Opposite Day: Miniature Car Madness

Remember that car you strapped to a bottle rocket in 1968? It's worth $5,000 now.
Remember that car you strapped to a bottle rocket in 1968? It’s worth $5,000 now.

Nowadays, companies make millions of dollars a year selling miniature versions of America’s favorite form of transportation: the automobile. Hot Wheels specifically creates dozens of its own custom designs each year that are eagerly gobbled up by collectors. Meanwhile, children bug and cajole their parents into buying the latest Hot Wheels tracks with gravity-defying loops and twists.

It’s easy to see why toy cars would be such a big hit with boys, but where did it all start? These iconic toys have their origins in Matchbox cars, designed by Jack Odell in 1953 for his… daughter? Yup! The school his daughter was attending would only allow them to bring toys that could fit inside of a matchbox. So he designed a miniature version of his company’s toy steamroller. Matchbox was the best-selling die-cast car in the world by 1968.

That’s also the year that Matchbox got some serious competition: Hot Wheels. The American company’s (did I mention this phenomenon started in the UK? It started in the UK…) cars had low-friction “racing” wheels on their cars. This allowed for extra speedy passes on the available Hot Wheels racing tracks. Matchbox had neither of these, and had some catching up to do.

Matchbox never did manage to catch Hot Wheels. As is all too common, Hot Wheels’ parent company Mattel ended up buying out Matchbox’s then-owner Tyco Toys. So yeah, if you’re trying to be a rebel by buying Matchbox over Hot Wheels for your kids? Not so much. Nowadays Matchbox specializes mainly in faithful recreations of existing autos while Hot Wheels focuses on fantasy cars and track sets. See? Everyone wins!

Except for Micro Machines. They’re dead.

You didn’t think I was going to leave out Micro Machines, did you? Micro Machines was like the stunted third child that everyone begrudgingly admits to loving before ultimately ignoring them. Introduced in 1986, Micro machines emulated its bigger brothers, but in a smaller scale. The diminutive cars came in at around half the size of a comparable Matchbox.

Micro Machines sold more than Hot Wheels and Matchbox for the first few years of the company’s existence, its popularity no-doubt spurred on by the vocal gymnastics of John Moschitta. The company was sold to Hasbro in the 90’s and the original line of toys was discontinued. What was left didn’t sell as well as hoped and largely spelled doom for the fledgling line of micro-toys. The line was discontinued in 2006.

Opposite Day: Small Breeds, The Barnyard Edition

Dawww! Tiny horse! What were we talking about?
Dawww! Tiny horse! What were we talking about?

Oh yeah, we were talking about small barnyard breeds! I thought it was about time to do another cute animal post, so I decided to do a pseudo-sequel to the small cat and dog breeds post from the original opposite day. Today we look at a selected assortment of tiny barnyard animals, starting with…

The Falabella Horse – Widely recognized as the smallest breed of horses in the world, the Falabella breed averages a paltry two and a half feet tall at the withers. While a direct comparison is hard to make due to the variety of breeds, this is approximately half the height of a typical riding-breed horse. Newborns can be as small as twelve inches tall at birth.

The breed has roots going back to Argentina in the 19th century. A formal breed registry wasn’t formed until the 1940s, however. These humble horses are intelligent and easily trainable. They are often used as guide animals and/or used to pull small carts.

Stampede!
Stampede!

Ouessant Sheep – These mini-sheep hail from the island of Ouessant (appropriately enough) off the coast of Brittany France. Even the boy sheep only average about 19 inches at the shoulder. So your crotch might be safe, but I’d worry about your kneecaps.

These cute little things are so small that its’ very rare for a female to carry more than one sheep at a time. The island where they originate from has sparse vegetation. Natural selection for smaller (therefore less hungry) sheep resulted in the mini-herds found on the island.

Not a baby cow.
Not a baby cow.

Dexter Cattle – While not strictly the smallest cows in the world, these diminutive bovines are among the smallest cattle breeds. Adult specimens come in at a squat three feet at the shoulder and weigh 600-700 pounds. In comparison, a Holstein (milking) cow averages around five feet at the shoulder and about 1,250 pounds.

Dexters were developed as a breed in Ireland and brought to England in 1882. They all but disappeared in Ireland, but were continued as a pure breed in England. Their numbers continue to grow with the breeds popularity.

The cows are considered a friendly, dual-purpose breed. They can be raised for beef or milk production and are usually bred in favor of one trait or the other. I suppose the ones raised to be beef probably aren’t as friendly as the ones that get their teats pulled on all the time, but I could see it going either way. Their meat tends to be marbled and darker than typical beef product, and their milk richer in flavor.

Maybe the beef and milk is richer because it’s… condensed? Yeah, I went there. Go pet a mini-cow already.

Opposite Day: The Biggest Little Train Set

One of the more boring parts of this train set, believe it or not.
One of the more boring parts of this train set, believe it or not.

Today’s Opposite Day post finds us on both sides of the fence: Witness Miniatur Wunderland, the largest, miniature train set in the world! It’s the biggest little train set!

Miniatur Wunderland (literally “Miniature Wonderland” in case that wasn’t obvious,) located in Hamburg, Germany features an expansive miniature train system as the center attraction, but surrounds it with much, much more. The nearly 40,000 feet of HO scale train track ribbons through over 12,000 square feet of miniatures that represent multiple countries. Planned expansions extending all the way into 2026 will see England and France added to the mix.

