The (building) force is strong with this one: an interview with Amado Canlas Pinlac [Interview]

Our continuing adventures led us to track down and interrogate Amado Canlas Pinlac (aka AC Pin). Amado was born in Angeles City in the Philippines, and works in the Information Technology field with previous employment with overseas airlines. He has called East Brunswick, New Jersey home for the last fifteen years, where he lives with his wife Marleth and their three sons, Milton, Marlowe and Myreon. Amado credits the support of his wife for being where he is today!

Strike the pose!

TBB: Can you tell us how you got into LEGO?

AC: First and foremost I’ve been a Star Wars fan/geek way before LEGO introduced the SW line, as I collected the Star Wars action figures, vehicles, and sets. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise for those who’ve known me over the years that I love to build Star Wars dioramas. In fact I’ve done Action Figure dioramas and was affiliated with various SW fan sites which featured them before I even started with LEGO. One of the problems/drawbacks that I’ve had to contend with the Action Figure dioramas was there was very little or none of the re-usability factor. Around that time, when I was growing disinterested with Action Figures, LEGO started producing the first SW sets.

Endor Capture (overhead view)

By the time LEGO released the Star Wars sets, the shift on my collection started to move away from action figures to LEGO sets. As the LEGO collection grew, I was also growing tired of doing action figure dioramas. Then I’ve started helping and playing with my sons, building play areas for their sets. Of course, these are more like simple brick structures that they used to build, play, and crash like any kids would do! Over time my sons would sometimes complain that I was taking longer to build the structures as I kept putting more detail into them when they just want to play with them! Then they grew up and had other interests besides toys and all these LEGO sets were left for me to build MOCs!

Two Lost Droids

TBB: Do you feel like there is a unlimited amount of Star Wars material to inspire and keep you building or do you ever feel a burning desire to move on to other themes?

AC: Before doing public events I’ve built in other themes just to experiment with various techniques and designs that I probably won’t have a chance to utilize if I just stayed with Star Wars. However, I keep true to my Star Wars roots by using SW pieces as Easter eggs in the other builds when I can. Droid pieces in the Roman temple and the Jedi veggies in Akai Shiro are some examples. Over the past few years have been involved in various themes doing the Flickr challenges for NovVember Vic Vipers, SHIPtember, Ma.Ktoberfest and the like. Even did MOCs from The LEGO Movie which are a big hit for the kids during the public events.

Setup Completed

TBB: I’m sure they were! Do you participate in a lot of public displays?

Duel Of Fates

AC: My first public display was during the Community Window era at the Bridgewater Commons Mall back in 2007 and had done various events with a local LUG since 2012 from which I’ve retired from. During the last five years I’ve been more active in bringing out the MOCs for public events/shows/displays as it has dramatically changed my point of view with regards to the public interest in them. Last year was quite busy with eight events that I’ve been invited to participate that started at PlayFair NYC with the BrickJournal team, in February, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center and ended with the Morris Museum Engineering Art Exhibit, which ran in December 2016 through February 2017. In between those were notably BrickFair Virginia in August, my own ACPin LEGO exhibit at East Brunswick Public library for the whole month of September, BrickFair New Jersey in October and a few more. These public venues range in size, location, and attendance but the common thread has always been that the fan feedback and appreciation for the MOCs have been unbelievable. Who wouldn’t feel proud and elated when you see and hear their reactions upon viewing them and all the more when other AFOLs mention that seeing these MOCs in real bricks gives them a better perspective and appreciation for them after all the years that they’ve seen them on the web. It has also changed the way I’ve been building new creations as modularity, structurability, and transportability become more important as now they’re intended to be shown in public.

Domino Squad Final Run

TBB: I’ve noticed a similar change in many builders, when they switch from mostly online presentation to live events. I have to ask about “The Pose”. What is it and how did it begin?

AC: It started innocently enough at the first event that the Theed Hangar was displayed back in 2012 when a friend was taking pictures and somebody shouted “How big is it?”. Instinctively just raised my two hands just like a fisherman would when asked about a big catch, when the pic was taken. Then it took a life of its own every time that I’ve done an event or display or show and the shot was taken symbolizing that the setup has been completed. Didn’t even realize how popular it was with the AFOLs until BrickFair Virginia where everybody I’ve met or knew did the pose on request as I took pics during the event. Also humbled by the fact that other AFOLs around the world have shown pics with The Pose when they also did public events.

Through The Porthole

TBB: That is really fun! What is your normal method for planning a new build or layout?

