Review: LEGO Inside Tour, part 1

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I've always wanted to do a LEGO Inside Tour, so as soon as the 2013 tours were announced, I, along with DrDaveWatford and Caperberry, booked up to go. (It's important to do it 'as soon as' the tour is announced because on the tour we learned that within 20 minutes of the application time starting, all places for 2013 had been allocated!)

So, what is an inside tour and who's it aimed at? LEGO has been organising them since 2005 and nowadays runs three a year. Essentially they are a tour of the production facilities and other LEGO attractions in Billund, Denmark, which is of course the birthplace and home of the LEGO company, plus LEGO activities in the evenings.

They are aimed at AFOLs and families, and kids as young as 7 can attend. There are around 25 people on each tour, so that makes it around 75 places per year. Our tour comprised of something like 6 AFOLs, 8 or so kids, and the rest parents. They take place over three days and include accommodation for 2 nights in the LEGOLAND Hotel, and all food during the tour.

Participants are asked to sign a non disclosure agreement. Because of this, and also perhaps more importantly, because LEGO likes to keep them special and surprising for participants, I won't be revealing everything that happens on them; instead I'll go through the agenda as published at LEGO.com and add a bit more detail where appropriate.

On day one we met in the LEGOLAND Hotel reception after lunch and were greeted by Sanne and Lene, the inside tour team, who handed out the badges, minifigs and flags that are pictured above. We then headed off to a conference room in the hotel for a brief introduction to the tour and a talk by Jette Orduna, who's head of the LEGO Idea House, on the history of the LEGO company. After that it was off to the Idea House itself which is in the centre of Billund. Ole Kirk's house is part of it.

Before venturing into the museum and vault, the main attractions in the building, we went into a room to meet Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, third generation of the Kristiansen family, who own the company. He was easy to talk to, very glad to see us and seemed a really nice guy. As I said in a previous article, he was aware of Brickset and thanked me for running it and helping to promote the brand on the Internet. He was happy to be photographed with people and the half-hour we had with him went quickly.

Then it was on to the museum and vault. Incidentally, these were two of only three places we were allowed to take photos. The museum is not open to the public but is there for employees to learn about the brand and past products. Here's a flickr set taken by a previous year's participant that'll give you a flavour of what's inside.

We have mentioned the vault before many times, but to recap, it's a room under the Idea House that is said to house a copy of 'every LEGO set ever made'. Gizmodo published a good article about it a while ago that will convey what it's like in there better than I can, but let's just say it's like entering a time machine and having all your childhood Christmases at once.

While everyone else was busy reminiscing in the 1970s and 1980s aisles, I was in the 2013 one looking for new sets. The only ones I found were the polybags that I've already added to the database.

Despite claims, it does not contain 'every LEGO set ever made' but 'nearly every regular retail LEGO set made' because promotional and rare items are kept in another vault somewhere else that is not accessible to visitors.

After an all too brief time in the vault, it was back to the hotel's conference room for an official welcome speech by Flemming Tiro Lund, who I believe is the LEGO injection moulding expert. Following on from that, it was time to meet the designers. Around twelve of them were in attendance. They introduced themselves and said what they did, then several gave presentations on the products they'd worked on and showed prototypes. For example, Mark Stafford displayed the Chima models he'd designed, and Christian (I think it was) spoke about 'Constraction' [1] sets: (Bionicle, HERO Factory and Chima buildable figures).

Then it was on to the main activity of the evening: the building challenge. Like the designers themselves, we were given a brief of what was wanted, and then left to our own devices to get on and build our models using the same palette of parts used by the designers, pausing only briefly for an excellent buffet meal.

It was a late night for some: I hear that Caperberry didn't start building until midnight :)

If I haven't bored you all to death by now, I'll publish part two tomorrow in which I'll cover events of the second day, which included the factory tours (so 'like' this article with a comment if you want more :-) ).

Update: If you want to read another perspective on proceedings, DrDaveWatford has written the first part of his review of the tour at GimmeLego.

[1] 'Constraction' is an internal name used for buildable figures. We'll use it here at Brickset to describe them in the database from now on.

40 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

Sounds great Huw, looking forward to part 2.

Meeting Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen must have been amazing!

On the topic of meeting the designers, can I ask, do you know if Mark Stafford was also responsible for some of the Galaxy Squad sets?

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By in Netherlands,

Still very high on my wish-list to attend a tour... So, speaking for myself, no, you're not boring me with your review :)

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By in United Kingdom,

what price is the tour ?

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By in Canada,

DKK 13.000

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By in United States,

Yes, tell me more with Part 2.

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By in United Kingdom,

^^ Whilst I see the attraction as an adult, that sounds like a heck of a lot of money for someone to pay to take their kids to what could potentially be a lot of 'boring' talks (I'm not saying they are boring, just that I'm sure a kid would much more enjoy a trip to regular legoland or £1000 to spend in a lego store!) so I'd be interested to hear a parent or childs view on the tour.

Look forward to hearing more!

