Monthly Archives: April 2013

Review: Brick City by Warren Elsmore

The name Warren Elsmore may not be immediately familiar to adult fans of LEGO worldwide, but you are likely to have seen some of his work, such as his LEGO model of the 2012 London Olympic Park. He is also well-known in British LEGO circles as the organiser of AFOLCON, the UK’s own LEGO convention, and as the former chairman of the Brickish Association. For his latest project, he has translated his love for our favourite bricks into a book titled Brick City, about building the world’s great cities with LEGO.

Brick City

The book contains a few introductory pages on subjects such as building techniques, useful LEGO parts and customising minifigs. The rest of the more than 250 pages of this hefty volume are dedicated to photographs and instructions of fan-built models, each with an informative little blurb about the real-world object and about its LEGO rendition. Many of these models were built by Warren himself and his wife Kitty, but he has also enlisted the help of several other builders, including J. Spencer Rezkalla (Spencer R), Sean Kenney and Arthur Gugick, who are well-known for their architectural models. The book also includes two of my own (vehicle) models, which is why I was sent the advance copy of the book that I am using for this review.

Brick City

The models are mainly buildings and monuments, from a grand total of 39 cities across the world, with a few pages dedicated to each of them. London, New York and Paris each cover larger sections. You can build some of the models yourself, using instructions in the book. These models tend to be fairly straightforward, but often are still a bit more complicated than your average LEGO set. A minor point of criticism of the book is that the pages aren’t particularly large and because of this, the instructions are quite small. This may make them somewhat difficult to follow for inexperienced builders. If you are like me, however, the instructions don’t really matter. It is simply a joy to have this book lie on my coffee table and leaf through it every now and then, to enjoy the photographs. The book contains beautiful models and the reproduction of the photographs is excellent. It also contains two large fold-out posters, of Warren’s London St Pancras station and Spencer’s beautiful microscale rendition of the (new) World Trade Center from New York. If you are into LEGO architecture sets, you’ll definitely like this one.

The book will officially be out in early May, but Amazon.com has already started shipping copies. RRP for the UK version (called Brick city -LEGO for Grown-ups) is £12.99 and the list price for the US version is $19.90. There is also an Australian version (which, somewhat oddly, is the one I got), but only the covers differ. The book is also available in Canada and several European countries.

More than meets the Starfighter

F1-3s Gannet TSFThis all started with an email from Peter Morris a few months back which basically said that we should really be building starfighters that transform. Coincidently I had been thinking about the same thing for some time already, especially since I had tried several times in the past to do it. Any attempt I did make either ended in failure, or resulted in a model that was too delicate and fiddly to actually play with. And in my house LEGO that can’t actually be played with has no place. So with Peter’s kick in the pants incentive I figured I would give it a shot. But this time I was going to make it overly simple (is that even a thing?). I didn’t want complicated transformation sequences, and I didn’t really care to hide the fact that it transforms when in fighter mode.

This was an incredibly fun build, and one that was a hoot to develop…also totally got the kidlets in on the brainstormin’. The end result is incredibly satisfying to both swoosh and transform.

F1-3s Gannet TSF

I already have ideas and prototypes for other transforming builds…a tank is in the works and I have ideas for aircraft and other assorted vehicles as well.

Surely a Gratuitous Display...

Here is a little salacious action for your Friday night viewing pleasure courtesy of your dirty uncle Hugebricks. It is a special thrill to finally bring this exciting builder and his underappreciated work into the TBB family. I know this is an older model and we here at the blog like to give you only the freshest product available, but I think Muri is worth a little rule breaking.

Muri

It is just too bad that there is no remaining documentation of Soren’s infamous “Skank-bot” for a detailed comparison.

“Brick by Brick” by David C. Robertson [Review]

We recently received an advance copy of David C. Robertson‘s new book Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry.

There has been a lot of buzz about the LEGO Group in business circles for a number of years now. Much of this has been caused by the near-bankruptcy of the company and their stellar comeback, posting record profits yet again in 2012. Mr. Robertson’s book takes the reader on a journey deep inside the company and explains many of the internal workings that led to the rise, the fall, and the ultimate resurrection of LEGO. Mr. Robertson is a professor of innovation and product development, so some of the terminology was unfamiliar to me. However, his writing is accessible to the lay reader and the book gives a lot of insight into LEGO and their attempts at innovation, covering both their successes and failures. Some of the information may be familiar to the hard-core fan but I found that there was a lot of information regarding issues of which I was unaware. For instance, I knew that LEGO is an extremely insulated company and that the right hand often doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. What I didn’t know was that in the 90s they branched off into so many different markets and ventures that there were many divisions cut off from the main leadership and were never even asked to make sure their efforts were marketable, profitable or even if they had anything to do with LEGO.

