Speaking of the dead, what does it have to do with these spacemen?
Zombie Apocafest 2009 has come and gone. The undead have been blown up, shot up, and mulched to oblivion. The humans stand victorious among the ruins of their civilization. Fortunately, that civilization was, by good fortune, built from LEGO, and it can be rebuilt, brick by little plastic brick.
Check out the full gallery of Zombie Apocafest 2009 photos in Thanel’s photostream on Flickr.
The display this year was more than double the size of last year’s, with 17 tables covered in all manner of buildings and vehicles, ranging from little mini-tanks to a fig-scale tanker. Once again, we had the organizational genius of LEGOLAND Master Model Maker Gary McIntire laying out the city, with major contributions from other LEGOLAND staffers, including Ryan Wood (Port ChiefLUG) and Joel Baker (awesome zombie head).
As announced before BrickCon, we had four prize categories. Here are the winners:
- Best Original Vehicle: Lino’s Zombie Killin’ Gay Pride Float
- Best Apocafied LEGO Vehicle: Tommy Williamson’s motorized 7636 Combine
- Best Original Building: Abandoned factory by Justin Pratt
- Best Apocafied LEGO Building: Paul Hetherington’s Dark Carousel (hard to believe it’s an undead 10196 Grand Carousel!)
So, how do these things work? What does it take to pull together a collaborative LEGO layout that covers a couple hundred square feet of display space? What have we learned after running a display at a LEGO convention for two years? Off we go…
It’s not as easy as it looks
Soliciting “cornerstone” LEGO creations, recruiting lots of good builders, and working with sponsors and partners is hard work. Similarly, planning for enough space with convention organizers takes time.
Know your audience
Despite my rather chirpy online persona, I have a subversive streak a mile wide. This manifests itself in my political vignettes and the occasional snarky comment. Before BrickCon 2008, a large-scale collaborative display of undead LEGO minifigs overrunning a Cafe Corner city, built by the adults who read The Brothers Brick, seemed like a reasonably subversive idea. I think last year’s display worked so well because that’s precisely what it was.
As cool as I think this year’s display turned out to be, it was a little spread out, and it was rather heavy on the small vehicles with spikes and ladders. The world really needs to be a nicer place than the purely ironic perspective some espouse, but really, some measure of self-referential irony would’ve been welcome.
I’m not a parent, and I don’t judge others’ parenting styles (okay, I do, but only a little bit). But it’s hard for me to imagine encouraging interest in the hyper-violent world of flesh-eating zombies and brain-smashing survivors. The subversive and ironic aspects of a zombie apocalypse built out of LEGO are likely lost on the 11-14 set.
A good idea is better than free stuff
Let’s be honest: The kiddies like the BrickArms, and will do just about anything for prototypes.
We’re big fans of the high-quality custom accessories produced by Will Chapman and his team, and can’t believe how generous they are. Will donated 35 packs of weapons for contributors, including hand-produced cricket bats at our request. Wow.
Nevertheless, we’ve all seen the “wil U trad wit me? kthxby” mentality on display in recent months, and I have to admit that the display this year seemed to attract a bit more interest from the 11-14 set than I’d anticipated.
In fact, there were at least two kids who leaned over the barricades during the public hours, asked to put one minifig on the display and asked for a contributor’s pack. Seriously, kids? The answer to both questions was — and will remain — a firm “No.” (I did let them take a picture of their figs on the display. I’m not a total jerk.)
Overall, I’m happy about how things went with Zombie Apocafest 2009, but it will be the last Zombie Apocafest, and I don’t plan for us to repeat themes from year to year. I’m even happier to report that we’re changing things up for next year. We’ve run our BrickCon 2010 display idea by a few attendees, and we’ll be announcing next year’s theme shortly. Plans are already underway…
Why yes, that is a BrickArms Cricket Bat and M1 Carbine.
Thanks to the generous folks at BrickArms, we’ll be giving away a bunch of these to those of you who contribute to Zombie Apocafest 2009 at BrickCon 2009 later this week. Each Zombie Defense Pack will include a prototype cricket bat and M1 carbine, along with other great stuff that remains Top Secret.
The cricket bats in particular will be in short supply outside these packs, and there will be a limited number of packs, so be sure to build something awesome.
Naturally, we’re hoping that those of you who build something for this challenge will also bring it for the Zombie Apocafest 2009 collaborative display at BrickCon.
As with other LUGNuts challenges, this is sure to generate some truly creative builds. And creativity is key! We won’t be awarding prizes at BrickCon for Biggest Guns, Most Chains, or Best Use of Brown and Gray.
This challenge is about apocafied civilian vehicles, like my S&S Wildland Ultra XT brushfire engine. Note the bright red color and complete lack of chains, though I must admit that the crazy Bionicle spike strip proved irresistible…
With BrickCon coming, I’m sure many are interested in creating vehicles for the Zombie Apocalypse display. If you like what we’ve featured in the past, you should check out Jordan Neves‘ article on how to make your own unique and original apocafied vehicle.
By the way, I recommend Jordan’s blog as a supplement to foster a well-rounded knowledge of the LEGO community.
BrickCon 2009 starts in exactly two months. That means it’s time to start getting down to details on all the collaborative displays being planned for the con, starting with our very own Zombie Apocafest 2009. (We’ll be doing a roundup about all the other displays soon.)
Like last year’s zombie apocalypse display, Zombie Apocafest is sponsored and organized by The Brothers Brick, with additional sponsorship from the generous humans at BrickArms. Look for more information about prizes and giveaways here on the blog between now and the con.
