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Gallery: Models: Jim Small interview

Pictured: Jim Small with one
of his Eagle spacecraft models.

Canadian Jim Small is an incredibly talented model maker who has stood out in Space: 1999 fandom for his dedication to the show -- and the amazing breadth of models/modification kits which he has made popular. We at were honored to talk with the man back in 2001 about his work and his offerings.

"Space: 1999." The series had an impact on you, both as a fan and a modeler. Would you share your memories of the series, what inspired you, and what motivated you into your Space: 1999-related model work?

The first time I ever really paid attention to Space: 1999 was when the second season premiered. I lived in Montreal at the time, and I remember turning on our old (late 1950's!) Viking B&W TV set ready to tune into the Bugs Bunny show (which I had always watched faithfully and must admit I still enjoy!) and was initially disappointed to find that it had been canceled in favour of the new Space: 1999 series. My disappointment quickly turned to joy at seeing the fantastic spacecraft and action sequences that I immediately fell in love with. I was just blown away at the "eye candy" prevalent throughout the show, but was particularly interested in the "hardware" and SFX. I had always liked shows and movies with "cool hardware" and Space: 1999 quickly became my favourite of all time.

As my interest in the show grew, I was also inspired to find out more about how the visual effects were done. Other than knowing that the FX were done with models of some sort I'd not had any real clue until a school classmate showed me the "Making of Space: 1999" book written by Tim Heald. I was enthralled with the outpouring of secrets (accurate or not as the case may be!) gleaned from this book and my heart just stopped cold when I saw that shot of Brian Johnson and Nick Allder with the three Eagle models! I literally wore that book out from reading it through so much, and, although I had built model airplanes until then (my father's inspiration there!), my interest immediately and permanently changed to Sci Fi spaceship models.

What modelers have directly influenced your work?

In order of appearance, Martin Bower and the 1999 studio crew, the folks at Industrial Light and Magic (Star Wars) and similar companies, Chris Trice, who has become a very close personal friend who is THE expert on Eagles, and Bill Pearson, whom I worked with on Battlefield Earth. That guy is a design genius.

How so?

Martin Bower was the first professional modelmaker I knew of in the "public forum" in places like Starlog and other publications, and of course I was amazed with the models on 1999. I had always dreamed of meeting him. When Star Wars came out I was, of course inspired by the model work in that show and figured the people who designed and built these models were geniuses and became my heroes as well. I also fell in love with other models seen in productions such as Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers and the rest of the Star Wars trilogy, as well as numerous other films seen in the late seventies and early eighties.

In 1996 I met Chris Trice at a Fanderson convention and I was amazed with the incredible attention to detail he paid to his replica (but unfinished) Eagle he showed me. I was simply astounded at his work! I think he was the single biggest inspiration that showed me that I could do it too, although I must say I still have a way to go before I reach his caliber! One neat thing about being a model maker is that you NEVER stop learning and improving your skills. The challenge is to always improve. Bill Pearson was also an inspiration in that he could turn something that you'd normally find in a trash can and turn it into something mind-blowing! He is used to working on shoestring budgets as well as big productions and turns out some truly amazing stuff indeed!

Have you heard comments from other professional modelers about your work which you'd be willing to share?

Chris has told me he appreciates my work, and Bill Pearson has also told me that my work is quite good, but the ultimate praise seems to come from my customers. To me that's most important, because it is they who I have to please in order to keep going at this. I have never talked to or met Martin Bower or Brian Johnson, but I would love to someday, as they are true heroes in my mind and were a driving inspirational force to do what I am doing today.

What are your opinions on the original AMT/ERTL Space: 1999 kits? The Airfix kits? (The attention to detail, type of plastic used, scales - correct or incorrect, etc.)

One of Jim's Moonbase Alpha
Eagle hangar dioramas.

When I was a kid and got one for Christmas, I thought the Airfix/AMT/Fundimensions/MPC/Ertl (that thing sure was sold under a lot of different names, but was essentially the same kit!) Eagle kits were the greatest things around, however, it didn't take long to realize their inherent inaccuracies, so I began, in my own way, to try to modify these kits to make them more like the ships that appeared on screen. My model building skills at the time, however, were also inadequate to do much of a job on them, so it wasn't until 1983 that I dug out the smashed parts from several played-with and destroyed kits and tried to assemble and modify them into a more truly accurate version with many serious modifications.

My friend Donald Hayunga, who lives in Winnipeg, still has this model in his own collection, as I sold it to him a few years ago. This model was the basic starting point for trying to figure out what later became my Eagle Authentication Kit which is designed to make the popular Airfix/AMT/Fundimensions/MPC/Ertl (!!!) kit much more accurate.

