Another debut in the 10K Club Today! Please give a warm welcome to CaptainMutant and his Stargate design. Fans of the hit 90's sci-fi show will be excited to see the inclusion of numerous easter eggs such as: a golf club; a tub of ice cream and Schrödinger the Cat! Let us know in the comments if you love this Stargate design!
- Who are you?
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
I do post photos of my LEGO creations both on Flickr and Instagram, and right now, as you might expect, they’re full of shots of my Stargate. I also have a channel on YouTube - Mutant Productions.
- Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud of it and do you have a photo of it?
I have a handful of MOCs, the biggest one being a previous LEGO Ideas proposal: a Modernised Classic Space Outpost, which I’ve expanded to showcase all 5 possible internal configurations. I had spent years designing it (turns out doing multiple configurations that can be built with the same pieces isn’t as easy as it might sound!). It takes up a lot of room, and, as a result, I sadly can’t have it on display. I’ve since focused on smaller models, like my Scarab Scout Ship which I’m very pleased with. I also went smaller still with objects like a levitating wheelchair. Aside from my Stargate, I think the MOC I’m most pleased with is my brick-built robot companion, SIMIAN.
- How and when did your interest in LEGO come about?
Do you mean since I returned to the brick after decades wandering in the wilderness? It was actually a chance rediscovery of the sets I had as a podling. Seeing all those minifigs perfectly preserved, rekindled my love of this amazing, versatile, intricate building system. That happened about 5 years ago.
- What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games or 'just' watch the cartoons.
It started as a means of playing with my children, but they eventually grew up, and I didn’t! I was recently diagnosed with ASD and ADHD, and I think LEGO greatly helps with my mental health. It allows me to focus; do something creative with my hands (which isn’t typing on a computer); is something over which I have complete control and is much easier to alter than modifying actual buildings! It’s allowed me to make some good connections online, but the world being what it is, I haven’t met other AFOLs physically in years, let alone been to an expo.
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
For the past, as a huge fan of sci-fi, it has to be Classic Space. I loved the focus on exploration and adventure the first sets fostered, instead of conflict between humans or with aliens. There was something rather charming about this theme, which I still love to this day. The modern theme I like the most is the Modular Building series, as it’s where I get most of my inspiration and interesting building techniques from.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set ever? Why?
That’s a hard one. The LEGO Group has so many, and you might think, based on my previous response that I would pick something futuristic, like Overwatch (which is a fantastic theme, by the way), but upon consideration, I’d have to go with the LEGO Ideas Tree House. I view creating plants out of square plastic bricks as a heck of a challenge, and here a huge tree was beautifully designed. Not only that, but who hasn’t dreamt of having their own treehouse to live in? I never was able to fulfil that fantasy, but my sigfig now can!
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
It would have to be the part designed for the ears of Unikitty’s Puppycorn (officially known as ‘Design Plate 1x1’, part number 35463). I can’t believe it hasn’t been used for anything else, but this might hopefully change soon as it’s the only part I could find that can hold my Stargate together!
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
It’s like you’re asking me to choose which of my children is my favourite! I dare not name some for fear of forgetting others. Ever since I’ve ventured into the world of MOCs, I’ve been inspired by many builders - some are pretty famous, others not so much (but should be). I like to check out greebling techniques, new ways of making stud on the side constructions, and interesting and unusual parts usage. When I do find something interesting, I then spend ages either trying to understand how it was constructed to see if I can reverse engineer it (I sadly discovered that some models that are only digital renders cannot actually be built), or if it’s something done by a LEGO designer, downloading the PDF instructions to understand the intricacies of a new way of doing things.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO-related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
For news and reviews, I like checking out Brickset and Bricksfanz. New Elementary is also a fantastic resource for finding out about new LEGO parts. I also like the various expo interviews Beyond the Brick do. I did a few myself on my YouTube channel, but the way the world is these days has sadly put a stop to that.
