Saturday, June 27, 2009

Brickworld 2009 - Friday

I woke up, got ready and got downstairs as quick as I could. I used the free wi-fi in the lobby to check e-mail, make sure “Out of Bonds” was working right and throw some quick status messages up. I set my computer up back at my table and then went off to “Being a Designer at LEGO.”

This session was by John-Henry Harris, who’s been a designer at LEGO for about 18 months (I think). Remember his name, he will appear again later. Here are the three sets he’s designed that are on shelves now. He talked about the process and constraints of designing a set, which I was more or less familiar with from talking with Matthew Ashton and Jamie Berard last year, as well as numerous BrickJournal articles. Still, it’s always nice to hear about your dream job, and know that even though there are problems (German kids don’t understand Ice Dragons, you have to stay within price points etc.) it is mostly awesome. He talked about how all the designers work together in an open workspace and get feedback from one another on different designs and how every summer there’s a period where they spend a few weeks just building all sorts of crazy new models as they brainstorm ideas for the next year.

Then I ran to Chipotle for lunch, and spent a little time sitting at my display and then I went to the FFOL Roundtable where I was one of 3 men. Of course the focus was on the ~16 women. It was interesting to hear their perspectives on the hobby and what they like and want and how they feel about their husbands being involved with LEGO etc. It ended up being more of a MOC show-and-tell than a discussion of issues, which was fun, but not exactly what I was hoping for.

Then I went to “Serious Study of the Brick” where a small, motley crew discussed the creation of an online site/forum dedicated to academic studies of LEGO. I talked about the talk I gave In January about the otherization/imperialism trends in the past 30 years. We talked about possible formats and names (I suggested BrickThink) and such. Could be interesting, we’ll see where it goes.

Then there was some a brief time for hanging out at my display before the opening ceremony. I think this is when David Pagano and I first saw each other this year. I had introduced myself briefly on the last day to him last year, but this year we hung out a whole bunch more. We’re both David Michael P’s who animate using lego and are very close to the same age, so it’s only natural that we got along. He is currently living off of lego animation as he has been commissioned by LEGO to make these Space Police animations. Pretty cool. We talked about doing some combined displays/stuff for Brickworld next year.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the other two animators I met at Brickworld. Rifraf AKA William Jennings had a little display set-up in one of the other display rooms and did some animating during the public hours. OneBrickMedia AKA Sean Carroll found me on Thursday night and he and his younger brother watched through all of my movies. His younger brother spent so much time watching my movies that by the end of the weekend he had them memorized. At some point during the weekend Sean showed me some of his movies and we laughed. His family sort of used my display as homebase for the weekend and so his mom and brother would often come by looking for one another. He also cheered me on during the combo build (see below), which was nice.

The opening ceremony was nothing worth talking about really. Then there was a group photo taken and then (pay attention, those italics must imply something important!) there was a raffle to see who would participate in the combo build that evening. The combo build was an event sponsored by LEGO where 30 lucky people were given three unopened sets and then given ~2 hours to build something new out of those pieces. I was fortunate to be drawn for it and then I rushed to Potbellies to pick up a sandwich, soda and cookie and brought them back just before the contest was starting. They put us at tables in the hallway outside the main ballroom, handed us out three sets and let us go wild.

I started by sorting all my pieces by color. The first thing that caught my eyes were those big purple/yellow spikes. I had gotten some of them when I purchased that set over a year ago and never found a good use for them, so I was determined to make them a central component of my model. I looked through my yellow pieces, saw a big curved piece and knew that they where going to be a bear claw. I made one claw and put it aside while I investigated the other pieces. I liked the way the orange cockpit and green curved sloped looked next to each other, so I found a way to connect them, which slowly took shape into a lizard/fish type creature. Then I went back and built the rest of my yellow/purple bear. Then I needed to connect the two. Having them fight was too easy and too obvious, so I decided to have them fall in love instead. I used the robot bodies to make a heart and thus “Monster Love” was born.

I then drove over to the Northbrook LEGO store for the in-store event where they had a huge selection of slightly damaged sets at 50% off. The way they did the line this year was totally nonsensical. You pulled a raffle ticket which had a color on it. That determined your position in line. I got there half an hour after the event had started and pulled the color that had gone in first, so I got to get in before a couple hundred people, some of whom had been standing in line for an hour and a half. I wasn’t complaining though. I picked up this Power Miners set for the giant rock monster, this drawbridge set I was going to buy at full price anyway, this duplo set for the adorable baby animals, and these two bionicle sets for the snowflake & blue flame pieces. I was in and out in no time at all, not really fair, but not my fault.

I went back to the hotel and finished up my Dirty Buildster creation. I was very happy with the way it turned out. I was given the Clickits remover and challenged to find a way to use it. Once I had figured out it was going to be a tongue, it was just a matter of building the rest of the creation around it.

Then I finally started walking around the 3 display rooms to look at all the incredible creations and take pictures and talk to the creators. I only got through half of one room, but I saw cool custom minifigs, this amazing pond scene, these really intense vignettes by a 14 year-old, a giant space worm, a giant football stadium (of the three stadiums on display, mine was by far the smallest), the MST3K robots, and other cool things.

Then at about 1:30 AM I called it a night, since I would have to be up early in the morning again for the public expo. Then I decided that sleep was a waste of time and went back downstairs to hang out some more. I finally talked to Mark, who had been so busy putting his display together he hadn’t done anything else (Mark update - less than a week later he landed a job as a master builder at Legoland California). I helped stabilize the train tracks on his display until they finally kicked us out of the ballroom.

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