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Scale Model Destruction

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"Nice fuckin' model!"
Beetlejuice (after knocking over a model tree), Beetlejuice

If a detailed 3D model shows up in Film or Live-Action TV it should be prepared for a short lifespan, or at least heavy damage. Sometimes it's a Chekhov's Gun, but usually it's just present throughout the story and happens to get destroyed in the course of plot, especially if one of the characters has been working on it as a labor of love. Also, as you'll see from several of the examples, it's sometimes a excuse to show the characters in a Kaiju-esque parody of Godzilla trampling Tokyo.

A Sub-Trope of Only a Model.


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  • One episode of Genshiken revolves around Ohno and Sasahara attempting to build Gungal models. Saki accidentally breaks Ohno's completed Goof model while examining it. (The Genshiken members are entirely capable of fixing the snapped-off joint via drilling, inserting a metal pin, and gluing. Saki discovers this shortly after she's guilt-tripped into cosplay.)
  • One sketch in Daily Lives of High School Boys revolves around several characters playing a game of "kick the can" with the first Gundam model Mitsuo ever built. They succeed, and then reveal that they destroyed it because they had bought him an identical kit for his birthday. The present turns out to be a counterfeit.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In One Crazy Summer, someone in a Godzilla costume rampages over a real-estate developers model, complete with the cheesy electrical arcs found in the old monster movies.
  • Beetlejuice had a model town, though it only sustained moderate damage.
  • Star Trek: First Contact: "You broke your little ships."
  • In Zoolander, Mugatu shows off a model of a school he's planning to build in Derek Zoolander's honor. Derek gets ticked and destroys it, because he doesn't understand the concept of a model.
    Derek Zoolander: What is this, a center for ants? How can we expect to teach children to learn how to read if they can't even fit inside the building?!.
  • In Moon, Sam is building a town model to pass the time. When the other Sam starts looking for the clone chamber, the model gets destroyed.
  • In the Street Fighter movie, Bison dramatically introduces a model of his future Egopolis. It gets totalled later by E. Honda and Zangief fighting, trampling it Godzilla-style... right when a group of Japanese soldiers hack into the surveillance feed of that particular room.
  • Happens partially in RoboCop 2 when the massive model of New Detroit is revealed, and the new RoboCop (containing the brain of drug kingpin Kain) is elevated in the middle of it. When someone waves a canister of the drug he'd been peddling (and is completely hooked on) within sight of him, he crushes one of the buildings and goes berserk soon after.
  • The Adventures of Pluto Nash has a joke around destroying only a single tiny piece of a scale model belonging to the Big Bad.
  • This is averted in Darkman, a movie who's central plot revolves around a shady real estate deal... but yet the model doesn't get harmed.
  • In a Monty Python sketch the model of a new hi-rise falls down and catches fire, but because the architect is a Mason and so are the buyers, he still gets the job. The alternative was a design produced by an architect only experienced in designing abattoirs. Yes, he forgot what he was doing, but the chance of accidental death would still have been lower than with the other architect.
  • Subverted (or averted?) in Hot Fuzz, which otherwise plays as many tropes straight as possible. The model village is mentioned early in the film, but while there is an epic punch-up there, no significant destruction occurs. In fact, the model church is actually weaponised when the bad guy is sent flying by an automotive incident.
  • In Toys, one of the warehouses contains a scale model of Manhattan. The final battle takes place there, and much of it is blown up.
  • Averted in the Back to the Future movies:
    • In the first movie, Doc Brown demonstrates the plan to harness the lightning to get Marty back home - the electricity overcharges the model car and it speeds off the table into a corner and starts a fire. Marty is not exactly reassured.
    • The third movie also has a model layout, and again, the only thing that gets wrecked is the model steam engine... the same way they plan to sacrifice the real one.
  • Lex Luthor's model town in Superman Returns. However, he didn't actually build it, and is unmoved by having it destroyed. A minor key in his dickishness.
  • In The Country Bears, the villain is a banker who wants to tear down Country Bear Hall. There's one part that shows him crushing wooden models of the building by dropping a giant weight. Several times.
  • In Ant-Man, a model of a future office plaza gets destroyed as an ant-sized Scott Lang flees for his life across it, in a parody of Outrunning the Fireball sequences. The fact that there's a track on the soundtrack called "A Center for Ants" makes it quite likely that the scene is a Shout-Out to the Zoolander scene listed above.
  • Police Academy 6: City Under Siege had the Mayor making many model wooden ships, and Captain Harris and Proctor promptly break one as soon as the subject is brought up. It shows up again after they "repair" it by apparently laying out a paint tray full of glue and packing the broken pieces into a ball before rolling it into the glue. At least that's what it looks like they did. When the Mayor is arrested he is dragged out of the room ranting about how the characters better not touch his model ships. Not one of them. The little men were so delicate and would "BREAK BETWEEN YOUR FAT FINGERS!!!"
  • Brains destroyed at least one in Thunderbird Six in frustration after having design after design for the new Thunderbird rejected.
  • Wrong is Right. Sean Connery's character is briefing the White House staff on what will happen to New York City if the two suitcase nukes hidden there by terrorists explode, when he's apparently Killed Mid-Sentence along with everyone else amid scenes of the city burning and melting amid a fiery mushroom cloud. We then see everyone staring glumly at a smoldering model of New York that's just been destroyed in a simulated blast.

