER!!!” But I’m personally think the size of the 1/1000 TOS Enterprise is just fine. Yeah, I know I’m in the minority, but I just want my voice to be heard above the cries for “BIGGER!!!!!”

  4. JamieH says:

    Deric1968- We are trying to stick to a limited number of established scales as best we can. Repops aside, we’ll be concentrating on 1/1000 as our primary scale. We’ll also do 1/350 scale kits of ships that deserve the treatment. Due to the size of the new movie Enterprise, we’ll also be using 1/2500 as our scale for really big ships that we need at a reasonable size. We had been exploring playing more at 1/2500 and the new movie pretty much sewed us up to look more seriously at that scale.

  5. flamingakira says:

    First, thanks for being honest and open (again) about the development process. I will be one of the first in line to get the Thunderchild when it comes out.

    As to scale, the *size* of the models is less important to me than their relative size to other models. I love that you are doing 1/1000 to match the Excelsior/Enterprise-B from AMT, and would love to eventually see the entire Enterprise collection at 1/1000.

    Of course, the Refit Enterprise at 1/350 is utterly amazing. I look forward to the classic Constitution in this detail. There are a lot of others I would love to see in this scale (*cough*Excelsior-Refit*cough*) but I love the direction Round2 is going.

  6. derric1968 says:

    I hear what your saying, and I get it. It makes sense, and it is cool to have everything in a unified scale.

    I do, however, like that the new movie Enterprise has opened your mind to 1/2500 scale. By my calculations, the Akira at 1/2500 would be just under 7″. Perhaps a bit too small for a stand alone release, but perfect for a brand spanking new 3 Ship Set! 😉

  7. SmokingRobot says:

    First, I love you guys (and gals). You are doing a bang-up job. This was a very interesting and informative article. I think your ideas on scales are spot on.

    I really wonder how good a TOS 1/350 will look with the lack of detail on that ship combined with the VERY large size. But maybe that’s just me. (Also, I just do not have room for gigantor kits).

    The web is such a powerful tool for promoting your products and keeping in touch with your customers. I’m glad to see you’re using it so well.

    My dream kit would be a new 1/1000 (or maybe 1/2500) 1701-D. Maybe some day. 🙂

  8. JamieH says:

    It is our hope and intent to eventually do all of the different versions of the Enterprise in 1/1000 scale. The only drawback is that with each new version of the ship it gets bigger. Once you get up to the size of the D, E and new movie versions, they will approach the build size of our 1/350 ships. We just can’t afford to do large kits like that very often so it will take a while before we get to them all.

    I’m not sure I follow the logic of the show producers/ship designers. Sure bigger is better but they (for the most part anyway) were Star Trek fans and were designing new versions of one of the most classic ships ever. Bigger may be better in some instances, but I don’t know if I would have designed a ship to dwarf the classic that everyone loves. I’m not one to rant though.

  9. phicks says:

    With regards to the Star Trek ships getting bigger over time, I think the designers were trying to parallel the same thing we have seen in the real world over the last 100 years in the development of aircraft and naval vessels.

    But the Kelvin and the Abramsprise have sure thrown a wrench into the gears. The Kelvin had a crew of 800? Huh? The Abramsprise is now twice the length of the TOS Enterprise? What the? I guess they needed more room to fit in the brewery in the engineering section. So many vats and pipes!

  10. Alpha-8 says:

    You know, I don’t think that too many of us here would mind if you guys “screwed up” the scale of the new Enterprise and and made it the same size of the 1/1000 Classic Enterprise. Actually, screwed up scales are kinda tradition with Trek kits…wink, wink…

  11. jamesironwolf says:

    I was looking for a kit of the new movie Enterprise to be done too.
    i was expecting it to be 1/1000 scale and about the same size of the NCC-1701-A
    since it seem to use the same saucer and weapons design. I thought it was about like this picture i found.
    Seemed about right to me. But i heard it mentioned that the size opened your mind to a 1/2500 scale and i had to wonder if JJ made it worse than i thought.
    I keep running into talk like this chart.
    My god, really? Tell me JJ did not make her 700+ meters long.
    The NCC-1701 should not be bigger than the NCC-1701-D in my opinion.
    I do like the 1/1000 scale round 2 is doing. I was never a big fan of 1/2500 i feel it is to small for detail work like windows. Would love to see the movie enterprise kit about the same size as the enterprise A. (see 1st link)
    I did like the new movie. It was great overall. But i do not really care for them make such large changes to a ship i grew up watching.
    By the way i just got my 1/1000 tos NCC-1701 , great kit , love the options.
    Only thing i would have like different… windows on the kit instead of on the decals. And maybe a optional open shuttle bay. But i here this is being done on the 1/350 scale. My friend already ordered his 1/350 A. Personally i
    feel 1/350 scale is a bit big for my open model space. Don’t worry i will make room for a 1/1000 scale NCC-1701-D & E 🙂 Think i got a bit off topic. sorry to make this so long.

