This Is What the Building Will Look Like

It's made of popsicle sticks and old lava lamps, and held together with pure smugness.

So a character, often a Corrupt Corporate Executive, has a big construction project planned. The problem is that the odds are this project will not come to fruition, or even if it does, we are just likely to see ground broken on it at the end. So the writers have this character show a model of it so the audience can know what it would look like.

Or perhaps the building is already made, but it's not going to be shown, so the model is just so we can see what it looks like without showing the real one.

Often paired with a Dramatic Curtain Toss.

Important: If we see the actual building in anything before the last minute of the show, it doesn't count.

A Sub-Trope of Only a Model.


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  • The Mansions of the Gods begins with Caesar showing off a model of the Roman development that is to be built around the little Gaulish village. Not quite a straight example in that construction progresses further than usual for this trope, up until the Gauls wreck it.
  • In one gag of Gaston Lagaffe, Prunelle shows Demesmaeker a model of the new offices of Spirou, which Gaston then causes to collapse with a model of his Gaffophone that he got from a reader.

  • In Zoolander, he confuses a model for a finished design, and asks how it's supposed to help people "when they can't even fit inside the building?"
  • The Flintstones used the exact same gag as above years earlier, which we're counting because we never see the completed pre-fab homes in the movie, just the machinery used to make them which creates a Death Course in the climactic scene.
    Fred: "I hate to bust your bubble, but if you build houses this small, who's gonna live in them?"
  • Hook features a model of a new hospital, built thanks to Wendy.
  • In RoboCop (1987), the model of "Delta City", intended to replace the old Detroit, is displayed on several occasions. It shows up again in Part 2 and Part 3 (the above picture).
  • In *batteries not included the big bad corporation has one of these.
  • Bisonopolis from the Street Fighter movie. In the climactic battle, Zangief and E. Honda are fighting among it like a Kaiju film.
  • Herbie Rides Again begins with a showing of a model of the future Hawk Plaza. After the reception, workers pull the model out, revealing a model of the one house not yet demolished underneath.
  • A twisted take on the concept occurs in One Crazy Summer. Bobcat Goldthwait, through a series of contrived coincidences, gets stuck in a Godzilla costume while spying on the Big Bad's business party where he is showing off his planned project to some Japanese investors. A cigar idly tossed away (still lit) ends up in the godzilla suit's mouth, Goldthwait goes berserk trying to get it out... and the Japanese investors are treated to the sight of Godzilla roaring and screeching, stomping the model flat. They find it hilarious, naturally.
  • In Darkman, Louis Strack Jr shows a model of his new waterfront city development to Julie.
  • The model of the Museum of the Strange in Beetlejuice.
  • You Don't Mess with the Zohan has Walbridge's planned shopping mall with a roller coaster. For added comedy there's also one of his hot supermodel girlfriend.
  • The 1983 movie Get Crazy follows this trope explicitly, as the corrupt music producer displays a model of his big sinister skyscraper to a meeting of big sinister investors. All that stands in his way of building it is the old-school music theater run by the good guys.
  • Shows up in Iron Man 2 with the miniature Stark Expo model. Also becomes a plot point when it turns out that the model is also a "blueprint" of sorts for synthesizing an element that can replace the potentially-toxic palladium currently used for arc reactors like the one keeping Tony alive.
  • Lampshaded in the first Austin Powers when Number 2 shows Dr. Evil a collection of minututre models of companies they own including a factory that makes miniature models of factories
  • The waterfront stadium plan in Vancouver — er, San Francisco! — in Romeo Must Die.
  • Spoofed in Freaked. Evil freakshow owner Elijah C. Skuggs shows off a model of his facilities, then proposes that the Everything Execept Shoes Corporation upgrade it to 'Super Mega Freak World', which is represented a larger version of the same model.
  • Reflecting history, Downfall has Hitler obsessing over a massive scale model of what he wanted to turn Berlin into.
  • Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones features a miniature hologram of what is soon known as the Death Star
    • Doubles as an Easter Egg, since it uses the 'correct' model of the original Death Star, where the hologram in A New Hope had the projector dish on the equator instead.
  • In The Brady Bunch Movie, Mike Brady displays scale models of three different buildings he's submitting designs for. All three are clearly the same model, and identical to the Brady house, aside from the sign out front.
  • In Now You See Him, Now You Don't, Dexter and Schuyler, after turning themselves invisible, discover that A.J. Arno plans to turn Medfield College into a gambling establishment, with a dog track replacing the football field, a casino in place of the library, etc.
  • In 'Beat Girl' the protagonist's father has one of these in his house, to show why she feels neglected.
  • Die Hard: Hans Gruber and Joseph Takagi walk through an area showcasing some of the Nakatomi Corporation's construction projects - Takagi even thinks that the "terrorists" might be striking at Nakatomi because of one project in particular. Hans subverts expectations with the magnificent quote, "'And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.' Benefits of a classical education." He also takes the opportunity to lampshade his meticulous nature, talking about how he loved building models as a child, the exacting attention to every last conceivable detail...

    Live-Action TV 
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus. During "The Architect Sketch", a man comes in with a model of a tall apartment building, and as he talks the model tips over, then some of the floors collapse, then it catches fire... See what happens next. (relevant part starts at 3:20, to pick up from end of this description go to 3:55)
  • In the Inspector Morse episode "Twilight of the Gods", Corrupt Corporate Executive Andrew Baydon plans to endow a new college, and the model of it is on display.
  • From Newsradio, Jimmy James' Jimmy James Towers, a colossal pair of J's.
  • All architects in How I Met Your Mother build models. Occasionally models of dinosaurs that breathe fire.
    • And, on one occasion, a model which evidently looked like a giant... towering... tower.
  • A Saturday Night Live James Bond parody sketch didn't even get that far - archvillain Christopher Walken has Bond captive in his lair that's still under construction and way behind schedule, and he has to resort to showing Bond conceptual renderings of the various deathtraps he would be subjected to.
    • In a Weekend Update sketch, Jimmy Fallon interviewed the head architect building the then-future Greek Olympiad for the recent games. The guy was so proud that the model was finished but when Jimmy ask how much of the actual building was done, he broke it down to a very(, very) small portion.
  • One of these shows up in the second series of Waterloo Road when Roger Aspinall intends to rebuild the school as the Roger Aspinall Academy. His disaffected son later trashes it with a fire extinguisher.

  • There's a model of how Shinra wants to remodel Midgar in their building in Final Fantasy VII; you have to restore its missing pieces to move on.
  • Chief Iron's office in the beta version of Resident Evil 2 has a scale model of what appears to be a planned expansion of Raccoon City, but because the game was never completed, it's unclear what the real purpose of the model is.

    Western Animation 
  • The model of Kuzcotopia in The Emperor's New Groove.
  • An episode of Rugrats had Angelica trying to sneak away from her mom's boring business meeting so she could play with the scale model of the theme park he company was planning. Yes, she utterly wrecks the set.
  • Lamp Shaded in the unaired pilot episode of Clerks: The Animated Series when the Big Bad, Leonardo Leonardo [sic], shows off his city of the future to much fanfare only to reveal an empty table. He then says with some embarrassment that the model is on order and should be arriving some time next week.
  • In the episode "Toyoshiko! Bark Friend Machine" of Pound Puppies (2010), underling Milton Feltwaddle gives what he tells dog catcher Leonard McLeish is a future facility for the North American division of the company he works for. Since McLeish has perpetual ambitions of moving up from dog catcher, Feltwaddle's plan works too well, and that ends up being his downfall. (McLeish's rise, no matter what, was never to be.)
  • In The Simpsons episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part 1", Burns uses a model Springfield to show Smithers his plan to block out the Sun in order to make everyone more reliant on the power plant. After Smithers quits due to Burns' descent into "cartoonish super-villainy", Monty begins stomping on the model for fun:
    Mr. Burns: Take that, Bowlerama! (stomp) Take that, Convenience Mart! (stomp) Take that, Nuclear Power Plan- (stomp) Oh, fiddlesticks.

    Real Life 
  • Going out of fashion with the increasing popularity of software like Photoshop and Blender, but these used to be a common sight at public meetings about proposed construction projects. Fictional examples of this trope tend to gloss over the fact that the model is rarely if ever completely identical to the final product as built; these things are built so that the project's backers, the local zoning board and -in theory- local residents can judge the aesthetic merits of the design and suggest alterations or improvements.
  • Adolf Hitler had one of these, for the whole of Berlin upon becoming Welthaupstadt Germania ("World Capital Germania"). It also shows up on Downfall.
    • Incidentally, some of its most prominent features could never have been built—they would've sunk into Berlin's soft soil.
  • The unbuilt Liverpool Catholic Cathedral, by the great Sir Edwin Lutyens.