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This Is What the Building Will Look Like

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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. Compare Model Planning, which is about making an elaborate model to make some sort of plan of action. See also Picture-Perfect Presentation and Prop.


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    Comic Books 
  • 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. Played with somewhat, as an unusually large amount of it by the standards of this tropenote  actually gets built before the end of the comic. (Inevitably, the Gauls reduce it to rubble.)
  • 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.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • From Ant-Man, a model of the future Cross Technologies plaza is prominently featured in Darren Cross' presentations. When Scott shrinks and runs across it, the soundtrack references the Zoolander example — the track is titled, "A Center for Ants."
  • Lampshaded in the first Austin Powers when Number 2 shows Dr. Evil a collection of miniature models of companies they own including a factory that makes miniature models of factories.
  • In *batteries not included the big bad corporation has one of these. Amusingly, as the building they wanted gone finally gets registered as historic, the large building is seen at the very end having been modified into two gigantic buildings with the little apartment building in between.
  • The model of the Museum of the Strange in Beetlejuice.
  • In The Borrowers (1997), Potter shows off a model of the apartment complex he intends to build in place of the Lenders' home.
  • 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.
  • Vincent Karbone, the villain of Breaking Point (1976), is planning a project called Confluence City. It will be built in concentric circles, and each building will contain apartments, schools, and businesses of all kinds, so that a family can live without ever leaving their building. He proudly shows off the model to some of his underlings.
  • In Captain Nemo and the Underwater City, Captain Nemo shows the rest of the protagonists that the amazing Steampunk Underwater City that they have been going ga-ga about through the whole film is just the first phase of a larger compound, with a model to give proper scale (the new city, already starting construction, is approximately twice as big).
  • In Darkman, Louis Strack Jr shows a model of his new waterfront city development to Julie.
  • In Die Hard, there's an architect's model of a bridge in Mr Takagi's office. 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 Director's Comments 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.
  • Reflecting history, Downfall (2004) has Hitler obsessing over a massive scale model of what he wanted to turn Berlin into (as opposed to the huge pile of bombed-out rubble it currently is).
  • In Fighting Mad (1976), evil developer Crabtree tries to drive Jeff Hunter off his ranch so he can build a power plant there. At one point he shows Jeff a model of the power plant and says, "There's your valley in five years, Mr. Hunter." Tom throws the model to the ground and smashes it up with a scythe.
  • The Flintstones used the exact same gag as Zoolander below 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?
  • Spoofed in Freaked. Evil freakshow owner Elijah C. Skuggs shows off a model of his facilities, then proposes that the Everything Except Shoes Corporation upgrade it to 'Super Mega Freak World', which is represented a larger version of the same model.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hook features a model of a new hospital, built thanks to Wendy.
  • How to Steal a Dog: Soo-young has grand plans to bulldoze the family restaurant and build a big apartment tower and development on the land. He's frustrated by his aunt, who actually owns the restaurant and land, refusing to play along. He is given to staring at the model of the mixed-use complex he'd like to build.
  • 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.
  • The Last King of Scotland. What appears to be a building turns out to be a model being admired by Idi Amin.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Police Academy 6: City Under Siege featured high-profile crimes occurring along an old bus route which is later revealed to be the intended route of a new rail corridor, to be accompanied by massive development portrayed by a plan in the mayors office it's all a plan to make this development happen cheaper by driving down property prices in the area - and the mayor is the major investor in the development.... When Captain Harris and Proctor attend a meeting with the mayor, of course Proctor tries to play with it.
  • 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).
  • The waterfront stadium plan in Vancouver — er, San Francisco! — in Romeo Must Die.
  • In The Spy Who Loved Me, Stromberg shows James Bond a model for an underwater city, with Atlantis, his lair, as the main structure and numerous other domes nearby.
  • 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.
  • Bisonopolis from the Street Fighter movie. In the climactic battle, Zangief and E. Honda are fighting among it like a Kaiju film.
  • In This is Spın̈al 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.
  • 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.
  • In 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!
    Mugatu: [to his PA, completely deadpan] ...He's absolutely right.

