A Roll Down Memory Lane

Droideka, by ToaLeewan, on Flickr

When you look back at the earliest of LEGO Star Wars sets, it’s hard not to marvel at how sets have improved over the years. Just compare this year’s AT-ST to the one from 2001. But then again, there’s the example of the Droideka… Of course there’s no besting the amazingly intricate Technic set from 2000, but you’d think that a small Droideka sold in 2013 would put the 2002 version to shame, but that didn’t quite happen despite the superior selection of parts nowadays. Luckily, we have ToaLeewan to show us how awesome a Droideka creation can look today. ToaLeewan used all of the parts that allow articulation this to his advantage because it represents the joints of the original very well and because it allows for a convincing posing. With its arched back and slight lean this droid looks like it’s getting ready to deal with some serious recoil instead of offering you a drink. The newfangled shells do a great job of really sticking to the model to give it a solid feel, and the piece used for the claws is simply the best possible piece that could have been used here. This creation does a great job showcasing why we need all of these new pieces. But what I like most of all in this creation, is that it also shows what we can still use the old parts for in this landscape of specialized and detailed pieces. They’re not meant to be kept hidden in the background, quietly connecting everything, letting all details to the new parts in town. In this creation, there’s not a single part that’s just there to connect stuff, not the liftarms on the arms, certainly not those old black pieces used as radiators and not even the black peg at the blasters. They’re no glamorous eyecatchers, but they’re the everyday details that can bring a creation to life, giving some familiarity to even something as strange as a woodlouse robot. Nothing is hidden in this perfect mix of old and new parts which makes it so fateful to the original. So lower your deflector shields, head over to Flickr, and discover all of those parts you have had lying around for ages and the ones you haven’t even heard about, and imagine how they could come together in something as awesome as this creation.

Ackbar ist Wunderbar!

Admiral Ackbar, by Pate-keetongu, on Flickr

Anything squiddy generally doesn’t have an extensive fanbase. But then again they’re not really known for their memorable quotes. There is one, however, to whom this observation doesn’t apply. Admiral Ackbar has a fanbase like no other squiddy creature, as evidenced by the two glorious tributes we see today. Pate-keetongu says he approached the above creation by just grabbing most of his dark red bricks and trying to make the beloved Mon Calamari with it. And that shows. I mean, there is no way anyone would have realized how perfect those bricks I can’t even describe (car engine ventilation plate thingies?) are as gills or wrinkles. How many people even know the flexible stretcher suspension part exists in dark red, so how else could anyone discover their amazing potential in such a creation other than through necessity? And only someone who doesn’t have any right round parts would think about using those mudguards as eyelids, which actually give a more accurate shaping of the eye. It can’t be possible he used those parts knowing in advance that they would form a crease in between them just like between real eyelids! The same goes for the small and realistic overhang the same part provides serving as the upper lip… It’s a miracle Pate-keetongu had that much luck! But then again, he has created one impossible creation right after the other, and demonstrates with some terrific touches like the use of the polished black boat studs to convey the wateriness of the eyes that he is an incredibly skilled character builder capable of perceiving all of the little traits that make up somebodies face and of translating it to bricks. So I don’t think luck had anything to do with it. But still, I’d wish I had as little pieces as Pate-keetongu!

Admiral Ackbar, by Djokson, on Flickr

If anyone would portray your face with bricks in such a sensitive manner, I’d wager you’d blush completely because of the honor. Now imagine someone else would also build a magnificent portrait of you… I think you’d understand why Ackbar’s face has the color it has, with Djokson paying him a second tribute as jaw dropping (if Mon Calamari even have one…) as the first. What’s most remarkable about this particular creation, is that every part is the part for the job. It’s uncanny how well that Bionicle mask works for the head. The overall shape is spot on, the horizontal arms of the cross evoke the patterns on the forehead, the vertical arms represent the sharper ridge that makes his head look real and organic, the ridges above and behind the eyes nicely represent what’s there in reality, and even the protrusion you can just see on the top of the head in the back reminds of the more pointy end of the aforementioned ridge. It’s incredible what you can do with a single “useless” part. It certainly is no lucky shot, because you can see the exact same thing happening with the forearms: the defined edges perfectly resemble segmented shells, and the little detail on top of it remind you of the less smooth features of them. You can feel Djokson isn’t satisfied with a brick that represents the general shape or idea of what he wants to represent, but as many aspects as possible, big and small. In that determination he digs really deep to find exactly the right part – I bet tens of other masks were dismissed that other builders would have been more than happy to apply. He truly has the will and talent for finding exactly the right part for a job, where every feature has something to tell. And if that’s not enough, he brings all of those seemingly impossible to unite parts seamlessly together. I have the feeling I haven’t even discovered and appreciated half of the little features represented with probably less bricks than your average Star Wars constraction figure. So time to engage his photostream! I’m sure it’s not a ruse.