ABOUT YOUR PROJECT
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I’m really into sci-fi, and have loved The LEGO Group’s many in-house themes, and the occasional set we’ve had outside of the Star Wars universe (Doctor Who, and Tron spring to mind).
Over the last few months I started toying with recreating (on minifig scale) various famous sci-fi objects, vehicles, creatures, and what not. I was building up a selection to potentially create a new series for my YouTube channel, all the while showing my ideas to Marc (aka YouTube’s TheLegoRoom). As I was considering what to build next, the Stargate popped into my head. Building something circular out of mainly square LEGO bricks is always a challenge, and I was wondering if I’d acquired the skills to do it justice. I showed my initial concept to Marc and he was so excited by it he pushed (hard) and eventually convinced me to put my creation on LEGO Ideas. So I shelved my other MOCs (for now), as I focussed on the gateway to the stars…
I was a huge fan of the movie - more the actual concept than the story itself truth be told: an enigmatic huge circular object (6.7 metres in diameter) is uncovered during an archaeological dig in Egypt. It turns out it was created by alien visitors who used it to travel to other planets simply by stepping through the gateway. All other sci-fi shows I know have spaceships to do that sort of thing. With the Stargate, another world is but a couple of steps away. It combined my love of mythology, archaeology and sci-fi. It was set in the modern-day, implying that we ourselves could experience this, not just people from the future, making the show feel immediate and achievable. The TV franchise was hugely popular, expanding from the movie’s original concept and creating its own rich mythology which was totally original and unique. The first series lasted ten years - which is huge for a sci-fi show - and it also spawned two spin offs. The whole concept became irresistible to me.
I feel there’s also a really strong and cool potential here as well: the Stargate franchise has a wealth of ships, locations and beloved characters (both good guys and bad guys). We’ve all seen how well Star Wars has been doing for the last couple of decades, and I often wonder how wonderful it would be if we could have another sci-fi theme adorning LEGO brand. Let’s not forget there’s a 25th anniversary coming up, and if the rumours of a fourth series, or a new movie are true, now that Amazon is likely to acquire MGM, this hypothetical theme could run for years and years. So many of the Stargate fans I talked to were excited about the possible opportunity, too - as long as there isn’t an issue acquiring the licence, of course.
- How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?
It took surprisingly very little time. I’m usually the type of person who agonises over every little detail, spending ages to get everything just right. But when it came to the Stargate, I had in my head the basic concept of using 1x2 hinged plates to create the circle, and it evolved very quickly from there. I had the overall design done in just a couple of days.
Refining the look and getting the details right took longer though, as I had to delve back into the TV series to make my model look as authentic as I could: the angle of the ramp, adding a ladder to one side, finding out what the gate looks like from behind, etc. Obviously I didn’t spend all my time doing this, but whenever I could, I’d go back and refine my idea - this took about a month and a half.
Having very little space where I live, I start all my design processes digitally, where I have access to an unlimited number of parts, and can make changes very quickly. Once I was happy with the build, I then ordered the pieces I needed and started the actual construction process. This took roughly a further month.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
The problem with working digitally is that whatever you build isn’t affected by forces we usually take for granted, like gravity. When I moved into the real world, I realised what worked in a computer, failed miserably on my desk. Thankfully, in this particular case, the fix was an easy one to do: just move those lovely Puppycorn ears down one plate closer to the centre of the circle. I did have an initial concern that using these ears to make the shape might affect the integrity of the model over time, and make the circle flop eventually. But my model has been built since July, and I’m pleased to say the shape has remained perfect since.
There were other challenges, though. One of them was the fact those Puppycorn pieces don’t exist in medium stone grey, so those rare parts had to undergo a little spray painting to look just right. I also had an issue with the event horizon. Try as I might I couldn’t make a brick built version work, so I thought of an alternative: I designed the gate so you can secure round the back a piece made of cloth, or vinyl, materials LEGO has used in sets in the past. The new cardboard part present in the Lunar New Year Ice Festival set might actually be ideal for this.
