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Only a Model
So this is what the building she's in looks like.
Number Two: Over the last thirty years, Virtucon has grown by leaps and bounds. About fifteen years ago, we changed from volatile chemicals to the communication industry. We own cable companies in thirty-eight states.
[the thirty-eight states illuminate on a map]
Number Two: In addition to our cable holdings, we own a steel mill in Cleveland.
[a steel mill miniature illuminates in Cleveland]
Number Two: Shipping in Texas.
[a model ship off the coast of Texas illuminates]
Number Two: Oil refineries in Seattle.
[a model oil refinery illuminates in Seattle]
Number Two: And a factory in Chicago that makes miniature models of factories.

Models of larger things are often used in fiction for a variety of reasons. Heck, if there isn't an immediate thing happening with the model in one scene, it's likely something will happen later.

One common use is models to describe plans (that will go wrong of course). Often overlaps with The Big Board, Exposition Diagram and Planning With Props.

Another is a Corrupt Corporate Executive showing the plans he makes for some place he is going to rebuild after tearing down some place (that the heroes have to save).

Sometimes a model can actually be one of the special effects props on a show, thrown in as a nod to attentive fans.

A Super Trope to:

Name comes from a line in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Compare Fun Size.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In The World God Only Knows Haqua tries to summarize the events of her introductory arc with a miniature model of the school and animated dolls. It ends up with the figurines of Keima and Haqua engaging inů questionable activities.

Comic Books
  • In one Gaston Lagaffe strip, Prunelle manages to bring in De Masmaeker to look at the scale model of their planned office building, hoping to get him to sign the contracts later. While he's showing off the admittedly impressive model, Gaston comes in with a miniaturized Gaffophone a reader sent him, and proceeds to play it. The building model proceeds to collapse instantly.
  • In the Tintin album Tintin The Calculus Affair, the Bordurian military elite displays the effectiveness of a proposed new sound weapon through the destruction of a "large North American city" (an Expy of New York) on a TV screen to the delight of its audience, only to reveal that they had merely used a smaller scale version to destroy a model. Everyone is disappointed.

Film
  • The climax of Hot Fuzz is in a model of the town (including an infamous weaponizing of it).
  • In the live-action Flintstones movie, Cliff Vandercave shows off a model of a new house-manufacturing machine to the company board. Everyone is impressed, except for Fred, who points out that the house the model made is much too small for anyone to live in.
  • Beetlejuice "NICE FUCKING MODEL!" * honk honk*
  • There's also the City of the Future in Iron Man 2 which turns out to be some important piece of plot-related phlebotinum.
  • Goldfinger had a very impressive scale model of Fort Knox and its surroundings.
  • As does Willard Whyte in Diamonds Are Forever. This provides a Eureka Moment where the Supervillain Lair is, when Bond points out a model of an offshore oil rig that isn't part of Whyte's business empire.
    Whyte: Baja? I don't have anything in Baja!
  • Superman Returns has a train set used this way. Lex Luthor throws part of a Kryptonian crystal in the model lake to show its effect. Made extra creepy when the camera zooms on little plastic people and you hear screams.
  • The Director's Comments in Die Hard stated the bridge model was for a bridge Frank Lloyd Wright had designed but never built, and borrowed for the movie from the Wright estate as the director was a fan of the architect. The model mainly serves to establish Hans Gruber as Wicked Cultured: "Oh, that's beautiful! I always loved to make models when I was a boy. The exactness! The attention to every conceivable detail! It's beautiful."
  • The spy film parody Top Secret! has the protagonists sketch their plan to infiltrate an East German fortress by drawing a crude map in the dirt. As the description progresses, the props get increasingly elaborate until they end up with a highly-detailed scale model of the installation complete with working train set.
  • Zoolander. Mugatu unveils a model for the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good (And Who Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too). Derek Zoolander isn't impressed... because he doesn't realize it's a model.
    Zoolander: [incredulous] What is this?
    [Picks up the model and smashes it on the floor.]
    Zoolander: A center for ANTS?
    Mugatu: What?
    Zoolander: How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read, if they can't even fit inside the building?
    Mugatu: Derek, it's just a small-
    Zoolander: I don't wanna hear your excuses! The center has to be at least... three times bigger than this!
  • In This Is Spinal Tap, Ian is very impressed with the model for the band's Stonehenge prop...until he finds out that it actually is the prop, thanks to Nigel's diagram featuring the shorthand for inches rather than feet.
  • In the Back to the Future series, Doc Brown explains a couple of his plans using a model of the city (apologizing that it's "not to scale").
    • Actually lampshaded by Marty in the third film, as he's heard this explanation before ("Yeah I know, Doc, it's not to scale. It's okay, Doc.")
  • On Austin Powers, Number Two says the trope quote, which includes the fact that one of Megacorp's enterprises is a factory that builds models of factories.
  • The Last King of Scotland. What appears to be a building turns out to be a model being admired by Idi Amin.

Literature
  • In The Fountainhead, people tampering with a model of a building Howard designed, to show that people aren't willing to take his work as it is.

