Steven Marshall has put his orange bricks and the new Power Miners rollcage piece together to create this beautiful minifig-scale forklift, complete with actual rear steering!
UPDATE: Nearly all of the LEGO sets featured in this post are now available, including LEGO Space Police, Castle, and Agents 2.0.
LEGO fans don’t normally get an official look at third-quarter LEGO set releases until Toy Fair New York in mid-February. However, CTV technology journalist Kris Abel visited the Canadian Toy & Hobby Fair in Toronto this past weekend, posting a full run-down of the late 2009 LEGO releases.
We’ve confirmed with The LEGO Group that this is official. Although Kris Abel reports that many of the sets and box art are still prototypes, his photos of the sets themselves are pretty good. In keeping with our new policy, then, here goes…
5972 Container Heist opens up to reveal a massive cannon:
If you can’t see the photos, click the links at the bottom of this post.
5974 Galactic Enforcer has classic (dare I say Classic?) lines:
The alien criminals in the LEGO Space Police sets have several new, unique pieces:
In LEGO Star Wars news, Endor gets a bunker (8038), the Y-Wing gets a facelift (8037), the Neimoidians get their own shuttle (with Nute Gunray minifig?), and 7749 Echo Base includes a first-ever LEGO tauntaun:
LEGO Power Miners sport a larger rock monster and a very large drilling platform:
The LEGO Indiana Jones assortment includes a boat chase, a pair of fighters, and a new Elsa Schneider minifig:
On the LEGO Castle front, the trolls get their castle and the undead make their return in 7079 Drawbridge Defense:
Finally, LEGO has announced MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0, with a new color sensor.
You can read all of Kris Abel’s coverage on his blog:
We’ll expect even more complete coverage at Toy Fair New York in a few weeks from the usual suspects. In the meantime, share your thoughts in the comments.
Benlego presents a couple of winter wonderland scenes about to be interrupted by those rascally Power Miners:
As a bonus, check out this creative shadow puppetry:
And, finally, thanks to the new Castle and Pirate sets, minifigs can finally go fishing properly:
Given the target demographic of the site as a whole, I don’t frequently delve too deep on LEGO.com, but buried (heh heh) deep on the official Power Miners site, “Hippotam, Jr.” recently discovered a bunch of great videos of the LEGO Power Miners designers talking about their sets.
In this video, the lead designer introduces each of the designers for this new theme (click through the screen shot below to watch).
Yup, that’s Mark Stafford (Nabii) and Adam Grabowski (MisterZumbi), along with the rest of the talented designers for this theme. Don’t miss our recent interview with Mark, Adam’s take on what the Power Miners might have looked like had it been designed for adults, and check out more videos of LEGO Designers on LEGO.com.
Adam Grabowski (Mister Zumbi) breaks out the bricks and dusts off his photoshop skills to show how AFOLs could do Power Miners if they gave it a go. He presents both the Ursus 1410 (pictured above) and the Belarus Beta (below) as some Soviet inspired (a minor fetish of mine) Power Miners. Aside from the excellent design on these models I have to wholeheartedly endorse his message of “if you don’t like the way it’s done, do it yourself better” (to paraphrase).
Credit to Klocki for finding this one.
In part 1 and part 2 of our interview with Mark Stafford, we found out how Mark (Nabii) got his job and what it’s like to work for LEGO as a Designer. In our final section, we ask him about the differences between being a regular fan and designing official sets.
Is it easy working with as many bricks as you want? Why aren’t official set designs more like the best designs from LEGO fans? Read on to find out…
The Brothers Brick: How does your hobby building affect your work building for the better? And the worse? And vice versa?
Mark Stafford: In the beginning it made my work building overly complicated, I’d build SNOT just for the sake of hiding studs.
Of course the more you do anything the better at it you will become, and I think my fan models now use fewer elements, look cleaner and are more stable.
Also if I find an interesting parts combination at work that can’t be clearly explained in building instructions, or is an illegal build, or is just not stable enough to be played with, then it may end up in my fan MOCs.
TBB: Is there anything you think AFOLs should know about the difference in building style between work and play?
Mark: Only that TLG’s style is dictated by its target audience; we make the sets for kids and they have a different tolerance for frustration, amount of time it takes to find elements in the pile, lower manual dexterity and much reduced strength in their fingers in comparison to adult builders.
They also like shooting functions much more!
At home I can do anything. Huge areas of my MOCs can hang on one or two stud connections, whole models can be built in a single colour, sections can be built sideways or shoehorned into position and I can do unspeakable things to mini-figures!
TBB: How many people are involved in the complete process of designing a set from brainstormed ideas to the finalized product?