AC: When a subject matter is picked for a MOC, it all starts by doing as much research as possible to get it right. A lot of reference material and pictures are readily available now on the web but before that I’d read about them or watch the movies. Next comes the parts inventory for the required pieces where most of the required parts and pieces are gathered before the build. A prototype/working model is built first with minimal detailing to get the scale and proportions right. Then compare it with the reference material and research more if necessary, then build more and so on. If the required pieces are not available or in the correct color, it does not stop the build and would usually put filler pieces in their place. These can be easily replaced later on when the parts are available and also often would let a MOC sit for a couple of days before making final adjustments. Unusual designs, techniques, and parts usage are dictated more on how they’ll fit the overall MOC aesthetics, they’re not used or done just for the sake of having it there. It may take several rebuilds before its done but it has to look right and sometimes that means less is more.

TBB: Absolutely. Crazy techniques, for their own sake, often distract from the overall build. Is there one of your builds that is your favorite?

Theed Hangar Battle

AC: The Theed Hangar stands alone for various reasons. More than five years ago this MOC was finally completed, after almost seven years when the first prototype was revealed. It might have taken a long time to get it done for various reasons of which some were more obvious than others (no budget or money, etc.), but I’ve always known that it was a project worth pursuing.

A lot of firsts for myself were achieved when it was finally completed:
• First SW modular design/build, first MOC built specifically for public display
• First MOC shown in public with a LUG
• My first MOC submitted for CUUSOO
• First SW MOC covered in various SW LEGO blogs
• First SW MOC featured in LSW – The Visual Dictionary
• First MOC displayed at the LSW – The Visual Dictionary book signing with author Jason Fry

Up to this day, it continues to be also the most popular signature MOC of mine and the main reason why the ACPin FB community page was started/created.

TBB: It is a beautiful build. Which was your most difficult project?

AC: At the first time when I’ve embarked on a truly large scale MOC, the clone cadet Training Grounds in 2010 (featured here on TBB) presented the most challenge. It started only as small scene with five cadets in a huddle and then decided to build the whole training grounds facility over the course of a few months. The different levels of the facility and maintaining the grid work across the levels and the walls was the most painstaking. When it was finally completed, I couldn’t believe the amount of coverage it got around the web and also got featured on the official Star Wars Blog!

TBB: Nice! Besides Star Wars layouts, what is your favorite thing to build?

Spartan Phalanx

AC: Castle themed scenes have always come a close second to Star Wars scenes and I’ve noticed through the years how few eastern style castle MOCs were done. Akai Shiro castlegrounds in its first incarnation (also featured here on TBB) was groundbreaking of sorts since it was my first foray into a really large scale castle layout. Then the main castle was kept/stored away and a few years later rebuilt the surrounding castlegrounds with a new/flexible layout meant to be displayed in public. The whole castlegrounds can be modified with a different layout from one event to another and it made a big splash/debut with its largest layout of 48 regular 32×32 baseplates in BrickFair Virginia last year. Another distinction for this build was that the landscaping was done by my wife and this is also the first collaboration with BrickWarriors for all the Samurai weapons, helmets and accessories that they’ve graciously provided.

Tree Of Death 300

TBB: If you owned the LEGO company, what would you make them do?

AC: Give away free LEGO! Actually pay more attention to the needs of the AFOLs in terms of the themes/sets being produced. Bringing back the classic space/castle theme in more mature oriented manner like modulars or UCS type would be a start. Keep bringing out more sets and themes for the younger generation without sacrificing quality and sometimes playability comes in the way of doing a better set like bringing back the old style stormtrooper guns instead of the flick type ones.

TBB: Thank you for taking time with us! What is waiting over the horizon? What is your the next big adventure ?

AC: More MOCs, more public events/shows to display them and hopefully more outside the tri-state area maybe even overseas. Currently still a work-in-progress is the Pisamban Maragul project which is the LEGO version of my hometown church in Angeles City, Philippines that I’ve started working on last year.

TBB: I can’t wait to see it. Take care and best of luck in the future!

1 comment on “The (building) force is strong with this one: an interview with Amado Canlas Pinlac [Interview]

  1. Purple Dave

    I actually remember him more for his action figure stuff than his LEGO stuff, from back in the days when I used to still customize SW action figures. He had this weird period where he was using LEGO bricks to make dioramas for Hasbro SW action figures, and the action figure community was _NOT_AMUSED_. Nothing much was said the first couple times he posted stuff, but after a while he started getting a lot of grief over his mixed media creations (and, to be fair, even though I collected both, seeing the two combined was a bit visually jarring). Oh, the irony…

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