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Comparing LEGO Star Wars Cloud Cities

A few days ago, LEGO announced the upcoming #75222 LEGO Star Wars Betrayal at Cloud City (see the press-release here: LEGO Star Wars Betrayal at Cloud City). While the set is large and impressive, and it has been 15 years since we got the last LEGO Star Wars Cloud City set, the announcement attracted quite a bit of controversy. Although many LEGO fans like the set as is, others feel that there is too much emphasis on play-features, and not much thought went into making sure that the set also looks good on display…

In the video-preview below, JANGBRiCKS does an excellent job discussing the plusses and minuses of the #75222 LEGO Star Wars Betrayal at Cloud City set, and the issues LEGO Star Wars fans are unhappy about.

After watching JANG’s preview, carefully looking at pictures of the new set, comparing its design and features to the #10123 LEGO Star Wars Cloud City from 2003 (which is still considered one of the best LEGO Star Wars sets of all time), reading comments by LEGO fans, and looking through the Cloud City wiki page, I can definitely understand at least some of the complaints, so I thought to research a bit the way other LEGO fans have approached the idea of building Cloud City.

Basically, Cloud City is this gorgeous, almost dreamlike City, floating in the clouds of the gas planet Bespin. The city is characterized by round shapes, both for the entire city itself and also for individual buildings. Another important feature of the city is that it is multilayered with 392 levels. The top 50 levels of the city were basically a luxury resort, popular with affluent galactic tourists, while the lower levels housed workers and catered to the mining and processing of Tibanna gas from the planet below. When making a model of Cloud City, it makes sense to include these key features.

The #75222 LEGO Star Wars Betrayal at Cloud City set did attempt to capture the disk shape of the entire city as well as its buildings by a circular layout. In addition to the roundness of the base itself, the micro Cloud City at the center of the model, the landing pad, the carbon freeze chamber, and the sensor balcony where Luke and Vader had their epic encounter are also round. All these different size circles do represent Cloud City well, but unfortunately, they come together kind of messy. A number of LEGO fans suggested that it would have been better to have the entire base of the model as a large circle, and then just place different scenes within it (much like how it is already done on two sides). With some customization, I suppose this could still be done, but when LEGO fans have to fork over $350 for a set, they don’t expect to have to spend extra money and time to fix it.

One main issue with circular LEGO models is that they don’t display well unless placed on something like a coffee table in the middle of a room. They usually don’t fit on standard size shelves, and even if you do have the perfect shelf, you can only display one side at a time. Instead of emphasizing the roundness of the city, some LEGO fans suggest that a linear and multi-layer layout would have been more display-friendly, while still keeping the playability. This is the approach that was taken with the earlier #10123 LEGO Star Wars Cloud City set. Such a display could have also been made modular with sections that can be connected in different ways for various layouts.

Now, let’s look at some Cloud City models built by LEGO fans. Perhaps the most well-known representation of Cloud City is by LEGO fan Vakkron, who submitted his project to LEGO Ideas. This enormous model is 34 inches (86 cm) in diameter and 39 inches (99 cm) tall (including the removable reactor stalk at the bottom), which is quite a bit larger than the 22 inches (58 cm) diameter and 6 inches (16cm) height of the #75222 LEGO Star Wars Betrayal at Cloud City. Interestingly, the layout it actually quite similar to the official set, with a round shape divided into four segments. Also, just like in the official set, micro-scale and minifig-scale are used simultaneously. However, Vakkron’s Cloud City is multi-layered, and it is covered in a removable shell that gives it a beautifully finished look. Perhaps a smaller version of such a design would have worked for the official LEGO set. It certainly is beautiful. I also like Vakkron’s official description, which, according to him, is an excerpt from the Official Bespin Tour Guide pamphlet: “Bring your best friends in your favorite starship, land at one of the galaxy’s finest spaceports, and then enter into a world of metropolitan paradise! Cloud City is the proud home to the galaxy’s most opulent casinos, highest rated hotels and lodges, and first-class botanical gardens! Whether you come on business or at leisure, Cloud City offers something for you. With round-the-clock entertainment throughout all parts of the city, you will never lack something to see and do! So what are you waiting for? Come, visit us today!” Vakkron’s LEGO Ideas submission expired without a sufficient number of votes, so this Cloud City will have to remain a dream. See more pictures here.

Another interesting version of Cloud City is by LEGO fan by DanDare006. This model also follows a circular shape, but with a very interesting difference; the center is kept hollow to simulate the inside of the reactor shaft, and accommodate the balcony where Luke and Vader fought. There are a couple of small landing pads on the outside of the round shape, but other than that, the model is kept nice and tidy on the outside and action-packed on the inside. I quite like it! This model was also submitted to LEGO Ideas but failed to get enough votes. See more pictures here.

For yet another interpretation of Cloud City, LEGO fan mrbookieboo follows the basic structural design of the upper half of the #10188 LEGO Star Wars Death Star and the newer #75159 LEGO Star Wars Death Star. He felt that this shape accurately represented the roundness of Cloud City, had a sturdy design, looked decent on display, and allowed plenty of open areas for play. Interestingly, he also topped his model with a micro version of Cloud City. The design was intended to flow naturally so you can recreate the major scenes from Cloud City. Starting at the landing pad, there is a micro Millennium Falcon and the short walkway where Lando first greets Han, Leia, Chewie, and C-3PO. A doorway leads to the main concourse, which has access to the elevator and the dining room. The remainder of the top floor contains the holding cell. Taking the elevator to the middle level drops you off in a hallway, which leads to the junk room where Chewie finds C-3PO after he was blasted in pieces. There is also another doorway which leads to the carbon freeze chamber. The carbon freeze unit is fully functional with a LEGO Technic pin allowing you to lower Han into the pit and spin him around to his frozen state. Another door leads from the carbon freeze chamber to the interior control room where Luke and Vader duel. This room features the window that ejects Luke after breaking. The next room is the catwalk where Luke first learns the truth about his father. This section is open to the lower level and there is a simulated shaft that Luke can fall through and leads to the antenna that he hangs from before being rescued by the Millennium Falcon. The lower level contains the room where Han was tortured and a command room where the Bespin Guard can monitor the city. So many great ideas and great execution here as well, however, this project also did not reach the required minimum number of votes when it was submitted to LEGO Ideas. See more pictures here.