Got builder’s block? Not sure what the heck we mean by “apocafied”? Unsure what the standards are? Read on…
Inspiration for the LEGO zombie apocalypse
Popular culture is full of inspiration for a LEGO zombie apocalypse. Our collaborative display is largely inspired by the book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks, also author of The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead.
Personally, music inspires a lot of my LEGO building. Here’s my personal soundtrack, heavy on metal and light on funny novelty songs. Hey, this is serious stuff! Also, the only convergence of AC/DC, W.B. Yeats, zombies, and LEGO in the history of the human race.
Zombie literature and films are full of social commentary — a dystopian reflection of our present or near future. In other words, the real world we all live in is unfortunately full of examples of the things survivors would encounter in a zombie apocalypse.
Improvised fighting vehicles — civilian or non-combat military vehicles with armor plating and weapons systems tacked on — are the archetype for the chained-up, cage-encased, spiky bad boys we all know and love from our favorite ApocaLEGO builders.
Not cool in real life, but good against zombies.
Finally, here are a few ideas we’ve had at The Brothers Brick — we can’t possibly build them all ourselves in the next two months.
- A commuter train on fire that streaks around the perimeter of the layout. (9-volt would probably be easiest to power over the weekend.) Bonus points for smoke effects.
- Helicopters on rooftops evacuating survivors. Bonus points for motorized rotors. Extra credit for hovering action.
- A security wall. Again, not at all cool in real life, but effective against the 90% of zombies who can’t use ladders.
- Elevated highway.
- Boats. Lots of boats.
Building and vehicle standards
No giant robots to sweep through the streets, no deus ex machina with laser cannons and railguns.
Buildings follow the “Cafe Corner standard”:
- Building stands on one or two Baseplate 16 x 32 with Square Corners.
- Two connectors on each side of the building: Technic Brick 1 x 2 with Hole placed on studs #10-11 and #22-23 (from the front of the baseplate).
- Floors can be any height (though 9 bricks high appears to be the standard).
- Curb at edge of baseplate built from 1 x n light gray tiles, and sidewalk built from dark gray tiles, seven studs from the curb to the building (curb + sidewalk = 8 studs).
- Building can be any size (though 16 x 16 or 16 x 32 appears to be the standard), built eight studs back from the front of the baseplate with an eight-stud “alley.”
For the Zombie Apocafest display, though, most vehicles should probably be in the 4 to 10-stud-wide range (construction vehicles excluded).
How it’s going to work
Doors open on Thursday morning at 9:00 AM on October 1. I’ll be there with Thanel soon afterward, helping out with the con in general, and keeping an eye on early additions to the display. The man, the myth, the legend, LEGOLAND Master Model Maker Gary McIntire has generously agreed to add his artistic vision and organizational skills to the display, so look for him as well.
We’ll give out prizes on Saturday night (or whenever the rest of the prizes are awarded). There will also be giveaways aplenty again this year. However, quantities of each item will be limited, and we’ll give them out with fairly specific requirements. We hope everybody leaves BrickCon with something, though.
As a reminder, here are the four prize categories:
- Best Original Vehicle (last year’s winner: Andrew Lee’s Truck)
- Best Apocafied LEGO Vehicle (new category; example above)
- Best Original Building (last year’s winner: Paul Hetherington’s Casa Baron)
- Best Apocafied LEGO Building (new category)
Okay, enough reading. Get building!
An armored city bus emerges from 7641 City Corner.
Nick replaces the stickers on the truck in 7733 Truck & Forklift with Space Police III stickers of the same underlying design.
I think it’s awesome that the LEGO designers took an existing LEGO City design and essentially apocafied it themselves for Space Police III. And it was brilliant of Nick to notice.
Of course, it looks like Nick could use some more zombies. Fortunately, we’ll have plenty available at BrickCon.
Mysterious viruses and radiation exposure aren’t the only ways to start a zombie outbreak. Muffinmanifestation suggests that what we’re pouring into our lakes and streams might have a little something to do with the coming zombie onslaught.
With the outbreak underway, the soldiers who discovered Ground Zero try to make it back to base.
A common criticism of ApocaLEGO creations is that they’re all shades of brown or gray — believable colors for many apocalyptic scenarios, but not necessarily for the zombie apocalypse.
With that in mind, I’ve added a few more colorful creations to my fleet of zombie-hunting vehicles.
The big red vehicle is an apocafied version of my S&S/TATRA Wildland Ultra XT fire engine, while the light blue car should be familiar to fans of a certain boy wizard.
The requisite back story for the blue car:
A trio of intrepid survivors convert an old Ford Anglia into a zombie defense platform — complete with Browning M2 .50 Caliber machine gun and M134 Minigun requisitioned from an abandoned Army base. The flamethrower is apparently homemade.
Of course, these particular survivors have a few extra tricks up their sleeves. Other survivors say that the color of the fire from their flame thrower "just ain’t right." They can also be heard to exclaim "Incendio Cranium!" as they charge into a horde of zombies.
UPDATE: I had so much fun with the little pink Vespa leading the charge that I had to build her a gang of zombie-hunting comrades.
Artist Brian Colin recently painted a series of small canvases featuring LEGO zombies. Gotta love that Classic Space zombie leading the horde.
Perhaps not the thing to hang in your baby’s nursery, but awesome on so many levels that I wanted to pick up a couple myself. Sadly, I was vetoed by my wife. The good news is that I’ve picked up a couple as prizes for Zombie Apocafest 2009.
Via Boing Boing.
Kevin Fedde (Crimson Wolf) knows that things are a bit safer in northern climes during a zombie outbreak.
I really like the contrast between the grey police station and the tan restaurant. The LEGO Universe panel on the top of the building is also a great detail.