Another holiday season has come and gone, and with it comes another Star Wars model kit that I got as a gift:
I don’t think I need to explain this one, right? It’s freakin’ Baby Yoda, the pop culture phenomenon of 2019.
About the Model Kit
This is actually two kits in one. The first is a ¼ scale model of Grogu, complete with articulation and swappable faces.
The second one is a smaller, 1⁄12 scale version that can sit in a scale model of his little floaty pram. This latter one is sized so that you can stand it alongside Bandai’s 1⁄12 model of The Mandalorian, which is kind of cute.
Up until now, all of my Star Wars models have fallen into one of three categories:
- Models of spaceships, space stations, etc
- Models of Droids
- Models of human beings who wear helmets and armor and have no exposed skin
What these all have in common is that, when it comes to painting and detailing and weathering, you can largely treat them all as if they were a Gunpla. It’s not quite identical, but the general skills transfer easily.
But Grogu is different. Grogu has skin with creases in it. And ears that fade from pink to green. And fuzzy hair on his head. And a robe that very clearly looks like it is made from textured fabric.
None of these are things you find on robots. Or spaceships. Or even Mandalorians. And I have no idea how to bring them to life on a plastic model.
All I know is that I have to try. I have a rule I’ve developed over the years - if I buy a model for myself, I can take as much time as I want to build it, but if someone gives me one as a gift, I have to try to build it relatively quickly to show them how much I appreciate it. That means I have to at least take a stab at these Grogus. Let’s see how it plays out.
Here are the runners:
It looks like most of the parts for the tiny Grogu are on the A1 runner, while Big Grogu dominates the other three.
Looking at the decals, most of them are for the outside of the pram. There are also some color correcting decals for the inside of Big Grogu’s ears. I have no idea how good they’re going to look, but I’m going to give them a go.
There are at least two things I can tell about this kit that leave me feeling disappointed:
- Many of the Star Wars models I’ve built included a sheet of stickers, as well as a matching sheet of waterslide decals. The only ones that came with just stickers were the really tiny, really cheap ones. Grogu here also only comes with stickers, which is very surprising to me.
- The inside of the pram is mostly made out of red, cushiony material, but there are no red parts in this kit. It’s all going to have to be painted.
I’m writing this particular section of this post before I’ve begun the build, so what I’m about to say could be proven wrong, but - it seems to me that Grogu is not a particularly good candidate for turning into a model kit. I mean, yes, the existence of this kit proves that it is technically possible.
What I mean is that most Bandai models look pretty decent even if you use nothing more than the included decals and a marker or two. But it really feels like Grogu here requires some expert level skills to bring to life. Skills that are probably lacking in most folks who might pick this kit up off the shelf at Target or Hobby Lobby or whatever. Skill that I’m not even sure I have.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe most folks don’t care if it’s 100% accurate, as long as it looks close enough. And maybe I should try and be one of those people.
Building Mini Grogu
Mini Grogo himself is pretty straightforward. He’s got a head, arms, and a body, all made of tiny little parts:
As you can see, he doesn’t have any feet. He’s basically a puppet that gets propped up on a ball joint hidden in the bottom of the pram. This is going to become a liability later on.
Unlike the bigger model, there’s no decals for the ears. I colored them in using a layer of tan, and then a layer of pink paint using a dry brush (and a very light touch). It’s as good as I’m going to manage.
Let’s move onto the pram. I am happy to report that the red interior of the pram is molded as its own separate piece. You can grab some red paint and your sloppiest brush, and just go to town on it without having to worry about accuracy.
Once that’s done, you drop the interior into the outer shell, and then attach the top bit:
Then you add these little things on the side:
And finally you drop the whole thing into the bottom outer shell:
If you want to, you can pop on the top cover to make it looked all closed up:
In terms of detailing, I added a combination of white and black weathering compound to the interior, in hopes that it might make it look a bit more like fabric. I’m not sure if it worked, but I still think it looks better than it did.
I also did some weathering on the exterior, though in retrospect I was a bit too heavy handed. But it kind of doesn’t matter; even if I did a better job of it, the pram would still look terrible.
Bottom line, this needs to be airbrushed (or otherwise painted). The plastic just doesn’t look good on its own, even with a topcoat. Making things worse is that because the plastic is a bit transparent, the red paint in the interior bleeds through, giving the whole pram a bit of a red glow (this is just another reason why it needs to be painted).
