Interview with César Soares, designer of 75244 Tantive IV

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César Soares has designed some exceptional LEGO Star Wars sets, including 75218 X-wing Starfighter and 75244 Tantive IV. We accordingly contacted César to discuss his most recent creation and its development in preparation for this twentieth anniversary year.

Brickset: Why was the Tantive IV chosen for the twentieth anniversary year of LEGO Star Wars?

César: The Tantive IV is the very first ship that you see in the Star Wars universe and although it does not get a lot of screen time it is very iconic and recognisable. It is also the location where important characters like Princess Leia, R2-D2 and C-3PO are introduced for the first time. In the twenty years of LEGO Star Wars, this vessel has only been produced twice. The last time was a decade ago so we thought that this would be the perfect occasion for another version.

How long has 75244 Tantive IV been in development?

The development process for this set was about six months. I must have made at least four different iterations, mainly exploring size, ways of attaching the engines and the best way to make the cockpit and of course there were countless adjustments, tweaks and small changes along the way.

What challenges did you encounter when designing 75244 Tantive IV?

The Tantive IV has an odd shape and it is not very easy to find a place where you can hold it, if you want to transport or play with the vessel, so one of the first things that was decided was to integrate a carrying handle. The problem is that carrying handles need to be in the right place for balance but they should also be as concealed and sturdy as possible and that is always very challenging.

Another big challenge was the way the engines were built and especially the way they are attached to the main structure. Four are facing downwards and they support part of the ship when it is placed on a surface so they also had to be sturdy and capable of supporting the weight.

What inspiration did you take from previous renditions of the Tantive IV when creating the latest model?

Every time that I re-design a set that has been made before, the first thing I do is build the last version to try and get a better grasp of what was done previously. I did exactly that with this one as well. 75244 Tantive IV is, for the most part, a completely new build but I did take some ideas and inspiration from 10198 Tantive IV.

These include the placement and function of the escape pods, the way that the top of the conference room is detachable and the way the 'fins' behind this section are built. Regarding the last one, I did try different options, but due primarily to the building complexity I chose to use a very similar approach by including 2x6x4 rudders.

Past models of the Tantive IV have been rather short when compared with the movies. How were you able to improve that aspect of the set?

At the end of Rogue One you can see the Tantive IV again and because of that we were able to get a hold of more detailed reference pictures. This allowed me to get a better sense of not only mechanical details and colours used but also proportions. The 'real' ship is actually very long and thin and you can see that I tried to replicate this in this new LEGO version, which I believe is more accurate.

Tantive IV artwork from Star Wars Rebels.

Earlier renditions of this craft have been known by both Rebel Blockade Runner and Tantive IV. Why was the ‘Tantive IV’ name selected for this set?

In the early years, the name 'Blockade Runner' was generally used but in more recent years, especially after appearing again in Rogue One, the name 'Tantive IV' has been used more often so we decided to use that one on this occasion.

This set is exceptionally detailed but also incorporates several functions. What audience did you have in mind when designing 75244 Tantive IV?

From the beginning, the brief for this set was to make a large, detailed and aesthetically appealing set that also includes play features and playability. In my opinion, this model has achieved that. It provides the opportunity for a reasonable cockpit area, a section with some interior where minifigures can be placed and played with and two detachable escape pods that can also fit minifigures. So, there are a lot of play opportunities with this set.

Furthermore, it's a reasonably big model, which means that it looks impressive on a shelf if the right proportions, details and colours are used. Coupling this with a slightly higher age mark of 12+ that allows more complex building techniques, you will hopefully get a set that is full of playability, a good building experience and a model that looks good on a shelf, which can be enjoyed by both older kids and adults.

Models are sometimes designed around a particular piece which defines their scale. Did the introduction of the 5x10x6 cone element have any influence upon the size of this set?

I would say that the new cone element had some influence on the size of the ship, yes. For the intended size of the model, this particular element is still a bit too big, but the 8x4x6 used in 10198 would be too small, and the ship would also be smaller if we were to use that one. Therefore, it was decided to use the 5x10x6 element.

Another reason for using this piece, apart from the obvious larger interior, is that it allows the front of the ship to rest on the ground when placed on a flat surface and that is important because when you play inside the cockpit area, it will be more secure and stable.

The interior of this model is inspired by the Tantive III from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Did you consider designing a different interior?

The only good shot of the interior that we can see in Episode IV are the famous corridors. There is also some interior at the end of Rogue One, where we encounter Princess Leia, but not much. So, at one point during the design process, the graphic designer Maddison O’Neil suggested that as it is a similar ship, we could include some scenes from the end of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, when Yoda, Bail Organa and Obi-Wan are having a conversation in a conference room. This allowed us to implement more details that are faithful to the universe, instead of having to come up with something ourselves.

