The 5th annual Creations for Charity ended with over $20,000 worth of Lego sets donated to children in 6 cities across 3 countries. Check out creationsforcharity.org for more photos and to hear the rest of the story. Merry Christmas everyone!
It was inevitable, really. We’ve blogged hot rods and a full size LEGO car before and British LEGO-Technic enthusiast Simon Burfield built a working Lego vehicle large enough to carry a person a while ago (which we sadly neglected to blog at the time), but now there’s an actual full-size drivable LEGO hot rod, large enough to carry two people. This crazy contraption was built by Australian Steve Sammartino and Raul Oaida, from Romania.
About half a million bricks were used in the construction. The wheels aren’t made out of LEGO elements, obviously, and neither are a few of the other structural bits. The engine, however, is built with no fewer than 256 LEGO pneumatic pistons, which are powered by compressed air and can propel the car to a speed of about 20 km/h. According to Steve he is neither a car enthusiast nor a Lego enthusiast, which makes me wonder just how big things get if he is enthusiastic!
Via the BBC. Thanks to billyburg for the suggestion.
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.
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.
Consistent with previous years, the first wave of 2014 Ninjago sets have arrived in stores just in time for this year’s holiday sales rush, and are also now available on Amazon. The roles have been swapped up a bit this time, with the venerable Sensai Wu now evil and Lord Garmadon now the new ninja master. The seven sets of the new wave cover a good spectrum, and we’re beginning our reviews with a mid-size set, the Thunder Raider.
70723 Thunder Raider comes with a USD $30 price-tag for its 334 pieces, making it a pretty good bargain straight off the top, with an average price-per-piece of 8.9¢. For LEGO to still be maintaining a sub-10¢ per piece price in 2013 – an average for which it has aimed for over 30 years – is nothing short of remarkable, especially on one of its mega-hit themes.
Digging into the set we find three numbered bags, a pair of loose tires, a sticker sheet, and two instruction manuals: one each for the mech and the tank. Bag #1 contains all the pieces to build the small mech, which actually isn’t all that small. It stands about 8 inches tall upon completion. It’s built using a constraction frame (that is, the large ball joints), and even the leg armor pieces are straight out of Hero Factory. If you’ve built any of LEGO’s mech’s in the last four or five years, there are no surprises here, but nevertheless the finished product is fairly nice. The feet contain several of the new Slope, Curved 2 x 1 No Studs in black, which is a new color for that part. Between the mech and the tank, there are eight of those slopes in black. I was also delighted to see that each of the feet contains two Vehicle, Spoiler 2 x 4 with Handle in black, a piece that had thus far been relegated to licensed Cars theme sets only. This bag also contains all three figures. Most of the set’s stickers are applied to the mech armor panels. While nice-enough stickers, I decided not to apply them.
The mech houses one pilot, Cole, who disappointingly has nothing to grab onto while strapped in. I always like mech pilots to have joysticks or at least a computer panel, but Cole is buckled into a harness like he’s on a rollercoaster. I guess the mech is controlled via a mindlink. Each arm of the mech has two giant blades and a cannon, so it’s well defended. With the oversized feet, poseability is high. The back of the mech is pretty sparse, with lots of exposed anti-studs. I feel like the new 2×2 inverted tiles should have been put to good use here. There are two Technic axle pegs stickingout from the shoulder blades, which are used to connect the mech to the rear of the tank.
This is a really weird feature. With the mech attached, it looks half-way between the mech hitching an impromptu ride on the back of a hill-billy tank while dragging its legs in the dust, and the tank serving a tow-truck for an out-of-commission mech. I think the effect would be greatly improved if both the tank and the mech shared a color-scheme, but with the mech being black and green, and the tank predominately blue, they don’t create a unified whole at all.
The second bag begins with the small weapons turret, which features the only unique printed piece in the set (there’s also a standard computer tile in the tank). It’s a 2×2 dark grey round tile with a saw-blade pattern on it. There’s not much to the turret: what you see is what you get. The trans-yellow axe it holds is pretty cool; I can definitely see it looking good in some neo-Blacktron bounty hunter’s hands. There is a depression in the center of the circular part that is almost rod-sized. I have never understood why part designers tantalize us with bits that seem like they should be in system, but aren’t. This would have been a perfect opportunity to place a full rod hole through the middle, greatly increasing the usability of the part.