MOCcing Movie Magic

ISDMO - Final Cut, by Kit Bricksto, on Flickr

As a Star Wars fan, it’s easy to take that galaxy far, far away for granted, with its grand stories, inspiring settings and infinite details. It’s easy to find everything so natural, you forget a lot of love and labor went into crafting that universe in the first place. Luckily, we have Kit Bricksto to tell us to take a step back and admire the people who made it all possible. And luckily, he tells us that in the most beautiful way possible, with a gorgeous creation.

First of all, it’s gorgeous in its concept. It shows you the entire movie at a glance, reminding you of all that was so great about it with a minimum of bricks. At the same time, the imagery of the roll of film and the black bands on the screen show you it’s only a sequence of images after all, but that those images (most of them, at least, as you can see) were handled with the greatest care. I love the balance between the abstract and the realistic in this depiction. Secondly, this creation is gorgeous in its execution. Every single one of those small scenes is a wonder of composition and color, totally doing justice to the respective scenes in the movie on a tiny footprint. And that scene on the monitor – I swear I could see one of those figures move! It’s incredible how lifelike this scene is, so much so that it looks like an actual screenshot pasted in the picture. But no, it’s actually physically there. I think the effect is so convincing because of the twofold contrast between the screen itself and the scene seen within the screen. There’s the powerful contrast in color between the grey frame, the black bands and the snowy white scene that makes the screen almost glow. And there’s the contrast in depth, the paradox of a flat screen containing a base so deep, your eye gets sucked right into it. That depth was created by the cleverly angled wall on the right and the subtle use of consecutive layers to depict the icy formations. After a while, you forget you’re looking at an image on a screen on a screen, you’re just totally absorbed. The behind the scenes tour is enough to convince you a lot of love and labor went into crafting this creation. Yes, it’s the movie magic all over again.

Fire When Ready – Be Sure to Insert a Coin

Rogue One Pinball Machine, by modestolus, on Flickr

We know, we know – we still owe you a review Rogue One. We’re working on it, I swear. Let me give you the short version already: the movie was at times all over the place, bouncing from here to there giving us little time to think about what was going on. But ultimately, it was a hell of an exciting ride you want relive right away. So Rogue One was a bit like… a pinball machine! And funny that, that’s just what modestolus built when faced with the challenge to depict the movie in a single creation.

I love how all elements of the build come together with the mechanics of the game to tell the story of the movie. It’s the story of the Empire literally surrounding you at all sides. Impressively constructed Star Destroyers rule over space. AT-ACTs guard beaches with lovely palm trees. Adorable but destructive hovertanks patrol the streets. Vader’s castle sends a clear message. And there’s no escaping the Death Star. A Rebel can only fight back with all of her might, never certain of her own life. And despite everything, it can only end (spoiler!) in one way: at the bottom. You get there when you don’t have the power to fight back anymore, or when you’ve just handed over the Death Star plans to the Rebellion. Both ways lead to the same conclusion, a life lost, but in the end the galaxy will be changed. It’s amazing how modestolus turned the pinball concept from a cool gimmick into a way to tell a story that lets you relive the struggle. The layout of the machine, the omnipresent greebly reminders of the Empire – down to the slot for the coins, even the color of the ball all tell the same story, making this probably the most meaningful pinball machine you’ve ever seen. Especially when you see it in action, you see what a wonder of both building with bricks and of game design this creation is.

U-reka!

U-wing, by Rogue Bantha, on Flickr

 

Rogue One did something not a lot of content outside of the Original Trilogy has achieved. It introduced new ship designs that were instantly iconic, wonderfully appropriate to the Star Wars universe and might leave you confused, wondering if you might have missed a ship in those movies you know so well… The U-wing especially quickly found a place in my heart, and fortunately also in that of a lot of MOCcers. Am I glad it resonated with Rogue Bantha as well.

We’ve already seen micro, System and even a custom UCS version of the U-wing, but I hadn’t seen anybody tackle a midi version of the ship before. Rogue Bantha shows why that’s a shame. A midi model doesn’t have to have the forced parts usage of a micro creation, the obligatory functions for the System version or the ridiculous amount of detail to merit the UCS label. Here, a midi model is the best way to capture the identity of the ship, because it comes closest to being an actual model kit. And that shows in this creation. It just looks so natural and real. No strange gaps or edges or areas with forced assemblies to simulate something. The bricks just naturally lend themselves to work on this scale: on other scales you’ll need more complicated assemblies for the shape of the hull or of the cockpit, but in this scale single wedge plates and slopes are the perfect fit. Every single brick looks like it could correspond to a separate piece or panel on the actual ship, a piece you could take off to replace or to repair what’s underneath. The engines are a good example, with their segments that look like you could pop them right off. This way they resemble the source material well too, more so than any assembly of obscure cylindrical parts could, especially when combined with the elegant and genius depiction of the T-shaped intakes. A euraka moment can come in inspiration of what to build, what part to use or what connection to engineer. But this time, it came in the question of what scale to build in, not motivated by the desire to show off skills in micro NPU’s or UCS greebling, but from the question what would be the best for the ship. Of course that’s not the only merit of this creation (did I mention it has functional wings?), so be sure to check it out on Flickr. And if a whole new midi world has opened for you, be sure to check out FBTB’s mini/midi contest that opened just for you!