Some of the points that Robertson explores are:
– How the leadership at LEGO in the 90s tried to incorporate the leading edge strategies of innovation strategies and nearly killed the company in doing so.
– The lose of control that the 90s leadership experienced by rapidly moving outside the company’s fields of expertise, not establishing any sort of reliable accountability or tracking of costs. As hard as it is to believe, the leadership didn’t even know which lines were making money and which weren’t.
– How the new leadership turned the company around by pulling back and innovating “inside the brick”…exploring innovations inside the realm of what they knew and could control.
– How and why certain innovations failed in such a spectacular fashion, such as LEGO Universe and Galidor, and why other innovations became overnight sensations, such as Ninjago, Mindstorms NXT, and the lines of LEGO video games and board games.

Overall, the book was quite interesting, easy to read, and gave me added insight into thought processes and decision-making that has gone on at LEGO. I would recommend it any LEGO fan.

Brick by Brick is available for pre-order from Amazon.com, and the book is due out on June 25th, 2013.

Friday Night Fights (Round 2)

Welcome back to The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in fabulous Las Vegas Nevada for another hard hitting edition of Friday Night Fights! Tonight’s match-up is a battle of TBB rookies looking to move of the ranks and make a name for themselves in the hotly contested middleweight division. Now for the tale of the tape:

Fighting out of the red corner…the pride of Shiga, Japan…Nathan “The Hammer” Penonzek (– NHI – Nathan’s heavy industry) and his mighty “NHI MHS-NFA3-03FT

NHI MHS-NFA3-03FT.

And fighting out of the blue corner…from the wrong side of the tracks…Miguel “Rocket” Reizinho (MReizinho) and his “LL-897 Rocket Launcher Redux“.

1

As usual, constant reader, you are tasked with deciding the outcome of this pugilistic endeavor. On the first episode of Friday Night Fights John Stephens (-=Steebles=-) won a crushing 3-0 victory over his much better known opponent. What will happen this week? Who will experience the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat?

LEGO unveils new 10237 Tower of Orthanc set: 2 feet tall, 2,300 pieces

UPDATE: 10237 The Tower of Orthanc is now available!

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I just received word from LEGO direct that they unveiled this new set in Portugal, yesterday. I’ve looked through the official photos, and I have to say, it looks pretty cool to me. There seems to be a lot of detail, and the brick-built Ent is a great addition. I also know that I, for one, am pretty excited about the shields and armor with white hand-prints on them, though I also must confess that I don’t actually know if they’re new for this set. Here’s the press release from LEGO:

10237_IN_MA.indd

10237 Tower of Orthanc

Ages 14+. 2,359 pieces.
Build the The Lord of the Rings™ trilogy must-have model!
US $199.99 CA $249.99 DE 199.99€ UK 169.99 £ DK 1699.00 DKK

Finally, collect one of the most instantly recognizable and iconic buildings of The Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Tower of Orthanc! Build all 6 highly detailed floors filled with fascinating movie-related details including the attic, library, alchemy room, Saruman’s throne room, entrance hall and dungeon. This exclusive model stars in some of the most iconic scenes from The Lord of the Rings movies. Swoop down with the Great Eagle and rescue stranded Gandalf the Grey from his tower-top prison after his defeat at the hands of the white wizard, Saruman. Build the powerful, tree-like Ent, with poseable limbs and cool swinging arm function, then attack the Uruk-hai and Orc Pitmaster while Saruman and his servant Grima Wormtongue take refuge high in the tower. The Tower of Orthanc is a must-have model for any The Lord of the Rings collection! Includes a Great Eagle, buildable Ent figure and 5 minifigures with weapons: Saruman with kirtle outfit, Grima Wormtongue, Gandalf the Grey, an Uruk-hai and the Orc Pitmaster.

  • Includes a Great Eagle, buildable Ent figure and 5 minifigures with weapons: Saruman with kirtle outfit, Grima Wormtongue, Gandalf™ the Grey, an Uruk-hai™ and the Orc Pitmaster
  • Features 6 highly detailed floors with lots of functions, including a folding staircase, LEGO® light brick palantir, opening entrance doors and a trap door
  • Weapons include 5 staffs, knife, sword, shield and a long axe
  • The attic features a folding staircase, the 3 staffs of the missing wizards, the 2 keys of the Two Towers, 2 maps and an Uruk-hai helmet, shield and sword
  • The library features 2 books, 2 torches, 2 maps and 2 skulls
  • The alchemy room features 2 torches, a bomb (being produced for the Battle of Helm’s Deep™), 2 potions, bottle, skull, gunpowder keg, pot, cauldron and a long axe
  • Saruman’s throne room features lamps, 2 bookcases with 3 potions, map, letter and the powerful palantir with a LEGO light brick
  • The entrance hall features opening doors, trap door, 2 large banners, chandelier, statue and 2 axes
  • The creepy dungeon features a chain, 2 bones, 2 skulls and a rat
  • Buildable Ent features poseable limbs for holding a minifigure and a cool swinging arm function
  • Attack the tower with the cool buildable and poseable Ent!
  • Swoop to the rescue with the Great Eagle!
  • Activate the LEGO light brick and make the palantir glow!
  • Set the trap door and banish unwanted guests to the dungeon!
  • Prepare the bomb for the Battle of Helm’s DeepTM!
  • Swing the Ent’s arms to smash or grab things with the poseable fingers!
  • Measures over 28″ (73cm) high, 8″ (21cm) wide and 6″ (16cm) deep
  • Ent stands over 9″ (23cm) tall

Available for sale directly through LEGO® beginning July 2013

10237_BackInsetF_001_Tower Entry

Here’s the designer interview video:

Finally, if you like this 2-foot-tall official set, don’t miss the fan-built 7-foot-tall LEGO Orthanc.

