Onward Comrades! For the Tiny Revolution!

P.B. spends his time building fabulous microscale walking tanks and artillery units. This one, in Jovian Regimental Colors no less, is a little cracker. The tank carries an impressive level of detail for such a small model — delivered through effective color blocking and a nice depth of texture. I love the use of bucket handles to add detail to the legs — I haven’t seen that before. But the undoubted stars of this show are the teeny-tiny figures — the crewman and the Commissar — effortlessly carrying off some Communist-era chic with their little red scarves. Well played Comrade PB, well played.

TU-138 with Commissar and Crewman

Lording it up in a lakeside castle

LegoLord says he hasn’t built anything for four years, but this impressive castle shows those skills haven’t grown rusty through misuse. The landscaping and lake are nicely done, and the fortress itself has a realistic feel, as if it had been built over centuries, reinforced by a succession of nervous Lords. Far too many LEGO castles are starkly symmetrical, whereas this build has different heights and styles of tower dotted around the external wall.

Dawn Lake Castle

Zooming in on the details pays dividends — don’t miss the central keep atop its plug of rock, tan walls and red rooftops offering a nice contrast to the surrounding gray and brown. But it’s this close-up view of the walls which reveals the effort LegoLord has gone into to avoid the dreaded BGW — “Big Gray Wall”. The buttressing, the scattered inclusion of textured bricks, the nicely-placed patches of foliage — all come together to create a convincing impression of weathered stonework.

Dawn Lake Castle

Illuminati Confirmed

George Washington was a time-traveling Mason sent back to help Benjamin Franklin undermine the revolutionary currency agenda. Am I doing conspiracies right? Well, no matter how far out you go on the conspiracy train, you can always have fun with LEGO. Unless maybe that’s also a conspiracy to make you oblivious to the lizard people among us? As we await our reptilian overlords to save us from Nicolas Cage, check out this build by Alex THELEGOFAN that totally confirms the Illuminati are among us.

LEGO illuminati

NERDvember 2016: The happiest contest on Earth

It’s November, and that means that our pal Tommy Williamson over at BrickNerd is hosting his annual NERDvember building contest. This year the theme of the contest is Disney, so contestants are encouraged to come up with Disney-inspired versions of the iconic Nerdly character.

We’re already seeing a lot of great entries and some of our favorites are featured below. Get building now, as the contest ends on the 30th and there are some sweet Disney-themed LEGO prizes to be won! And now a word from the Nerd in Chief himself:

Mushu, Nerdly Dragon by Chris Maddison

Wall-E by Joseph Z

Lady and the Tramp by our very own Jen Spencer

Crafting war for 12 years

World of Warcraft (WOW) is celebrating its 12-year anniversary this month and there’s no better way to celebrate than by building chibi-versions of the game’s most iconic characters with LEGO. Mike Dung built a downright cute Illidan Stormrage and an even more adorable Lich King.

Chibi Illidan Stormrage

These little guys are chock-full of amazingly accurate details, from the Lich King’s iconic helmet to Illidan’s rockin’ bod. I also love the simple, yet effect way Mike build these guy’s weapons (Arthas’ Frostmourne and Illidan’s warglaives). I think I better log in now and run a few daily quests.

Chibi Lich King

Money may not buy happiness, but I’d rather cry in a Ferrari than on a bus

Everything I know about expensive sports cars can fit into a single Duplo treasure chest (with a bit of room to spare). But I can appreciate the beauty of these two Ferraris, especially since they have been transformed into stunning LEGO mosaics by Ryan Link.

The mosaic above features the Enzo Ferrari and is 60 studs wide and 27 bricks tall, while the mosaic below is the Ferrari 625 TRC which is 50 studs wide and 16 bricks tall. Ryan used a “studs not on top” (SNOT) building technique with both horizontal and vertical plates to achieve these high-resolution mosaics. The end result is so beautiful that I may become a classic sports car fan after all (Just don’t try to make me drive stick shift).

World’s largest LEGO store opens in London’s Leicester Square [News]

Today the world’s largest LEGO store opens in Leicester Square, within the bustling heart of London. The Brothers Brick were invited to an exclusive pre-opening event to take a tour of the new store, preview an exclusive set, and talk to Glenn Abell (LEGO’s Vice President of Direct To Consumer) about the future of LEGO’s retailing.

The London flagship store is the largest in the world, covering 914 sqm over two floors, and features a number of signature brick sculptures — all themed to the City of London. The doors open onto an archway with the classic London Underground sign stating “Leicester Square” and a map of the London Underground lights up one wall.

There’s a life-size brick-built Tube carriage, 2m high and 5m long, made of over 600,000 pieces where you can have your photo taken seated between a Grenadier Guard and William Shakespeare.

A stunning 6.5m model of Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben dominates the main window. This huge model is made from over 350,000 bricks and tips the scales at over a ton. The model features a working, backlit clock which chimes with a replica sound of the real Big Ben.

Upstairs there’s more sculptural fun with a giant version of Brickley the dragon weaving his way through the wall, and a life-size classic red telephone box with larger-than-life telephone inside. Tantalisingly, the phone rings but the receiver cannot be picked up. A huge London skyline mosaic also adorns the wall of the store staircase (which apparently took over 90 hours to build).

The new Architecture skyline set 21034 is exclusive to this store for the rest of 2016, and will undoubtedly be a popular set along with the 40220 Creator London Bus, 21029 Architecture Buckingham Palace, and 10253 Creator Big Ben. TBB were kindly given a copy of the new London skyline set from LEGO and you can find out more about it in our forthcoming review.