Under what circumstances do you decide whether to include a carrying handle in LEGO Star Wars sets?

Every time a ship is primarily intended to be used as a play set that has a considerable size and an odd shape, or in cases where there is no obvious or easy spot to grab it, we try to incorporate a carrying handle. We have used them in several sets in the past, such as 75190 First Order Star Destroyer or 10195 Republic Dropship with AT-OT Walker.

A particularly interesting case is with 75243 Slave I - 20th Anniversary Edition. The ship is not too heavy and you can actually hold the base, but the inclusion of the handle on the bottom allows you to 'fly' it around in the correct position and also makes it extremely easy to fire the spring-loaded missiles.

The carrying handle is situated towards the rear of this model. Did that create any problems with regard to balancing the weight of the vehicle around its carrying handle?

When the decision to include a handle was made, I immediately knew where I wanted to place it: in the radar area so we could use the dish to conceal it. I was lucky enough that the balance point was in that section. Nevertheless, I had to make two considerable adjustments. Firstly, the engines had to be a bit bigger, about two studs longer then what I initially had in mind.

They were accordingly heavier and the L-shaped part of the handle, just below the sensors, had to be included because that placed it closer to the ideal balance point. Of course, that also formed a bigger and better surface to actually grip the handle.

Did you consider providing a display stand for 75244 Tantive IV?

As previously mentioned, the goal from the start was to create a large model with focus on playability. The inclusion of a stand signals more of a display piece rather that a true playset, so a stand was not considered.

What aspects of the set are you most satisfied with?

The fact that the handle doubles as a radar dish is definitely one of the aspects that I am most satisfied with. I also think that this set, despite being primarily a play set and including lots of play features, still looks good enough for fans to display as a centre piece or as part of their Star Wars collection. Some compromises had to be made in favour of playability, sturdiness and building flow, but I’m very satisfied with the end result.

Is there anything that you wished to include but were unable to do so?

Yes, more interior and especially the famous corridor. Unfortunately, it was simply impossible to add more interior at this scale and I believe I used all available space and particularly the corridor scene would require a much bigger scale to work properly.

This set contains the first Bail Organa minifigure. Why did you decide to include him here and why do you think he has not appeared previously?

Every time we choose a minifigure line-up we try to include characters that have never been made before. In this case, Bail was an obvious choice. Not only is he the owner of the ship but he is also Princess Leia’s adoptive father and he has appeared in several Star Wars movies. A Tantive IV set would therefore be ideal and he was considered for the line-up from the start.

Did you consider including the Rebel Friend from the LEGO Star Wars video games?

Although we are aware that some fans would like this set to include a Rebel Friend minifigure, that option unfortunately didn’t make the final cut.

Why is 75244 Tantive IV not categorised as an Ultimate Collector Series or Master Builder Series set?

The objective with this set was to make a big playset that would also appeal to older kids and fans that want to display it. The UCS category is reserved for sets that are primarily intended to be displayed and usually they come with a stand and a plaque. The Master Builder Series are big playsets where the focus is more on play rather than on display. We wanted 75244 to be in the middle because of the unique characteristics and history within the Star Wars universe that this ship holds.

You have previously designed 75218 X-wing Starfighter which includes some cool yellow highlights and they reappear on 75244 Tantive IV. Do you find this technique particularly effective?

Yes, I find the combination of that shade of yellow with the white and sand blue very appealing. Fortunately, both in the X-wing and the Tantive IV there are yellow markings that mimic patches or worn-down areas scattered in some places on both ships. This is particularly visible in the case of the Tantive IV and we could see that in the new reference from the movie Rogue One. Hence, I was able to use this colour combination in both sets.

75218 X-wing Starfighter and 75244 Tantive IV are both icons of the Star Wars universe. Did you feel a particular sense of responsibility when designing these sets?

Absolutely, yes! They are both very iconic and I think I felt that particularly with the X-wing because we know it’s a favourite among kids and adult fans. With the Tantive IV the responsibility was a bit different because the design objectives were slightly different than 10019 Rebel Blockade Runner and 10198 Tantive IV.

You joined the LEGO Star Wars design team during 2016 so are presumably among the more recent additions to the team. Is it unusual for newer designers to work on larger sets such as 75244 Tantive IV?

All LEGO Star Wars designers have a great knowledge of the LEGO system and the Star Wars universe and even though newer designers usually start with smaller and less complex sets, all of us have the chance to design different sets that vary in scale and complexity. As you may know, even though a specific designer is assigned to a certain set, the final product really is the result of a lot of people working together and collaborating.

It is very common for the design team to meet and discuss the challenges of each set in development. There are many years of design experience in the team and we believe that the more eyes monitoring the development of set, the better the result will be.

