(Written by William)
In this Brick Breakdown series I review official LEGO sets, from the perspective of looking at interesting building techniques we can all learn from. Today we will be looking at the #76052 LEGO Batman Classic TV Series – Batcave. You can also check out the previously discussed LEGO techniques found in official LEGO sets at the end of this article. 🙂
I have to admit, I was drooling when I first heard about this set. Growing up I watched the re-runs of the old classic Batman TV show and couldn’t wait for all the cheesy gadgets, the corny designs, and the flat-out nostalgia of it all. Plus hearing that it will be a big set with a $270 price-tag made the anticipation all the greater.
When I opened the box my very first thought was; “Holy Bricks Batman! does this set have a lot of pieces!” (2526 to be specific – which is about as many as in the larger LEGO Modular Buildings.) Surprisingly, there are not too many unique elements. You will of course get the fabulous array of minifigs that cover some of the most memorable characters from the show, but other than that, the building pieces are fairly common. Besides a few elements in new or rarer colors, the printed 1×4 wallpaper bricks, and the spiral poles that is a new element for 2016, most of the set could be reproduced with existing parts.
On the whole, this set feels like it is mostly catering to collectors, rather than those who enjoy building something more challenging. The low age-range of 14+ hints to the fact that this set is not difficult to put together. Be prepared to build a lot of rock formations – I mean a lot! With that introduction, now let’s talk about building techniques…
➡ ECONOMY OF PIECES IN THE LEGO BATMAN BATCAVE
While the number of pieces included in the #76052, Batman Classic TV Series – Batcave is high already, so I was expecting a large model, I was still surprised by the final size. This made me wonder how LEGO designers managed to make the set so big with the number of pieces. The answer came to me while building The Batmobile from the very first bag in the set. In the construction of the vehicle there are sections that are two plates thick. However instead of filling these areas with normal plates, various small slopes are used.
The slopes in question are the 2×2 curved slopes that are often used as pillows, and the 1×2 slope that is an extended cheese-wedge. Each of these only stands two thirds of a brick tall. Honestly, I was expecting strange but interesting textures out of these parts in the model. However, that turned out not to be the case. For the most part, the pillow-slopes are never seen. They go under other parts to prop them up. You do see most of the extended cheese wedges, but there are a couple of them located in the trunk section whose only job is to hold up a slope on top of them. Which brings us to an interesting question, why?
The answer is twofold, as far as I can see. First, these parts don’t use the same amount of plastic. This means that they are lighter, and therefore a bit cheaper to manufacture. This technique can be a great way to lighten your own models, but generally LEGO fans are not so concerned with weight and manufacturing cost. The second reason is the economy of pieces. Why use two pieces when one can do the job? Building the Batmobile, you feel that designers poured over the decisions carefully and streamlined the design to within an inch of its life. Don’t get me wrong, authentic details in the model are carefully preserved, as most of the streamlining is done to the internal structure. So, what can LEGO fans learn from this?
Simple, if you are using fewer parts for a particular section, you have more pieces left to work with for other sections. The issue is that much of this process of finding the most economic part usage may rely on you revising a model multiple times. The trick is looking at what you built and asking yourself, what’s the largest piece I can use that does the same thing? This will always lead you to finding the most efficient part possible.
➡ CANVASSING IN THE LEGO BATMAN BATCAVE
Moving from bag #1, to bags #2 and #3, brings us to our first portion of the structure itself. It contains Bruce Wayne’s office, and the poles the he and Dick slide down to become Batman and Robin. This is a really tall section with an interesting technique I refer to as “canvassing”. In order to cover such a large structure, frames are built using tall half pillars and brackets for building sideways. Attached to these brackets are either large plates or sideways built walls. It is much like having a wooden frame that you would stretch canvas over for a painting. As seen in the picture below, the technique is then used to build a decorative bank of windows. This technique is applied to the other side of the model as well where the face of the rock wall is built.
As far as techniques go, canvassing is simple to use, provided you do the math correctly and figure out where the brackets need to be placed. The downside of this technique is twofold. First, it is only moderately stable. Those looking to put a bit more weight on a model using this technique might want to consider other options. Secondly, this technique is more about looking good and less about function. Its main purpose is to cover up large empty spaces. Beyond this, the canvassing technique falls flat. If you want a backdrop or give the illusion of something bigger, it may be the trick you need. However, if you want a more functional and more stable model, it might be better to build a bit smaller with more reliable and realistic techniques.
➡ SMALL CONNECTION STRUCTURE
Bags #4 and #5 include parts for the Bat Computer. Powering this massive piece of technology is an atomic reactor…really? Regardless of its power-source, it is surprising that the main portion of the reactor is only attached to the floor by four studs, that’s it. Despite this small connection, the whole section is remarkably stable. The technique of making this possible is fairly simple, and has nothing to do with the leaning pillars. In fact, those pillars are very flimsy and can easily get knocked over.
So how does something so much larger stay super secured, while pillars that should act as supports be so problematic? It all has to do with the way the reactor rests on pieces. First, the core of the reactor is built using stacks of brackets, which allows to build in four sideways directions. Looking from above, the piece looks like a plus (+) symbol. The structure is also built so that it can rest solidly on tiles in all four directions. This gives it essentially the same stability as a four legged table.
