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Brick Breakdown: LEGO Batman – Batcave

by admin on February 25, 2016

in LEGO Super Heroes

(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. 🙂

#76052 LEGO Batcave Box Front

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.

#76052 LEGO Batcave Box Back

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.

#76052 LEGO Batcave Details

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.

#76052 LEGO Batcave Batmobile

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.

#76052 LEGO Batman Batcave Review Walls

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.

#76052 LEGO Batcave Cave

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…

#76052 LEGO Batcave

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.

#76052 LEGO Batman Batcave Available Now

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.

Shop LEGO Batman Batcave

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:

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

jabber-baby-wocky February 25, 2016 at 11:58 AM

I’m conflicted abut this set. I like the front of the mansion, the room and the Batmobile. The generator looks good too. But the whole thing doesn’t come together very well as a display piece. The building is too weird from the side and the back. I like your idea though to just imagine this as a film set rather than an actual real location.

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Will February 25, 2016 at 12:27 PM

You’ve pretty muched nailed all the issues that people will have with the set. And considering the price of the set these are very valid concerns.

I really wish that the mansion was more than a fake wall and a partial office.

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Alicia Stella February 25, 2016 at 2:44 PM

Adding a film crew is the best idea I’ve heard to make this set feel more complete. The same concept could be applied to The Big Bang Theory set and could really improve the overall feeling of the sets when displayed on a shelf. Thanks for the tip!

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TheBrickLot February 25, 2016 at 10:47 PM

I’m gonna get this for my soon-to-be BrickLink store, oh Admin should I have like a “grand opening” for my BrickLink store or just gradually add parts?

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admin February 26, 2016 at 10:19 AM

Hm… you technically can’t operate a BL store until you are 18. If you do want to open a store now, I would suggest you team up with your parents. You can learn to run many of the activities of the store – like book-keeping, packaging, inventorying – but the transactions and communication on BL must be done by an adult. This is because under 18 you can’t enter into a legally binding contract, and taking money from customers and shipping their items are legally binding. So discuss it with your parents if they want to manage a store for you, and you can be an assistant.

As far as a grand-opening, if a BL account has zero feedback, it is a good idea to announce the store-opening in the BL forum so people don’t think the store is a scam. In general it is best to have at least 10 positive feedback on the account as a buyer before starting to sell. Zero feedback stores are looked at suspiciously. But the store opening and communication must be done by an adult. BL members and administrators are very good at spotting teens who try to operate a store, and the account will get shut down immediately.

If you are planning to add less than 10,000 parts, it is not worth having a grand opening as the store is too small, and you will get more criticism than orders. Also, a grand opening can mean getting flooded with orders and then not being able to manage it all. That is the absolute worst you can do. You can end up with a bunch of negative feedbacks due to mistakes, delayed shipping and poor customer service. Once you damage the reputation of your store like that, it is extremely difficult to recover. Your store can even get shut down if at least three people complain. Once your store is shut down you can never open it again (unless you fully satisfy all previous customers). So yeah, a grand opening usually means having a larger inventory, and be fully prepared to handle the amount of orders. For a small, or part-time store it is best to just quietly upload items and let orders trickle in evenly.

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TheBrickLot February 27, 2016 at 10:10 PM

Well, I know that…but it is just like buying online, you just have to have parental guidance. So I have “teamed up” with my parents, they allow me usr paypal. Lol I have 12-20 100% positive feedback, I was think more than 10,000 prob. more like 20,000 but a lot of rare parts too. I would be so paranoid about messing them up that I could triple check, plus as long as it makes money (and I can get my school done) my parents are fine if I spend a heck of a lot of time/money on it. And I am planning on full-time thing bc my employee can do the YouTube and blogs… dang that is a long one!

