I am now safely back at 'home' (or university to be more accurate) and needless to say, I had a brilliant time in London for AFOLCON and Brick 2014. Today I will be bringing you the show report from AFOLCON on Wednesday 26th of November with the Brick 2014 show report to come later in the week.
The event started at 10:15am but most AFOLs drifted in long before that and there was already plenty of conversation in progress when I arrived a while before 10:00am. I recognised quite a few Brickset members in the crowd including Silentmode, caperberry and DrDaveWatford along with many others.
The first speaker was the general manager of LEGO UK, Fiona Wright. This was perhaps my favourite talk of the day as Fiona has been at the company since 1999 and has seen how it rode out the crippling errors made during the early Noughties through to its place today as one of the largest toy manufacturers in the world. She discussed how the public opinion towards the company has changed and attributed a significant part of that success to the endorsement of celebrities such as Richard Hammond and David Beckham. During the Q&A at the end of the talk she confessed to there being no plans for any further UK LEGO stores at the moment but may have hinted, and I really mean hinted, at one for Ireland.
Next up was Guy Bagley, chief model maker at the LEGOland Windsor Model Shop. This presentation was brilliant as well featuring discussion of how his job has changed to focusing more on LEGO Discovery Centres and insight into the design process from concept to completion. Merlin are reputedly opening two LDCs a year at the moment so if you are living in a major city which does not yet have LEGO representation, you may well be on their list! The question on everyone's lips concerned the worn state of LEGOland Windsor. Guy assured us that Merlin were aware of this but a lack of staff with time to renovate the displays means only relatively slow progress can be made for now.
Following this, at a time when I was more than ready for lunch, was a talk from Max Valembois, set designer for LEGO Minecraft. I expected this talk to be of little interest to me as I am not a Minecraft fan but it was actually yet another that had me hooked. Max commented on the closeness of Mojang's relationship with LEGO in how the sets were designed which was great news to hear. He also made reference to the difficulties of achieving the correct balance to ensure that the final products were recognisable as Minecraft while still maintaining the unique LEGO appearance.
Up to the front after lunch was Keith Severson, leader of the CEE Team, who spoke at length about how LEGO seek to interact with AFOLs. The perception of the fans from within the company was fascinating to hear about and I enjoyed the debate about LUGbulk which ensued once questioning began! Apparently it is simply the volume of orders received which causes such delays in their delivery and for the time being we are just going to have to accept it.
Alice Finch, creator of the enormous Hogwarts MOC which (deservedly) garnered enormous attention last year, stepped up next. She had come over all the way from Seattle and spoke about how she goes about planning and building some of her gargantuan models in such a short time. It would seem that the key to her success is simply preparation and finding as many reference images as possible. There were plenty of questions for Alice about her MOCs and her work at Bricklink, which has recently come to an end due to a difference in ideas for the website going forward.
In a short break after this we were treated to buckets of pieces from the new Minecraft sets with which to begin the Minecraft display continued at Brick 2014. This was certainly popular and there were as many pieces as one might want so some brilliant models were made.
Finally we were joined by Peter Reid and the rest of Team Exo-Suit, who discussed how the model went from concept to official product and the exciting events along the way. Most AFOLs had probably already read all about this story but it was nice hearing it from some of those directly involved. One question raised whether any further Classic Space based sets were incoming and the answer was, unfortunately, a resounding no, at least for the time being. That seems like a bit of a shame to me but I was not surprised. Although the Exo-Suit has demonstrated that this kind of set can sell well, LEGO probably still make more money from City sets at the same price point as they are perhaps what younger children would be more interested in.
Thus, a fantastic day was brought to a conclusion with a safety briefing from Warren about the coming show and many of us headed downstairs to assist in setting up!
AFOLCON events continued on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings along with AFOL-only trips to the Westfield Stratford LEGO Store in the mornings. Unfortunately I was feeling rather unwell at this point and the last thing I wanted to do was go out in the evening, but I hear from others that they were a great success featuring discussion with another designer and the (in)famous AFOLCON auction.
Expect a report from Brick 2014 later in the week.
Thanks to The New Elementary for providing some of the above photos.