The store also features a Pick-a-Brick wall with Pick-a-Model section, a brick play area, Build-a-Minifigure station, and a touch screen catalogue. One press of the ‘Assistance Required’ button on the screen and a helpful Apple Watch-wearing LEGO store employee comes scuttling over.

The London store is also the first in the world to offer a completely new experience — Mosaic Maker. This offers the opportunity to purchase your very own, one of a kind, personalised LEGO mosaic portrait. The machine captures your image and in under ten minutes printed instructions and the bricks required to complete the LEGO portrait are supplied to the customer. This new technology essentially looks like a photo booth but rather than a photo, a 48×48 stud baseplate and a couple of bags of 1×1 plates come out of the slot. Mosaic Maker costs £90 a set.

Lester, that quintessential English gentleman, a tea-drinking, bowler hat-wearing chap appears throughout the store as a slightly eerie talking minifigure, and a larger-than-life sculpture ready for his photo opportunity. The Lester minifigure has been released as a scratch card prize with only 275 made — rather disappointing for those who expected the minifigure to be available as an in-store purchase.

 
During the buzz of the pre-opening event we caught up with Glenn Abell, LEGO Vice President for Direct-To-Consumer for Europe, Middle East and Africa. We quizzed him about the importance of brick-and-mortar stores, the theatre of good retailing, the Daily Mail, and his fondness for the 2×4 brick…

TBB: Here we are in your new flagship retail site in the centre of London. How important is this sort of store to LEGO?

Glenn Abell: It’s very important to us to present the LEGO brick in a different way. We have 131 stores around the world and the retail side of our business is very important. A store like this offers us the opportunity to build a 600,000 brick Tube train, or a 350,000 brick Big Ben. These are unique features to London – we always want to be part of the community wherever we open. And these big stores allow us to present innovative new ideas like the Mosaic Maker – a booth that takes your photo and prints it out in a LEGO mosaic pattern, then you can buy a set and create your own personalised brick portrait. This store is special, it’s our largest store ever, and it’s an engaging place for people to really immerse themselves in LEGO bricks. We have building opportunities, big “wow” models, and the largest assortment to choose from. And a lot of exclusive models you can only find here. We want this to be an experience for our visitors and fans, and that’s why the retail arm of LEGO is so important – walking into a store like this makes you feel like you’re part of the LEGO brick, which is cool.

TBB: There are obvious profit margin differences between in-store and online sales. Does LEGO believe the theatre provided by brick-and-mortar retailing will always be worth it?

Glenn Abell: There’s a balance to be struck between the commercial side and the experience. We have to be mindful of that – we need to pay the rent and keep the lights on to make sure people can come here. But most importantly, the money we’ve invested in this store is designed to delight people and to give them an experience they can’t find anywhere else.

TBB: What’s the most important element in giving people that experience?

Glenn Abell: Our staff. The people we have in this store, their passion and knowledge about the LEGO brand, the brick, and our products. If visitors see and feel that they’ll leave with a positive experience and they’ll come back. Maybe they come back to this store, maybe they buy online, they may even buy somewhere else – but they’re buying bricks and enjoying building with them. The staff in our stores are crucial in that recipe we’re trying to get right here.

TBB: LEGO has been in the news in the last week, particularly in the UK, regarding its ending of the promotional relationship with the Daily Mail newspaper. Like with the Shell campaign, this seems to show LEGO changing policy in response to online pressure. Where does LEGO draw the line? There’s always someone complaining about something online. At what point does the company decide to respond?

Glenn Abell: It’s difficult to get the balance right in these things. These sorts of decisions are taken very thoroughly, and at very senior levels in the company. I can’t add anything beyond what’s already been said in the media on this particular issue.

TBB: I notice you’ve been holding a red 2×4 brick all the time we’ve been talking. What’s that about?

Glenn Abell: I’ve been with LEGO for 14 years now and I find myself carrying a brick around with me a lot of the time. I’m sure you know the stats about how many ways a couple of regular bricks can be connected. It’s a good reminder. When I talk to people who sometimes ask me if LEGO is really making sets which drive creative building any more – this brick reminds me of the amazing things people build, particularly the amazing models I see when I attend fan events.

TBB: Thank you for your time. And good luck with the London opening!

Sky high tide

The fantastic sky boats of Ian McQue continue to inspire LEGO builders far and wide. This latest iteration from Dwalin Forkbeard freshens the style by using different angles than we’ve seen before. The bow of the craft uses long slopes at an angle that resembles a Viking ship — a motif that is reinforced by the tires hanging off the sides like rune-covered Norse shields. Meanwhile, the cabin of the ship has a jaunty lean, reminding us that this style is just as much fiction as science. And of course the mechanical details are great throughout. Plus, it doesn’t smell like rotting fish.

Cloud Catcher

What does the fox say?

Nothing. It’s too dang cold for this beautifully crafted LEGO animal to waste energy on words. Instead, it waits patiently for a morsel of protein to sally forth from a hole in the snow. Although the woodland creatures of Miro Dudas are breathtaking to behold, don’t forget to notice the expertly detailed tuft of grass yearning for spring, or the complex topography of the pristine frozen landscape. Winter has come.

Winter Fox Hunt

And what does the wolf say? Something along the lines of “Arrr-ooooo!” Which, strangely, is also what a pirate says when he sees a nice boat.

Call of the Wild

Jolly shenanigans at Pirate Cove

Master of the colorful LEGO scenes Letranger Absurde (whose atomic blast we featured this summer) is at it again with this diorama featuring a merry band of buccaneers. Showing only part of the pirate ship, the real stars are the clouds hanging in the bright sky above the skull island. The door hinges are also noteworthy on the ship itself, as is the brick-built rope ladder.

Pirate Cove