The rest of the bag starts the tank, getting the basic frame constructed. Bag #3 finishes up the set. The tank follows the same style as several other Ninjago vehicles with treads in the front and wheels in the rear. The setup works well, though, and the tank is pretty fun to drive around. I do wish there were springs on the rear wheels to give it a bit of flexibility, but that’s a minor critique. The top of the tank body has a very cool samurai-esque pattern on it. This is accomplished via a brand new element: two 1×4 plates fused at 45° to each other. This piece appears in several of the new Ninjago sets, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. Putting two of these plates next to each other creates a perfect 90° angle, with a plate sticking off in the middle. But I was a bit disappointed to discover that the plates which are at right angles to each other are misaligned by a 1/2 stud in each direction. The piece will still find plenty of uses, and I understand why the piece is designed the way it is (it’s basically a 1×4 hinge plate permanently fused at 45°), but I think it would have ultimately been more useful if the 90° plates aligned when using two. The main play feature of the tank is the sliding cockpit, which moves back, causing the the blue pattern to reveal itself into several rockets. In a shocking twist, there are no flick-fire missiles (oh happy day), and instead the rockets are held in with traditional Technic 1/2 pins, though given their placement I can’t help but wonder if that is an error.
The minifigs here are nothing terribly remarkable. Only the robot (a Nindroid, the instructions inform me) has printed legs. All of the minifigs have front and rear printings which are nice, but not noteworthy. Neither of the humans have double-sided heads, but the Nindroid’s metal pattern does extend to the rear. Each of the ninjas comes with a new bandana piece, which appears to be the go-to style this year instead of the full head-wrap. I’m a bit surprised this bandana didn’t make its debut in the Lone Ranger line, as it seems perfectly fitted to old-timey bank robbers. Nicely enough, an extra of each color is included, for a total of two each in blue and black.
To sum up, this is a good set. There are plenty of good pieces at a good price, including some that only appear in a few other equally-new sets. Both vehicles are sturdy and look nice, and while not revolutionary, are fun. If you’re a fan of Ninjago, this is definitely a good buy, but most other LEGO fans will find something to enjoy here, even if they’re just buying for parts.
The 2013 Creations for Charity fundraiser is ending in less than 24 hours, and your help is needed to buy a custom Lego model donated by the fans. All prices are discounted to their minimum, and if they’re still too high, then you can even make an offer. Over $7,000 have been raised so far to buy Lego for underprivileged children, let’s try to break $8,000 in the last day!
If you haven’t blown your LEGO budget so far in November, there’s plenty of shopping ahead! Both the LEGO Shop online and Amazon.com have plenty of deals to whet your brick appetite.
I’m a bit short on time this morning, so for now I’m just going to put up the banners for you to click through — remember that every purchase from the LEGO Shop and Amazon.com (and not just LEGO!) helps support The Brothers Brick when you click through from Brothers-Brick.com.
Deals for US readers
As usual, Amazon has too many deals to list specifically. Happy hunting!
The LEGO Shop has the following deals:
FREE Limited Edition Holiday Set with purchase of $99 or more.
Valid Nov 29th – Dec 2nd or while supplies last
- FREE $10 Gift Card with purchase of $149 or more (Online Only).
Valid Nov 29th – Dec 2nd or while supplies last.
- FREE Shipping on all orders (no minimum).
Valid Nov 29th – Dec 2nd
- Receive a Free THE LEGO® MOVIE™ poster sticker to customize your Palace Cinema.
Valid: through Dec 31st or while supplies last.
- FREE Exclusive Clone Trooper™ Lieutenant with LEGO® Star Wars™ purchases of $50 or more!
Valid: through Dec 31st or while supplies last.
Deals for Canadian readers
See the US list above for LEGO Shop Canada sales & deals.
Deals for UK readers
In addition to discounted items, the LEGO Shop in the UK is offering free delivery, an exclusive LEGO set, and 10% off your entire purchase.
The 5th annual Creations for Charity fundraiser is ending soon. There’s only 9 days left to shop for a custom creation, each designed and made by a Lego fan who hopes you’ll purchase the creation to help raise money to buy Lego for underprivileged children. With the fundraiser ending soon, prices are at their lowest on most items.
Don’t forget that 100% of the net income will be spent on Lego that will be donated to kids in multiple parts of the world. In addition, Bricklink has offered to match 10% of the money raised. Take a look at the store and see what’s for sale!