  12. jamesironwolf says:

    Oh back on the original subject.
    I am looking forward to a 1/1000 Akira to go with the other 1/1000 scale ships. Whenever it gets done. And while i am not a fan of 1/2500 scale.
    A new 3piece kit does sound nice.

  13. JamieH says:

    Hey all you Akira fans. Doug Drexler made an awesome blog post about the ship. I’m sure you’ll want to check it out.

  14. marc111 says:

    I just saw your announcement that the 350 TOS E is pushed back to 2011. You guys are really missing the boat. Lots of us hve held off from garage kits and other alternatives because you said you would do this in 2010. I am really disapointed and will start looking elsewhere and go back to th garage kit guys as I suspect will alot of your customers.

  15. jockdeboer says:

    Very cool stuff. Rome was not built in a day guys! I for one like the honesty. Please do a large scale USS Kelvin.

  16. DrTikhon says:

    Ok, so I walked into a Hobby Lobby back in April and suddenly fell in love with model kits.

    I found out about the akira class model from Memory Alpha and I got extremely excited. I have just now found this website and the news about the akira class is a bummmer.

    While it may be a disappointment that its not going to happen for awhile, but I’m just glad you’re making any Star Trek models at all! Thank you for the models!

  17. destructoOne says:

    I found this link while searching for an Akira model kit, I know this thread is 5 years old and seems inactive but any updates as to the 1:1000 scale Akira class starship? the garage kit out there is way too much $$$.

    • JamieH says:

      Nothing on the horizon, but it is still on my list of kits to do before I… well, it’s on my list of kits to do… 🙂

      • destructoOne says:

        Ok thanks, I will keep checking back periodically hoping for an update.

      • DestructoOne says:

        Just curious, what do you need to get this model produced? I was a member of the 1701 club and contributed early on to get that model out, would the Akira class benefit from something like that, call it the Akira club. A kick starter if you will.

        • JamieH says:

          The major hurdle is the tooling investment. I have to admit that it has been years since I have seriously looked at what it would take to do the ship in 1:1000 scale, but for the sake of discussion, let’s assume it would approach the budget of the 1:30 TOS Enterprise (it likely wouldn’t be that high. Maybe 60-75% considering the size difference and how the big E had interior parts, optional parts to make the pilot versions, etc)

          Then the question becomes IF we were to do another kit of that stature, which would we do? Competing ideas would be the D7 or Ktinga Klingon ships and something like a 1/1000 1701-D. Those three ships carry more weight with a wider range of modelers and Star Trek fans than the Akira.

          But, what if we went down the road of a program akin to the 1701 Club as a method of getting the kit into the hands of those that want it. 1) Sales to the club members would only be the tip of the iceberg as far as return on that kind of investment. Sales beyond the club is where we really get to make hay. 2) To be honest, the 1701 Club did not deliver on its promise to buy up all of the Premiere Edition kits as soon as they were available. We had 1701 limited edition kits available and more than 2500 people that had responded as wanting them. It took several months to work through our stock of the Premiere Edition and in the end, we had to allow individuals the chance to buy more than one kit and we offered a few for sale on our web store to finally clear them out. I would estimate there are about 500 people out there with 1701 Club t-shirts that never ordered a kit. We understood what we were getting into, and never expected 100% of those 1701 people to come back and buy, but I figured we might only have a 10-20% fall off rate. And I never thought I would ever sweat about whether they would all sell through. The one thing I had underestimated about the 1701 Club was how much coordinating I would have to take on myself and how time consuming writing the reports ended up taking. I’m not saying we’ll never do another program like that again, but I’m not looking forward to the possibility.

          Sorry for the long-winded answer. But, that’s the story of the 1:1000 scale possibility for the Akira. Doing one in 1:2500 scale is a different story.

          • DestructoOne says:

            No worries about your answer being long, it conveyed the situation clearly and it is very much appreciated. It also gives an insight on the back ground work that would goes into the creation of large scale models. Well my hopes for a 1:1000 Akira class will not be dashed, I will be at least one person who will buy in on that kit if and when you guys build it. Thanks again for taking time to answer my questions.

          • JamieH says:

            Cool. And thanks for your interest. Personally, I’m a fan of the ship’s design myself.

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