  • The novel Lullaby by Chuck Pahaliuk has the main character building intricate models, before stomping them into the ground with his bare foot.
  • Discworld examples:
    • Moving Pictures has an In-Universe example; the Gone with the Wind parody made by some of its characters involves a detailed scale model of Ankh-Morpork, which is burned during the climactic scene.
    • In Pyramids, the late Pharoah is to be accompanied to the afterlife by a number of luxury items, represented by miniatures entombed with his mummy. The modelmaker is a stereotypical nerd. The high priest accidentally sits on one of the models.
  • In the book Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce, Emperor Ozorne creates an illusory scale model of Tortall mage Numair only to destroy it.
  • In Monster Makers, Inc. by Laurence Yep, the protagonist works for a company that custom-makes genetically-engineered lifeforms. Their demonstration model is a foot-high replica of Godzilla that's been trained to trash a scale model of Tokyo on command.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Hal and Dewey buy an inordinate amount of legos and other building blocks and create a huge model city inside their living room, complete with lights strung about. The mom comes in and accidentally destroys everything, stumbling about in slow-motion and howling like Godzilla.
  • 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.
  • In an episode of The Love Boat it was Captain Steubing's birthday, and Gopher & Isaac commissioned a model of the Pacific Princess made out of matchsticks to give to him. At one point it got destroyed and they had to recreate it shorter, because the middle had been totaled. Then we come to his party and we see that everyone gave him boat-themed gifts and he was thoroughly bored with them. But wait...what's that ticking? It's coming from inside the matchstick ship! Steubing breaks it open to find a nice watch (one Gopher had lost while rebuilding the ship, which his mother gave him(?)) which Steubing assumes was his real birthday present, the ship being just a clever box making him think that was all it was. He's so thrilled with his watch that Gopher doesn't say anything.
  • Michael Bentine had a sketch about a guest on a TV show who'd spent ten years building a beautiful model of St. Paul's Cathedral out of matchsticks. Unfortunately he forgot to take the match heads off, and under the hot studio lights...
  • In Prison Break, a major plot point throughout the first season is the Taj Mahal scale model that the warden is building for his wife for their anniversary. The roof is on the verge on collapsing and he has ceased work for the moment. He hears that one of the new prisoners (Michael Schofield, protagonist) is a structural engineer and asks for his help. Schofield initially declines to help, but later needs a favor and gets it by helping the warden. They work on it all season, but it still gets destroyed.
  • In an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel builds a scale model of Monticello out of toothpicks. Then he allows Tom And Crow to destroy it, since he knows that's what they'll do the moment he turns his back, anyway. This is joked about in their reactions to Escape 2000, when the MegaCorp starts destroying buildings in the Bronx with the protagonist still inside and Crow claims "they're destroying models to get rid of him!".
  • In The Middle Brick tells his mom he needs to make a project of the capitol building. He makes one out of sugar cubes, then promptly destroys it and tells his mom that was just for fun, and he needed a pyramid instead.
  • In Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Moze is having worries about being a Huge Schoolgirl after she accidentally steps on a scale model and destroys it.
  • On the episode of iCarly with the heat wave, Freddie's video date, who was at least 3 inches taller than him, rampages over Carly's model of a Utopian city, much like Godzilla.
  • Charles in Charge had an episode showing a model ship being damaged, causing some characters to scramble to repair it...
  • As did EStreet. They end up gluing themselves together.
  • A model plane falling to the ground when a loved one is about to travel by air is seen as an omen of doom in an episode of Neighbours.
