Welcome back to another 10K Club Interview! Today we meet Ezequiel Alabaça to talk about his exquisite LISBON TRAM (ELÉTRICO DE LISBOA). Those of you familiar with Lisbon may recognise this iconic imagery, but those who aren't so well-versed in all-things-Lisbon may find this equally interesting. Let's show our support for Ezequiel and his fantastic build in the comments!
- Who are you?
My name is Ezequiel Alabaça. The same in LEGO Ideas.
- Where are you from?
I live near Lisbon, in Portugal.
- How old are you?
I’m 43 years old.
- What do you study or do for a living?
I’m a software engineer in a Dutch financial company and director in Conservatory Music School (CRSM) on a voluntary basis.
- What hobbies do you have?
I like playing the piano, reading, gardening, playing with my kids and recording stop-motion animations with LEGO bricks.
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
Unfortunately no, but some of my constructions can be seen on my YouTube channel where I’ve shared my animations.
- 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 am proud of my Lisbon Tram, for sure. It was my first submission to LEGO Ideas and I got 10k votes. There was a massive mobilization of national newspapers, radios, and public television to share the project. I had to learn to give interviews and manage information. I’d never seen this before and, in a few days, some LEGO bricks had put me under the spotlight! Absolutely amazing.
- How and when did your interest in LEGO products come about?
Since I was born, I guess! My parents didn’t have much money, but they gave me some small LEGO sets and year after year I was joining bricks to build my own creations. I even took apart remote-controlled cars with lights and batteries to adapt to my constructions. When I went to study at university, I didn't have a lot of free time and I ended up putting this hobby aside, however, when my children were born, it was an excellent opportunity to come back. Until now…
- What is the LEGO hobby to you? What does it mean to you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games or 'just' watch the cartoons.
The LEGO hobby is a great opportunity to be playing as a family with my three children, and a way to express my creativity; to see the world and things around me in a distinct way. There are no limits to imagination, nor to building with bricks of LEGO.
This hobby was also the way to become known in my village and to share my stop-motion animations on a public television channel for 3 years now. I can't imagine my spare time without LEGO bricks.
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
My favourite theme is CITY. It helps me to create scenarios for my animations and I love to represent the real world in pieces. Hopefully in the future maybe will be a new one… musical instruments.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set ever? Why?
Without any hesitation, from the latest sets, the Grand Piano (item 21323). In addition to being my instrument of choice, it was brilliantly built and looks great in my living room.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
It’s a brick SEPARATOR (#96874). I always use it in my constructions and it’s very helpful in how it helps to not spoil the pieces nor break the nails!
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
I follow a lot of designers and builders and all of them inspired me.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO-related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
ABOUT YOUR PROJECT
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I live near Lisbon, I studied and worked there for many years and it’s impossible to remain indifferent to typical Lisbon trams. It is a very important tourist symbol and very dear to the people of Lisbon. Everyone wants to take a picture/selfie with it and take a ride on it. I’ve always liked this type of transport.
The “28” is the most characteristic and known route in Lisbon, both by tourists and by local people. If you get a city tour guide, it will almost certainly have a reference to this route and to its pickpockets.
- How long was the process of making the project, 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?
My first version was created for an animation about a football player that liked to go to the stadium in a sports car but had no money and had to go by tram. I started in January 2021 and when I finished the animation, I didn’t dismantle the tram and started improving the construction. I have checked real photos and websites about the Lisbon tram.
Even after publishing it on LEGO Ideas, I have received several messages and comments from tram drivers (AFOLs too) that sent me real photos from the inside and outside of a specific model to help me and some reviews from other Portuguese LEGO lovers. I’ve changed some details, colours and dimensions to be as close as possible to the real one. I made some friends!
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
The challenge was to find out the balance between the security, stability and safety of the model and to get as close as possible to the real model without missing any important features/details. I would have liked to electrify the model, but it was impossible because I wanted to keep the removable roof and the necessary space to play inside with minifigs. It was really frustrating!
The most difficult part to recreate was the side windows and the rounded parts in front and on top of the model. To recreate the windows, I had to rotate the bricks 90 degrees and increased stability with some parts inside that represent a handrail in the real model. How lucky it was!