  • 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.
  • In Secrets Of The Fire Sea, the First Senator of Jago proudly displays scale models of his preposterously over-ambitious designs for new cities, port facilities, and civic buildings to visitors. It's implied that his underlings have these models created purely to suck up to and humor their boss, as Jago lacks the resources, the prosperity, and even the population size to permit even a tiny fraction of its crackpot leader's architectural imaginings to ever come to pass.
  • The Wheel of Time: After Elaida gains control over the Aes Sedai Magical Society, her Pride leads her to commission a huge palace whose spires would reach even higher than the Aes Sedai's famous White Tower. A huge wooden scale model is built as a reference for the (mostly illiterate) construction workers, but the palace itself never sees the light of day before she's carried off and Made a Slave by the Seanchan.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Boom Town" begins with Margaret Blaine (really an evil alien) showing off the model of a new power plant to the press. She is planning on blowing up the planet and escaping in a Tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator, which is hidden in the model power plant.
  • Getting On uses this for a Running Gag in series 2, during which an artist's impression of the hospital's planned new wing is displayed prominently on the ward, with Dr Moore in particular being very keen to show it off to visitors. In the final episode, budget cuts have caused the building to be cancelled, and Dr Moore is left showing off the plans for the new hospital car park instead.
  • In Gilmore Girls, after Christopher starts paying for Rory's tuition, Emily and Richard decide to take the money they'd set aside for it and instead donate a building to the university in Rory's honor. She's mortified at the suggestion, and even more mortified when they show her the model of the "Rory Gilmore Planetarium," not in the least because, if it were to scale, her name would be at least a mile high.
  • The Goodies: In "The End", Graeme is commissioned by property magnate Harry Highrise to design a redevelopment scheme for the Kew Gardens. Graeme proudly shows Bill his scale model of the gardens in which the current lush oasis of greenery is to be replaced with a multitude of grey multi-storey office blocks and he reveals that the biggest skyscraper is just a 350 foot-high solid block of concrete as nobody can afford to pay the exorbitant rent to occupy it. The lack of rooms, doors and windows in the building is a deliberate feature to stop the squatters from moving in.
  • Grange Hill: At the end of series 2, the grumpy caretaker Mr Garfield brings in a wooden model of a future plan for the school, on loan from the town hall, to place alongside the models of "Grange Hill today" made by the pupils, and what the site might have looked like hundreds of years ago.
  • 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.
  • 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. Everyone else at Oxford privately regards the design as hideous, and after Baydon is exposed as a war criminal the model is shown being thrown on the fire.
  • 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) note 
    • The other guy misunderstood the instructions and presented what is essentially a building that would kill all the tenants (he normally designs abattoirs).
  • From NewsRadio, Jimmy James' Jimmy James Towers, a colossal pair of J's.
  • Queenmaker: Chairwoman Son is the ruthless CEO of Eunsung Group, a Korean conglomerate that is basically Evil, Inc.. She is pinning her company's future on a "duty-free shop" that is actually a gigantic skyscraper to be built in Seoul. She has a model of the building in her office that she often looks at while she and her minions talk about all the evil skullduggery they're getting up to in order to get the tower built.
  • Sandglass: In episode 14 President Yoon the casino magnate leads his daughter Hye-rin into a room, and shows her his model: not just a model of the enormous casino he plans to build, but also a model of the rolling hills behind the casino where he says he'll build a family resort. This is the cue to begin Yoon's downfall, as the scene ends with Yoon being told that his enemy President Park (backed by Tae-soo) has taken a casino from him. In the scene after that Park tells Yoon that he'll never get the government permit to build the full-scale version of that model casino.
  • 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 asked how much of the actual building was done, he broke it down to a very (very) small portion.
  • Speer Und Er: Speer gives Hitler a model demonstration of what his megalomaniacal architectural plans for Berlin will look like once finished.
  • During the final arc of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sisko begins making a model of the house he wishes to build on Bajor once the war is over. He doesn't get to build it. He doesn't even finish the model.
  • Vincenzo: Joon-woo has a model of Babel Tower, the building he wants to construct in the area where Geumga Plaza is located. Given what an Ax-Crazy sociopath he is and how insanely evil Babel is, the tower even in model form comes off as an Evil Tower of Ominousness.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VII:
    • 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.
    • The remake adds a big holographic room, that briefly shows Shinra's plan for Neo-Midgar, white and made of sleek curves, contrasting Midgar's dark industrial look.
  • 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.
  • Chief Iron's office in the beta version of Resident Evil 2 (aka, Resident Evil 1.5) has a scale model of what appears to be a planned expansion of Raccoon City, but because that version of the game was never completed, it's unclear what the real purpose of the model would have been.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Gravity Falls: In "Gideon Rises", after stealing The Mystery Shack from Grunkle Stan, Gideon Gleeful and his father Bud hold an event for the town to show off a model of what he plans to build in its place: "Gideonland", a theme park complete with rides, a giant robot statue of Gideon and a logo that’s a replica of the Disneyland logo.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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 her company was planning. Yes, she utterly wrecks the set, and it's one of the few times her usually very permissive parents actually disciplines her.
  • The Simpsons: 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 York's 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.

    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.
  • Napoléon Bonaparte built two full-size models of monuments he planned to erect in honor of his Empire's achievements: the Elephant of the Bastille, and the Arc de Triomphe, constructed of plaster and wood, respectively. The Elephant was meant to be completed in bronze, from melted-down cannons that had been captured from enemy armies, but it was never finished, and eventually decayed and its remains were demolished. Subverted by the Arc de Triomphe, the construction of which was halted after Napleon's defeat at Waterloo, but was eventually finished in stone in 1836, during the reign of Louis-Philippe I.
  • Adolf Hitler had one of these, for the whole of Berlin upon becoming Welthaupstadt Germania ("World Capital Germania"). It shows up in Downfall.
    • Fatherland is set in an Alternate History where the Third Reich survives into The '60s and Welthaupstadt Germania got built for real, and pointedly hangs a lampshade on just how badly it all screams "Compensating for Something" to anyone not drinking the Kool-Aid.
    • Incidentally, some of its most prominent features could never have been built—they would've sunk into Berlin's soft soil. Presumably Hitler thought this could all be overcome through the power of Nazi Superscience and nobody dared argue with him.
  • The unbuilt Liverpool Catholic Cathedral, by the great Sir Edwin Lutyens. The cathedral would have been incredibly expensive and only the crypt ever got built in the end, but the model is in the Liverpool Museum.