Interview with Justin Ramsden, designer of 75810 The Upside Down

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75810 The Upside Down has proven to be among the most appealing sets of 2019 and Brickset was fortunate to speak with Justin Ramsden about his latest creation at the recent launch event in Leicester Square.

Brickset: How did the partnership between LEGO and Stranger Things begin?

Justin: LEGO has partnered with Netflix previously for the LEGO House documentary and this seemed like a fantastic opportunity to celebrate one of their most eminent shows, Stranger Things. The project began early in 2018 and I was incredibly excited to develop this set.

Stranger Things includes some fairly adult themes. What makes it suitable for LEGO?

The primary target audience for this product is definitely older children and adults, although LEGO is an ideal medium to add layers of fantasy. Stranger Things is quite similar to Batman and Lord of the Rings in that regard.

Furthermore, the series focuses upon certain themes which LEGO really seeks to promote, including friendship and teamwork. Of course, the set has been designed for an audience of 16+ so it is naturally targeted towards those age groups, much like the television series.

When the license for Stranger Things was acquired, was there any discussion concerning what LEGO might produce or did you immediately decide upon the Byers' house?

We did consider multiple options and Netflix were involved in those discussions, ensuring that whatever we selected would be most representative of the Stranger Things brand. However, we did settle upon the Byers' house fairly quickly because significant action takes place there and that provides the chance to include the widest possible selection of characters.

On the subject of the characters, were there any other minifigures you were hoping to include?

There were some lengthy conversations concerning which characters we should include but I am very pleased with this selection. We needed to focus upon those who were most relevant to the house and were among the most popular with fans. Crystal [Fontan] and Casper [Glahder] created the graphics and captured all the necessary details while here element designers created three news pieces for this set.

75810 The Upside Down is an unusual set, featuring large sections with the studs pointing upwards and downwards. What challenges did that entail?

Watching the series was integral to developing this set and we were particularly drawn to the end of season two where the camera twists to reveal the Upside Down, perhaps suggesting that we should interpret the Upside Down in the same way. Of course, its name also gives a potential clue to how we might best represent another dimension!

There was discussion about building the two houses side by side, reflecting the Demogorgon's ability to pass through walls, but we were confident in electing to invert the Upside Down. Assembling an upside down section had the potential to be extremely difficult so we decided to split the houses and that also enabled us to divide the building experience so two people can construct the houses concurrently!

Presumably the set contains two instruction manuals?

Absolutely. We included matching colours between the two booklets and the sticker sheets are unusual too as one sheet is actually upside down! Also, the box is designed with two LEGO logos so it can be displayed either way up which is really fun.

How did you design supports for the model?

Multiple options were considered and there was certainly some trial and error involved. For example, we wondered about including a dedicated frame to support the model or the chimneys might serve as supports. After discussing this subject with colleagues, the two large trees were eventually selected as the most stable and attractive solution.

Both versions of the house employ similar building techniques but how did you attempt to distinguish them?

They are reasonably similar in their construction but several differences are included as we wanted the Upside Down version to appear more dilapidated than its counterpart. The vines and darker colours are quite effective in that regard, enabling us to provide many parts in new colours.

What other building techniques are you most satisfied with?

Creating such a large section upside down is probably the most important achievement with respect to building this set but I also enjoyed suspending Hopper's car. I think turning the model upside down and the vehicle staying in position is extremely satisfying!

We were also able to include numerous tiny details and Easter eggs which is always enjoyable. You should be able to find my initials along with those of Crystal Fontan and Casper Glahder somewhere within the model. In fact, we also included the initials of the team from Netflix which was a nice touch. There are plenty of references to the series as well, including a movie poster on Will's bedroom wall and his Will the Wise drawing.

Did you consider including any areas other than the living room and Will's bedroom?

Other rooms are shown in the Byers' house during the television series, such as the kitchen, but the living room and bedroom are certainly the most prominent. Including any more interior space would have resulted in a square shape that would make it difficult to place minifigures inside or display the model. The latter issue is particularly important for me as I would like to display the sets myself.

The secret of your design success has been revealed. You are simply creating sets that you would like to own!

Exactly! The dividing function in 71043 Hogwarts Castle is included for much the same reason as it would otherwise be very difficult to display.

Many thanks for speaking with us!

28 comments on this article

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By in United States,

I been seeing this dude everywhere. Hogwarts, Apocolypseburg, now this?!? He's on a roll.

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By in United Kingdom,

good Interview

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By in United States,

You should have asked if there will be a sequel set.

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By in Latvia,

Thank you Justin Ramsden for being such an awesome designer! And thanks Brickset for the interviews!

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By in United Kingdom,

^^ You should know that he wouldn't have told us.