Another potential stumbling block was finding a way to connect the gate to the base. Both objects are essentially standard stud on the top builds, but that means the bottom of the gate has studs facing down, while the base has studs facing up. How can I connect the two? It took me a long time to figure out - probably the hardest problem to solve for this project. I tried using technic pieces, mixing and matching them with regular bricks, nothing worked, or the result was just too bulky.
I wanted something that looked like the gate was just balanced on the base. The solution I came up with was so simple, I was really pleased with it. Essentially I used a handful of common parts to have anti-studs both at the top and bottom, solving the problem quickly and elegantly.
A final challenge was with the MALP - the little vehicle that rests on the ramp. When I was nearing 5,000 supporters, I thought I’d add something special - which had been requested by many fans. Building the MALP wasn’t an issue. Where to display it was. The obvious place was on the ramp, but a wheeled vehicle doesn’t stay still on an incline. I didn’t want to change the look of the ramp in any way, so that if the MALP is removed, there is no indication that anything is supposed to be attached there. I had to find a way to wedge the wheels without putting any unnatural pressure on the LEGO bricks. Once I found it, the solution was again very simple, and the wheels’ rubber offered more than enough friction that the MALP doesn’t move in the slightest, no matter how long it’s left on the ramp.
- If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
I would give myself the advice Marc offered me, as I was worrying that the number of new supporters was dropping alarmingly at one point: this is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t worry if the numbers dip for a time, just focus on the end goal, and enjoy yourself.
- How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?
The main concept took a couple of days. Fine tuning digitally took about a month and a half, on and off, and ordering the parts I needed, including fixing any unexpected real world problems, took about another month. Promotion took 100 days which I feel is pretty amazing. Many would look at some projects who get to 10,000 in weeks, sometimes just days, and worry that theirs isn’t moving fast enough… but bear in mind LEGO offers you nearly 800 days to get to 10,000. From that point of view, doing it in one eighth of the time is phenomenal, and shows how supportive and excited the Stargate fanbase was of my project.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
Based on the speed at which my project was gathering votes, by the time I got to 7,000 supporters, I came to the conclusion it was a matter of when, not if. But that didn’t stop the excitement on the day. It all happened on Friday the 17th of December. I woke up to 9,944 votes, thinking I’d reach the magic number around dinner time. But I’d underestimated my Stargate’s fans. We got to 9,975 by 11am, then 9,990 by 2pm. During the following hour, I can tell you my productivity was seriously curtailed as I kept reloading the LEGO Ideas site in my browser! Having tried my hand at LEGO Ideas twice before, and failing each time, reaching 10,000 was very exciting - and humbling too: I thought achieving this goal was only for those with a strong social media presence and connections - something I don’t have. I can only thank all the fans of Stargate who all dreamt of having this model (or a version of it) displayed on their desk or shelf.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
With all the modifications I made as I moved up the ranking, I think I’m using around 920 parts. My aim was to deliberately create something small, so it would take little room and be easy to display anywhere, as well as being affordable to more fans of the show.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
All the techniques I struggled with which I mentioned above, ended up being most of my favourite sections of my build, because it was so satisfying to find a simple solution to what seemed at first like a major impediment to the construction. But perhaps my favourite part of the project was peppering it with as many easter eggs as I could. This was done with the help of my supporters. When I asked them what equipment they’d like the SG-1 team to carry, I was inundated with so many fun ideas. From this we got a camera, a beanie, a golf club (from the episode Window of Opportunity), a tub of ice cream (Unnatural Selection), a Naquadah generator (Learning Curve), and perhaps my favourite, Schrödinger the cat (Enigma, Pretense).
