It is with thanks to a very generous member of the Metal Earth models facebook group that I get to present my very first Picture Kingdom build, the Fairy Castle. I happened to notice a post about an extra model, commented on it to help direct the member to the appropriate location for sales posts, and the member chose to just send the model to me for free. I was shocked, to be honest. But super grateful, obviously. And this is quite a model, let me tell you. I was intrigued by this model when I first saw it in one of AnimateOrange’s news videos, but never planned on picking it up (I’ve got enough to keep up with remaining focused on mostly Metal Earth and Piececool models).
It turned out to be a much bigger model than I had originally pictured it being. Of course, with all the little details, it would have to be. But still, quite a large model. It also includes an acrylic stand, as the model doesn’t have a flat base (obviously on purpose). As for the details, there are a lot of little things that I completely missed until I built it. The inclusion of a little girl / princess up on one of the towers, a rabbit in a jacket in the courtyard between the towers, and a person in a canoe in the river. And, because I don’t like to hide my mistakes, I didn’t re-take all the photos or the video after I realized that I had crushed the pillars on the side of the wide/squat building. I think there is one photo in the lot that shows it after I fixed it, and I’ll take to that later. But… I am fully aware that it’s all messed up in most of the shots.
So… before I get into the build review details, I’m just gonna share my overall impressions on my first Picture Kingdom build. I’ll start by saying that I would build another one of these models without hesitation. They are fairly well designed and the metal quality is pretty good. The instructions are not terrible, as they at least are big enough to recognize the parts and their locations well. But they could benefit from some more interim-steps / directions for how to form parts, rather than just a before / after comparison that is used for most of the build. However, I actually found their part numbering scheme to be quite helpful in some ways (parts are numbered clockwise around each sheet, with each sheet starting with it’s own part 1). It made finding the parts quite easy and predictable, though the overall order of using the parts was not intuitive.
I did have some troubles with steps where it seemed that certain tolerances / impacts of the design were not accounted for, and so the fits were not quite right, but those were more the exception than the rule. One thing they could definitely improve on is including the relief grooves on the back of curved portions of models. Due to them not being present, the metal really resists taking on significant curves, so it takes a lot more work to get them in place, not to mention getting the curves even. All that being said, they are fairly new to this market and do not have that many models under their belt. The fact that they are doing this well so soon is a good sign, in my opinion.
As for the challenge level on this build, I would say it’s probably about what you would expect upon seeing it. Lots and lots of curves, domes and cone-like formations; tall, narrow structures that are linked together; a lot of challenging tab alignments; etc. But the result is more complicated and intricate looking than the actual build turns out to be. The designers did a good job of breaking it up into buildable chunks, and simplified some of the build techniques so it’s not as bad as it could have been. Nevertheless, if you decide to build this model, be prepared for it to take some time and some patience. And have some cylinder forming tools of some sort available!
Now, in the interest of efficiency, I’m going to review this model a little differently than others. Instead of a direct walkthrough of the build, touching upon the pain points as I got to them, I’m going to comment on some of the repeated elements first. Because there are quite a few repeated elements, not duplicate, but elements that utilize the same design layout or concepts, but with slightly altered dimensions or angles. They’ve done it well enough that it doesn’t look or feel overly repetitive, but I feel like this is the best way to approach this model, after that, I’ll call out a few particular hotspots that are more unique. At least that’s the plan. If you haven’t figured out yet, I don’t tend to revise these posts after writing them. They could probably use it, at times, but I feel more honest this way. Also it would take me twice as long to finish a post, because I never like what I write when I read it back.
Let’s start with the roof sections. They come in various sizes and even resulting shapes, but they are all basically formed the same way. They start out looking kinda like a large flower with flat-ended petals, but with tabs and slots on opposing sides of each petal. I found the best way to deal with these was to start off by adding a slight bit of curving along the length of each petal – you don’t have to be exact and it generally doesn’t take much curving at all. Some curve up, some curve down (relative to the painted side), but all you need to do is work your way around and add an approximately appropriate curvature. After that, I went around and, using the tip of my hobby knife, I folded/bent the slots inwards to about a 45-degree angle. I followed that with a loop around folding the tabs down at a 90-degree right angle.