As a modeler, you have set a precendent, in my opinion, for amazing Space: 1999 model enhancements.

Thank you very much!

When did you get started?

I produced my first kits in 1998 with the Spine Booster set and the Moonbase Alpha kit. I was soon asked by people to do Eagles from the ERTL kits, but make them more accurate, after an "authenticated" Eagle of mine (actually my aforementioned friend Donald had commissioned me to do it for him!) had appeared in Sci-Fi Fantasy Models magazine. The Eagle Authentication kit began life as a way to do Eagle buildups for people yet save me the time of having to scratch build all the parts for each job. Later I got the idea of selling this as a kit, and since then it has been my biggest seller by far!

What have you offered?

Quite a number of products have come out of the mill since the Authentication Kit made it's debut, and they are all seen on my web site at It's easiest if your readers simply go there to see them and then they can judge for themselves. Go to the "Products and services" section, and then look for the Space: 1999 kits. If they are shown on my page, they are still available.

Are you adding anything new in the months ahead?

Hopefully yes! However, as I partake in this interview I am quite backed up with work (buildups for various customers, many of them very big projects) and won't be able to get any new kits on the market for at least a few months if not longer. I plan on making every accessory an Eagle was ever seen with on the show, plus some other models like the Swift, Superswift, Meta Probe, Laser Tanks and on and on. This all may take years, but I do have plenty of documentation, so my kits will be the most accurate around.

Proper sizes/scales: Were you able to work from the actual models to create your works? Did you use images? How were you able to gauge proper sizes for your kits?

I had the pleasure of photographing extensively the original #2 Eagle model (the one the ERTL kit is based on) quite extensively in person in 1996. Chris Trice is also a wealth of information and has helped immensely. A combination of photos, documentation, simple knowledge and measurements have all contributed to what I know of the models today, but there is still much to learn. I'm convinced that patience will pay off.

If I were a novice modeler who was interested in building from one of your kits, how would I start?

To get started, you can still buy the ERTL Eagle kit on, but it goes for collector's prices already! Please do yourself a favour and avoid the Japanese IMAI Eagle kit. It's an atrocious abomination that cannot be accurized by even the demigods of model building. Truly a piece of trash, that one is. Buy it only for the box art, which bears no resemblance to it's contents.

Jim's Kaldorian ship model,
based from the Space: 1999
episode, "Earthbound."

To build my kits, you should already have a fair amount of building experience under your belt. Although I do my best to make my kits as simple to build as possible, the nature of resin kits is that they cannot be made as precisely as the common injection molded styrene kit. You will have to do a fair amount of extra studying, filling, sanding etc. to do a good job. The Eagle Authentication kit, for example, is recommended only for the experienced model maker. The Kaldorian ship and the Booster sets could be handled by the novice I think, but only with patience. I include an overview of building model kits of this type with every order, which acts as a "primer" for the modeler seeking to graduate from the common kit found in Wal Mart to the resin or composite kit.

I imagine that there are some fans who aren't interested in building the kits. Do you offer services to sell pre-built models/build models on commission?

Absolutely! I am doing so for several customers right now. In fact, that is what I eventually want to do as a main occupation, rather than produce kits only. I thoroughly enjoy making the finished product for a customer, and will do just about any project, of any subject, that anyone wants. I will also do custom mastering for kit manufacturers as well, and have done so for other companies. If it's a model you want made, I can do it, provided I have enough information to do it.

However, many people underestimate what this service can cost. Having a model professionally made can run from the hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the project. It's important for the customer to realize that, because of the hours involved, a fully hand made and finished model cannot possibly compete with the kind of prices that one finds with mass produced display models available in department stores.

How would one arrange this with you?

Just call, write, or e-mail me. Full information for doing so is available on

Have you ever given thought to creating your own special effects reel, which could be merged into a faux episode of Space: 1999? (ie. reimagining a scene from the original series which you would have liked to do better, or simply do over?)

I'd toyed with the idea, and have been asked to do so before, but I simply haven't got time or money to engage in such things right now. It would be fun, for example, to take some of my models, shoot them with video (or film) against a blue screen and composite them into scenes the way the pros do, but I don't really have access to such equipment or the money or time to do it. If the opportunity arises though I will do what I can, if for nothing else, just the fun of it! It'd be cool if I could shoot the models and actually make them look real! For now, I'm content to use my digital camera and do still shots with dramatic lighting to make the models look the best I can!

Visit the "Excellence In Model Building" web page:

"Excellence In Model Building"

Post office address:
3333 Rosser Ave.,
Brandon, MB., Canada, R7B 0H1

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