Secrets of the Model Builders

Hi, Liam here!

On a recent trip to Florida, we spent the day having a completely AWESOME time at LEGOLAND. When some of the staff heard about the work we had been doing for BrikBros, they helped to arrange a meeting with Roger, a model builder who works at the LEGOLAND Florida Model Shop.

Now, you might be wondering, What does a model builder who works at LEGOLAND do? In fact, they do a lot of stuff. LEGOLAND parks have lots and lots of LEGO models throughout the park, from life-sized dinosaurs and elephants to knights in shining armor. There are also many mini-scale models of real-world places in Miniland, and the model builders build it all.

When we arrive at the Model Shop, we’re greeted by Roger, who shows us in. It’s like walking into a LEGO lover’s dream. To the left, there are shelves upon shelves of LEGO bricks, all sorted by piece and color (I wish ours were sorted that nicely). To the right is the model builder’s workplace. A couple desks flank tables piled with models in progress. The wall on the right side is covered with shelves containing historical LEGO models. As we walk through, we have to watch out for boxes containing LEGO models that were mass-produced by the main LEGOLAND shop and shipped in. They’re to go in rooms in the newly completed LEGOLAND Hotel.

Roger tells us about the challenges of having models outside year round. We learn that some pieces fair better in the Floridian climate than others — red works well, but blue can fade and crack. To solve this problem, the model builders put a special glue on the pieces. This glue helps to keep them in good condition, as well as together. Another way that the model builders keep the models, especially in Miniland, at their prime is to sand off the outer layer of models when the colors get too faded. This reveals the still-bright plastic beneath, and sustains the life of a model. But when a model gets really and truly beat, the model builders just have to get to work building a new one.

Roger also explains how the large-size models are built. He tells us that there are some basic templates for building minifigures of different sizes — start with the basic shape and then build in the unique details. Another secret of the model builders are the metal frames that hold up the larger models. Each one is specially made for the model that it supports, and is the secret that enables such large models to stand.

But how do they build these models in the first place?

Roger tells us about a special computer program that enables you to build large-scale models and expand a small-scale model. Another way that model builders plan out their models is by creating mini versions of the models, so that they can capture the shape of the models before spending all the time and effort to build the full-sized version.

And then there are all the lights, sounds, and movements. How do they create that out of LEGO?

They don’t. After the models are created, they send them over to the effects shop. These are the people who add in all the lights, motors, speakers, wiring and other mechanical parts that make the models come alive. To make space inside the models to fit all of the animatronics, they will sometimes have to hollow out the inside of a model, leaving nothing but the outer shell.

So next tine you see a LEGO model or sculpture, think a little more about how it was built and created. What is hiding inside? How is it supported? How might it move or light up? Think about not only what it looks like, but what it went through to to look like that.

Have fun, and keep on building!

Liam and Theo

The Brik Bros

 

 

 

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A LEGO elephant
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The sign leading to the model shop
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The left wing of the model shop
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The right wing of the model shop
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Shelves of sorted LEGO bricks
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A metal frame supports this minifig torso
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A LEGO lamp — and its large copy
LEGOLAND Model Shop Torch
An example of some wiring in a model
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Roger (left), and Tyler, a LEGOLAND employee (right), with the bros

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