This has been a long time coming… no, seriously, I knolled this model out several months ago. Is there some irony that I knolled it out in the fall, and actually built it in the winter? Anyways, dad humor aside, I always enjoy building dragons, even if they are from a TV show I’ve never watched (I always feel like I have to include that disclaimer). A big Thank You goes out to Fascinations for sending me this model to review. You better believe I would have gotten my hands on it anyways, but thank you nonetheless!
Side note: I wrote most of this blog post a couple of months ago… and then got swamped by life again. And it’s taken me a while to build up the courage to pick it back up. Thankfully, most of the reflections on the build were already here, and all I had to do to finish it up was put together the visual aids, as well as clarify some of the more confusing things I wrote poorly (don’t worry, I still left a lot of my natural bumbling-voice writing in throughout the review). Anyways, here’s hoping I can get back into the rhythm and building more again. I think my psyche needs it, even as it’s sorta preventing it. Wheee!
Drogon has a very unique build / pose to him, which kinda threw me off while building the model. His legs are positioned far back of center, so as you are building it, it feels off balance, until you realize that he uses his wings as arms/hands/legs to walk with as well. Also, be warned that the sides of his neck are very stabby (specifically the model version). I have lots of tiny holes in my fingertips now – none deep enough to bleed, but I definitely felt them – to prove it. Oh, and apologies for the bent wing spur in the video, didn’t notice it until I was on to photo phase.
As you can see from the yellowness of the photos above, I’m still working out the best ways to correct the colors with the camera in my new phone. The clarity is great, but getting the color balance right is proving to be challenging. Anyways, Drogon’s looking pretty good, though he does have a lot of repetitive features. I do really like the tongue in the mouth (though I now want to fix his buckteeth issue, totally didn’t notice it until editing the photos). I also like the layered scales/spikes/whatever on his tail (which I chose to accent by adding some bends/curves along each “spike”). His head did seem really small to me, but (again) I never watched the show. And, of course, the wings are gorgeous.
So… about the difficulty. I’d heard that this model was challenging. A frustrating kind of challenging, specifically. So I went into it expecting a bit of a nightmare, and was surprised, after two build session, that it hadn’t really been that bad. Even after I chose to hide all the neck tabs on the inside. I mean, it wasn’t easy – ring after ring after ring never is. And dragon legs are historically finicky. But I wasn’t pulling my hair out, and I’d gotten all the way through building the wings. But it was during the third and final build session that I understood. I may have made that harder on myself, but I don’t see how it could have been much easier. But attaching everything to that “spine” piece that runs from head to tail… that was a nightmare. I’m still glad I built him, but wow… if there were ever a place to argue for longer slots to make things easier, this would be a prime location.
So, the first thing I want to talk about in this build is my choice to hide the tabs on the inside. This pertains, for the most part, to the neck and tail segments (steps 1, 4, 5 and 6). And, to be honest, the instructions do not specifically suggest having the tabs on the outside – the blue arrows for these sections are not clearly indicating which direction to pass the tabs through the slots. That being said, the order in which the parts are assembled seems to be more designed for tabs on the outside. Which is why I built these segments in reverse order. For instance, on Step one, I started with part 8, then connected 7 to 8, then 6 to 7, and so on down to part 1. Confession: that’s what I intended to do, but I goofed up my knolling, and included part 10 at the very beginning. My bad.
For the belly of the beast (steps 2 and 3; part 9), it actually does indicate clearly, at least in my opinion, that the tabs are supposed to be on the inside, and so I built that as instructed. Except for the aforementioned mistake of attaching part 10 to the neck, rather than to the belly. What I didn’t do right here is shape it correctly. The instructions are not clear, at this point, how the gap is supposed to be shaped, and I thought… it’s round, so the gap is going to be round. It’s under the wing, anyways. Yeah, turns out I was wrong. I didn’t realize it until I saw the diagram for attaching it in Step 16. You can see me struggling to correct this mistake at the beginning of the third/final build video for this model. Anyways, the important thing is that the gap is supposed to continue like the gaps in the neck and tail – parallel lines as if a thin strip had been cut out.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Or, I not get ahead of myself. Either way that sounds weird in my head right now. So we’ll move on to the legs of this beastie. Every dragon I’ve built so far has had challenging legs to build. For one thing, the legs always confuse me in the ways they bend back and forth, and seem to do so in the wrong order. And securing the segments together is tough, because of the narrow tapered cylinders that you are working with. But the real challenge comes in two things that are highly related: Shaping the “thigh” (the part that connects to the body) and getting the legs on the body without them looking way wrong / broken / deformed.
For this model, the instructions threw me for an extra loop around the “confusion tree” with the instructions for the upper leg segments (parts 29/34). When forming these, there are two “stages.” The first diagram shows a dome-like shaping, along with securing the tabs all around the edge, that is challenging enough by itself. But then there is the second diagram; it has blue curve lines around a “completed” shape that looks nothing like the previous stage. When I first looked at it, I had no idea how it got from one to the other. Until I looked at the part that it was attaching to, and the slots that were supposed to secure them together. This is a brilliant design, but near impossible to indicate in 2D instructions very well.
The basic idea is to curve / roll the entire part at an angle, so that two opposite corners are kinda coming towards each other, with the goal of creating a psuedo-circle with those three slots around the edge of it. I say psuedo-circle, because it doesn’t quite close, and it’s not quite “flat.” But I got it to work. I hope that description helps you out, but don’t think you are finished just yet…
Because the other side of the coin is preventing the legs from looking crazy when attached to the model. And I failed in that regard. At least, during the build videos. I got the legs assembled, and even got them attached. But they looked awful. The feet were angled up and out from each other, the bottom leg joints were nearly touching, and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. So I gave up. Until I showed it to my kids later, and they both commented on how off the legs were. So I compared it to the 360-model, and mine looked nothing like what it suggested they should. So I began to fiddle.
