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.
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.
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!