The next thing that is added is small corner panel walls the rest right up next to the interior corners of the plus-sign shaped construction. This prevents the structure from leaning. And finally, components are built to wrap around the small corner panels, thus locking everything in place. So to sum it up, the four studs at the center of the core are all that’s needed to keep the entire atomic reactor core in place. What we can learn from this is that many times guiding parts that only fit one way are just as good as physically connecting sections.
➡ SUBSTANTIVE VS. CONTEXTUAL BUILDING
I have to admit, I’ve had more satisfactory building experiences with less expensive sets. This gave me the feeling that the #76052, Batman Classic TV Series – Batcave was a bit overpriced. However, looking at the piece-count and the size of the set, there seemed to be no reason for this feeling. So I took a couple of days to ponder where the disconnect lay…
During this time I had a realization. There are two types of building approaches found in this set. The first is substantive building. This is where you make an object in its entirety. In this set, it is the vehicles, the atomic reactor with computer, and the many small devices. They are complete representations of the object that they were modeled after. Conversely, there is contextual building. These are the parts of the set that put other things in a context or setting. Examples of this are the side of the building, the office, and all the cave elements. Generally, this type of building is great for creating displays, but can leave a builder feeling hollow, because the model is not a true representations of the real object.
If you need another example, imagine an airplane. There is a big difference between having a model airplane you can fly around, and a 3D picture of an airplane. You know what the picture supposed to be, but you loose a major part of the airplane experience – the flying around.
The #76052, Batman Classic TV Series – Batcave definitely looks impressive. However, LEGO fans may come away with a less than excited sensation when they finish building it. Many may chalk up the problem to the set being more of a playset versus an adult model. Surprisingly, you can change this feeling with a small addition…
The major difference between the two building styles has to do with whether the model is the object (substantive), or whether it gives the impression of an object (contextual). What we have in the #76052, Batman Classic TV Series – Batcave is basically a TV set. So if you want to change the various contextual elements into substantive ones, add a film crew. This turns the impression of the Batcave into a real TV studio setup. Below is the video-review by JANGBRiCKS to give you more views of the set, and another perspective.
➡ APPLYING WHAT YOU LEARN
Building efficiently is not necessarily the hallmark of a great LEGO builder, but more of the sign of someone who knows how to refine a model. The benefit of this skill is that you will end up using fewer pieces, so that you have more to work with in the end. The important rule when applying this principle is that you don’t give up structural stability.
When it comes to canvassing, pretty much every time you build sideways you’re working with this concept already. The difference is that canvassing is on a very larger scale. Canvassing gives all your LEGO pieces a new angle to appreciate and utilize. The tough part is to make sure that the frame you build is sufficient for holding the weight of what you add to the canvass.
Limiting the amount of connection points is risky in any model design. However, using the geometry of the parts allows you to minimize the inherent issues this brings about. Proper application of these principles will allow for some fairly unique building opportunities. Keep in mind, natural corners will be your friend.
Finally, when it comes to building, there are certain approaches that are just more impressive than others. Mosaics are nice, but work it into a sign or graffiti wall and they will look even more exquisite. Build the front face of a building and it will nicely fill out a scene, but make the entire building and you’ll have admirers.
If you want to check out the set, it is currently available for LEGO VIP members only, with a wider release in March. You can find it under the LEGO DC Super Heroes section of the Online LEGO Shop.
So what do you think? How do you like the #76052 LEGO Batman Classic TV Series – Batcave? And what do you think of the building techniques used in the set? Did you learn something new that you can incorporate in your own creations? Feel free to share your own experiences and tips, or ask questions in the comment section below! 😉
And you might also like to check out the other reviews in this series:
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Ideas Winter Toy Shop
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Super Heroes Hulk Buster Smash
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Creator Ferris Wheel
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Simpsons Kwik-E-Mart
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Pirates Treasure Island
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO The Hobbit The Lonely Mountain
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Super Heroes Green Lantern Set
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO UCS Tumbler
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Minecraft The Cave
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Minecraft Ender Dragon
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Santa’s Workshop
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Ideas Exo Suit
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Ideas Research Institute
- Brick Breakdown: Emmet’s Contruct-O-Mech
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Forest Animals
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO King’s Castle
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Cinderella’s Castle
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO MetalBeard’s Sea Cow
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO MetalBeard’s Duel
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Minecraft Sets
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Disney Princess Sets
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Back to the Future DeLorean
- Brick Breakdown: The LEGO Movie Ice Cream Truck
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Parisian Restaurant
- Brick Breakdown: The LEGO Movie Flying Flusher
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO The Hobbit Dol Guldur Battle
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Winter Village Cottage
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Winter Village Market
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Lord of the Rings Council of Elrond
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Castle Dragon Mountain
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Lord of the Rings Pirate Ship Ambush
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Ninjago Golden Dragon
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Superman Black Zero Escape
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Tower of Orthanc
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO City Dump Truck
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Monster Fighters Ghost Train
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Lone Ranger Silver Mine Shootout
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Lone Ranger Constitution Train Chase
- Brick Breakdown: Ninjago Temple of Light
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Lone Ranger Colby City Showdown
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Lone Ranger Comanche Camp
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Lone Ranger Stagecoach
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Star Wars AT-RT
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Arkham Asylum Part 1
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Arkham Asylum Part 2
- Brick Breakdown: Legends of Chima Polybags