Mark Erickson (AKA Mark of Falworth) has updated an old creation and the result is something rather special. I really dig the posability of this dragon and the seamless use of system and Bionicle/Hero Factory pieces. The old “inverted tire” technique also fits in quite well here!
Ever wondered what it would be like to go inside some of those classic video games? Could be fun, right? With my luck I’d get caught in Frogger. I’ve gotten worse at that one as I’ve gotten older–true story.
Matt De Lanoy (Pepa Quin)has created the Bob-omb Battlefield, from N64’s Super Mario 64, so his adorable little Bob-ombs have an environment just for them.
And because things like this are always better in person, if you’re in the greater Chicago area and want to check out some fantastic LEGO creations, you can check out the 12th Annual Christmas LEGO Train show this weekend. That sounds like a great way to beat some of the chill!
A few week ago we reviewed two of the four new sets for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. With the movie opening this evening and all of the sets now available in stores and on LEGO.com, we’ll dive into the third set, 79011 Dol Guldur Ambush, which is the smallest of the lot.
79011 Dol Guldur Ambush comes with a $19.99 USD price tag, but has an admirable 217 pieces and three minifigs packed in. Taking place in the second film, the set portrays a scene not pictured in the book, in which Beorn ventures to Dol Guldur, the stronghold of the rising dark force we will later know as Sauron. Inside the box are two unnumbered bags and a very crumpled instruction manual. This is a terrific set for parts, particularly for castle builders, as nearly the entire set consists of black, greys, and browns. The instructions first call for the construction of a small double-catapult, which is really a plate with two wheels and two of the mini-catapults. It’s effective, but hardly inspired. The main portion of the set consists of the ruins of Dol Guldur, an ancient fortress. Here we get a bit of broken rocky wall surrounding a large entryway. Of course, as the set name implies, there’s an ambush. On each side of the door there are lever-controlled booby-traps: on the left are two axes, and on the right a giant hammer contraption. Neither are actually triggered by a pressure plate or anything — you simply swing them into place independently with your fingers via a knob on top. To the right of the main doorway is a segment of rock connected by a hinge brick. This swings aside to reveal — you guessed it: a flick-fire missile. A spare missile is included if you really want to go nuts. That’s about it as far as play-features in this set are concerned. The real noteworthy part here, though, is the wall itself. Much like the Mirkwood Elf Army wall, it is constructed almost completely from very small pieces. The designer went a little crazy with the Brick, Modified 1 x 1 with Stud on 1 Side, using 20, when fewer than half that number actually utilize the extra side stud. However, I see this as a bonus rather than otherwise, since the modified brick tends to be more useful. There are also two of the “dougnut tiles,” or Tile, Round 2 x 2 with Hole in dark grey. This is the only set that is actually released yet which contains this highly useful piece, though other sets with it are in the lineup for the new year.
There are three minifigs in the playset: two Gundabad orcs and Beorn. The two orcs are the twins of the two included in the Mirkwood Elf Army, except that the two here haven’t gone prematurely bald. Mighty woodsman Beorn is the unique figure to this set, and he is a profound disappointment. The great furry mane is not a new hairpiece, but is actually part of the head. There is no excuse for LEGO to have taken this route, since the part of the head that is visible is clearly shaped like a normal LEGO head. Nevertheless, the hair and head is all molded as one, reducing the usefulness of it considerably. I won’t bother to enumerate here all the times LEGO has managed to produce similar head/hair combinations without resorting to this sort of shoddy work.
Ultimately, however, this is a really excellent set. The minifigs are not worth bothering with, but the bricks make the set more than worth-while. The wall, while not particularly exciting, is very nicely done, and it even connects up to the bigger 79014 Dol Guldur Battle set to make a bigger playset.
How do you follow something as amazing as Rivendell? Well, Mike Nieves (Retinence) may have used fewer bricks in this version of Rapidash from Pokemon, but he’s mastered them well. Mike is a long-time adept at creating organic curves with LEGO, and the rippling muscles and mane of this creation prove it.
The last time we checked in with Alice Finch, she had just unveiled the world’s largest LEGO Hogwarts built from several hundred thousand LEGO bricks. Not content to let sleeping bricks lie, Alice has teamed up with David Frank to recreate one of my favorite locations in Middle-earth, Rivendell, “the last homely house west of the mountains,” where Elrond hosts both Bilbo and his dwarven companions in The Hobbit and Frodo and the Fellowship in The Lord of the Rings.
The Brothers Brick is pleased to unveil official photos from the two builders and an exclusive interview with Alice and David.
The Brothers Brick: How did the two of you meet?
Alice Finch & David Frank: The July 2011 meeting was our first SeaLUG meeting, and I remember David brought a part of his Dragon Knight Castle. Even though we were both relatively new to LEGO, it was clear that he was already building like an expert. We got to talking about castles — those that we’d seen in person and those that we wanted to build out of bricks — and we both mentioned how we thought building Rivendell would be the ultimate challenge. We’re both avid readers and dedicated Tolkien fans, so our friendship began with a thorough discussion of Elven architecture.