What disappoints me so much about this is that I just built the Razor Crest, which had some really good looking metallic plastic that needed no topcoat whatsoever. Bandai is clearly capable of making something that looks better than this clear(ish) plastic used on the pram. Which isn’t to say that the pram should have the same metallic finish as the Razor Crest, just that I know they could have done better here.
Whatever. Let’s pop little Grogu in:
Yeah, no, I don’t like this.
The interior looks so spacious, and yet due to Grogu’s fixed position on the ball joint, he’s stuck right up front, where he has almost no room to turn or move his hands. Meanwhile the back of the seat remains unused and inaccessible.
And maybe it’s just my bad memory, but I feel like the scale is off. I think Grogu should look a little smaller in there.
(Side note - I think the whole situation might be better if Grogu had better articulation, so that he could place his hands on the front edge of the pram while leaning forward. But he doesn’t really lend himself to that)
There’s one final flaw with this model. There are only a handful of very low viewing angles where it isn’t immediately obvious that Grogu is just a puppet on a ball joint.
Building Big Grogu
Big Grogu goes together pretty much the way a Gunpla would. You assemble the limbs and stick them all together. But let’s zoom in on the individual components.
First, the eyes are a lot more complicated than I imagined. I assumed it’d just be two black parts, and that’s it. Sure enough, there are two black eyes, but that’s not all. You apply decals onto them (that I think are supposed to mimic and iris or something), and then cover them with two clear lenses. The effect gives it more of a realistic, glassy look.
Here is the body:
It’s not made out of too many parts, but they’re all quite big. If you look from the sides, you can see the (very large) shoulder sockets buried deep within the cloak:
In terms of detailing, I went with progressive layers of tan, dark tan, brown, and black weathering compound, with a heavy dose of brown compound around the color. It looks a lot better in person than it does in these photos (where the weathering seems to be barley visible at all)
If we look at the bottom, we see two tiny feet:
You can barely see them when he’s standing, so I didn’t go out of my way to do anything with them.
Here are the arms:
This is probably the weakest part of the model. Everywhere else does a pretty good job of hiding the fact that this is a poseable model rather than, say, a statue.
But that’s hard to avoid on the arms, since they have the two most prominent joints on the model. And they’re basically impossible to hide. From the right angles, you can easily see the shoulder joint:
As well as the inside of the sleeve, where the socket joint (and other plastic) is readily visible:
This isn’t a criticism; I’m not sure what Bandai could have done differently. But I thought it was worth pointing out anyway.
Finally, we have the head:
I’m shocked at how good the ear stickers look. I was worried initially; they seemed too large, and there were air bubbles trapped here and there. But after top coating them, it’s like they magically looked painted on.
A few more observations:
- The kit comes with two sets of ears; one pair is straight, and the other is droopy: The effect is subtle, but I can imagine that mixing and matching the different ears might add some subtle personality to certain poses.
- There is a pretty large seam line running along the top of the head on account of the swappable face plates: The silver lining is that you can only see it if you look at Grogu directly from above, and I can't think of too many reasons why anyone would do that. Let's just say I've seen way worse on Gunpla.
In regards to detailing, I tried to add a light coating of black weathering compound just to add some texture, but I didn’t know what else to do. For example, I had no idea how to replicate the tiny, fuzzy little hairs on his head.
Big Grogu Finished
I’ll say it again; the weathering looks much better in person than in these photos.
Also, it looks way less plasticky in person. I’m not sure why that is.
Let’s try some of the face plates. Here’s Grogu eating a frog:
I should note that the frog itself is just a single black part; I had one of my kids add the blue spots.
Here he is using the Force:
There’s one last faceplate, and I’m honestly not sure what it’s supposed to be. Is Grogu smiling or something? Whatever the case, I don’t like it, so I did no weathering, painting, or top coating. But here it is in case you want to see:
Overall, I suppose this came out well enough. I’m really impressed with the eyes and ears; in fact, I’ve come to the realization that as long as those two things look good, the appearance of the rest of the body doesn’t really matter that much (since the eyes and ears are what most people will focus on).
That being said, I still wish the robe looked a little more like fabric. And there’s a part of me that thinks that the little guy doesn’t look quite right without that little bit of fuzz on his head. This all brings me back to the my point at the top of the post, that organic creatures aren’t necessarily the best choice for turning into a model kit.
I’m glad this was a gift; if I had bought it for myself, I’d be feeling pretty disappointed. There’s a certain lack of quality here that isn’t really characteristic of Bandai, and I can’t help but wonder if it is due to the fact that making models of (realistic) living beings isn’t really their forte.
Whatever the reason, this whole package doesn’t quite cut it for me.