Converting 1/72 ancients plastic figures: War Elephant

Long time ago (well, not that long actually!) there were no war elephants at all available for 20mm armies. Back then the hunt for a suitable elephant figure was an ongoing concern, and wargamers of all ages could be seen checking out every toy shop for the right figure, an hard task indeed... :) I even bought a lead one from Newline Design, it's quite nice, but it come in only one pose and I wanted more variety... Eventually someone found this baby elephant figure in a zoo set, it was exactly the right size, a rare prize! He bought a dozen of them and was kind enough to gave me one. I put it aside for the time being as I had not enough figures for the rest of the army yet, and he rested in a drawer for some years. Then Hat appeared on the market and the old dream of making a Carthaginian and a Seleucid army become a real possibility, I went immediately to look for my prized baby elephant and begun planning a conversion. As you can see below the elephant figure is quite nice, the pose is dramatic and the detail fairly good. The main problem was that being meant as a baby elephant he had no tusk to speak of. So I've started by sticking two steel pins in the right place, and built him a couple of suitably impressive tusks as every war elephant worth his name should have. I just had the time to complete them when I found out Hat announced a war elephant set! My baby elephant went straight back in the drawer...
Some month later I eventually managed to get a copy of Hat 8023 "War Elephants" and with disappointment I realized how far the actual models were from the box art... Sure, there are six in a pack, which makes the set great value, but the elephants themselves are not nearly as exiting as I had hoped for: to begin with they are small. I don't care if it's meant to be a North African forest specimen, and if it's scientifically accurate, I like my elephants bigger than that! ;) But the most disappointing feature is the lack of detail in the sculpting, they are casted in one single piece for some reason and technical limitations means the model can have no undercuts, so as a result ears and tusk had to be modeled flat against the body. This destroy completely the drama of the poses and in addition all other details like the blankets and the chains are so plain and small as to be nearly invisible. The very same day I bought this set I got my baby elephant out of the drawer again: at least now I had a crew for him!
It has been on the bench since then, and I slowly build up the rest of the details in Milliput, the tower, chains and blankets. Now All I needed was a couple of hoplite style shields. I consider recover them from some of the various sets that have them, but I hate to destroy figures if I can avoid it and anyway I couldn't find just the right size and shape I wanted. In the end I've decided to try and cast them in a pressure mold as I had done a while ago.
Italeri 6047 conversion
This time though I've made a mold of Fimo, using the same master I had, and cast the shields in white metal, recovered from some broken 15mm figs I kept just for this.

Italeri 6047 conversion
Unsurprisingly the metal didn't fill up the details very well and rather than a flash as such there was a lot of extra metal to get rid of!

Italeri 6047 conversion
I had to work on the cast pieces a lot with a needle file and fine sand paper...
...but in the end I got what I wanted! Italeri 6047 conversion Italeri 6047 conversion
Of course in the meantime Zvezda announced his own war elephants sets which looks absolutely fabulous, but it's too late now, the baby elephant is finished and will be soon pressed into service. Number two, after Newline's one, so I guess Zvezda will be 3 and 4, all different... yup, I like that idea... :)

Pictures of the finished game piece: Italeri 6047 conversion Italeri 6047 conversion and of the Newline Design one: Italeri 6047 conversion Italeri 6047 conversion
Crews are Hat and Newline Design, the escorts are Hat and Revell.
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