A month of Mark – LEGO Castle models by Mark of Falworth

I’m not sure how he does it (short of a Time-turner), but Mark of Falworth is one of the most prolific LEGO Castle builders on Flickr. Doing so is pretty normal during major contests, like the Colossal Castle Contest, for which Mark won the Master Builder title this year. But the end of the contest didn’t stop Mark from building, and he sometimes posts substantial scenes and dioramas day after day. Mark seems to have been particular busy this April.

Here’s Mark’s latest, a tall tower on a seaside cliff titled “The Battle of Drearcliff Pass.” Notice the different layers in the dirt and rock:

The Battle of Drearcliff Pass

In reverse-chronological order, here are the other LEGO Castle builds Mark has posted so far this month.

(LCC) The Mission of a Lifetime (LCC) Treasure?... Ho hum.

(LCC) Through the plains of Loreos Achilles vs Hector

The Siege of Troy (main)

Mark certainly didn’t start being prolific a few weeks ago, so be sure to check out his photostream on Flickr for more.

Designing Outside The Lines

1AM Gallery in San Francisco is hosting a LEGO based art show running April 26th through May 25th. There will be models, custom minifigs, traditional 2D art, and more. Check out the press release below for all the details and go easy on them for their use of “Legos”.

1AM is pleased to present, “Designing Outside The Lines”, opening April 26th, from 6:30-9:30pm, featuring custom works that explore and reinvent the classic Lego platform. Expect to see customizations of Lego pieces, the Lego Torch lamp and Lego Men, digital prints, original paintings and more. The exhibition will feature 1920s silent movie characters, lit Lego Men, mini mecha, maps, guns and wasps- to name a few!

Most of us played with Legos as children, but some of us never stopped. The artists in “Designing Outside The Lines” are some of the most prominent Lego and toy designers around the world, spanning from the US to the Netherlands. Whether they are using record breaking amounts of Lego pieces, introducing new materials to Lego customization, combining simple minifigs with complex machinery, or anonymously installing ginormous Lego men on public beaches- they are definitely some of the most imaginative artists out there.

For our premier Lego-inspired show at 1AM Gallery, curator James Brown invited the styles and imaginations of Ego Leonard, Legolize It Man, Bart de Dobbelaer, Brickthing, Bill Hewitt, Carson Catlin, Ian Ziobrowski, Josh Mayhem, Crestone, Dee Ten, One-Eyed-Girl, Michael Napolitan, MeSmithy, Citizen Brick and Mike Mendez. Join us in a land of Legos on April 26th, to see all the ingenious creations!

Tiny troops with tan tanks

Chris (Ironsniper) has been working on a near-future tank he’s dubbed the ADT100 “Coyote”. Of particular note is Chris’ use of a Technic ball joint to connect the gun to the turret.

ADT100 'Coyote'

Chris also posted a follow-up tank dubbed A2N8 “Anubis”, accompanied by a nice diorama, but I prefer the sleeker turret on his Coyote.

And in case Chris’ tan troops get injured, Project Azazel comes in from the desert with this medevac Humvee, bulbous in its capacity to bring comfort to the wounded:

Medivac Humvee

Despite their square shape, Humvees are notoriously challenging to build properly in LEGO. Also notice how both builders have placed their models on a simple brick-built base, which adds a lot to the presentation (I assume it’s coincidence that they’re both dark tan).

LEGO-built Neon Genesis Evangelion stands 4 feet tall, wins the Internet

I’ve been waiting a long time to blog this. Moko has been teasing us with work-in-progress images of his Neon Genesis Evangelion mecha for the last three years, and the finished model is finally revealed. The model stands 120 cm (nearly 4 feet) tall, and weighs 9.4 kg (20.7 pounds). I feel words will fail me in trying to encapsulate its awesomeness, but here goes. 

First off, the color is spectacular.  All that purple must have cost a pretty penny.  Second, the engineering is brilliant.  We’ve seen large-scale, articulated mechas before, most of them based on Brian Cooper’s Teknomeka design.  One of the limitations of that design was the bulk that resulted from all the gearing in the joints to support the weight of large scale mechas.  Moko was able to pull off a build that is similar in scale, but so much more elegant and slim, as befitting the source material, the Evangelion Unit-01.

EVANGELION

Thirdly, Moko’s deft sense of style added to the equation results in probably one of the best LEGO mechas I’ve ever seen. Plus, he did not paint or modify any bricks, and it’s articulated!  Check out the second image for a sense of the scale of this marvel.

EVANGELION

If you’re in Japan, you can see Moko’s Evangelion unit in person at the Osaka University LEGO Club’s upcoming display on May 2nd and 3rd, during Golden Week.

EVANGELION EVANGELION

See even more photos in Moko’s photostream on Flickr and on his blog.