Doing this will make slotting the tabs home so much easier, and you can, of course, reverse the direction (up /out instead of down) if you don’t want to hide the tabs on the inside. Anyways, I then work a loop around the perimeter, inserting the tabs and folding them over. You can twist them, but I find that folding allows better (and less painful) access to fine-tune the curvature and meeting of the edges along the length after you’ve finished joining all the edges. And that takes care of the complicated part of these segments.
The next common element is a ring of inset windows / doors. These seem like they shouldn’t be much trouble, but they actually gave me a bit of a headache, and were the source of the only tab I broke during the entire build. That, and a bit of confusion around getting the right window/door pieces. The confusion is a result of the fact that duplicated parts do not get numbers, but instead just get a color / shape reference. Which wouldn’t be entirely bad, except for the fact that two of the window/door parts that are very close in size and shape also happen to have very close shades of navy blue. Yeah, I clipped out a bunch of the wrong ones at several points. Pay attention to how “tall” the door/window part appears to be – that’s the key.
Beyond that, the other struggle I had was fitment. I really want to kick myself for not thinking of the solution after the first one I built, and done the rest better, but I didn’t. No, I didn’t think of it until now. The problem appears to be that the inset door/window panels are sized to fit the cylindrical part as it is when it’s flat, but you don’t attach them while it’s flat, you attach them when it’s curved. And it doesn’t say anything about curving the door/window panels. So I didn’t. And it made the bottom circumference of the cylinder wider than the top, which made attaching the completed rings rather hard. My advice is to add some curve to the door/window parts, that will reduce the amount of excess circumference, but it will still be a little big. Also, be careful with the tabs – the etch a small point at the base of each tab, which makes it easier to fold at the right spot, but also makes them pretty weak.
The next thing I want to call out as a struggle are the wraparound rings / cylinders. In several places, you have to wrap a thin (most of the time) cylinder around a circular part, slotting some tabs that are sticking out of the circular part through slots in the cylindrical part. These types of connections are not exclusive to Picture Kingdom, and they are a challenge in most builds that have them, particularly when it comes to slotting the last one or two tabs, as it’s a tight stretch / fit. Some brands have recognized this and started to place longer slots at the ends of the rings to make it easier. Unfortunately, Picture Kingdom hasn’t figured out this trick yet. And the resistance to smooth curving of their parts makes it even harder, because it won’t curve flat to the outside of the circle. And finally, on some of them, it seems like they didn’t take into account the thickness of the metal strip when calculating the full length, so the ends don’t actually meet up and you are left with a significant gap.
I don’t have miracle tips to make these things easy to deal with. I wish I did. But I do have a couple of tips that will help you get through it. First of all, you can “rotate” the tabs a little bit. It’s not easy, and you can’t do it very much, but every bit helps. And, by rotating, I mean grabbing the tabs by the sides and altering the angle at which the tab sticks out from the part. Not folding the tab up or down, but forcing it to the side some. You have to be careful, but it can be done. The second bit of advice is for the perfectionists: don’t try to get the tab that secures the ends of the strip together on the inside of the ring. Pass it from the inside to the outside, it fits better and leaves less of a gap.
Now onto something that was a “lost in translation” challenge. Some of the flat circular parts, the ones that serve to join together the ring sections of the towers, have little Chinese kanji etched in them on one side. I’ve decided that it generally means, “this side up.” I don’t know for sure, because I wasn’t able to use Google Translate to scan it, due to it being etched into a reflective surface. That being said, I often tried to look at how the slots were oriented in regards to each other in the renders to help guide me (until it became consistent that the etched symbol was usually on the top-side. The problem was… the render didn’t always match reality. Sometimes it looked like the tabs were closer one way, but they were actually evenly distributed, and sometimes it was opposite of reality. The problem is that there are some cases where the orientation is very important, as the number of tabs and their locations (for later connections) can be wrong if you put it in the wrong way. So watch for that little etched symbol, and keep it on “top.” But also, look ahead in the instructions to see where the tabs are uneven, and verify it as best you can. Because I may have gotten that wrong.
