What if I told you there was a toy history museum with over 100,000 square feet of displays, interactive exhibits, playable pinball & arcade machines, and an indoor butterfly garden? All this and more can be found at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York! For the past few years, I’ve been meaning to visit The Strong to check out its collection of vintage playthings and research LEGO history. A scheduled trip to nearby Niagara Falls provided the perfect opportunity for my girlfriend Natalie and I to explore the museum and what it has to offer.
With the release of the new Creator Expert 10266 NASA Apollo 11 Lunar Lander set, LEGO is once again delving into the world of space exploration. Some of the oldest, most notable, and most nostalgic LEGO sets and themes are based on space exploration, so it’s no surprise many of these sets are favorites of LEGO fans young and old. To commemorate the occasion, LEGO has compiled a list of interesting facts on LEGO Space sets, from the very first rocket ship in 1964, to the more recent behemoths of the past few years.
Want to learn some of the history behind the earliest LEGO Space sets? Or perhaps test your knowledge? Then read on to find out!
It’s hard to believe twenty years have passed since the release of the first official LEGO Star Wars sets. Unofficially, children and adults alike have been building Star Wars-themed models since the first film hit theaters in 1977. While many of these custom builds have been lost to history, some photographs of Star Wars models made their way into LEGO Club magazines like the UK’s Bricks ‘n Pieces and North America’s LEGO Mania Magazine. One of the earliest models I was able to find was this AT-AT walker from The Empire Strikes Back (1980). That movie was only two years old in 1982, which is when twelve year old Philip Dodge had his model featured in the Summer 1982 issue of Bricks ‘n Pieces. While the photography might not have aged well, his AT-AT looks amazing for having been built during the 1980s.
Do you have any 2×4 bricks in wild colors with unusual letters on their studs? If you do, you just might have a treasure from LEGO’s historic quest to improve the quality of its bricks back in the late 1950s-1960s. German LEGO fan Beryll Roehl (aka Fantastic Brick) enjoys collecting and artfully photographing such test bricks. We found Beryll’s pictures so impressive and intriguing that we reached out to her for an interview. Get ready for a fascinating and colorful journey into the wonderful world of test bricks!
TBB: Hi Beryll, and welcome to the Brothers Brick! Can you tell our readers little bit about yourself?
Beryll: Sure! I grew up in the late 1960s, so I come from the generation that built LEGO models with the few types of basic building blocks that were available. I currently live in small village in northern Germany with my three adult sons…and their LEGO bricks! Careerwise, I studied mathematics and art and currently work for a school in the special education sector.
TBB: Could you tell us why you collect test bricks and how you became interested in collecting them?
Over the past two decades, LEGO Star Wars has released more than 700 sets and 1,000 minifigures. It is no surprise that the theme has racked up a significant amount of interesting milestones along the way. From the first flesh-colored faces to the first new hair piece in 20 years, LEGO has explored a lot of new territory within the Star Wars product line.
Below we have two lists, one of interesting LEGO Star Wars trivia and the other an abbreviated history of the product line. To whet your whistle, which droid has appeared the most throughout the entire LEGO Star Wars history? How many LEGO versions of the Millennium Falcon have been created? How many bricks were in the world’s largest LEGO X-Wing that was built in Times Square? Read on to find out.
Where were you when the LEGO Star Wars theme launched twenty years ago? For me, it began with the January 1999 LEGO Shop-at-Home catalog. The front cover promised “LEGO Star Wars action” on pages 6 and 7, and it did not disappoint! My eyes widened at the sight of LEGO versions of the X-Wing and TIE-Fighter. As soon as the sets hit store shelves, I gathered my allowance money and purchased the Landspeeder as my very first LEGO Star Wars set. Now as an adult, I find the story behind the beginnings of LEGO’s first licensed theme just as exciting.
The foundations for LEGO Star Wars arguably existed long before the launch. Space exploration was a big topic of interest in the 1960s and 70s, giving rise to hit space-themed TV shows like Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. In 1977, Star Wars was released and became a blockbuster hit. During this period, LEGO too began embracing the space age and released the first Classic Space sets in 1979. Instead of lightsaber battles and dogfights, the initial emphasis of LEGO was on exploration. Conflict would eventually make its way into LEGO space sets with the introduction of the thieving Blacktron I faction in 1987. The relationship between these defined “good guys” and bad guys” was relatively tame, keeping in line with founder Ole Kirk Christiansen’s commitment to not make “war toys.”
The opening weekend of a movie is typically an indicator of how successful it will ultimately be. And even though the The LEGO Movie 2 (TLM2) took the number one spot in the box office (read our review here), the financial performance looks troubling, possibly placing the development of future sequels at risk.
The first LEGO Movie netted $87.4 million worldwide during its opening weekend. TLM2’s opening weekend was comparatively disappointing, reaching just $52.5 million. Let’s take a closer look to compare the two.
Last weekend, The Brothers Brick attended the launch event for the LEGO Ideas 21315 Pop-Up Book in Portland, Oregon, and we chatted with fan designers Grant Davis and Jason Allemann about their collaboration and how the set became a reality.
Both Grant and Jason (aka JK Brickworks) are talented builders and have been featured on The Brothers Brick multiple times. If you haven’t yet, you should read our official review of the set (spoiler: we loved it) and then dive into this behind-the-scenes conversation about creating the set. LEGO Ideas 21315 Pop-Up Book is now available from LEGO for $69.99 US.
The Brothers Brick: Thanks for chatting with us. We really enjoyed building and reviewing your LEGO Pop-Up Book. Can you tell us a little about how the collaboration first began?