Over the last two years, we’ve had other projects that we focused on: David has built several castles, one with accompanying village and market, we both participated in a collaborative build of Hobbiton for SeaLUG’s display at Emerald City Comicon, and Alice built Hogwarts Castle. after our building skills had been honed on our own big builds, and with the second Hobbit movie about to come out, we decided 2013 was a good time to take on the challenge of building Rivendell.
TBB: In the movies, Rivendell is simultaneously sprawling and highly detailed. How do you even start a daunting build like that?
Alice: Our first task was to do research, which began with the laborious task of watching The Fellowship of the Ring — again. We got together and looked at the models in the movie, screen by screen trying to figure out how the buildings fit together and how we might approach the swooping arches and colorful roofs. Alice looked through all the “behind the scenes” and “making of” books on LOTR and found some of the original sketches for the models.
David: And I found a souvenir model that Weta Workshop made of Rivendell. It turns out that when they were making the Weta model, they had to do some serious research themselves because the film never really established what scenes happened where. The model was key as it allowed me to map out 48×48 sections in a Visio diagram to figure out roughly what size we would need to build it to.
TBB: Elven architecture in Tolkien’s artwork and Jackson’s films is very distinct, with swooping curves and intricate details that don’t easily lend themselves to accurate representation in LEGO. How did you approach this project from a design standpoint?
Alice: By the spring, I started studying some of the more interesting and potentially difficult parts of the model. The first thing I experimented with was the iconic tower from Arwyn’s building (far left of the model). I wanted to try out some of the large wedge pieces I had left over from some experiments I’d done for Hogwarts and thought they might just work. Again, it took some wrangling to figure out how to attach them, but I was really excited about getting that particular challenge ticked off my list.
I also did some studies for the roof design — 1×1 tiles, 1×1 round plates, and “cheese” slopes were all options to achieve the patterned designs. I tried them all — alone and together — and found that all cheese was by far the best and also had the most color options. Ideally, it would have been nice if LEGO would have churned out a few thousand sand red, sand purple, and sand blue cheese for me, but at least I had a drawer full of sand green to pair with the dark green, dark red, dark blue, and tan cheese. After all the patterned roofs were completed, I think we figured that there are about 8,000 cheese in the roofs and another 2,000 or so in the mosaic bridges and courtyards.
David: I had less actual buildings in my sections, so I really focused on blending what I had with the landscape. My main building really emerges from the rock and was built After the landscaping had taken shape. The actual buildings were very different than anything I have ever done as they needed to be airy and sweeping, so I focused on a more open design and heavily utilized odd angles to get a different look from the brick.
TBB: What part combination are you the most proud of?
Alice: In my prowling for interesting parts on BrickLink, I came upon the Gungan shields. My first thought was how they would make some very elegant Elven windows, so I ordered a few to investigate and see if I could make them work in an architectural setting. Figuring out how to secure them was a bit of a challenge, but with some experimentation I figured out how to make them cooperate inside the framing of some SNOT arches.
Once I figured out how to frame them, I designed the rest of the building around them, bringing in as much sand red and sand purple as possible. I’ve been collecting sand color parts almost since I first started building again, knowing that someday I wanted to do Rivendell and that if I wanted enough to build with, I’d have to gather them a few at a time.
David: Oddly enough, for me it’s simple 1×2 trans-clear plates. I had to figure out a way to represent horses emerging from waves and my part selection was very limited. I am very happy with the result.
There are many other areas I am happy with, but given what I had to pull off, that would be it.
I missed this MaK creation, when Kosmas Santosa ( first posted it. Fortunately, he’s followed up with a nice little scene, giving me a chance to blog this cool mecha. The tool cart and gas can are both nice details that help make the scene. The builder also found a nice chunk of broken down wall for background, it looks great.
If Phuket in Thailand tickles your fancy and you’ve got some money to burn, perhaps Villa Amanzi is just the place to rent for your holiday.
This spectacular model of the villa was built by Robert Turner (rt_bricks). It’s roughly half minifig scale, but still measures a respectable 96 studs x 64 studs x 61 bricks and has a detailed interior. The house is fantastic, but I particularly like the rock face and the tropical foliage above it. Robert’s description sounds as though it could be from a holiday brochure: “It features a 15 metre infinity pool overlooking the Andaman Sea, 6 bedrooms, and a contemporary modern design nestled into the edge of a ravine and up against an impressive rock face that penetrates into the house on multiple floors”
Typically for castle builds we see…castles. Medieval villages and the like. Wandering bands of thieves and vagabonds, fearless knights, and the occasional dragon. There’s a handful of awe-inspiring cathedrals for diversity.
This fabulous library is an entry into Classic-Castle’s Colossal Castle Contest. You can head over there and check out the prizes and enter yourself!
After a brief hiatus, the Fights return in The Brothers Brick Arena. Join us for another fine night of fancy footwork and flying fisticuffs! Tonight’s matchup is a head-to-head battle of character as Mike Dung takes on Pascal.
In the Red Corner, Mike Dung’s “Kagamine Rin”:
The winner of Round 28 was the Airwolf with a score of 11-8. Help decide the winner of this week’s challenge by voting in the comments below. Who will take home the trophy and who one will spend the night crying in their beer?
Lego builders will find inspiration to build in all manners of sources…even sad days. Michael Jasper has created this simple tribute to one of the world’s most respected statesman.
“It always seems impossible until it is done.” (Nelson Mandela)