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!