(Written by William)
We discussed the #21316 LEGO Ideas The Flintstones set previously (see links at the end of this post), so today we will spend more time talking about the building techniques. However, before we begin, I would like to make some general comments about the set. I have to say that I agree with LEGO fans who were less than thrilled with the included minifigures. The original LEGO Ideas submission really captured the look of the cartoon characters, but this was lost with the more generic faces of the final design. In addition, there are some other odd choices made for the minifigs. This includes not giving Barny short legs, Betty having an inaccurate hairstyle, and the strange orange coloring around the male characters’ mouths (this is part of the original cartoon design, but without the rest of the authentic graphics it looks odd).
What we end up with is what looks like minifigures in Flintstones costumes, rather than The Flintstones themselves. Then, there is the case of the missing children and the family pet, Dino, who were all included in the original LEGO Ideas submission, but were omitted from the final set. All of these misses clearly devalued the set in my eyes and in the eyes of many other LEGO fans. Here is the odd thing though; I still think that it is a fantastic set. The car and house are fun builds filled with tons of interesting details. However, because the iconic characters are so misrepresented (or not even included), it may not be worth picking it up at full price. In the video below, I will share a little bit more general thoughts about the set, then we will talk about a couple of the most interesting building techniques.
BUILDING OFF-KILTER ROOFS WITH LEGO
Whenever you’re building rundown buildings or something leaning at a funny angle, you need to create the illusion of misaligned features. In the case of The Flintstones house, it is the roof that’s off-kilter. Achieving this begins with the actual construction of the roof. The LEGO designer painstakingly built slopes into the roof to give it an uneven surface, and in most cases, this in itself would be sufficient to achieve the right look. However, in this set, this is just the icing on the cake. The real magic happens at the top of the walls, which is built with tiles and slopes. This strange combination raises the question; how does the roof stays in place? The answer lies in taking advantage of the shape of the pieces and gravity. The included brackets grab the roof from underneath, and a small jutting plate prevents the lowest section of the roof to lock in. There is even a recessed area in the roof that covers the front wall of the building, providing a seamless look and more security.
The LEGO Modular Buildings employ similar techniques with the removable floors. In those cases, usually a few studs are added to hold things in place, but they aren’t even necessary. The only real thing you need to worry about it concealing any gaps between the section underneath, and the next level (or roof) above it. The easiest way to achieve this in case of The Flintstones house is to build slopes on one side and tiles on the lower side. The result is surprisingly sturdy. Although I would still not recommend building another floor on top of the off-kilter variation.
BUILDING TOUCHSTONES WITH LEGO
So, you decide that you want to build an iconic scene from a movie, cartoon, TV show, etc. You might start with building an iconic vehicle, which is scaled to the minifigures. Then, you use the minifigs and the vehicle to help scale the outside of important buildings, for which you can find numerous references. All is good so far, but when you start to fill the inside of the building with various details, you realize they don’t fit. What happened?
Cartoons are especially bad at being consistent with space. Graphic designers will use as much or as little of it as needed for specific scenes. The Flintstones house is a great example. The interior space is shown as large and spacious, while the exterior is small and compact. There is simply no way to accurately recreate the interior and the exterior within the same model. The interior simply won’t fit the exterior. In situations like this, what LEGO designers do is build touchstones instead of trying to cram everything in into a space that’s too small. A touchstone is an object or idea that will remind you of a larger thing so you can fill in the inaccuracies with your imagination. In the case of this set, what you are reminded of is all The Flintstones episodes you may have watched. Ideally, touchstones should be things that appear in most (if not all) the episodes.
This is how we end up getting a telephone, the stone TV, the oddly shaped table, and the wooly mammoth painting above the fireplace. LEGO designers even worked in a bowling kit, as Fred and Barny often went bowling. The inclusion of the bowling kit is especially interesting because Fred would only have the bowling ball at his place and not the pins. However, since the pins provide context for the ball they serve as a sub-touchstone. I also really enjoyed the large rack of ribs included for the car. Those ribs barely appear in the actual show, but since they are part of the opening credits, they are technically in every episode and thus qualify as a touchstone.
So what do you pick as touchstones when you build your own models based on TV shows and cartoons? This can get a little tricky, but here are some pointers that can get you in the right direction: 1.) Look for things that are relevant to the show or characters. 2.) Pick items that have a distinct or unique feature all their own. 3.) Pick something that will add to your creation and not detract from it (sometimes you can end up making a touchstone that’s so amazing that it overshadows the rest of the build).
APPLYING WHAT YOU LEARN
When we are so focused on finding clever connections to keep everything secure, we can overlook the pure whimsy of having something not attached. This is excellently showcased with the off-kilter roof in this set. What’s more, this doesn’t make the model any less stable. It’s not a technique that you will use all the time, but it can be a good solution when trying to construct difficult roofs.
It is not lost on me that I use the term “touchstone” when talking about the most famous modern Stone Age family. But really, that is how the show got its message across. Without the reimagining of modern conveniences there would not be the touchstone to connect with these prehistoric characters. This is an aspect of the set that I did not mention yet, but it’s worth noting that The Flintstones is a property that requires more effort than most to relate to a modern audience. Just one more way to use and think about touchstones. Thinking about touchstones can also be a great way to slim down a model where you built in too much. It’s a technique that is effective in many different situations.
What do you think? How do you like the #21316 LEGO Ideas The Flintstones set? Do you have it already? Have you built it yet? And what do you think of the building techniques we talked about here? Are there any other interesting techniques you have noticed in the set? Feel free to share your thoughts and discuss in the comment section below!
And you might also like to check out the following related posts: