"The Hide and Tallow

Barque Dana"


1998 -- the Santa Barbara, CA Maritime Museum
Size: N/A
Scale: Approx. 1 in. = 1 ft. (1/12th scale)
Figures: 2 at 6 1/2 in.; 3 at 5 in.
Poseable figures loading the Dana, including below-deck as demonstrated through the use of a cross-section of the sailing ship. Also included are some rats scuttling about the cargo of cow hide's and leather-bagged tallow.


The Problem: Exhibit builders for the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum were creating a display telling the story of the cattle hide and tallow trade along the central California coast in the 1800's. They wished to show both scale and some sense of dynamic human interaction within the cross section of the Dana that they had created.

The Challenge: MIT was hired to convert five poseable 'action-figures' into sailors/workers of the period, as well as provide a batch of details (a few hundred 'cattle hides', several dozen leather 'bags of tallow', and several individually sculpted 'Norway rats'). The (3) figures at right began life as poseable Nascar race driving stars Bill Elliot, Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin. The (2) figures below started as poseable 'generic male' GI Joe-type guys with hazardous materials suits and rubber gloves.

The Solution: We whittled away the driving suits of our Nascar stars (above), adding details and character to transform them to crusty old sailors loading the Dana. Because the figures remained poseable they retained a very dynamic body-english.

We modified the various joints on the GI Joe figures (below) so they could be posed in such a way as to appear to be really carrying this hefty load across the sand. Enhancements of the faces and hair changed 2 'peas in a pod' to a sailor and a native American, 'the tallow-carriers', as they head to the rowboat with more tallow 'botas'.

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