Mark: Wow, that’s a tough one. Especially for play-themes! First off there’s the idea for the theme, this might be generated internally at PMD (the building all the designers work in) or it may have been created in our concept labs, coming through Japan, America, Germany, Spain, and the UK before more polishing in Billund. This gets a universe to be as appealing to our target audience (normally boys from 6 to 12) as possible. The theme is then turned over to a group at PMD, here we will take some of the already successful ideas and “models” (often glued together and featuring found or created elements) and we will then build sketch models that are buildable in LEGO bricks. Sometimes just the essence of an idea from one area can be turned into a huge project elsewhere.
Once a theme has been given a go ahead the sketch models are roughly sorted into the price points that are needed. A model has to be carefully considered, it’s basic function and qualities looked at and if it needs to be reduced or increased in size in order to maximize its potential, the redesign and rebuilding at this stage is one of the toughest parts of the process.
Sometimes the sketch is your own, sometimes other people’s. We have weekly design meetings where the entire team gets to have input on what’s working and what isn’t on each other’s models, not to mention the constant advice we offer to each other every day. Then there’s input on buildability by our target age group from our building instructions experts, legality of our builds from Design Lab, and the overall consistency between models in a project is maintained by our Design Lead.
Then there are our Graphic Designers who make the mini-figures, printed bricks and stickers, Parts Designers who create any new elements and Packaging Designers who from day one are trying to make our models look as cool as possible when photographed. Above all this is our Design Directors maintaining a balance across all of Play Themes and above them Directors keeping a balance across all LEGO models in that half year.
And that’s just design; there’s also production, packaging and logistics to get the model out there, and sometimes consideration of these aspects can bounce back and affect the design process.
In fact it’s pretty egotistical to claim any design entirely as my own given the huge team behind every set, but I do, so I guess I must be hugely big-headed!
TBB: Does this give you much space to add your own personal style?
Mark: Well my old University lecturers tried to drum into me that designers do not have the luxury of a personal style, if you want a personal style become an artist!
But that’s a pretty lame answer because I think my building style and preferences do come through in the sets I’m Model Designer on and even given everything I laid out in the last answer there’s actually tons of room to create models to my liking. (And when I’m not too keen on the actual model idea I can at least try to get a lot of cool pieces into it!)
TBB: How about choice of colour scheme? Is this collaborative or ‘from above’?
Mark: It varies, if there is an overall colour scheme, like Power Miners, we come to a decision in our project group. For Power Miners (I know that one is controversial with AFOLs) we threw around a few ideas then changed a model in Photoshop into about thirty different colour combinations and carried out a little consumer testing to see which combination had the most impact against the dark underground backgrounds we had in mind for the boxes.
We had been to a mining museum in Germany and saw most mining machines were yellow or white with cutting tools painted red or orange, and a few were bright green or light blue, (mining equipment has to be bright because underground it is very dark!) then we looked at LEGO’s existing line up: Mars Mission was very white, and City’s construction was yellow and Coast Guard orange, and an underground theme in dark colours would disappear into the dark background. So we had already decided green was probably the main colour to focus on and most of our colour schemes revolved around a green main colour. Eventually the colours settled on were lime green and orange and I have to agree this makes the most impact and really catches the eye and jumps off the toyshop shelves.
This early version of the Crystal Harvester shows much less orange, but as you can see the vehicle tool (the big wheel at the front) kind of disappears into the rest of the vehicle.
However in Exo-Force each set could be a different colour and so we had plenty of room to experiment. My 8115 Dark Panther was actually developed in black and red, then I built a version in Teal, Orange and another in Purple, and we eventually chose the purple.
TBB: Do you or other designers look at AFOL work when designing a product?
Mark: Not so much. Some of us keep up to date with the AFOL sites and postings. We like to look at cool MOCs and will often see a piece used in a way we have not considered, but we never look for ideas for specific products. We’re more likely to look at concept art websites, photographs and books to see interesting shapes or buildings and then envision them in LEGO bricks.
Besides, where’s the fun in copying someone else ideas? The whole point of LEGO bricks is to make your own creations!
TBB: Anything else you’d like to add about your job?
Mark: It really is as cool a job as you think it would be when you’re a kid!
Although after building all day at work, there is as many fans suspect, a lot less drive to build in my spare time and for many other designers no desire to do this at all.
I’d also like to clear up a misconception: We don’t get free LEGO bricks, and for home building we buy sets like everyone else. The staff shop has a discount of 50% off the Danish price, but that’s just down to about the US retail amount so we don’t have access to unlimited bricks at home any more than any other fan!