Live-Action TV
  • In Black Adder Goes Forth Melchett and Darling show George a model of the stretch of ground that has been captured in the latest battle. It turns out that the model is on a scale of 1:1, so the actual gain is only a few square feet. Closer examination reveals that it's not even a model — it's the actual square of turf.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy Bot admires a model "City of the Future" at a science fair, but notes that she's never seen people that small.
  • In Battlestar Galactica, Bill Adama worked on a model of an Age of Sail ship over the course of the show, which he ends up destroying it in a fit of rage. The destruction was an ad lib by Edward James Olmos, who didn't know the model was very expensive (after all, in Real Life someone working full time can take a couple months to build one) and in fact on loan from a museum.
    • Whoops. Still, it was that very act that REALLY drove home how screwed up things were in that episode.
  • Doctor Who "Boom Town:" Margret Blaine (really an evil alien) is planning on blowing up the planet and escaping in a Tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator, which is hidden in the model of the power plant she's planning to blow up.
  • In The Mighty Boosh episode "The Nightmare of Milky Joe" there appears to be a ship in the distance that may rescue our heroes from the island they're stranded on. It's only a model, as Vince proves when he reaches out and plucks it right off the horizon.
  • In The Architect Sketch from a Monty Python's Flying Circus episode, the model for a set of flats has collapsing floors and catches on fire. During a presentation to the clients, no less.
  • The Goodies. "The Lost Island of Munga", opens with a model longboat floating in the water while Graeme's voice tells how long ago a crew of Vikings were blown off course by a mighty storm.
    Graeme: Suddenly the sea gets rough, there is a mighty wind, and a fearful noise fills the air!
    Bill: Because Thor pulled the plug out!
    Reveal Shot shows Graeme is actually reading out loud from a book while sitting in the bath with a toy longship.

Newspaper Comics

Real Life
  • Ref. The Architect Sketch from a Monty Python's Flying Circus episode, the model for a set of flats has collapsing floors and catches on fire. During a presentation to the clients, no less. (above)
    • This was actually topical satire: in 1969 in London, a tower block called Ronan Point was so shoddily designed and built that it collapsed in exactly this way, with loss of life. Freemasonry was suspected as the reason why the London council approved this design, by that architect, using that construction firm. Nothing was ever proven, but a year or two later, a construction company executive involved in the Ronan Point disaster was convicted and jailed for bribing councillors in a different part of Britain. Several local councillors were also jailed for corruption and misusing public finances.

Theatre
  • The parody of 50's sci-fi movies, Babes in Outer Space by Steve Lovett opens when a woman watching television is shocked by the sight of a Space Station being destroyed by a Death Ray. The next scene is a press conference where it's revealed that space exhibits in theme parks throughout the country are being targeted in an insidious plot to curb the dreams of future Space Cadets.

Video Games
  • The Mann vs. Machine map Coaltown in Team Fortress 2 includes a small museum containing, among other things, a model of ... the map itself.
  • One section of The Last of Us has you pass through a room containing a model of a bridge that was apparently either designed or commissioned by whoever used to work there.

Western Animation
  • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the climatic battle between Batman and the Joker takes place within a model of what Gotham City might look like in the future. The Joker disguises himself by wearing a skyscraper on his head. An episode of the tv series opens with the apparent explosion of a Gotham neighborhood, only for it to be revealed as a model, with the Big Bad of the episode detailing his plans to make it really happen.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Hail Doofania!", Doofenshmirtz makes a scale model (made of felt) of his floating city, Doofania. By the end of the episode, the city has sunk and only the model remains.
  • The Simpsons: Mr. Burns shows off a scale model of Springfield when he's demonstrating his plan to blot out the sun.
    • In the season eight episode "Homer's Enemy," Homer enters a "build a model nuclear power plant" contest for kids... and not only kicks their assesnote , but humiliates his antagonistic co-worker into a Villainous Breakdown and accidental suicide!
    • Another episode where Mr. Burns has a model airplane (the "Spruce Moose") he shows to Smithers.
      Burns: ...and it will carry 200 passengers from New Yorks' Idlewild airport to the Belgian Congo in 17 minutes!
      Smithers: That's quite a nice model, sir.
      Burns: Model?
      • He later orders Smithers to get into it with him. Smithers assumes he's joking, the model being about the size of a basketball, but then Burns pulls out a gun.
      Burns: Now, to the plant! We'll take the Spruce Moose. Hop in!
      Smithers: *nervous laugh* ah, sir...
      Burns: *cocks revolver* I said, hop in.
    • In season six's "Bart's Comet," they used a model to show the different ways they can blow up the comet — all ending with Moe's tavern being set on fire.
  • In The Venture Bros. Christmas special, the Monarch displays a scale model of the Venture compound as he gleefully outlines his plan to destroy Dr. Venture on Christmas Eve. Dr. Girlfriend is visibly ticked off.
    Monarch: ...What??
    Dr. Girlfriend: That model was supposed to be a surprise!
    Monarch [sheepishly]: ...I peeked?

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