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Proach Models Featured in Ron Howard/Tom Hanks Documentary

Back in 1997/98 we were approached by HBO to produce a series of models for them to use in a 12-part space documentary series called From the Earth to the Moon, which was co-produced by Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Michael Bostick, and Brian Glazer (who produced the Tom Hanks vehicle Apollo 13).

The space documentary series was narrated by Hanks and aired on the HBO network and its Canadian affiliate, The Movie Network. It documented the history of the US manned space program with specific emphasis on the Apollo program.

Normally we don’t work for movies or TV series because they typically want everything done yesterday. But the HBO crew who produced the From the Earth to the Moon space documentary series were a delightful group to work with. They were very polite and appreciative of the work we did for them. In addition to building many of the prop models featured in the series, we were also commissioned to build a 4-foot tall Apollo astronaut figure as well as a 1/12-scale Lunar Module for a promotional window display for HBO in Manhattan, NY.

We created the astronaut from a plywood sheet beefed up with shaped foam and papier mâché then covered with fibreglass cloth for the outer garment. The backpack was built from thin plywood sheeting while the hoses were composed of wrapped foam tubing with all the ends and hose connections made from plastic tube and plumbing fittings. The finished visor was blown from clear plastic and painted gold on the inside.

As there were no kits available to build a Lunar Module at that scale, we had to fabricate it out of plywood and wood door skin using various Apollo manuals from NASA, press kits, sketches, and photos of Lunar Modules in orbit and on the moon as our guide. The legs were made out of various diameters of wood dowel and were shaped and put together with wire so they would hold the weight of the Lunar Module.

The model stood just over 20 inches tall when completed—and you would never know it was made mostly of wood, even if you examined it closely.

The 1/20 scale Command Module used in the crew photo of episode 2, “Apollo 1,” was one of the pieces we built for this project. It was an honour to work with such a distinguished team on this important space documentary series—and pretty cool to know that Proach Models are now a part of Hollywood history.

(Although I do wonder when they’re going to give us our star on Hollywood Boulevard…)

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