After all that whining, I think it appropriate that I call out something I really liked. Used in several places throughout the build are little curved eaves that sit over the doors/windows. And I gotta give Picture Kingdom props for taking into account the proper cutout at the back of the apex of the eaves to account for the roof sections that would have been a nightmare to attach if they hadn’t. Now, in a few cases, it does require some careful alignment, but it’s still much, much appreciated that they took this into account. And with that, I finish my “general concepts” part of this review. Now on to the notes about specific spots in the instructions!
We’ll start off with a really simple one: don’t be a bonehead like me! Somehow, I completely skipped over attaching part A-25, and had to attach it later on. Specifically, after that whole tower top had been attached to the other two towers by the bridges. It was not fun trying to align and secure that while not mangling the spires at the tops of the towers, or twisting the bridges, or any other type of handling damage that I am entirely capable of, and prone to, committing. So yeah. Don’t be me. Don’t skip over this.
Speaking of the bridges… (my attempt at a smooth segue), I got super confused after assembling one of them, because it looked like it had two extra slots in the middle of the bridge that I hadn’t used, but couldn’t possible access to secure something in later. I don’t know if it was caught on camera, but it really bugged me, and I ended up scanning through the entire instructions, trying to figure out if I had missed something, or if I was somehow supposed to magically secure tabs inside and enclosed space. As it turns out, they are just openings for the tips of the two tall trees to slot into, but not be secured. They are more just for holding proper alignment, the way they are secured to the base keeps them from coming out. Anyways, just thought I would mention that.
And now for a bad segue! I just realized exactly why I ended up skipping over part A-25. It’s because I decided to subvert the directions in this area and do things in my own order! Why? Because this step here (see below) looked darn near impossible to secure, due to the lack of access to the top two tabs, which are blocked from below by a flat circle between the two levels, and a seemingly inaccessible angle from the top. So I decided to secure the bridge to the lower level after having attached part A-12 to the lower level, and then secure the upper level to the lower level. What I should have done is attach part A-25 after attaching part A-12, and then attaching the bridge, followed by securing the upper level to the lower level. That being said, I also created a challenge for myself with securing the two levels together – because one of the four tabs sticking out of the top of part A-12 ends up somewhat inside the bridge / obstructed by the bridge. That made aligning the top level onto the bottom level an interesting challenge (especially with how the walls of the bridge conform to the slope of the bottom conical ring of the upper level). What fun!
In addition to the above note about this section, I do want to call out something that might be easy to miss in the instructions – the alignment of part A-12 needs to be done with care for the alignments of the slots in it relative to the slots in part A-33 (the cylindrical wall of the assembly it’s be attached to).
When it comes to forming the interior of the wide / squat building, I would advise you to secure the three parts together in a slightly different order. The instructions suggest securing C-23 and C-11 together first, and then securing B-07 to that. However, I would suggest securing B-07 to C-23 first, and then securing that to C-11. Aligning the two conical parts together is a lot easier if you can access the inside of both of them fairly easily. Furthermore, you can easily hide the tabs on the inside if you do it in this order, whereas in the other order… it would be a bit more challenging.
I’ll include my handwritten notes for this next instructions picture, because I find it amusing. And I still hold it true – especially since I goofed something up and had to take this apart and then put it back together. You probably won’t have to join it twice, I think the only reason I did is because I was trying to make sure all the seams were vertically aligned and I goofed up – but most people are not as obsessive about that as I am. Anyways, what makes this frustrating is that you have an inner and outer ring of tabs/slots to align all at once. The inner ring is only 4 tabs, but the outer one is 12. Patience is a must on this alignment!
