10K Club Interview: Meet Ivan Guerrero of 123 Sesame Street
Ivan Guerrero (aka bulldoozer21 on LEGO Ideas), the mind behind 123 Sesame Street! Big Bird wasn't around to ask questions to, so Ivan has been chatting with us about the model himself in this interview!
And remember to congratulate Ivan in the comments below!
- Where are you from?
- How old are you?
- What do you study or do for a living?
I’m a commercial filmmaker.
Ivan is on the right, not to be confused with The Cookie Monster, center
- What hobbies do you have?
I enjoy collecting Jim Henson and Muppet memorabilia. I also enjoy reading and collecting comics.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
I was exposed to LEGO at a very young age. Some of my very first sets include the LEGOLAND Police Car (6623) and Turbo Prop (6687). I rediscovered my love of LEGO only a couple of years ago, mostly because of LEGO Ideas sets and LEGO Dimensions minifigures.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
I’m a big fan of the Ghostbusters Firehouse and Ecto-1 (21108). When I was a kid, I collected anything Ghostbusters. These two sets faithfully recreated my favorite moments from the movies and cartoons.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
Honestly, my favorite piece is the 1x1 plate. Whenever I work on my initial design draft, as much as possible, I use the basic 1x1 plate or round tile. It’s a good exercise for learning to build things with a basic design unit. As I streamline the draft, I slowly incorporate more unique parts that improve the overall shape and lower the part count.
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
Nathan Sawaya’s work is amazing. His designs tap into the imagination and push the boundaries of what can be made with LEGO bricks. I’d actually like to see more artists create original works like that.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
I visit a couple of sites regularly, including Brothers Brick, Brickset, and The Bricks Hub. I actively follow several Facebook groups as well.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I grew up on Sesame Street. The show was one of my first teachers. It taught me how to read, write, count and laugh. I’m also an enormous fan of Jim Henson. His creations have played an important role in shaping my creative career.
I would also say that one of my big inspirations behind this set was the cancellation of the Sesame Street action figure line by Palisades Toys, back in 2006. At the time, the toy company was all set to launch a series of highly detailed Sesame action figures, created specifically for more grown-up collectors. Among the prototypes built for the line was a screen-accurate 123 Sesame Street apartment building that would have served as the display base for the figures. This was the very first time anyone had attempted to produce an elaborate representation of this iconic TV landmark. All previous attempts to capture the likeness of this set in toy form had been geared towards a much younger audience. When the announcement came in about the cancellation, there was collective sigh of disappointment from collectors. A lot of people grew up on that building stoop and we would have loved to own a little bit of that childhood memory.
As 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Sesame Street, I figured it was a great time to create a LEGO set that celebrated the show’s history and long legacy of playing and learning.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
There were a couple of things that presented unique challenges in designing this model.
First, since the building really only exists on TV, there were several portions of the set that I had to design from my own imagination. In order to translate it into a three-dimensional LEGO building, I researched old New York apartment buildings from the 1960s and 1970s and attempted to treat 123 Sesame Street as a building that was built around the same time.
In designing Elmo’s World, I wanted the room to feel like it existed in both a physical place and inside Elmo’s imagination at the same time. It was particularly challenging to create a crayon-like texture for the space. I was able to pull it off using mosaic LEGO tiling that bled from the walls into the furniture. As a design medium, the great thing about using LEGO is its ability to seamlessly blend together different styles of abstraction.
Lastly, capturing the likeness of some of the characters proved somewhat challenging -- particularly for Bert, Ernie, and Big Bird. There are some limitations to creating puppet-like fur, feathers, and hair using LEGO. I spent a lot of time revisiting these figures and researching new parts that I could substitute.
- How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time?
The design for the building took several months to build. It was a great little hobby for a while.
In designing each room, I decided that each area would be built using specific time periods from the show’s long history. I also wanted to create a variety of rooms tailored to iconic situations from the show. I would spend a couple of hours each week carefully researching the various rooms in the apartment building. I’d watch old episodes and study screen captures, or dig in deep into the Muppet Wiki and various Sesame books. Sesame Street Unpaved and Sesame Street: A Celebration of 40 Years of Life on the Street, as well as the Sesame Old School DVDs were invaluable resources.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
When I initially submitted the design back in October 2017, I got a ton of votes on the set, mostly due to being featured on sites like Nerdist and Laughing Squid. The momentum slowed down throughout 2018, but immediately picked-up again in early 2019, just as Sesame Workshop began announcing plans for its 50th anniversary. I made some adjustments to the design around February 2019 and also launched my 50th Anniversary social media campaign, which pushed the project to 9,000 votes by April 2019.
I know there were tons of Muppets fans around the world counting down the votes each day. The design finally reached 10,000 votes on May 1st, 2019, which was perfect timing. On that same day, the city of New York officially renamed one of its streets as ‘Sesame Street.’ It was an incredibly exciting day for me.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
For the updated design, I used approximately 2,945 pieces.
About LEGO Ideas
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
First of all, learn the audience for your design. Try to research how big or small the market is for people who will vote, and ultimately buy the set. If there is a small audience for the design, it will probably struggle to reach enough votes. Once you’re able to determine your audience, try to study the kind of content they’d expect to see in your design and your promotions.
Second, learn how to promote the project on social media. Sometimes, it’s not enough to simply post and share on Facebook or in Facebook groups. Learn what kinds of posts works well on Reddit, Instagram, and Twitter. It takes a bit of trial-and-error to figure this out. You’ll need to learn the nuances of each channel and their audiences.
Lastly, I’d say it’s a great idea to continue making updates to your design, even after submitting it to LEGO Ideas. LEGO produces new parts with each release. You might just find a new piece that is suitable for your project in an upcoming set.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas project (besides your own of course)?
I’m a fan of KaLEGOscope by BrickPiper. Conceptually, it has a great design that’s highly playable, educational, and customizable. It’s a very unique way to play with LEGO parts.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
What I really like about LEGO Ideas is its versatility. The platform offers a unique opportunity to create new LEGO fans, by connecting people and their various interests. LEGO already has a built-in fan base for lines like space, pirates, and modular buildings. LEGO Ideas expands that base and creates new LEGO fans out of fanbases for pop culture properties, like the Beatles or Voltron, or of original designs, like the LEGO Bird Project and the Labyrinth Marble Maze.
A few other tips I would share with people who are thinking of uploading an idea…
Create what you love. Don’t create a set just because you think it’s popular or because you think it will do well. It’s important that you create something that you will enjoy. When you have fun and play with your creations, it will come across in the build, and fans will like it even more. Chances are, if you enjoyed building it, others will too.
When you share your design with world, you should expect to get a variety of reactions from people. Some people may praise you and some people may critique you. Never let criticism get you down. It’s important to learn how to take criticism, and use it to make improvements to your design or concept.
Finally, learn from other people’s creations. It can be challenging to build something completely original from scratch. There are some shortcuts… Study other people’s creations, watch tutorial videos, and most importantly, build other LEGO sets and learn all the many unique ways you can combine parts.