(Written by William)
In this Brick Breakdown series I’m reviewing official LEGO sets but with a bit of a twist. Instead of just writing a general review I focus on unusual and clever building-techniques LEGO designers used in the set. This way we can all learn new building ideas to use in our own LEGO creations, or at least get some inspiration to look at LEGO elements in a different way. 🙂
Today I will show you some interesting building techniques in the smallest of the LEGO Legends of Chima sets. LEGO Legends of Chima has exploded on the scene with a whole new action line. With it come brand new animal characters along with their funky vehicles. The oddest among these are those found in the small LEGO polybag sets.
Many times, these small impulse sets are disregarded as being extra fluff with little to no building potential. If you take a moment however, you will realize there may be a LEGO building technique or two that is hidden away in these small packages. And when you have an idea of what they are, you may just have a new respect for them. 😛
➡ LEGO COMPERATIVE SIZE
No matter what is built, whether it is a ski-sled, glider, or off-road ATV, the scale of the LEGO polybag models remains remarkably similar to one another. This is due to one of the major founding principles of vehicle design known as the “core”.
In the LEGO Legends of Chima sets this core consists of a 2×6 stud plate. As a foundation, it anchors all the various elements, and at the same time it creates a scale to the model. This technique is then applied to every vehicle so that no one character is given an unfair size difference.
Comparative size allows LEGO builders freedom of expression while at the same time defining the space they are allowed to use. This is important to LEGO since they often make polybag vehicle sets. You can just imagine the complaints they would hear if all the sets were roughly the same price but one was much larger than the rest. It’s trivial, but could be a real concern.
➡ ZOOMORPHISM IN LEGO SETS
This is probably the most interesting LEGO building technique found in the LEGO Legends of Chima line. It is the application of animal characteristics to non-animal things. In this case, it is present in the minifigures and the vehicles. This is what is known as zoomorphism.
If you do not pay attention, this can easily be overlooked in the LEGO polybag sets. So let’s look closer at three of the sets. For this example we’ll use sets #30250 LEGO Legends of Chima Ewar’s Acro-Fighter, #30251 LEGO Legends of Chima Winzar’s Pack Patrol, and #30253 LEGO Legends of Chima Leonidas’ Jungle Dragster.
First up is #30250 Ewar’s Acro-Fighter. The front of the glider has an obvious hooked beak design. Add in the wings and back slopes and you have a fair replica of Ewar’s eagle-like head.
Next is #30251 Winzar’s Pack Patrol. It has an elongated front to represent the snout of a wolf and the back two slopes are the ears. The sled is also angled to further emphasize the shape and height of the ears.
Finally, there is #30253 Leonidas’ Jungle Dragster. This is much more subtle. The front has a short flat section to indicate a small protrusion. Two round tiles on the side can make possible eye designs. Then all the slopes are placed to make an approximation of Leonidas’ lion-like head. This includes the small ears on the sides and the raised mane. To further the angle of the slopes, the entire vehicle is tilted to give the illusion of a higher sloped back.
➡ APPLYING WHAT YOU LEARNED
Taken together, these LEGO building techniques are ideal for having individual characteristics for personal transports. This idea was made famous in shows like G.I. Joe; where everyone in a unit or group still can have their own personality.
In truth, you may not go to the full lengths LEGO has done with Legends of Chima. Rather you may use the idea of comparative size when creating two sides of an army. In other words, side A’s scouts will probably be equivalent to side B’s scouts.
In terms of zoomorphism, it is more important to realize that your design can exist on multiple levels. Sure it is a helicopter, but it can represent a scorpion as well. The advantage is that people will associate your creation with the added designs. So if you make a boat that also looks like a shark, people will think it looks like a predator and a bit vicious in addition to its boat qualities. It’s up to you how subtle you apply this added bit of design.
What do you think? How do you like the LEGO building techniques used in the LEGO Legends of Chima sets? Have you tried using similar techniques in your own LEGO creations? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below! 😉
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Interesting article! Good job writing it.
I actually never knew about that whole anchor scale thing, and I think its pretty cool.
Thanks for reading! It’s definitely a technique that LEGO goes out of their way to teach. But having built enough sets of this scale, you can start to see certain patterns. Notably for many polybags that contain a vehicle, it is a 2X6 plate for LEGO.
Great job Wil I am:)
Never would I have looked at the vehicles like that.
To bad I already collect 2×4 bricks or I would certainly start with collecting polybags, they are great fun.
Plus, I find it extra fun to build things with a limited number of bricks.
Everyone can build with 1000’s of bricks, much harder with only 20.
Thanks Maxx. Originally, when my wife and I bought these sets, it was for the minifigures. However, when I started taking a close look at the building techniques, it made me want to re-examine these small sets to try to dissect what thought went in to building them. It was rather startling to see these handfuls of pieces used in techniques that I would have otherwise dismissed.
Often I think those 20 part creations are some of the most intricate and well-thought out designs I’ve ever seen. In fact, many of these creations are snuck into the large sets and create the furniture, planters, little mechanical devices that end up furnishing a big 1,000+ piece play set.
Good eye on the zoomorphism. I missed that when I built Winzar’s vehicle. I thought the nose piece looked funny but didn’t see it was wolf like.
It definitely took me squinting and then relaxing my eyes for some of these creations, but that’s probably in part to the low piece count. 😉
Not sure if there really are any aquatic Chima animals, but it would be cool building a dolphin (or shark) boat with fin paddles or something like that…
I’m not familiar with the Chima world myself as we haven’t sat down and watch the TV show. But a dolphin/shark design would present some very interesting challenges for creating. As for minifigures for them, you could always go back and grab some of the Atlantis minifigures, and I think they’d fit right in.