Model Planning

"Let me show you my plan for sending you home. Please excuse the crudity of this model. I didn't have time to build it to scale or paint it."

"Young Gray was fiddling about with a couple of Dinky Toys and a model of a street intersection. One of the buildings had a little flag and the whole thing looked terribly like a long-range elimination set-up for telescopic sights and I didn't interrupt except to remind him to lock the door as soon as I'd gone."

This is the use of models to represent the areas used to make plans, given that such things are easier when people have the context of an area to see what to do.

Of course, the Unspoken Plan Guarantee means the plan rarely works as expected. But it still lets the audience not only know the plan, but also have an idea of what's happening when things go wrong.

A miniature is one of the most common forms of model for this, but CGI models are getting more common. Sometimes the model can even be 1:1 scale, usually if precision in the plan is a must.

In Real Life, relief maps were not widely used in the 17th and 18th centuries, so models were common—especially when it came to military engineering, where a model was a must-have if you were building or besieging a fortress.

The Big Board and Planning with Props are Sister Tropes, which often overlap with this.

A Sub-Trope of Only a Model. Compare Exposition Diagram.


Comic Books
  • In G.I. Joe, Destro has been known to use little models to plan out his strategies—he does it in the famous "Silent Interlude" issue.

Film — Animated
  • Disney's Mulan has one, when the general describes the planned advance to his son.

Film — Live Action
  • A Running Gag in the Back to the Future trilogy: Doc Brown builds elaborate models of city blocks or canyons to demonstrate his plans to Marty, then apologizes for "the crudity of the model". It also catches on fire, repeatedly.
  • The Death Star attack plans in the Star Wars films A New Hope and Return of the Jedi are with CGI models.
  • In Entrapment, the protagonists plan a heist using yarn to practice navigating a Laser Hallway.
  • The plan in The Dirty Dozen is largely with a model (and a Donald Duck figure).
  • The Ocean's Eleven remake has the thieves building an exact, full-size replica of the vault they're planning to rob for practice.
  • In the remake of The Italian Job the thieves build a replica practice course in a warehouse to practice driving their escape route, and also have a CGI animation on their computer of the car as if it were traversing the actual route in real time for no apparent reason.
  • In Top Secret!, what begins as Planning with Props segues into this.
  • The French commandos in The Longest Day use a detailed model of the town they are to assault on D-Day for their Mission Briefing.
  • In Raid On Entebbe, Israeli commandos use a mockup of the Entebbe terminal to practice their assault plan.

  • The Reveal in the film of The Kennel Murder Case (S S Van Dine) involves this.
  • Jack Ryan:
    • In Without Remorse, the model used for going over John Kelly's part of the Great Escape from the Song Tay Prisoner of War camp is mentioned in passing, with a note of the marker used to represent Kelly being a rubber band cut open, with two dots on one end for eyes, after Kelly's callsign of "Snake".
    • A model found in an Afghanistan cave during a US Army raid becomes a plot point in Dead or Alive.

Live-Action TV
  • Models are used to plan attacks in Battlestar Galactica. At one point, the camera view of the models inverts just before a scene cut to show that a group of fighters depicted is concealing themselves by attaching their landing gear to the bottom of a freighter.
  • Inverted in The Gil Mayo Mysteries, where the team debates possible solutions to the weeks murder(s) by playing with models. The same eclectic set of models is used each week, so they bear no real resemblance who they are meant to represent. Except for that one time when the Reverend Beaver was represented by, of course, a beaver.
  • "The Architect Sketch" on Monty Python's Flying Circus has an architect who represents his plans for an apartment building with a model that gradually collapses as he gives his presentation, and then spontaneously catches fire. He gets the contract anyway, because he's a Freemason. Or possibly because his competitor's plan involved corridors of rotating knives.
  • Mentioned a couple of times in the first two episodes of Band of Brothers. In the first episode, the soldiers are instructed to study various pieces of intelligence, including sand table models of their objectives. In the second episode, when one trooper asks another how he is so sure of their location, the trooper replies, "Cuz I studied the sand tables, genius!"
  • The POWs in Colditz use models of the castle made from Red Cross Parcel boxes to demonstrate their escape plans, including how to launch a glider from the roof.
  • BBC News, and later Channel Four News, were ridiculed and parodied for this when using sandbox models and toy tanks to explain British involvement in assorted wars and peace-keeping operations (First Gulf, Yugoslavia, Second Gulf). These were pushed around by an enthusiastic Armchair General called Peter Snow.

Video Games
  • One of these is used to plan a casino heist in Saints Row 2. Then your gang decides to ignore the carefully-crafted plan and just "shoot the motherfuckers that are between [them] and the money", a Take That to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where a long series of quests are taken to plan and prepare a casino heist.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII the La Résistance group Forest Owls used train models to explain the hijacking the railcar of an enemy president.
  • Antonio in Assassin's Creed II has a model of the Venice rooftops in his office in the Thieve's Guild.
  • One of the pre-rendered cutscenes in Stuntman has the protagonist demonstrating how toy cars and miniatures are used by the stunt team to meticulously plan everything out. Of course, the player doesn't learn more than one or two key stunts before having to memorize the sequence on the job....

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • A few episodes of The Simpsons have this, such as when they tried to use a rocket to stop the comet in "Bart's Comet". Each time, the model ends with Moe's Bar destroyed in flames.