- If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell them? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
“Whatever you are capable of doing, do with all your might and believe in yourself”. I heard many times that it wasn't worth it, that it was going to be just another project and that I was going to waste my time. Fortunately, most aren't always right! Now I know that my dream can come true!
- 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?
This model was built in phases, and I can’t say exactly how much time I spent with it because I didn’t build it to submit, but to record my animation, until one day, at dinner, we decided to risk and try our chance.
I started my animation in January 2021, and finished all recordings and scenarios in May 2021. There was a long period until February 2022 when I submitted the project and I’ve recreated nine versions of Lisbon Tram with new features, more details, new colours, minifigs, etc.
In fact, I guess I can build LEGO models, but I had no experience in marketing and promotion. However, I got a lot of help from Portuguese media, and I spent more or less two months promoting the project.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
It took exactly 101 days from when I submitted it. I couldn't imagine that was happening and I didn't even imagine that the television was going to report the event. I felt like a fairy tale. I hope it has a happy ending!
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
I digitally recreated the model before submitting it to LEGO Ideas. There are approximately 2150 parts. Almost 700 from the tram and the others from the pavement. Nonetheless, the pavement has a lot of small parts to represent the typical Portuguese pavement with geometric shapes.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
I guess my favourite technique is what I used on windows. I built them at a 90-degree angle, and it was a great challenge to connect all parts: the bottom, windows, and the top.
My favourite section in my project is the pantograph/trolley that I’ve built based on comments from a Portuguese expert in trains. It’s very detailed and functional. One for wide roads and the other for narrow ones like in reality.
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
I used Studio 2.0 from BrickLink.
- If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
I only used stickers on the digital model and I created them with GIMP and Part Designer from BrickLink too.
ABOUT LEGO IDEAS
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
This was my first submission and I have no experience with it. I’m 100% sure that there is no magic formula, and I don't really know what can make the difference!
My advice is that you should create a project based on what audience you want to reach. I was not involved in LEGO forums or communities before, and I was completely unknown by AFOLs. Even in social media, I was not as active as necessary, so I focused on something typical to get all supporters, or most of all, from my city. Most of my supporters are new users who have created an account at LEGO Ideas, just because of the project.
Maybe now I can have more followers and think about something different.
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
In the beginning, I created some photo montages and started to share them on my social networks. Then I looked for groups of LEGO fans to share the project too. Right at the beginning I started to have a lot of shares and started getting contacts from blogs about LEGO subjects, and interviews from online and local newspapers. The first month I got almost 740 supporters only and I decided to create some flyers to give in person and spread around coffee shops, and restaurants and to go to tram stops to share with tourists.
In the meanwhile, I received more contact from the media to give interviews (I don't know why) and even the schools I attended since primary school put up the posters I made. After two months I got 2300 supporters. Several public institutions, the city council, the transport company and tourist companies published my project too, and I got much more shares. We are talking about some thousand! Then, a new phase was beginning. Some national radios were aware of the project and with interviews and news about the project, it started to be known.
Quickly it reached the newspapers, some VIP, social influencers and even politics, so by this time I only answered messages and interviews and calls, and I started to be a passive agent in the dissemination. The project worked for me. In the third month, I reached 5550 supporters. After 9 days only, to my astonishment, I got 10k supporters quickly. My record was more than 1000 supporters in the same day, thanks to all the Portuguese people that helped me with this dream.
I have to thank all the reporters and supporters that have believed me.
- 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 said before, I love music and the piano is my favourite instrument, so for me, the PLAYABLE LEGO PIANO from “SleepyCow” gets first place on my list. THE EARTH GLOBE from “Disneybrick55” is amazing too and there are many more ideas that I love so much.
Among others, the VIOLIN from “SAMUEL HO” I think has been overlooked. I don’t know the details of the evaluation, but I would like to have it in my house.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
I would like to view some features available on the platform. For now, it has only the necessary. My tip is to read all information and rules about submission carefully before submission.
- 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?
Absolutely! I’ve another project gathering support phase named “Portuguese Piggy Bank” based on a very common mailbox in Portugal, and a new project on the way, but for now, it's a well-kept secret.
- 10k club
- 10k club interview
- product idea
- lisbon tram