  • One is implied to be destroyed in Nurses (1991) after an administrator makes one character's life miserable, topped off with his annoying habit of pointing out locations on a model of the hospital he keeps in his office. The last scene shows the character breaking into the office and mocking this habit, followed by an external shot and the sound of a chainsaw.
  • Thunderbirds showed Brains testing a model watercraft in the pool. One of the boys ignorantly dives into the pool and sinks it.
  • The Bill had an episode in which Reg takes the whole episode to purchase an OO model of the Mallard from someone, only to drop it under the police car in the process of arresting a suspect...
  • In the Top Gear Vietnam Special, the three clowns are travelling across Vietnam on motorcycles and scooter. Jeremy thinks it would be funny to give Hammond a gift he can carry there on his old Russian-built bike - a wooden ornamental sailing ship at least half as big as Hamster is. The others end up with similar problems in the name of comedy.
  • Get Smart: The plans for the Nuclear Amphibious Battleship are missing, so Control sends Max and 99 undercover on a suspect ship to find them. During a climactic fight with the captain, one of the display of bottleships is damaged. The captain bawls out Max for this - unfortunately for him, bringing attention to the broken one - and wouldn't you know it, he'd actually disposed of the plans after making the Nuclear Amphibious Bottleship, planning to smuggle it out as a model. Which is the broken one. Such luck.
  • After John Cleese unsuccessfully pitches an apartment block/abattoir in "The Architect Sketch" from Monty Python's Flying Circus, Eric Idle shows a model for a more traditional high-rise residence. As he makes his pitch however, the model starts to sag and fall apart, and then spontaneously catches fire (with the caption "SATIRE" superimposed over it, alluding to the collapse of the similarly cheaply designed Ronan Point tower block two years prior). His design is still accepted, — even as the model punctuates his presentation by exploding — due to shared bonds of Freemasonry between the architect and the buyers.
  • In Arrested Development, Gob and George Sr. build a street of model houses in order to fool some Japanese investors into thinking a housing project is much further along than it really is. Naturally, these get trampled by Tobias in a mole costume, who in turn is fought off by George-Michael wearing a jet pack.
  • The Brittas Empire: Colin presents Brittas with a model of the leisure centre in “Back With A Bang”. Later on, Brittas accidentally sits on it and destroys it.

  • Babes in Outer Space by Steve Lovett, a parody of '50s sci-fi movies, 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.
  • In The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), one of the actors shows off his beautiful hand-carved replica of Noah's Ark but shatters it in the second act due to misinterpreting another actor's remark. Audience Participation ensues.


    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: In "Who Shot Mr. Burns", Mr. Burns laughs maniacally as he stomps like Godzilla all over a model of Springfield in his "Cartoonish Supervillainy".
    Burns: Take that, Bowl-o-rama! Take that, convenience mart! Take that, nuclear power plant... oh, fiddlesticks.
  • One of the Big Bad's evil plots in Dogstar was to replicate the Dogstar from the original builders plans and destroy it in deep space, causing the protagonists to believe they had found the lost ship for nothing, and cease looking. He demonstrates this to his son with a model, confusing him no end by destroying it.
  • In an episode of Rugrats, Charlotte takes Angelica and Tommy to her workplace. Angelica plays with the company scale model as a giant monster and stomps on the houses.


Video Example(s):


Zoolander- A Center for Ants

Derek destroys the scale model for his proposed school and insists that for kids to learn there it needs to be 3x bigger.

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5 (9 votes)

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Main / ScaleModelDestruction

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