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By in Romania,

DKK 13.000 - this means around 1800 Euro, does it not?
I do not doubt it would worth (and I would still want to go sometime in the future) but still it seams to cost a whole lot...

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By in United Kingdom,

^Yes, it is a lot of money and does not include flights, and believe me you'll spend yet more in the Staff Shop :O)
But I can't express just what amazing 'value' it is. You can't put a price on the stunning treatment you get and the access you are given. Most of that money I imagine goes on the rooms at Legoland Hotel... which by the way are the massive premium rooms literally overlooking the Park!!

^^Andhe they did an amazing job making the talks have something for everyone. Doubtless there were times when kids were bored - but every meeting room contains LEGO!

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By in Canada,

I would love to attend one of these tours, but the cost of a round trip from Canada would probably double the price, if not more.

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By in United States,

It is expensive, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good value. If it sells out in 20 minutes, there must be far more demand than capacity. I am glad to hear that they make it a special experience. Personally, I wouldn't want to go on a cheaper tour where I might feel as though I was intruding or an inconvenience to the LEGO team. Huw, I am hanging on every word.

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By in Canada,

I will let you know my conclusions as to whether it's good value in the last part of the review.

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By in United States,

Please continue the review! Sounds like an awesome time.

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By in United States,

Expensive or not. My family is going there when my second son turns seven. July 2017 can't come fast enough!
Keep up the great details, Huw. It's great that we had such a big Brickset presence!

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By in United States,

More.... :D

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By in United States,

Eagerly awaiting a send article. I wasn't even aware of these, and now I'm thinking about doing it. $2300/ea is a bit much to convince the wife about.

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By in United States,

I really want to attend one of these. :P

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By in United Kingdom,

More please Huw!

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By in United Kingdom,

Thanks huw really interesting looking forward to part 2

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By in United Kingdom,

An interesting read so far - I'm looking forward to part 2...

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By in United Kingdom,

Looking forward to part 2!

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By in United States,

Thank you for sharing as much of this experience that the NDA allows.

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By in United Kingdom,

Fascinating stuff Huw. How did the building challenge go or will that be elaborated upon in the next part?

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By in United Kingdom,

It might be worth waiting until 2016 or 2017 to go on the inside tour and then you can see the completed Lego House as well.

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By in United States,

'Constraction' I like that term and am looking forward to tomorrows part 2.

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By in United States,

More please Huw, fantastic article.

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By in United Kingdom,

Man I'm so jealous. I was told at the weekend my family wanted to get me one of these tours for my 40th birthday that was last weekend and now reading your first part of the review it certainly would have been a birthday to remember. Looking forward to next part.

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By in United Kingdom,

did you see the lovely astrid ???

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By in Canada,

For the moment, I can only live the experience through reviews such as this, so yes please continue with Part 2.

I plan to make the trek one day, though that 'one day' seems to get farther and farther away with each passing year...

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By in Croatia,

thank you Huw..more please :)

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By in United States,

more please

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By in United Kingdom,

Would love to do this.

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By in Australia,

More!

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By in United Kingdom,

"did you see the lovely astrid ???"

No.

:-(

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By in Zimbabwe,

Glad you enjoyed it !!! Like i said to Dr Dave, you making me jealous !!!

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By in United States,

It's an interesting read, so "Like"

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By in United States,

Great article, Huw. Please tell us more! Also ... share more of what you 3 did on the building challenge. I read DrDaveWatford's article on the trip. I appreciated his sharing with us a pic of his creation.

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By in United States,

Phenomenal article, Huw. Thanks so much for posting this! I would love to go on the Inside Tour myself someday, but in the meantime, I'll have to settle for your stellar postings on the subject (and so many others besides).

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By in United States,

Not sure who the person who spoke about Constraction sets would have been. The LEGO Hero Factory/constraction design team has (to my knowledge) a Christoph, a Christoffer, and a Karsten. Either of the three would have been a fantastic person to meet — Christoffer Raundahl and Christoph Röttjer were two of the inventors of the Hero Factory character and creature building system (not sure if Christoffer is working for those themes anymore, but he was a designer for constraction themes since Throwbots/Slizer), and Karsten Juel Bunch is not only the design lead for the constraction category but also a very accomplished LEGO City designer.

Here's a photo of the constraction design team in January 2012, taken by Erland Nielsen, a part engineer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23985726@N05/6893379060/

I definitely feel the highlight of this part of the adventure, for me, would have been meeting the designers. I have been absolutely thrilled every time I've gotten to hear about the LEGO design process firsthand from one of the designers. I have always been fascinated with the human side of the LEGO brand, and the people who make LEGO products and media so immensely enjoyable. Even meeting designers from themes I don't personally collect, like LEGO Friends, has been a great experience for me because it shows just how much imagination, thoughtfulness, and heart goes into every product the LEGO Group puts out.

I don't know if I'll ever get to go on the LEGO Inside Tour, but you certainly make it sound like an unforgettable experience.

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By in Canada,

He is not in that picture!

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