Increasingly Realistic 1:6 Scale Custom Figures and Dioramas “Fool the Eye” at Joelanta 2013


Caleb Brown (15), sets up his latest diorama masterpiece at Joelanta 2013: a 1:6 scale gas station and country store—being invaded by ZOMBIES! (Photo: Mark Otnes)


This 1:6 scale custom figure of “Rick Grimes” from the “Walking Dead” was another amazing figure at the show. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“I couldn’t believe my eyes!”

At this year’s Joelanta, grown men were shaking their heads in disbelief. Wives were heard giggling, amused by all the “silliness” set up around them. Children would run in, stop short, and just stare in awe at it all. Were these all toys? Some sort of artwork? Or possibly exhibits for some future museum? Intriguingly, the answer to all three questions, is a resounding, “YES.”

We’re referring (of course) to the amazing 1:6 scale creations that were entered in the “Custom Action Figures, Vehicles and Dioramas” competition at Joelanta 2013. This year’s competition was stiff. The entries? Superb. And the crowds? They were WOWED.

Return of the “Whiz Kid”

This year’s standout exhibit was (again) created by diorama “Whiz Kid,” Caleb Brown (see our previous article HERE). The modest 15-year old’s outstanding 1:6 scale “Country Store Zombies” diorama, complete with a hand-shaped metal roof, intricate hand-painted graphics and a fully detailed interior was the clear winner of the 2013 competition (although it was not officially entered due to size limitations).

Brown’s diorama was set up to depict a gas station/country store that was under assault by killer zombies, each giving (and getting) their own share of gory retribution as they attacked a variety of humorous “locals.” His most interesting custom figure in the scene is a zombie that was being graphically decapitated with a chainsaw (see photo below). Truly superb work! We asked Caleb about how he creates his miniature masterpieces. Here’s what he told us:

“After I get home from school and homework’s done, I’ll start working on some piece of a new diorama or maybe a custom figure. I don’t have a ‘studio’ or any special work area. I just go out on our front porch. I don’t watch much TV or have a lot of other extra-curricular activities. I just enjoy making this kind of stuff. I guess you could say I’m an artsy kind of cat!”

This closeup reveals detail of Caleb Brown's "Decapitated Joe Zombie" custom figure. Absolutely AMAZING. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This closeup reveals detail of Caleb Brown’s “Decapitated Joe Zombie” custom figure. Absolutely AMAZING. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

As we predicted, Brown’s notoriety within the 1:6 scale community continues to grow. His custom buildings, figures and dioramas are all becoming more popular with fans, and offers to purchase his work have been increasing as well. And it’s easy to see why. Caleb’s superbly crafted pieces are more than “backgrounds” for action figures. They’re actually more akin to works of “folk art” than they are to mere hobby fodder. And as works of art, their inherent monetary value and importance will undoubtedly continue to rise over time. In fact, fellow 1:6 fan and collector, Buddy Finethy, has already purchased Caleb’s general store diorama (for quite a tidy sum!) and hopes to add it to the growing lode of customs being accumulated for the upcoming Cody Lane Memorial Toy and Diorama Museum; a fitting place, in our opinion, to display such fine work. Congratulations, Caleb!

Additional images of Caleb Brown’s “Country Store” Diorama:

This closeup of Caleb Brown's diorama reveals a "local" who seems quite unconcerned about the zombies, knowing that his .44 magnum packs enough firepower to blow the head of any zombie "clean off!" (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This closeup of Caleb Brown’s diorama reveals a “local” who seems quite unconcerned about the invading zombies, knowing full well that his .44 magnum packs enough firepower to blow their heads “clean off!” Besides, he just fried up some eggs for breakfast! (Photo: Mark Otnes)


Caleb details and paints all the surfaces and graphics of his dioramas by hand, increasing their level of artistry and elevating his work above similar dioramas utilizing computer-generated signs and print-outs. Note all the “weathering” detail he’s applied to the building’s slatboards, columns and framing. Outstanding! (Photo: Mark Otnes)


Step right in! This interior view of Caleb Brown’s diorama shows his appreciation for depicting realistic details, even INSIDE his 1:6 scale structures. As Buddy Finethy commented, “If you’ve ever been inside one of these old country stores, this is just what they look like.” Unbelievable work. (Photo: Mark Otnes)


Side view of Brown’s general store. That Coca-Cola graphic is HAND-painted onto the REAL wooden slats of his scratch-built building. What artistic skill! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Miniature Bedroom Masterpiece

Jack "RatSix" Hall, points to his 1st place-winning diorama, a miniature bedroom scene he dubbed,

Jack “RatSix” Hall, points to his 1st place-winning diorama, “The Boy’s Bedroom.” (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

Jack Hall is a big guy. But his award-winning “Boy’s Bedroom” diorama is a TINY work of 1:6 scale perfection. While the room’s construction is fairly simple and consists only of a few foamcore walls, the array of miniatures contained within reveal incredible patience and long-term collecting commitment.

