Pick of the Peeps: Peeps dioramas serve up a candy-colored take on pop culture
Our annual Peeps diorama contest is a cultural barometer -- a three-dimensional essay on the state of the nation's collective consciousness, a sticky finger on the pulse of what's popular. This year's 1,100-plus entries told us what's on your minds once again, and we sifted through that flood of submissions, painstakingly narrowing the contenders in our fourth annual contest down to 50, then down to five, and finally down to one.
Dozens of dioramas showcased Shaun White's Olympic conquests, while other tiny scenes took their competitive cues from curling and hockey. A slew of dioramas captured the nonathletic exploits of Tiger Woods and Gilbert Arenas. And there was plenty of localized fodder, as well: The Salahis, the record snowfall and the departure of Tai Shan all warranted the Peeps treatment. Even the gun-toting police officer from the 14th and U streets snowball fight got to live on in sweet infamy.
Lest you think our little competition is lowbrow, consider the metaphysical implications of a diorama of two Peeps making a diorama, or one in which a group of Peeps visits an exhibition of Peeps dioramas. A handful of pop culture devotees used the marshmallow medium to remember some recently deceased icons, including Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze and J.D. Salinger -- not one but two entries memorialized the author of "The Catcher in the Rye."
But we had to choose a winner, and after much thought, debate and up-close-and-personal inspection, the Magazine staff was won over by the impressive craftsmanship that went into a representation of the Oscar-winning animated flick "Up."
by Michael Chirlin, 25, and Veronica Ettle, 27, Arlington
Semifinalists in last year's competition with their take on "Wall-E," significant others Chirlin and Ettle aimed to outdo themselves, constructing a replica of the movie's airborne home out of plywood and hundreds of popsicle sticks. Oh, and did we mention that it ... well ... floats?
Chirlin works for a company that designs virtual-reality goggles, and he relied on his experience with 3-D computer modeling to create the basic structure. "I built the house using a computer first, and figured out what kind of pieces I needed to cut out of wood," he says. "Then I just bought plywood, drew the pieces on it and cut them out."
After forming the basic structure from plywood, the duo snipped popsicle sticks to create the siding, scalloped lattice and shingled roof. Ettle, a field director for the Girl Scouts, painted the house in a palette of pastels and created the balloons by covering a large foam egg with chunks of Peeps.
The diorama re-creates the moment in the film when the house takes flight, with the elderly widower Carl tucked away inside and Russell the Boy Scout clinging to the front door. "We've always liked Pixar movies," Chirlin says. "We saw 'Up' this year, and it seemed like a logical progression from 'Wall-E' to 'Up.' And we thought the balloon would look really good with Peeps on it."