Miniature Las Vegas
Miniature Las Vegas

While the trains are the main focus of the miniature, the real draw is the insane level of detail and animation that’s been poured into every inch of the attraction. Real locations have famous buildings and landmarks recreated in exacting detail. You can see cars driving about, amusement park attractions whirling around, even miniature people going about their daily lives.

The Knuffingen Airport, modeled after the Hamburg International Airport, is among the most impressive parts of the model. You can watch scale model passenger jets taxi, take off, and land. Meanwhile cars, taxis and emergency vehicles mill about the airport. Support vehicles on the airport landing strip drive around and tend to the landed planes.

Not the Architect's matrix control room.
Not the Architect’s matrix control room.

What goes on behind the scenes is just as incredible. The control room alone has dozens of monitors showing the attraction “on stage” and behind the scenes, along with screens showing diagnostics and conditions of various mechanics. Every single moving vehicle (essentially programmed, radio controlled vehicles) reports its location and state of charge.

The system is smart enough to know when vehicles need recharged or repaired. The affected vehicle will drive itself through a backstage access point and into a charging station, for example. A duplicate will be activated and sent out to follow its route until the first vehicle is ready to leave again.

Venice, Italy is currently under construction, with England scheduled for completion by 2021. See a video of the attraction here.

 

Opposite Day: Lower Case Capitals

Actual Size
Actual Size

Capitals are supposed to be the figurehead for a state, country or nation. It represents the best and the brightest the territory has to offer. Sometimes, whether it’s due to changing economic conditions or another burgeoning city siphoning population, some capitals end up not so impressive.

We’ll start off, as we so often do, in the US. Despite only being the eighth smallest state in the union, Vermont is home to the smallest capital: Montpelier. Having grown up a few miles from there, I can attest to this fact. Montpelier is small enough that it doesn’t even have a McDonald’s, making it the only state capital in the country not to.

Officially established in 1787, Montpelier quickly became a focal point for progress in Vermont. The city grew to become a center for manufacturing, leading to the introduction of the Vermont Central Railroad in 1849, thus cementing it’s status. Then it just kinda stopped at some point, I guess? Montpelier now boasts a population of only 7,855. In contrast, Burlington, VT has a population over five times that at 42,417.

The smallest national capital makes Montpelier look like a thriving metropolis in comparison. Ngerulmud (pronounced “en-something-something-mud”? I don’t know) in Palau is the smallest capital city in the world, with a thriving community of only 391 souls. The country as a whole has half the population of the aforementioned city of Burlington, VT. Why so tiny?

Well, it probably doesn’t help that Palau consists of 250 tiny islands. The country as a whole (all the islands together) consists of a mere 176.8 square miles. For comparison, New York City covers 469 square miles. It’s amazing they were able to squeeze anybody into Palau at all.

Opposite Day: Big Trouble in Miniature China

Must have been Grad Night again...
Must have been Grad Night again…

Fat Mop Zoo’s second Opposite Day takes us to Citrus Ridge, Florida, the final resting place of the Splendid China miniature theme park. Open in 1993, it had sixty different miniature hand-made replicas of famous Chinese landmarks in 1/10 scale to explore. In addition to the exhibits, park goers could be entertained by a cast of sixty Chinese dancers and performers.

Before...
Before…

The Great Wall of China replica consisted of over six million one-inch bricks and stretched a half mile. The Imperial Palace covered more than a half acre. The Leshan Giant Buddha (pictured to the left and below) was four stories tall, still dwarfing onlookers even as a miniature.

Despite its grandeur, Splendid China became a source of controversy almost from the moment it was announced.

After.
After.

The theme park was technically more or less owned and operated by the People’s Republic of China. Tibetans and other cultural minorities with cultural landmarks exhibited in the park were actually offended. They felt the theme park essentially claimed these landmarks as China’s own.

Additionally, a number of school boards and teachers’ associations banned field trips to the park. There were many Americans that were unhappy with the park, seeing it as a tool of propaganda. Even those lively Chinese performers were unhappy with the park. Many escaped from the park and sought asylum in the United States. US performers were eventually hired to fill in the empty positions.

The park finally closed after a decade full of protests and controversy. The park was invaded and ransacked by the local youth time and again in the ensuing years. What was left of the miniatures saw pieces stolen or destroyed. Eventually the whole park was slowly being reclaimed by nature. After passing through several owners, the remains of the park started to be torn down in 2013.

Opposite Day!

Any excuse to show a kitty picture...
Any excuse to show a kitty picture…

I thought it would be fun to do the opposite of what I’ve been doing here. Therefore I will speak of things tiny and short instead of big and tall. I thought I’d start with the former for this inaugural OD post. So today we discuss small breeds!

singapura
singapura

Exactly what cat breed is the smallest is a bit of a murky mess. Officially, the smallest registered cat breed is the Singapura. The average weight for these cats is in the 5-8 lb range and can be as small as a foot in length, full grown.

If you go with unofficial breeds, things can get a lot cuter. So-called Teacup cats are about half the size of their normal breed counterparts. They typically top out at a mere nine inches fully grown.

Chihuahua
Chihuahua

The smallest breed of dog is surprisingly just what you’d expect it to be: the Chihuahua. While there are a handful of other breeds that fall into a similar weight range, Chihuahuas are consistently the smallest. In fact, they beat Singapura cats for being the smallest! That’s 2-0, dogs for those keeping track.

These tiny dogs with the big mouths can be as short as six inches tall and weight as little as two pounds. One website I referenced described them as “portable”.  Yeah, I bet!