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By in United Kingdom,

Wasn't Justin one of the hopefuls aiming to get a dream job as a lego designer in one of those channel 4 lego shows... That wasn't even that long ago, the boys doing well. Between him and Mike P Lego have taken a lot of money from me.

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By in United States,

Great.. there goes 200 dollars.

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By in United Kingdom,

'Stranger Things is quite similar to Batman and Lord of the Rings in that regard.'
Apart from this being the first set based on a certificate `15 license. Not complaining, just saying.
Does this mean Lego Ideas can have a certificate 15 section?
I'll have a Red Dwarf, a Terminator 2, and a Blade Runner set please. Best pass on Shawshank Redemption.

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By in United Kingdom,

@Peter1999 Try and find the doc made by Channel 4 in the UK 'The Secret World of Lego' which - among other things - shows Justin going through the stages of getting his job as a Lego designer.

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By in United States,

Adult content, ppfffttt. My seven year old loves this show. I'm so glad this question was asked, because there should be more dialogue about what we consider appropriate content for children. Kids are different and are going to have different experiences, interests, and thresholds. We shouldn't assume something is only for adults because it's scary; kids get scared too, and it's a good thing for them to see other kids handling that emotion in a courageous way, especially if they have a good grasp of fantasy and fiction. And some kids, like my own, just like weird creatures and monsters. There's only so much Disney fluff some of us can digest; this is a breath of fresh air!

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By in United States,

Hope they make Hawkins lab next, with characters like Steve, Nancy, Bob, Max, and Doc Owen. Hawkins Middle-school would be great to. This just needs to be a line of sets. Please lego, make more

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By in United States,

I got to see a finished model at the Lego Store last night and look at the minifigures up close. The house flipping is pretty fun, it was just cool to grab this model in the store and flip it!

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By in United States,

My daughter is 12 and has loved this show for its entire run. Middle school is definitely the right age. There's some visceral deaths and adult themes, but nothing a kid can't handle.

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By in United States,

Thanks for this interview.

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By in United States,

Such an enjoyable build! Even if you don't want to connect the two builds together, the design of Sheriff Hopper's vehicle and the Beyer's house are fantastic. Well worth the price for a great looking set (and great looking pieces, e.g. windows without that one cloudy corner) that taught me some new tricks.

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By in United States,

@CamberbrickGreen
Both of the Burton Batman films and The Killing Joke got a 15 last time I checked. That said, we haven't gotten sets based directly off of either.

And a Terminator 2 set would be lit. Maybe the storm drain scene?

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By in United States,

This guy really knows what he's doin'. Wow!

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By in United States,

@risdek:
One focuses on the inside, and the other on the outside. They sport very different building styles, look completely different, incorporate an entirely different method of suspending half of the build, and even have different cars. And you're claiming they ripped off some guy's MOC for making the Upside Down upside-down?

@Trigger_:
No, but a couple minifigs may have slipped through the cracks. Joker from the 76013 Joker Steamroller set looks very similar to Jack Nicholson's portrayal, and Vacation Joker from TLBM CMF wave 2 is probably inspired by the outfit Joker wears in The Killing Joke. Oddly, the Batman that everyone assumes is based on Michael Keaton's portrayal (black w/ gold oval shield from 2006) is really based on his appearance in the Troika storyline from the comics, not any movie costume.

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By in Australia,

Its been great seeing this dudes work since that lego show

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By in United States,

Great interview! This was fascinating to learn about from this perspective. I have not seen Stranger Things but the set is very intriguing! Makes me want to watch the show and maybe get the set!

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By in Canada,

The only question I want to know is will there be other sets/a minifig series.

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By in United Kingdom,

My wife informed me that our 7 year old has watched the first series as well. I'd totally forgotten. We'd watched it first to make sure it was OK. We do make sure to explain and demystify scary stuff for though and there is a big difference between fantasy horror and more real-life horror/violence. As polyester333 says, all kids are different. Case in point - yesterday she was too scared to go past the half way point on the ladder up to the loft because of the height. She was about 2 foot off the ground at the time. At least my Lego is safe!

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By in Italy,

"LEGO has partnered with Netflix previously ... celebrate one of their most eminent shows" Cool, now we DEMAND a set of BoJack Horseman!

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By in United Kingdom,

Looking forward to the Pablo Escobar Narcos rooftop chase set

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By in United Kingdom,

In the UK some certificates are certainly different. The BBFC gave the Burton Batman films a 12A. I think it would be a mistake to overlook a license just for a couple of extreme incarnations of an entire world or established story. But as Stranger Things is original, this release remains a huge surprise to me just for the content alone. I can't wait to see what else they might release!

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By in United States,

Great interview. My kids are just at the edge of what might be age appropriate for the show, and his comment is bang-on. The LEGO set does help bring the show content down a “layer” which gives us the chance to let them enjoy it.

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