Grant Davis: I had an idea for a LEGO pop-up book in late 2014. I created a model originally powered by LEGO rubber bands, but it was significantly more inconsistent than what I knew a set should be. I ended up contacting Jason because of the technical skill I had seen in his creations, and because he showed interest in my original model on Flickr when I posted it.
Grant’s first iteration of his LEGO Pop-Up Book using rubber bands and bendable minifigure legs.
Jason Allemann: Grant got in touch with me in February 2016 via a message on Flickr. I, of course, absolutely loved the original Pop-Up Book model he had posted over a year earlier, so when he asked if I wanted to join him to develop an Ideas project based on that concept, I jumped at the opportunity.
TBB: Had you two ever met each other prior to this collaboration?
Jason: I don’t think we’d ever met in person before the collaboration, but I was very familiar with Grant’s work via Flickr. I do recall he left a comment on my Particle Accelerator video on YouTube at some point, and I even gave him a shout out in one of my follow up videos for that model, all long before we started working on the Pop-Up Book.
Grant: The first time that we actually met was at Brickworld Chicago 2017 after the Ideas project had already launched and had 8,000-9,000 supporters. We both didn’t know that each other were going to be attending. It was pure coincidence that we ran into each other at the convention! We didn’t talk much about the project, but I do remember that we played some two-player arcade games together as our first in person bonding experience.
TBB: What was your collaboration process like?
Jason: We mostly shared info via e-mail and the occasional Skype call. What I remember most about the design period was that it just took a while. We were both pretty busy with other things, so it would often be weeks between development updates, and it took a full six months before we finally submitted the project. We are both easy going people, so working together was really nice, and we were on the same page with most of the design decisions.
Jason’s first prototype of the pop-up mechanism and an early idea for minifigure storage.
Grant: The bulk of the initial contact was done over email. We fleshed out a lot of the nitty gritty details there in long multi-point messages. We talked through how many inserts we should suggest in the project (we suggested two, which is what LEGO themselves decided to stick with). We set up a Google document to work on the exact description for the project as well, which helped lessen the amount of e-mails.
There was even a lengthy discussion on what exactly the project should be called. We talked through several title options for the project before settling on the simple title of “LEGO Pop-Up Book.” We at one point or another considered “Brick Adventures,” “Brick Tales,” and “Brick Worlds.” The “Once Upon a Brick” title that is on the final model of the book was thought up by the LEGO design team.
The first prototype of Grant and Jason’s LEGO Pop-Up Book submitted to LEGO Ideas.
Click to keep reading our interview with the fan designers of the LEGO Pop-Up Book
For every successful product or project from LEGO, there are probably many others that you’ve never heard of. The lifespan of these were short and less memorable and they were obviously unsuccessful ventures. However, nothing is ever lost in the pursuit of innovation. Lessons learnt are just as valuable or even more so in the evolution and execution of future ideation. Good ideas that failed or didn’t go so well can be the stepping stones toward future success. In a new series of articles, we’re taking a look at some of the LEGO failures or projects that were simply weird and never really took off.
In this first installment of LEGO Ventures that Vanished, we’re looking back at LEGO CL!CK, a somewhat obscure launch into the social media scene, back when every company tried to get their feet wet with “social media engagement.”
When did it happen?
An inkling of what was to come with LEGO CLICK was first felt during the end of December 2009 with a tweet, soon followed by a press release. But by July 2010, it had all started to taper off, which gave it a rough lifespan of 7 months from what we can trace over time, looking back today.
Some LEGO builders took Star Wars building to a whole new scale with prop replica weapons you can hold, helmets you can wear, and even starfighters you can pilot. Let’s take a look at the top 10 Star Wars LEGO builds constructed in 1:1 scale that we’ve featured here on The Brothers Brick!
#10: Han Solo’s DL-44 Blaster Pistol
There’s just no match for a blaster at your side. Logan’s DL-44 replica is the perfect tool for shooting Greedo first.
#9: Millenium Falcon guitar
Metal cover of Imperial March intensifies. General Kkaebok’s Millenium Falcon guitar is certainly one of the most unique picks for Star Wars in 1:1 scale.
Every city needs fuel to run, and prior to 1992, real-life oil companies like Shell, Esso, and Exxon provided the energy to keep brick-built LEGO cities running. Then, a new competitor entered the market — a Danish oil company that went by the name Octan. Soon, all the other players couldn’t keep up with Octan and that led to the dominance of a single supplier monopolizing the brick fuel market. Octan were not satisfied with just the ABS market, and it seems like the fictional gas company grew into a real-life company supplying gasoline to real-world vehicles… (HOLD ON RIGHT THERE!) Yes, you read that right… How did a fictional company become real?
Well, we’re not going to give you false hopes that we know exactly how a fictional oil brand came to exist in real life, but we just wanted to share a mysterious incident that popped up on the web. A screen capture appearing to show an Octan-branded gas station in the real world went viral within the LEGO fan community recently, and we decided to find out what we could. We may not have all the answers, at least for now, but we do hope that someone will step forward to give us some background and context.
Looking back, it felt as though 2017 was a year full of minifigures sporting cool hairstyles. I imagine the release of The LEGO Ninjago Movie Collectible Minifigure Series had a key role in supplying these modern hairstyles, along with Batman and the odd Star Wars eclectic hairstyle. I thought it would be interesting to step inside LEGO’s minifigure hair salon to take a look back at some of the more interesting styles that LEGO introduced for our little friends last year.