TBB: And finally, what MOC of yours would you most like to see converted into an official kit?
Mark: The Big Boys Toys is the only one of my MOCs I think has what it takes and that I could face revisiting and working on for four months, though the military aspect might need to be toned down before it could be a set, and a lot of the elements are no longer available so there would need to be considerable redesign.
It would be nice to make a completely new huge sized spacecraft set (Gothica sized or bigger)… but all you annoying adult fans keep asking for Star Wars, Café Corners, Volkswagen Beetles and Eiffel Towers! :P
The Brothers Brick: What sets have you made?
Then Agents 8632 Swamp Raid, 8630 Gold Hunt, and 8635 Mobile Command Centre. A Mars Mission set: 7648 MT201 Ultra Drill Walker. Power Miners 8957 Mine Mech and 8961 Crystal Sweeper. Later in 2009 I have another Power Miners model and three of the new space line [!] sets, and I’m already working on 4 sets for the first half of 2010!
TBB: What themes have you worked on? And which would you like to work on?
Mark: I started at LEGO on a theme that never made it through development, then went to Mars Mission for a few months, where none of my models made it into sets. Then Exo-Force, Agents, Mars Mission, Power Miners, the new space theme, along the way contributed sketch models to Castle, Batman, City and currently — I can’t say… but it’s exciting!
I like working on any Sci-Fi theme and Space is my favourite, but I like to change it up and don’t want to get bored, so if something new comes along I’ll complain like a wuss for a bit then knuckle down to getting the job done well.
TBB: How big a change was it to go from a hobby with limited restrictions to a job with many restrictions on your designs? Did you ever find it frustrating?
Mark: It’s a challenge, no doubt about it, the biggest adjustment is the obvious one of piece count/price.
We have to build to a price, we do this by making sure the cost of the parts does not exceed the price limit we’re given for that model and the internal price of parts is not always obviously logical either.
For example (and I don’t think this will help our competitors), internally a 4 stud long cross axle costs more than a 5 or 6 stud long one. This really bugged me for ages and I asked our Project Supporter to investigate why.
It took a long time to get an answer but it turns out the mould for the 4 long axles is an older one and every time it cycles it only produces half the amount as the 5, 6 or 8 long cross axles’ moulds. The machine has to run for longer, be monitored more and therefore it makes it twice as expense to make the part, hence the apparent discrepancy in the internal price. And every single part, all 6000+ of them have similar considerations, so getting a model to price can be interesting sometimes!
The most frustrating period was the first six months, I then began to accept why LEGO models are built the way they are, rather than the way fan MOCs are. I still have to keep reminding myself that if the model can’t be built from instructions by a seven year old and played with by his/her friends (who did not build it) without breaking too much, then I’m not doing my job!
TBB: I remember that you often built your personal models as toys as well as standalone models (the Big Boys Toys springs to mind). Do you think this helped you make the adjustment?
Mark: Definitely. I only began to move into a more AFOL style of intricate SNOT building in the last year or so before I was hired and my building style was still a very studs up ‘LEGO’ way of building, plus even as a fan I was building with kids in mind!
My favourite fan event is LEGOWorld in The Netherlands, because every day for six days they have 10,000 visitors and more than half are kids, from the first year I attended I always tried to build models that would make these kid visitors amazed, do something fun (like the Big Boys Toys) and illicit a round of applause (to the annoyance of neighbouring AFOLs).
I wanted to make models that would inspire and make kids happy, and now that’s my job as a toy maker!
In part 3, we’ll talk to Mark about some of the differences between building as an average LEGO fan and designing sets for LEGO.
Tyler (Legohaulic) takes a spin on the Power Miners theme and delivers his unique vision of the underground crystal-collecting team.
UPDATE: Added Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
Looks like lots more 2009 LEGO sets are finally showing up on the LEGO Shop online.
Just about all of the 2009 LEGO Star Wars sets from The Clone Wars appear to be available now. 8018 Armored Assault Tank (AAT) includes the newly redesigned Yoda:
- 7751 Ahsoka’s Starfighter & Droids
- 8014 Clone Walker Battle Pack
- 8015 Assassin Droids Battle Pack
- 8016 Hyena Droid Bomber
- 8018 Armored Assault Tank (AAT)
- 8019 Republic Attack Shuttle
The latest batch of updates also includes the new Power Miners theme. My wife got me 8960 Thunder Driller for Christmas, so I’m off to build it now.
(Still waiting for that farm… Mmmm… Cows…)
LEGO’s official website for the 2009 Power Miners theme recently became active. Currently available contents include bios on the new rock monsters, a short game, and a fun quiz to see which rock monster you are.