And I think I figured out where I went wrong. You see, once I bent the tabless corner of that upper leg segment (point A in the diagram above) in a little further – enough so that it could tuck in behind (above/inside) the open end of the next segment of the leg (parts 30/35) – I could finally get the legs to be more straight and out to the side. It’s still not perfect, but that’s probably because I had to try to adjust it while it was attached to the rest of the model. So, hopefully, if you do it before attaching to the body segment, you can get it to look much better.
The next bit of building is the wings; I originally thought that this was where all the grumbling came from. Particularly because of the challenge in forming the curve in the “skin flaps” parts between the “bones” of the wings. Specifically the end where it narrows to a point. Which is, indeed, not an easy task. However, I tried to take a “real-life physics” approach to these panels. Namely that their curve would not actually be a circular curve, but instead more of a parabolic arc – meaning that the curve is sharpest in the middle, and it flattens out towards the edges. Doing this, I was able to get a good drape feel, without requiring a precise curvature in the narrowest sections where the bones meet.
Oh, and I folded the tabs towards the center of the panels, rather than over the bones. The tabs would probably look better the other way, but that would make the gaps between the bones and flaps that much bigger. Unfortunately, that exposed the silver side of the tabs, but a quick touch-up with a brown sharpie took that harsh contrast down quite a bit.
Moving on, I took a little extra time while forming up the spine of the dragon (part 47), as I mentioned above. At each of the “spurs” sticking off the spine, I bent the skin down on either side just a smidge, while pulling the spur upwards a bit. I figured this would give the “spurs” a bit more weight to them. Shaping the arm bones of this section was pretty straight-forward, just keep in mind that it’s not a big curve along the edges, just a light curvature.
And so we come to the point where we have what looks like a dragon that had been drawn and quartered. Or, I guess, sixthed (2 wings, 2 legs, a neck and a tail)? Sorry, dad jokes must be told. It’s in my nature. Anyways, the final bit of the build is basically attaching everything to the spine of this beast. And, unless my experience was unique, this will be where you might find yourself cursing at the model. Earlier, I said that I probably made this harder on myself, and it’s likely true. Because I really wanted all the tabs on the inside that I could get to be there.
So I attached the neck to the belly to the leg-assembly to the first tail segment and then the second tail segment. The instructions suggest attaching these sub-assemblies to the spine one by one, attaching each to the adjacent segment as you go. But to accomplish that, the tabs connecting the sections has to be on the outside to get secured. I figured, you still have to get all those tabs aligned and slotted through the spine either way. But holy cow is that hard. Once you get a couple of pairs of tabs seated and secured, you have to fight the tabs to get them through the slots. Because the slots are spaced almost exactly the distance between the tabs, if the neck/body/tail were perfectly secured together.
I try my best, but perfect is not something I think can be achieved, especially here. And so you end up with the tabs being a smidge farther apart than the slots are, on top of the usual issue with the tip of the tab running into the side of the slot when pulling a slot over a tab while and adjacent slot and tab are secured. The part that fought me the most was the pair of tabs at the back of the “belly” section. Thankfully I was able to get just a bit of the tab through, enough to grab it with needle nose pliers and pull it all the way home. Finally, once you get them seated, if you are stubborn enough, you can try to fold those tabs over… just don’t accidentally push them back through.
Also… don’t be like me and forget to attach the wings until after you’ve already secured the spine to the neck if you’ve connected all the body parts together. Luckily I realized my mistake before fighting with those rear tabs of the belly section, but it still made for some interesting challenges when it came to aligning and securing the tabs between the wing arm bones and the wings themselves. Wheeeeeee!
After you complete this battle, the only remaining tasks are: the head, the tail tip, and forming the overall shape of the wings. I don’t know what I can say about shaping the wings, other than to suggest that you try to keep in mind that the bones of a wing don’t tend to bend – put the curves / bends at natural joints. Oh, and possibly don’t look at my wings for an example. I, apparently, decided to take my own direction on their shaping, which is much different than the intended shaping seen in the official build photo. Still not sure how I got that so mixed up, except that I forgot to reference the real thing at that point.
The tip of the tail is pretty straight-forward, just make sure that you fold (as opposed to twisting) the tabs that secure the vertical bits in place. I did a slight twist then fold pattern, so the tabs are a little angled away, which allowed me to reduce the overlap of folded tabs between the top and bottom halves. This lets these sections meet together a little more flushly.
I do have a bit of advice for the head. And it’s something you can put in your mental toolbox for building other things like this – read ahead and make sure you, personally, want to secure the tabs at the point where the instructions direct you to do so. This model has a great example, that being that I didn’t want to secure the rear tabs that connect the sides of the head to the lower jaw before I attached the head to the neck. And the reason I wanted to wait is because the tabs in the neck pass from the inside to the outside. I honestly don’t know how one is supposed to fold the neck tabs out, and then insert the neck into a head where all the tabs in the head have been secured. It can’t physically fit.
And that’s that. I really enjoyed building this model… at least most of the model. But that spine… oh that spine. Anyways, this dragon took me a bit more than 5 hours to build, not including the few minutes I spent fixing the legs after they were ridiculed by my children. You can watch all of it (again, except for fixing the legs) in the videos below. In glorious silence (allowing you to add your own background music as you see fit).