Many thanks for taking the time to talk to us!

You can find a BrickList documenting all of César's models here and our review of 75244 Tantive IV here.

19 comments on this article

By in United States,

oWo oWo an interview.

By in Portugal,

Cesar Soares, another talented Portuguese Lego designer! Amazing what he can do with Lego bricks! Congrats!

By in United States,

I enjoyed this interview, I tend to go through the same problems he goes when designing MOC's.

By in United States,

I love these interviews! It definitely answers some questions...and also makes me hopeful that we will be getting a corridor Rogue One set a some point!!

By in United States,

Wow... Also, there is a carrying handle on the 2013 AT-TE as well

By in United States,


By in Germany,

Thank you for this interesting and informative interview!

Given the mission statement, the designer surely did an admirable job. Now all I hope is that the next mission statement reads: "Make a UCS star destroyer, and make it big!" ;-)

By in United States,

Interviews are some of my favorite things to read on brickset, along with reviews.

By in France,

Interesting interview. I am still a little perplexed that is neither UCS nor Master Builder. I don’t really buy his explanation. Still on the fence whether to get this....

By in United Kingdom,

Based on his descriptions, this is a Master Builder set...

By in France,

6 months for designing 75244? Sounds quick. I would have expected like a good 9 months or a year to do such set. It's so amazing and perfect.

By in United Kingdom,

Interview doesn’t confirm anything we didn’t already know. Would be good to know reasoning behind non classification as a UCS set. Commercial or design decision? I personally can’t see the value of this as a playset. Too big and detailed. Better to go whole UCS hog and make it as detailed but same size as 10019 in my opinion

By in United States,

@Tynansd: I don't see why it can't be accepted as a playset? Yes, it's big—but any playset of this ship would have to be if they wanted to both preserve its dimensions and silhouette (something that the earlier playset of this ship did a much poorer job of) and have room inside for play (since its narrow profile offers less interior space at a small scale than a ship like the Millennium Falcon or a Star Destroyer).

By in United States,

Rebel Friend will be in the next UCS...

By in United States,

Great interview! Thanks for that!

By in Netherlands,

To add to Lyichir, I imagine TLG hardly felt they could do an anniversary set that WASN’T a playset. That would be alienating the very heart of the origins of the theme. So I guess they tried their best to make it have sufficient AFOL appeal to satisfy us lot as well.

Say that is what was going through their minds from a marketing standpoint, I would have to say it doesn’t work for me. I want a stand, not a handle. And more detail at the sacrifice of play features. I will spend my money on other AFOL sets (I like many different themes) and hope one day in the distant future (10 years later?) a true AFOL targeted Tantive does come along. I can wait, but if you are desperate for it, this version may be good enough to still your hunger.

By in Germany,

From my point of view Lego had a bad start this year with Star Wars and practically any other theme I am interested in as an AFOL. But this Tantive (and the 20th Slave I) are the two sets which stand out. Sure, there are more detailed versions out there of both sets, but these are good for play and display alike. I don't need any more behemoths like the UCS Falcon (I don't have the space for them). But I like swooshable sets with some greebling. And despite its size the Tantive is swooshable, thanks to the grip.

By in Australia,

I cant say I agree that the 8x4x6 cone would be too small. its the same height as the 5x10x6 cone, so the cockpit is far too wide either way. What the 5x10x6 does have going for it is that the angle of the slope is more correct.

By in United States,

@TynanSD: I'm not sure much would really be gained from making it as big as 10019. While it would free up more interior space, I don't know if it'd be enough to include stuff like the corridor scene that was left out, and it would almost certainly result in a similarly gappy and/or staggered design for the cockpit, since there still aren't really any elements that can make a smooth conical shape at that larger size. Not to mention that this would undoubtedly raise the price well beyond the $200 price point.

The most obvious potential improvements to the accuracy of the exterior that a larger size would allow would be fewer gaps between the fins and the escape pods, and a smoother dome shape for the laser turrets (at that scale, presumably using the 3x3x2 quarter dome element). But otherwise, when it comes to making accurately shaped details, bigger isn't always better. Just look at #10187-1 versus #10152-1.

@magmafrost: The angle of the two cones is the same just like the height — it's just that the radius of the 5x10x6 cone is one stud wider at both the top and bottom of the slope.

Anyway, loved this interview! I think a lot of people tend to look down on licensed themes because they assume that there's no creativity involved in making sets based on pre-existing subject matter, but interviews like this show how much thought and creativity often has to go into figuring out the best way to accurately recreate a subject that was not originally intended as a LEGO model. Whereas with classic LEGO themes of the 70s and 80s, it was often far easier for designers to settle for simple designs that prevented much need for complex or unconventional building techniques.

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