Fans of 1:6 scale know how hard it is to find objects that fit properly into dioramas. It’s not an easy task to find everyday objects that have been realistically reduced down to 1:6 scale. That’s what makes Hall’s so-called “simple” diorama so special to fans. We KNOW how long it takes to gather all this tiny stuff together. All in all, Hall’s collection of bedroom “extras” took him over 13 years to complete. According to Jack:

“It took years and years to accumulate what you see here. Over 13 now and counting. See that Jeep there? That’s a Hallmark ornament. I found that little aquarium a long time ago at a Toys ‘R Us, just after ‘Finding Nemo’ came out, I believe. When Joelanta’s over, I’ll take this dio apart, and you’ll never see it again. Once I get home, it’ll all just go back into boxes. So take your pictures now!”


Jack clearly has a great eye for detail. What a perfect scene! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

As to the specific objects in the diorama, judging by his inclusion of a Farrah Fawcett poster on the wall, we’re dating Jack’s scene at around 1978 to 1980, the approximate height of the blond bombshell’s popularity on TV and in magazines. Interestingly, most of the men who approached his diorama at Joelanta were heard to comment, “I had that Farrah poster too!”


This closeup of Jack’s amazing diorama reveals how a talented customizer can “fool the eye” of the beholder with his or her skillful combination and arrangement of carefully selected miniatures. OUTSTANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

In addition to Farrah, there’s a tiny bookcase full of tiny GIjOEs, a miniature capture copter, a miniature Crash Crew Truck box (found HERE), and a wide variety of other assorted toys, games and sports miniatures. Along the wall are bunk beds covered with AT yellow bedding, while over in another corner, a stunning miniature aquarium glows with a cool blue light.


Tiny chest. Tiny figurines. Tiny trophies. Tiny Bulletman shirt. It’s all PERFECT! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Jack’s “simple bedroom diorama” would go on to sweep him to victory, earning its creator a well-deserved 1st Place in the adult diorama category. However, despite the success, Jack’s already looking over his shoulder at “Whiz-Kid” Caleb Brown, saying:

“I told Caleb when they put him in the adult division, I’m gonna stop bringing a diorama, because it would just be a waste of time (lol). He really is talented—and a nice kid on top of it!”

In this closeup, the scene looks so real the viewer feels they could just walk in and sit down at that chair. Amazing! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

In this closeup, you can see even MORE great details including the window, the door, the aquarium, the patch on the boy’s shirt and the AT logo on the table. WOW. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Bottom Line: If you want to see the amazing work of these talented customizers in person, you should make plans to attend (and/or ENTER) next year’s competition at Joelanta. However, we know that’s not always possible, so here at The Joe Report, we vow to continue to do our utmost to bring you the best and most reliable 1:6 scale intel available. In that spirit, here are some MORE pics from this year’s competition. Enjoy!


The largest diorama at the show featured this massive 5-foot UFO by Mike Gardner which was surrounded by Men in Black, soldiers and curious onlookers. It even included glowing lights and lightning effects. Something is out there!  (Photo: Mark Otnes)


Humorous signage helped create an even more realistic scene. (Photo: Mark Otnes)


Outstanding “Alien Autopsy” diorama BELOW the mountain, complete with gurney, well-outfitted doctors and even nurses. How cool! (Photo: Mark Otnes)


2 thoughts on “Increasingly Realistic 1:6 Scale Custom Figures and Dioramas “Fool the Eye” at Joelanta 2013

  1. GIJOEBILL says:

    Amazing talent in our hobby!!
    From us old farts to young talented hobbyist truly inspirational.

    Caleb’s General Store-Gas Station…. you know I love 1/6th scale garage in any form.:)

    Jack’s dio of a 1/6th scale room is a popular theme for a lot of us. Jack just took it in a cool direction!

  2. A lot of great work. I wish some of my dioramas would come out half as good.

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