Let me introduce you to creative designer Martin Burton aka Let Them Fly, the creator of Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine, and our 10K Club member in focus for today! Mystery Machine is a detailed model of a vehicle from the TV series Scooby-Doo, which has been on TV screens for more than 50 years, and like many of us, Martin grew up on these stories of popular characters Shaggy and Scooby.
- Who are you?
- Where are you from?
I’m from Yorkshire in the UK.
- How old are you?
- What do you study or do for a living?
My job is as a Creative Designer.
- What hobbies do you have?
I love design processes. LEGO fits perfectly with this, whether I want to get my brain into gear and design something new, or just relax and follow the instructions of an existing set – LEGO has me covered. I also have a keen interest in creating digital designs using various software and photography.
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
Most of my work originates from https://www.instagram.com/let_them_fly_lego/ but I do have various other online portfolios too.
- 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?
The vast majority of the time, I tweak an existing set or mash-up two themes/designs. Most of which can be seen on my Instagram. It’s quite rare that I design a completely new idea from scratch. Of these, the large-scale Mystery Machine has been by far my proudest creation.
- How and when did your interest in LEGO come about?
I think I have a similar story to many other LEGO enthusiasts of my age. I played with it as a child but as I got older, I boxed it all up and donated it to a local school. Many years later when I had children of my own, I started visiting toy stores again and was amazed by how the themes had changed. The licenses, particularly Batman and Star Wars lured me back.
- 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’s a creative medium very much like paint or clay. There is no right or wrong way of building and everybody approaches it in a slightly different way.
Shortly after Rediscovering LEGO, I discovered social media and I really enjoy the online community just as much as I do building itself.
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
I’ve always been a collector of things and love items associated with TV shows and Movies. My favourite movie franchise translates into my favourite LEGO Theme which is Batman. Batman, especially within his LEGO guise has certainly inspired the style of my social media content. I have mashed up the 40433 Batmobile with numerous other themes around 40 times.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
This one is probably the most difficult question. I have been collecting LEGO for a good few years now and have many sets that could be a candidate as my favourite. I think because it’s a vehicle that I’d love to own in real life and a LEGO set that a few years ago, I never thought we’d ever see – I’m going to choose set 76139, the 1989 Batmobile.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
I love a printed tile. Whether it be a small 1x2 for a minifigure to hold or a large one to furnish a building or vehicle, I always think they finish a build wonderfully.
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
Yes, there is a fan designer named Dave Slater. He designed the first MOC that I ever bought the instructions for. We have since become friends over social media. Building his models and talking to him about his design process gave me the confidence to take the plunge to make a submission to LEGO Ideas myself.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO-related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
I spend a large portion of my online time on Instagram, sharing ideas and talking to other fans. If I want to read up on a new set, Brickset is usually my first port of call.
ABOUT YOUR PROJECT
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
Going back to what I mentioned earlier, I love models based on things I’ve seen on screen, especially vehicles. LEGO had already released a long list of cult vehicles at minifigure scale, but for the building experience and a display piece afterward, I’ve always preferred the creator expert scale model. I had recently finished building Dave Slater’s MOC Delorean, and there were rumors of an upcoming Large Ecto1, so I felt that a Mystery Machine at the same scale was the perfect accompaniment.
- 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?
The first stage was to collate images of all the different incarnations of the Mystery Machine that had appeared on our screens over the last 50 years.
I identified differences and similarities between them all to combine key attributes that could embody the characteristics that were not necessarily based on a particular timeline but were still instantly recognisable as what it is.
Being a cartoon van, it was difficult to find a reliable point of reference to determine what the real-world dimensions of several elements would be.
I wanted to create it so it sat very closely in scale with set 10274, the Large Ectomobile.
After preliminary sketches, I moved on to creating 1:1 scale drawings in AutoCAD to determine how closely I could match the proportions of the Mystery Machine given the restrictions of available LEGO Elements.
Once I was happy with the front, side, and top 2D drawings. I imported those images into the digital builder to start building up the design with bricks.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
The Mystery Machine is a box van, but its physical appearance is actually very curvy. I didn’t want any flat sides and wanted the edges to flow rather than take a sharp change of direction. I must have tried every single none square LEGO element in the quest to achieve the perfect shape, and failure after failure made me question whether it would even be possible, but perseverance endeavored and I finally achieved the shape I was aiming for.
- If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Since submitting the project, I have designed a minifigure plinth with a removable Scooby-Doo dog tag which I think could be a great accompaniment to the model. One thing that was continuously fed back was that people would love the set to include minifigures and this would be a really nice way of displaying them.
- 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?
It was long-term labour of love. The objective was always to do it right, rather than quickly. I really enjoy the process of design so didn’t want to rush it, but with it also came many frustrations so I purposely took some time away from it to clear my head at several points. I think all elements considered, It may have taken 6 months going from concept to creation.
I love all elements of design, I didn’t want the submission of the project to be the end of the line and put the same amount of creative effort into promoting ideas as I did building it.
I relied heavily on social media to gain support and knew that not everybody is online all the time so had to regularly promote the idea in the same places to catch a wider audience. I knew that there are also people who are online much more frequently and would see the promotion over and over again. To overcome this process becoming monotonous, my objective was that nobody should ever see the exact same promotional image twice. Rather than just accept people's votes, I want to involve them in the journey and get their feedback along the way. I created a mid-session revision based on feedback that I’d received.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
I think it’s human nature to want validation that what they have created is good, and not just the votes but all the positive feedback that I have received along the way has been incredible and I have really enjoyed the journey so far.
I have read that it took me 175 days to gain membership into the 10k club.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
The final brick count was one that I had in mind from the very beginning. The very first Scooby-Doo Cartoon was shown on television in 1969. I looked at similarly scaled models and knew this was a realistic target. Towards the end of the build, the brick count was around 1800 and I knew I had several options. Either just give up on the achieving 1969, mildly cheat by swapping out larger elements to lots of smaller ones (but I really didn’t want to do this) so that is where the introduction of the flower plinth came from. The Van is 1853 parts and the plinth is 116, totaling 1969 as a set.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
The 6x2 wedge used at the corners that allowed a smooth transmission was a real game-changer and I think was the hero part of the build.
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
I did use a digital builder. Before undertaking the project, I played around with various different ones but decided that Bricklink Stud.i.o best suited my requirements, and everything was rendered using the inbuilt eyesight renderer.
- If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
All artwork although based on existing designs was created from scratch to specifically fit the build perfectly. The artwork was created in illustrator that added to the bricks in part designer which is an add on to Bricklink Stud.i.o.
ABOUT LEGO IDEAS
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
I think ultimately, you need to love what you do. A few ideas gain 10k through natural momentum but many need continuous promotion so if you don’t believe what you have created is a great idea, you will struggle to convey this to others.
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
Creating a digital model through lockdown meant that I had to mostly rely on the internet to advertise my idea. I set up an account for most social media platforms, joined forums, and towards the end, my Idea was published in a national LEGO Themed magazine.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
I love LEGO Ideas as a theme as there is just so much variety. Probably my all-time favorite television show is F.R.I.E.N.D.S so I was really excited that Idea got approved and I really enjoyed building it.
I few past ideas that I hoped would get approved was the Thunderbirds 2 and Wallace and Gromit sets – Both of which I grew up watching on television.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
I love that there is no prerequisite to enter and that everyone is welcomed and treated in the same way. There is no limit to the number of ideas that you can submit, so I would say submit something – learn the process, see what kind of feedback you get and it will either be a great success or a great learning experience. Either way, just take the plunge and do it.
- 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?
I do have a follow-up idea. It is very much just an idea at this stage. I plan to develop this one using real bricks (although the initial designs will still be created digitally) It’s a completely new idea, not based on a license but it does take inspiration from work I’ve previously posted on social media.
- scooby doo
- mystery machine
- tv show
- 10k club
- 10k club interview
- product idea
- lego idea
- tv series