Brickvention report

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Brickvention is in full swing over in Australia and roving Brickset reporter caperberry has sent us this report, and posted pictures on flickr.

The seventh annual Brickvention Convention took place today in Melbourne, Australia. Some 200 AFOLs, TFOLs and KFOLs came to the stunning Royal Exhibition Hall for a day of presentations, fun, and an early look at the work of the exhibitors. Just as well we got an uncluttered view, as the show this weekend has sold out; that’s 18,000 people over the next two days!

LEGO Designer Mark Stafford flew in from Denmark last night, so hats off to him for actually staying awake and being his usual cheerful self. He gave a fascinating and often amusing presentation on the development of Legends of Chima, which has taken three years (the theme, not his presentation!)

The original concept was called Animal Kingdoms and proposed: what if the old school Castle factions such as Lion Knights and Wolfpack Renegades were actual lions and wolves? What if they developed tech in the future and went to war? Various characters were developed and focus-tested on the target audience of 7-10 year old boys. As Mark related, the upshot was “crocodiles and lions are cool. Alligators and lizards are not.” I’m just impressed boys know the difference between a crocodile and an alligator. Minifigs were intended to also inhabit this world, but it was quickly realised that they sidelined the animal characters, detracting from the concept.

As usual, Mark brought fascinating pictures and actual models from the development process. His main focus today was # 70003 Eris' Eagle Interceptor. Both Mark and freelance product design company Touch produced concept models. Touch are a UK-based company of ex-LEGO Designers who develop concept work for a range of companies including LEGO (they also supplied the concept models for the Dino theme). Their model tested better with kids than Mark’s, so sadly we have been denied another Vic Viper from Mr Stafford! But it was a treat to see how he took their concept through to the finished model. We were also treated to images of Chima character development and # 70006 Cragger’s Command Ship.

During Q&A a couple of interesting comments arose which Bricksetters may like to know.

  • Mark feels the current ‘small’ Creator houses are nothing to worry about – it’s unlikely this is a sign of where the theme is going; more likely the money was needed elsewhere this year, for example perhaps Haunted House.
  • Sand Blue was actively discouraged for a time, because it looked too similar to greys in the instructions. This however seems to no longer be the case, perhaps due to improvements in instructions.
  • Mark feels a “Space City” theme, with space police and space firemen etc, is unlikely to happen. It would play too young, and of course detract from City sets.

Also presenting today was Glenn Abell, the General Manager of LEGO Australia / New Zealand. He covered a diverse range of topics including a very important one for Antipodeans; the lack of supply of Direct to Consumer sets (like UCS, Modulars etc). These are supplied in what is called ‘drops’, and it’s clear the drops don’t go around! Glenn said they are very aware that demand outstrips supply and we can expect many more ‘drops’ in future! Parallel importing is very high on LEGO’s radar at present, but it’s hard to find out where ‘unapproved’ companies are sourcing product from.

He met Merlin Entertainments a few weeks ago, so discussions about a potential presence are perhaps on the horizon but he could not confirm anything. He felt the most likely result would be a LEGO Discovery Centre, which would also go a little way towards addressing the lack of Brand Stores down under. He confirmed LEGO’s focus on Brand Store expansion is most definitely US and Europe at present, with some Asian stores.

Aside from the presentations, the day was filled with competitions, auctions, raffles, and the chance to enjoy the models or peruse the shops. I was pleased to see a couple of vendors with great collections of vintage sets of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Finally, the prizes for Best in Show were handed out and after some amazing winners in the U12 and U16 categories, and stiff competition from AFOLs too, the first prize went to Gabriel Thomson’s Turtle Island. Well deserved – a mind-bogglingly complex build full of natural forms and charming details.

I’ll report again later this weekend on the show itself, the models and just what an amazing job the organising committee have done!

--caperberry

10 comments on this article

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By in Brunei Darussalam,

Got my ticket! I'll be there Sunday, and after reading this I can't wait!!

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By in United Kingdom,

WoW! What an amazing set... was my first thought, then I realised it's a photo of the venue. :oD

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By in United Kingdom,

It looks as though there are some great models there and Gabriel Thomson's Turtle Island looks like a very worthy winner of Best in Show.

Actually it was interesting to hear that there is a Best in Show award at Brickvention, is there such a thing at STEAM or the Manchester Lego Show (or any of the others for that matter)?

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By in United States,

The Chima presentation sounds fascinating. I always enjoy details on a product's gradual development. I'm guessing it's not going to be posted online anywhere? Hasbro always posts their major convention slideshows.

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By in United Kingdom,

@legomatt We did actually get a model of the Hall in our goodybag!

@Modok I did notice videos being taken, I'll ask around today.

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By in Australia,

@Modok: Mark noted that the presentation material was pushing the limits of what he was allowed to show so I wouldn't bet on seeing it anytime soon. You will problably see the images of the early models of the Eagle defender that he brought (I took plenty myself).

He also showed an image of an awesome early prototype of the 70004 Wakz' Pack Tracker (didn't get to take a picture) which paraphrasing: "sadly would make it too expensive at around $50-$60."

Ironically that is what we need to pay for that set in Australia ;)

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By in Australia,

Just curious to know if the question was raised regarding the pricing discrepancy of Lego in Australia; compared to around the world, when Glenn Abell was talking about supply & grey importing issues....

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By in United Kingdom,

@banmac, yes it was. I'm afraid I didn't really take notes but the upshot was: don't expect things to change. He cited issues being based around the Danish krone and import costs, I'm sure many will have a better recollection than me on this.

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By in Australia,

Since I asked that question I do remember the answer.
Glenn said that if he knew where grey imports were coming from he would stop it.

He then went on to make up some fluff about exchange rate to Krone instead of US$ which was nonsense but in the end the true point he made is that it is more expensive to import Lego to Australia than anywhere else (makes sense: small volume far away from everywhere). So AU Lego will always be more expensive.

Mark Stafford expressed some frustration about this specific point too because for him the staff shop in US is much cheaper than the one in Denmark, which, according to him, all has to do with the buying power of the massive retailers that operate across the USA.

so for us: we're stuck enjoying the Amazon features here at Brickset and hope for plenty of business trips ;)

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By in Australia,

Thanks @Branko for shedding some further insight on the topic. I knew it would be a sub-par response, just curious how he would answer it.

"Why charge more? Because we can, and my KPI's (and therefore bonus) rely on strong returns from this region back to LEGO HQ", would have been what he was thinking as he gave his response.

I fail to see how he can shut down grey imports, particularly if they are coming from retail points say in the US.

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