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admin February 28, 2016 at 10:34 AM

Just be aware that “parental guidance” is not enough on BL. You do have to be 18 to be a member. Minors can only indirectly help – never managing the account themselves. If any buyer or seller ever finds out that you manage the account, you will be reported and your account shut down. I’m an active member on the BL forum and see this almost daily. It is taken very seriously. Having said that, I know at least two stores that where managed by teens and they were never discovered. Now both are young adults so they are safe. They were careful to never mention their age in any communication whatsoever that they are underage, and they managed their stores very professionally. On the other hand, kids are busted almost daily because they say something childish, or they absent mindedly link to their YouTube channel, or blog, or FB page in an email to a seller or a customer, or at the forum. So best is to know the rules. So do what you can to stay on the good side, because loosing access to BL for a LEGO fan is pretty devastating. If your family does have employees and they are adults, they can manage the store for you – just sayin’. 😉

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TheBrickLot February 28, 2016 at 10:59 AM

Well, I didn’t even know that BL had a forum, and my parents will run I’ll just help them. Do you have a BL store and if so how do you make your slash hosted by BL and have paragraphs? What if I say (like on my YouTube and blog) if “…the BL store I help with” would that be ok?

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TheBrickLot February 28, 2016 at 11:03 AM

Oh, and also is it possible to make it not show your state? If that is not possible, I will never connect my blog or YouTube to it.

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admin February 28, 2016 at 11:40 AM

Your state must show. Otherwise buyers won’t know where they are shopping from. Also, keep in mind that your buyer will get your full name and address when they place an order. I would suggest you do not link from your YouTube channel to your store if you want to maintain any kind of privacy and separation between the accounts. Plus it would be a dead giveaway about your age.

The only clean way for you to run a store is that the account is registered under your parents (or another adult) and they manage the transactions. You simply help with sorting, packing, shipping and that kind of stuff. I would suggest that you talk this through with your parents. While online transactions are easy to perform, legally speaking they are pretty serious stuff that can get both you and your parents into trouble if anything goes wrong. So thread carefully.

A minor going on a shopping spree under their parents PP account is one thing. It will usually only get the child in trouble with their parents, if it was done without their knowledge and consent. The kid will get a good spanking and extended timeout from the internet. But the parents are still responsible and have to pay the bill. Selling as a minor is a whole other matter that can have a lot more serious consequences.

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admin February 28, 2016 at 11:20 AM

Yes, I have been running a BL store since 2008. You don’t necessarily have to set up a separate splash-page. What is important is your terms page. If you don’t have a splash page, your terms page will show up on both tabs. It is totally fine to leave it like that. For paragraphs you need to use simple html. There is a guide here how to do it: http://www.bricklink.com/help.asp?helpID=180

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TheBrickLot February 28, 2016 at 1:25 PM

Yes it is registered under my parents, OK so I won’t connect the accounts, OK so they have a separate type of HTML, yes I know about transactions as I have been running a successful E-Bay store for 3 years. Also just as a precaution can you delete all these comments? 😀

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admin February 28, 2016 at 2:56 PM

If the account is under your parents you should have no problems. As I said, even some teens get away with running a store successfully for years, but in my opinion it is best not to risk it. I normally don’t delete comments (unless they are offensive or spam) because the discussion can be helpful for others as well. If something is really personal you can always email me, and I try to help where I can. If you want, I can change your name to anonymous or something on these comments so it doesn’t look like its coming from you. But I don’t think there is a reason to be nervous, as your BL account is in good standing. It is awesome that you can get so much experience with running a business when you are still young. You will be a pro by the time you are an adult and way ahead of older folks. 😉

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Jim February 26, 2016 at 9:26 AM

2000+ bricks! Wow! And it comes to stores soon I really want it. By the way check my school’s blog and reply back to me.
http://kingfisher2015.manorprimary.net/2016/02/26/connect-communicate-collaborate/#respond

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Koz February 26, 2016 at 9:53 AM

just way too much money.

I would like to see the plans for the batmobile. That I would love to put it together.
Why? 1st car with both characters in it:)

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admin February 26, 2016 at 10:20 AM

I’m sure the instructions will be uploaded to LEGO’s website soon, so you can build the Batmobile separately. 🙂

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