Wednesday, September 7, 2022



WITH MOST SCALE MODEL NEWS REVIEWS, we deal first with the model, then maybe go into a few intriguing details that we hope are of interest. But with this new Atlantis kit, we have approached it the other way around, as things are not anything like straightforward.

Mat Irvine: Firstly is this kit ‘new’? Well yes, it is a brand-new release from Atlantis Models, but it is not ‘completely new.’ Ah, you might logically surmise, it’s got to be a re-release of existing tooling and from the type of the model, it has to be an ex-Aurora kit. To which you can then answer, “Well, yes – and no…”

The Metaluna Mutant appeared in the 1955 American film This Island Earth. Based on a story by Raymond F Jones, it tells of the alien visitor Exeter (played by Jeff Morrow) capturing atomic scientist Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) to return him and other Earth scientists, to the distant world of Metaluna to aid them in a war against the oppressing Zagons. This Island Earth was one of the classic ‘sci-fi’ movies of the time. The term sci-fi, although I personally dislike it, does tend to work for movies of this era, along with titles such as Forbidden PlanetDestination Moon and The Day The Earth Stood Still. As a movie This Island Earth doesn’t quite match up to the others, but does have a fan following. Much of this may be down to the Mutant, although it doesn’t actually appear in the film until about ten minutes from the end, when it stows aboard the Metaluna spacecraft. 
Because it is a ‘movie monster’ the Mutant would have been a natural kit for Aurora to produce, and the company almost did so. As with all model kit companies, ideas for future products are always on the drawing boards, and to complement the existing monsters Aurora already made, there were a host of proposals. These included Robby the Robot (Forbidden Planet), Gort (The Day The Earth Stood Still), and the Metaluna Mutant. Artwork had been done by noted artist Dave Cockrum (1943-2006), though initially his drawing was a scene from the movie, with the Mutant grabbing hold of one of the human characters, Dr Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue). Later Cockrum redrew detail plans, just of the creature by itself, which would have been the basis for the kit. Work had progressed to the extent that acetate prototypes had been made. This was common at that time for potential kits, but, as was also common with new ideas, the Aurora Metaluna Mutant ended up as a no-show. 

Then we have a giant leap forward to 2002 when a resin-kit version, based on the acetate prototype, was produced in very limited numbers. Then another large jump to 2017, when it was discovered that one of the resin kits had been sent to China, where it had been re-tooled and turned out as a conventional injection styrene kit. It appears that just over 100 kits were made, when apparently the mould broke. However, a Mutant kit was acquired by past Aurora Project Manager and kit historian Andy Yanchus (1944-2021), and I got one as well!

Finally we reach the 2020s and Atlantis Models, where Andy consulted (and also myself occasionally). Atlantis obtained the injection-moulding tool, repaired the damage and has issued the kit under the Atlantis name.

The parts breakdown is conventional for what is after all a ‘humanoid’ figure, so the head is in two halves, with separate eyes. There’s a two-part body, with a back ‘carapace’ and a two-part lower body, with separate clawed feet; and jointed arms. There are also movable claws for the hands. It seems that for the movie the Mutant’s legs were intended to be a similar ‘external insect-like carapace’ structure in appearance as the arms and body, but practicalities (and time) resulted in them being purely a pair of casuals, worn by the uncredited actor (Regis Parton) who played the Mutant. The assembled Atlantis Metaluna Mutant stands on its base, which comes with a clapperboard-style nameplate.

One point that is not usual for Aurora figures is that it has moving parts. The arms are jointed at the elbows and swivel at the shoulders. The hand claws also move. In addition it is not in a typical Aurora scale. Most Aurora figure kits – monsters or otherwise – were made to 1:8 scale. Though there were exceptions, such as the Lost in Space robot being to the somewhat ungainly 1:11 scale, and the Monster Scenes were 1:13 scale, so here the Mutant is pretty close at 1:12. This scale actually matches the Airfix range of figures, though the Mutant would stand as an uneasy companion to the more usual Airfix fare of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I or Oliver Cromwell!

This is the first injection-moulded version of the Mutant, though not the first scale model. Tsukuda made a larger vinyl version and there have been many other ready-built models, both scale and caricatures. One point that always seems to fool most of these versions, is the colour. Many have a bright blue for the main body, where the movie version was shown in far more subtle shades. The blue is almost a military intermediate-blue, and the review kit here used a similar Humbrol shade as a basis for the built model. The band across the upper chest is a darkish red, as is the belt, which has the atom logo embossed on the right. The dark red also surrounds the eyes, and is also the colour of the veins on the arms, which are best dry-brushed on. The claws are a dull yellow or tan, and the eyes themselves gloss black.

The kit arrives in a box that mimics the square style Aurora later used for its monster kits. Box art uses the painting done by Dave Cockrum that he gave to Andy Yanchus as a present and which hung in Andy’s house in Brooklyn for many years. There is an intriguing point that the Mutant might have been issued by Aurora in its original vertical-style box, and for which artwork was prepared, but the layout of the parts on their runners apparently precluded this. It would have needed the runners to be completely chopped up. As it is, the two main runners have to be cut in half to fit the square box.  

An interesting kit of a fascinating subject. It took a while, but in the end you do get a modern version of an ‘Aurora’ kit, albeit it's some 50 years late… 

Scale stats
Atlantis Models: Metaluna Mutant
Scale: 1:12
Parts: 27 (including two for the stand)
Assembled height: 160 mm (8 in)
Manufacurer’s ref: 3005 

Working drawings (below) by Dave Cockrum for the kit. The Mutant is shown here with a piece of Metaluna equipment as a base, but this was changed changed to the kit's simpler flat base.

The original box art (below) painted by Dave Cockrum, as it hung in Andy Yanchus’s house in Brooklyn, NY.

As a size comparison (below), the 1:12 scale Atlantis Mutant stands next to a same-scale Airfix Anne Boleyn. There is also an extremely tentative ‘astronomical connection’ as Anne Boleyn is seen here standing by a sundial!

The rear of the figure (below) showing its back ‘carapace’. The Mutant was likened to an ‘Earth insect’ in one conversation.

The assembled figure (below, without eyes) stands next to the base, which includes a neat atomic logo.

Beginning the assembly of body parts (below). The assembled arms slot into sockets in the shoulders, which allows a swivel action.

Parts layout (below) features two runners, both moulded in metallic blue styrene.

An original runner from the first Chinese kit production (below left) had to be cut in half (below right) to fit the kit box.

Dave Cockrum's box art (below) looks good, but nowhere on the box is there a mention of This Island Earth, a frame-grab of which is shown bottom.