Moving along, I’m now going to jump ahead to building the base of the model (not the acrylic stand, the metal base). There’s a lot more detail in the base than you might have expected. And the first bit I want to talk about is the stepped section on the right side of the model. This is a good bit of “can you balance things while securing them together” crossed with “how well can you match that curve” as you attach each step to the next with a thin strip of metal that needs to be curved to match the leading edge of the step. A lot of trial and error is in your future. But at the end you do get to attach long strip to the side of it all and hold it together. Then you get to have fun forming the river channel…
The river channel is particularly frustrating, or it was for me, at least. First of all, it seemed to me as if the etched patterns on the walls of the channel were on the wrong side of each part, where most of the etching ends up not being visible in the completed model, while more of the unetched side are visible. Beyond that, the curvature in the wall gets very tight up towards the source of the river, and the metal does not want to curve that much. Throw in trying to align and slot the tabs of the river along the way (which is sloped downwards as the river progresses) and some ambiguously close tab slots on one side, and you have a fun bit of kit to execute.
After the initial formation of the two sides of the base, you proceed to attach all the vegetation and characters to the base. This isn’t challenging at all, really, but I did manage to screw it up some. How? Well, I blame the instructions. You see, there are a bunch of duplicated foliage parts used here, and they come in two colors. So, being the guy who knolls out ahead of time, I did exactly that. And was surprised when I noticed that some of them were being attached with the etching texture facing away (because of how a support segment folds back). It seemed weird, but I went with it. Until I ran into one that I expected to have the etching facing the wrong way… but it didn’t. It should have, but it didn’t. The confusion mounted.
Then the “oh crap” moment hit. Because, as it turns out, these parts that all share the same identification color and don’t have a part number… have two versions each, one the mirror of the other. So… when going through this section, pay attention to the color of the duplicate parts, but also which way the outline of the shape is shown in. Some will have the tall end on one side, some on the other. I’ve included a picture with the two orientations juxtaposed below. Anyways, I had to (because I’m obsessive) detach the backwards ones and carefully invert the fold on the support flap (hoping desperately not to break it) and secure it to a different location on the base.
Midway through that foliage mess comes the moment of truth: can you connect the two halves of the base together, and connect that to the base of the base (yes, I realize that sounds stupid), and then attach all of the buildings to it without any major misalignments? Did you get it all together right? All the tabs in the correct orientation? All the angles folded right? Lots of pressure… with the possible culmination of multiple errors exacerbating each other. But at least they appear to have realized that there was some risk with the forward-most tower – they doubled/mirrored the slots so that if you got it backwards, you can still secure it. Great call on their part, in my opinion.
That leads me to the final frustration of this model… attaching parts C-12 and B-5. These two panels complete the “back wall” of of the base, and getting them shaped right and secured in place is an exercise of patience and willpower. They are curved, but not evenly. The have two slots at the top for tabs to pass through, and four tabs on the sides that need to be secured. As you can imagine, this makes for an interesting alignment challenge. But that doesn’t account for the tight space you are working with and that you have to get the curve just right so that the side tabs can reach the slots, but also not too wide. Finally, the side tabs end up on the inside of the model. There are holes that you can reach through to secure them, but they are awkward angles and make securing the tabs tightly rather challenging.
Final note: I had a bit of trouble handling the model in the later stages of the build, aligning everything, attaching the wrap-around trim, etc. And I thought I had found a good, sturdy way to hold it without mangling any of the delicate foliage, which involved holding onto one of the towers and the large squat building. However, as it turns out, that is NOT a good idea. Because it’s really easy to crush in the pillars on the side of it without realizing that you are doing so. Which resulted in the rather sad looking state of it in most of my photos, but best shown in the one below. I was able to “pry” the pillars back out into a roughly correct form, but… just be careful and don’t use it for gripping, despite how sturdy it feels in the hand.
And that is all I have to say about that. Or something like that. I dunno, I’m in a weird mood. But I am done with this review. It took a while, much like the build itself, but it has come to and end. The build took about 10 hours. I have no idea how long the blog post took to write. Here’s the usual, silent build videos: