Yesterday afternoon, the competition winners and Brickset staff and friends met up at the new hotel at LEGOLAND Windsor for a preview of the new Star Wars Miniland expreience at LEGOLAND Windsor. There was around 50 people in total in the party, including people from the Brickish Association, FBTB, Jedi News and Pocket-Lint.com.
The hotel warrants a news article to itself but for now I'll concentrate on the Star Wars display, which is in what used to be the Creation Centre/Racers ride building at the top of the hill, behind the Big Shop and cafe. We had a long walk from the very bottom of the park, where the hotel is, to the top of the hill but thankfully it was a warm spring afternoon so it was very pleasant and a good opportunity to talk shop with the members of the other online communities.
Unlike similar SW displays at the other LL parks, this one is totally indoors which has its advantages but also disadvantages: more on which later.
It's divided into seven 'clusters' each in a separate room which are organised almost cronologically:
- Clone Wars (out of sequence): Christophsis battle scene
- Episode 1: Naboo, City of Theed/Hangar Duel and Battle of Naboo
- Episode 2: Battle of Geonosis and the Arena
- Episode 3: Kashyyyk & Mustafar
- Episode 4: Tatooine, Mos Espa
- Episode 5: Batle of Hoth
- Episode 6: Endor
And, finally, let's not forget, the gift shop at the exit which is stocked exclusively with Star Wars merchandise.
Loitering around the displays were various troopers, assorted Jedi, and none other than Darth Vader himself!
The models are built at miniland scale, so are of course much bigger than regular minifig-scale sets. They are full of large impressive models as well as many small details to add interest, and are instantly recognisable as scenes from the movies. There are many interactive features, activated by buttons in front the displays that, when pressed, change the lighting or start something in motion like, for example, the Milennium Falcon rising out of docking bay 94.
I said earlier the display is indoors which has allowed for the use of creative lighting that, in some areas, is constantly changing. While this no doubt adds to the atmosphere it was a nuisance from a photography point of view and that brings me to my main criticism of it: it's just too dark! There are so many cool little details but half the time they are impossible to see and appreciate because of the low lighting levels. The Clone Wars one was particularly disappointing in that respect. I don't remember any of the movies being particularly dark or set at night so it's a mystery why it is so. Hoth is the only exception and even that was plunged into darkness every so often.
Photography is virtually impossible: on-camera flash just results in reflections on the shiny LEGO surfaces and ugly shadows, the ceilings are matt black, so bouncing a flash gun from them isn't possible, so I had to resort to using f1.8 at ISO3200 and still had shutter speeds of more than 1/30 sec. most of the time. A tripod no doubt would have helped but there wasn't really time to muck about with one.
However, despite that, it is very impressive and it is definitely worth a visit for anyone even remotely interested in Star Wars.
Rather than post all of the hundreds of blurry photos I took, I've chosen just a couple from each cluster that were the best I could manage under the circumstances. I think they'll be sufficient to give you a feel for what it's like and provide encouragement for you to go and see it for yourself!
Finally, I'd like to thank Justin and Zoe for organising the trip and making us all feel very welcome.
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