Focusing more on the key action scenes rather than recreating the overall disk shape of Cloud City, LEGO fan Eric Druon built this multi-layer Cloud City display including the carbon freeze chamber, the balcony where look and Vader fought, a Cloud Car, and more. This is a fantastic looking playset, and due to the mostly forward-facing design, it could also look great on display. See more pictures here.

Instead of putting attention to just the areas where most of the action we see in the movie took place, LEGO fan dougk32 depicts a larger layout of the mining operation and how the disk-shaped structures are connected. While this is not a minifig-scale model, it does look fantastic as a display-piece. You can see more pictures here.

As you can see, LEGO fans may approach building Cloud City in different ways, but there are some overarching design schemes that they tend to follow; recreating all the iconic scenes and places from the movie, using a multi-level layout, adding some roundness to at least some part of the design, allowing lots of playability, combining different scales, and making their models display-friendly.

Now that you have seen different approaches to building Cloud City, what do you think? Which interpretation do you like the most? And what features do you feel are the most important to include? How do you think the #75222 LEGO Star Wars Betrayal at Cloud City set compares to the fan-created models? Feel free to share your thoughts and discuss in the comment section below! 😉

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Legostuff14 August 27, 2018, 12:05 PM

    The interesting thing is as much as there are complaints about the set , people are still going to buy it. So, by buying it ( even with the complaints) the fans are tell Lego ” even though it’s not what we want in this set . We are going to buy it anyways “. A bit of a mix message to Lego. If you’re not happy with it , then why buy it. For kids on the other hand . If there parents can scrape up $350.00 dollars, those kids are very lucky. I like the betrayal in cloud city, because I like the mini figures that come with it and maybe that’s the draw with adult fans in General.

    • admin August 27, 2018, 12:16 PM

      Keep in mind that the vocal AFOLs of the internet, although appear loud, are actually a very small percentage of LEGO fans. The vast majority of LEGO sales are generated by regular families who don’t even know what an AFOL is and don’t participate in LEGO forums. The backlash on Cloud City from AFOLs is similar to what the Hoth set got, but the Hoth set is very popular with regular LEGO fans. It’s a great playset, and families who bought it didn’t care for (most likely didn’t even notice) the UCS emblem on the box or the controversy that surrounded it. The fact that LEGO is now releasing a similar large LEGO Star Wars playset, and even gives it a new category, indicates that these large playsets are selling just fine. And as you said, those who don’t like it don’t have to buy it. 😀

  • Peter August 27, 2018, 12:23 PM

    Wow! Those are some amazing cloud cities! I have to say that looking at those custom builds made me appreciate the new set more. I think the problem is that Lego didn’t release very good pictures and a designer video. I think the designers did a great job.

    • admin August 27, 2018, 2:45 PM

      That may be very true about the lack of good pictures and the designer-video. So many of the interior and play-features we can’t see. The designer-video would have really helped.

  • sammy August 27, 2018, 12:30 PM

    It’s weird that almost all of them (including the official set) has that mini Cloud City in the center. Did they copy each other?

    • admin August 27, 2018, 2:46 PM

      Great minds think alike, I guess! 😀

  • brickmaster August 27, 2018, 1:13 PM

    Vakkron’s Cloud City is, of course, amazing, but I like the idea of the doughnut-shaped one too. And with some extra tweaking, the one that looks like the Death Star also has great potential. Now I’m thinking about how to modify Lego’s Cloud City to make it better. 😀

    • admin August 27, 2018, 2:47 PM

      Yeah, I figured these pictures will give you guys some ideas. 😀

  • Legostuff14 August 27, 2018, 1:51 PM

    I loved the assault on hoth set. In fact with the older hoth sets ( like the echo. Base ) I combined all of it together and it’s looks great. The betrayal on cloud city is a great play set sure, but Lego is selling it like an ultimate collectors set. I still believe Lego needs to be careful on how many large and expensive sets they put out in a year. Then again I’m not a business man just a customer. What do I know except the fact that I can’t afford large and expensive sets all the time ( I’m not the only one) . Why risk a company. I wonder how Lego sales has been this year? I know companies fluctuate all the time. So, Lego is not in immediate Danger.

    • DavidH August 27, 2018, 2:42 PM

      I think they are very aware of their sales numbers. Last year there was a small dip in their sales and they responded immediately. If the large SW sets don’t sell they will be the first to know and will make changes accordingly. They will publish their financial reports for this year early next year.

  • Legostuff14 August 27, 2018, 2:06 PM

    ….In fact if Lego could have sold it in sections or pieces . Like the first piece is the dinning area where the capture takes place. Then, have a section where c3po gets blown to pieces and have a few ugnought fighting over the parts. Than when you get all the section you put it together like a Circle, but also have the option of display it separately. It might even cost less to purchase. Just a thought .

    • admin August 27, 2018, 2:50 PM

      LEGO don’t use the combinable sets method enough. Buying several $50-$100 sets is definitely easier than shelling out several hundred dollars at once. They probably have their reasons though.

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