Tag Archives: Rod Gillies

I own an island off the coast of Costa Rica – a really small one

“Welcome to Jurassic Park”. I’ve loved Jurassic Park since devouring Michael Crichton’s original novel in 8 hours of straight reading, months before the movie adaptation had even been announced. Then there were the years of waiting, wondering if Spielberg could possibly deliver on Crichton’s vision, before we finally experienced the jaw-dropping impact of seeing “real” dinosaurs on the big screen. In a world where CGI effects are the norm, cinema audiences have become rather blasé about regularly seeing the impossible made real — back in 1993, this was something special. The effect this movie had on me was considerable, and I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of recreating elements of the film in bricks. I figured I’d never be able to build a LEGO version of the whole park to the scale I wanted if I used minifigures, so instead I decided to give it a go in microscale…

I own an island off the coast of Costa Rica

Click to see close ups of the model

If you can dream it, you can build it

I’m a die-hard Disney fan. Walt is one of my creative heroes — a constant source of inspiration — and the theme parks at DisneyWorld are some of my favourite places. The current lockdown situation has seen us have to cancel a family trip to Florida, and whilst there are obviously much more serious problems in the world than a missed holiday, I’ve been feeling a bit down about it. I decided to cheer myself up by attempting to recreate some Disney magic with LEGO bricks. Three years ago, I enjoyed putting together a microscale LEGO version of Cinderella’s Castle, so I decided to set myself the challenge of creating some other iconic theme park sights. In addition to a rebuild of the Magic Kingdom’s centrepiece castle, I took a crack at Spaceship Earth at Epcot, and the Chinese Theatre at Hollywood Studios. We’ll see where my microscale tour of central Florida takes me next, but I feel Animal Kingdom and Typhoon Lagoon beckoning…

LEGO Disneyworld Magic Kingdom Epcot Hollywood Studios

Small, or far far away?

Some LEGO builders return over and again to the same subject — obsessively tinkering with a particular design, fiddling with the structure or details in an endless quest to “improve” their creation. My particular obsession is with microscale Star Wars — the attempt to capture iconic spaceships and movie scenes in the minimum number of pieces. Microscale building can be a dangerous time-suck of a pastime, as the smallest tweak in part choice or connection can make all the difference in the final appearance of a model. For as long as I’ve been an adult builder I’ve been fiddling around with tiny Star Wars scenes. I must have built these subjects in microscale dozens of times, but on every occasion, the design gets tweaked and revised and tightened. Maybe someday I’ll be content with them, but in the meantime, here are the current iterations. First up, Episode IV: A New Hope

LEGO Star Wars A New Hope

Click to see models from Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi

The rules of the race

In the non-LEGO “real” world, I work in innovation, developing ideas for new products, mostly in the world of drinks. Doing work like this, you come across multiple techniques for enhancing creativity and improving idea generation. In my experience, one of the most effective is the setting of constraints and rules around what you’re trying to do. Although it seems counterintuitive, the narrowing of possibility, the scaling-back of the intimidating blank canvas, gives more permission and opportunity for creativity. That’s where my recent Hover Car Racer models came from. In a bid to get past a bout of “builders’ block,” I set myself some constraints — a handful of key elements which would be common across the models, but beyond those, each racer could vary in design. The “rules” I set myself: bold color styling, a whiff of a muscle car, elements of asymmetry, and an enclosed cockpit. I’m really pleased with the variety which arose from sticking within these constraints and was pleasantly surprised at the creative flow of the building process…

LEGO hover car speeder

The next time you’re struggling through a bout of the creative block (regardless of your creative medium of choice), I’d recommend setting yourself some constraints. Give yourself an unreasonable time limit, drastically limit the materials you can use, or set size and/or color restrictions — paradoxically, you’ll find such limitations will set you free.

Once I had a few models, it seemed natural to expand the world of Hover Car Racing. I imagined a future where the drivers are rockstar celebrities, with wall-to-wall coverage of races on every channel. I love taking a model and presenting it in a way that implies a broader universe around it…

LEGO hover car racer speeder

Out, into the long cold dark

A recent touch of insomnia prompted this latest LEGO model. I found myself lying awake, staring at the ceiling, caught up in concern as to how sentient robots would cope on long interstellar journeys when their human companions are all tucked up in cryosleep. Maybe they shut down for a decade or so, but maybe they just wander the silent corridors of the ship, lonely and cold? This melancholy scenario wouldn’t leave me alone, and so I built it to try and get it out of my head. The robot’s stooped posture was key to the feeling I was trying to create. I wanted him to look old and tired, and perhaps a little apprehensive, as he shuffled through the empty halls of his vessel. I’d originally planned to shoot the photo and then filter it to a black and white image. However, built in shades of grey, it turned out exactly how I wanted without much processing. I hope it captures the slight air of gloom, which prompted the build.

Traveller

Hover car racer crosses the line

This was one of those LEGO models which seemingly popped out of nowhere during the creative process. I started off fiddling around with the new mudguard pieces, thinking they might make for interesting detailing, and almost before I knew it, I had something reminiscent of a muscle car engine grille. At that point, the retro racing vibe kicked in and the rest of the model came together in a couple of hours. I think asymmetry always adds an interesting spark to a model, and so the off-centre elements — the stripe and the protruding engine — were in the plan from an early stage. The domed cockpit came late to the party, but it’s the part of the model I’m most pleased with. I feel it adds a Jetsons-esque touch of the retro-ridiculous, and makes the model more fun than it might have been otherwise. Similarly, the addition of the Friends sticker on the front wing fitted with a racing theme, but represented a change from the usual livery applied to futuristic LEGO vehicles.

Hover Car Racer - March 2020

Once the model was complete I obviously had to build some kind of backdrop for it. The panel-based scenery is plain and simple, but that’s okay as I’d always planned to motion-blur the hell out of it! I know some people prefer to see their LEGO models in plain and unfiltered images, but for me this one demanded some oomph. I’ve been watching a lot of the Netflix F1 documentary recently, and I was trying to capture something of the same feel, conveying the dynamic nature of the hover car racing competition I had in my head.

You know my methods Watson

When the body of Sir Charles Murgatroyd is discovered in his library, the local Constabulary are immediately called for. Foul play is suspected, and an investigation begins. Despite their best efforts, the police remain baffled as to motive or culprit. Only one hope remains, to summon the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr John Watson…

LEGO Sherlock Holmes and Watson

Since reading The Hound of the Baskervilles as a child, I’ve always been a huge fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. I’ve often pondered the idea of building scenes from some of his most famous adventures, and this little model was something of a trial. The library-based murder depicted is not based on any particular story, but I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. The trickiest bit of the whole model was the window — it took my ages to get the curtain to look right, and to get the leaded windows to fill the space without gaps.