VFX Model Miniatures

'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus' (2009)

Mattes & Miniatures created a series of miniatures in various scales for Terry Gilliam's fantasy feature 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus'. 



The first was a 1:100 scale Monastery miniature for a fly-in sequence preceeding 

the Devil's (Tom Waits) visit to Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer).  


Based on drawings supplied by Terry Gilliam and Dave Warren, model makers constructed a frame out of MDF before spinning domes in plaster, moulding then casting in fibreglass to create roof sections. 


One elephant was sculpted in clay, moulded in silicone then three were cast in fibreglass. The background was carved polystyrene over timber, layered with plaster to create rocky strata. Rickety scaffold was built along with bits of bamboo roller blinds and hacked up fibre mats. A good sprinkling of bicarbonate of soda and a bit of caster sugar created snow.



(click to enlarge)

Fabrication of miniature model

Model makers next to their work

Terry Gilliam Doctor Parnassus model

Next was The Mountain of Enlightenent, a 15 foot miniature built as a timber structure clad in polystyrene, laminated with plaster and sculpted with palette knives to create effects of rocky strata.


The mountain was assembled against green screen on a Bray Studios soundstage.



Mattes & Miniatures built Mr Nick's Lounge Bar, a seedy bowler hate-shaped tavern rigged to explode. 


The polystyrene was cut away and the model fitted with an  interior framework laced with detonator cord.

A large beam on air rams was rigged to propel the hat upwards, as a pyrotechnic mixture of naphthalene and diesel obliterated the set dressing of trailers and pickup trucks.



Sculpture of Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) sculpted in clay over polystyrene, moulded and cast in resin.

Two miniatures didn't make the final cut of the film; the 'War Games' and 'Piano Cabin' miniatures.


War Games was created as a blown-apart mountain carved with rock sculptures of soldiers, capped by tanks on tracks that ran in and out of tunnels, and a carousel of helicopters and airplanes on rotating boom arms. Model makers scavenged model kits of military vehicles and detailed the ten-foot-tall construction with lights and lava flows of ultraviolet paint, KY Jelly and cork fragments.


Features of the Piano Cabin were sculpted and cast in resin, dressed and distressed then assembled upon timber plinths against a background. 

Piano Cabin miniature for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus 

War Games miniatures for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus 

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