But a project is never done until it’s put into production, and with that in mind, I thought of a couple more, like a crystal skull (from the episode of the same name), a Zero Point Module (which could be made out of standard crystal pieces), and a pineapple. Why a pineapple? Because it became a running joke in the series to see a pineapple somewhere in a scene, for no reason whatsoever… so why not include one as well? This is one of the things I loved about the Stargate show: it never really took itself too seriously, and was always ready to have fun with itself, taking the audience along for the ride, something I feel - and hope - would translate really well as an official LEGO set.
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
I started digitally, using Bricklink’s free multiplatform tool called Stud.io. However, I find it’s absolutely crucial to also build the design in the real world. As my own example shows, it’s all too easy to create something that looks great virtually, which might not actually work.
- If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
I’d used a wealth of prints for my first two LEGO Ideas. This time, however, I steered clear of them. LEGO building can be a pretty expensive hobby, and custom prints, even more so. So I focussed on what was already available in LEGO’s inventory. This doesn’t mean to say my model doesn’t require new prints. On the contrary. Giving my minifigs their traditional outfit with shoulder logos and everything would be awesome. But if possible, it would be amazing to replace the 28 ingot pieces I used to recreate the gate’s inner circle, with 1x2 printed tiles bearing the 39 official symbols that grace the show’s own gate. Although I’m aware that’s a lot of prints, can you image how amazing it would look?
ABOUT LEGO IDEAS
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
If I knew that, I’d be churning them out every week! I have three experiences of LEGO Ideas, the first one made it to 367, and the next one, 1,314. I feel like I got really lucky with my 3rd attempt. It can be pretty disheartening to fail to reach 10,000, especially if you poured your heart and soul into a project, so it’s best not to take it seriously, and the important thing is have fun and enjoy the adventure.
I did three things differently this time round. Were they instrumental in helping reach the ultimate milestone? To be frank, I have no idea, so please bear in mind that every project is different, and there isn’t actually a formula that yields positive results all the time. What might work for you, may not work for others, so with that in mind… I can’t tell you just how much I loathe marketing. It just isn’t me. But with LEGO Ideas, marketing is a huge part of the process, and it can really be a full time job, which can be gruelling. So I decided to turn it around: I love toy photography, especially in nature, so that became my main focus: in order to keep interest in my project, especially as I posted to the same groups time and again, I’d make sure they always had at least one new photo to enjoy. I also asked for feedback from the fans, incorporating their input in updates (with new photos of course). Finally, I created a spreadsheet and tracked the progress of my project over time. This allowed me to see how many votes I was getting per day, and how many I actually needed to reach the final milestone, bearing in mind the number of days my project had left. This helped me know how likely my Stargate would make it, and if I needed to do something else to help boost the numbers.
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
I posted on multiple Facebook groups - those dedicated to Stargate or LEGO, I tackled Reddit, Instagram, Flickr, and made liberal use of Twitter. I also wrote to numerous publications, and was really lucky that Screen Rant ran a story on my project early on. I was also fortunate that a handful of influential people took a liking to my design and mentioned it to their followers. My Stargate also caught the eye of some of the actors from the shows, such as Corin Nemec and David Hewlett who did the same. And I must admit I got super excited when Joseph Mallozzi, one of the producers and writers of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis pushed my project on Twitter!
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the Tree House is an absolutely amazing design. Beautiful and intricate, with three huts nestled in the branches that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Swiss Family Robinson story. It was wonderful. As for an Idea that was overlooked? How about my Space Outpost? I’m still disappointed my 5-in-1 modular concept couldn’t find its audience. But in a way, it’s in good company: hardly any sci-fi related project makes it on Ideas, which I feel is a great shame.
- Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint of what that might be?
It’s been a huge and exciting task to get my Stargate to 10,000, which has actually taken time away from my work and family. I have an idea or two in the back of my head, but my plan is to take a break for a while, recuperate, and check how I feel further down the line. But in the meantime, I still plan on uploading the odd LEGO video on my YouTube channel, if you wish to keep tabs on me
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