One Man’s Junk…

Jedi Search - 4/5 : The Trader, by Inthert, on Flickr

 

Isn’t it ironic? I mean, there’s no easier thing than making a mess of your building corner, but when it comes to actually building a pile of junk, it all of a sudden becomes really hard to do it right. Often, things don’t look messy enough or give the impression of being a bunch of random bricks thrown together instead of a collection of used objects that all tell a story. Sadly, that’s true for many creations, but not for Inthert‘s 16×16 marvel here.

There’s a nice mix of lovely intricate larger assemblies for visual interest and lots of tiny parts giving a nicely filled and junk-y look to it all, which is necessary for any good junkyard build but isn’t what makes this creation so unique. The genius is in the relation between the parts and the story they tell together. There’s the story of the previous life of the parts: white engines with a stripe of what was once red paint (that cape is truly the most inspired part of this build!), the remains of an astromech, a clone trooper helmet and the lightsaber tell you all you need to know about what these pieces once were. And then there’s the story of what happened once those parts became a permanent addition to the vast junkyards of some godforsaken planet. There are small nuts, bolts, washers, pegs… strewn all around, discarded during disassembly by some scavenger to get to the good parts. When disassembly wasn’t possible, brute force was used if we can believe the jagged edges here and there and the worn out tools like the drill and the piece of welding equipment that were left behind. The valuable parts were salvaged: nice sturdy panels to build a nice shack. Other parts stay behind, disconnected, because they were merely in the way or not deemed valuable enough after all. That white hub, the grey rims and the head or leg of that astromech must have been more firmly attached in the past… It’s not a glamorous or epic story, but it’s a real one giving this creation a sense of authenticity, of displaying real junk. Just look at some pictures of junkyards here on Earth and you’ll see the same state of things coming back. Inthert shows that it isn’t easy to build junk, but that it is possible by including parts, big and small, that are part of stories, big and small. That’s why these parts might be junk to our scavenger, but a treasure to us.

An Imperial Shuttle Fit for Royalty

Shuttle Tyderium, by marshal banana, on Flickr

 

We’ve all had our darker age. For some it’s going years without sparing bricks a thought, for others it’s kind of forgetting about building or blogging for a month due to work… It’s a shame we have these periods, but there’s something good about them as well. Because in the end, there’s something that pulls you out of the darkness, and that something you will never forget. In my case, the darkest part in my story with bricks was ended by the brightest ship in the Star Wars universe. The UCS Imperial Shuttle made me aware of what was possible with bricks, and it still does every time I enter my room. It made me delve into the AFOL community as well, and when you delve into the world of UCS MOCs, you’ll find it hard to miss Marshal Banana’s work. He inspired me to take MOCcing seriously. And now Marshal Banana has built an UCS Imperial Shuttle. You try to imagine the rush of feelings in me. It’s like coming out of a dark age twice at the same instant.

That’s because after watching this creation, you’ll never look at Lego models the same way again. Who’d have thought that it would be possible to build a model of such a size without making a single compromise? Form didn’t stand in the way of function in this creation, detail didn’t stand in the way of shape, refinement didn’t stand in the way of playability. Let me give an example. You’d expect that building a model of this size inevitably would lead to large areas that stay blank and boring when compared to the rest of the ship if you want to keep the spirit of it, right? I know I did, especially after building those huge and majestic, but rather boring wings on my UCS set. But Marshal Banana succeeded in capturing the detail most of us wouldn’t consider feasible: all of the panels in the wings. He kept their presence subtle but big enough to make a huge impact by working with fine negative space in between bricks, tiny protrusions and even insets, and a clever accentuating of some edges by wear that has never looked more natural. He went to great lengths to make it look just right, going for complicated setups just to give a tiny bit of wear the right shape. It makes what is normally the most boring part of the ship the most interesting. That’s pushing the envelope, innovating, showing just what’s possible with bricks where others would only see the necessity for a compromise. You could admire this creation for its size, details or presentation. But you’ve seen that already. So how about you admire it for its reaching further than what’s obvious. It might just start you on a brighter age…

Shuttle Tyderium, by marshal banana, on Flickr