All aboard, and welcome to today's 10K Club interview: introducing Thomas Lajon, a.k.a. LEt.sGO. Thomas' first LEGO Ideas submission, THE ORIENT EXPRESS - A LEGENDARY TRAIN, is born of a childhood obsession with locomotives, sailing ships and ocean liners. Find out more about his fantastic submission here!
- Who are you?
My name is Thomas Lajon. In the LEGO community, I chose to use the pseudonym LEt'sGO. (A terrible pun between LEGO and Let's go. Who will help me change that?)
- Where are you from?
I live in Paris, but I am from Normandy. It’s my heartland.
- How old are you?
- What do you study or do for a living?
I’m a director and a screenwriter.
- What hobbies do you have?
I divide my time between my family, my writing, and my LEGO bricks. Between these main things, I also do bouldering.
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
I don’t have a personal website, but I share my creations on social media, especially on Instagram.
- 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 rather proud of one of my latest MOCs, the Ulysses. It's the submarine from the Disney Studios animated film, Atlantis, The Lost Empire. Several times I wanted to adapt it into a LEGO set and it was hard. Then, at some point, I found the trick that allowed me to unlock the rest of the construction. I think it's a very elegant vehicle. Doesn't it fit in with a sort of continuity after the Orient Express?
I posted the MOC on LEGO Ideas. I think it can appeal to fans of the Disney film as well as to fans of the sea, submarines and Jules Verne.
- How and when did your interest in LEGO products come about?
I got my first LEGO box when I was four-years-old, and it was a long story that lasted until I was fourteen. At that age, I received sets for Christmas and even though I loved them, I took a break from them because I was made fun of. I was told that LEGO bricks were only for children. Then, a few years later, a LEGO Store arrived in Paris. It awakened something in me. My girlfriend made the first step in 2017 by offering me the first set of a LEGO collection that keeps growing!
- 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 two things to me.
The first one is the creative part, which is infinite (only the number of pieces limits us) This concept of interlocking bricks is fantastic, better than a 3D puzzle, because you can combine them in almost any way. At the same time, it’s not model making; we represent things but with an abstract part, which puts our imagination to work. In short, it’s a creative tool that stimulates imagination and intelligence, because there is also a great element of technicality.
The second one is sharing. Since I have been building LEGO sets, I have shared wonderful and incredibly special moments - especially with my little brother when we were younger. We had our LEGO bricks in a mezzanine. It was our den where we built, deconstructed, rebuilt and played (sometimes in secret when it was late). I also remember the plans we made to acquire new sets, going to the toy store where we drooled over the shelves filled with boxes we dreamed of!
Today the passion and the sharing continue with my family, my friends and my girlfriend, (because I got her involved)!
- 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 don't have a favourite theme. But I have many favourites among the Creator Expert and LEGO Ideas sets.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set ever? Why?
That's a question without a definitive answer, of course. I had a crush on Titanic recently. Another for Van Gogh's Starry Night. But who knows what new ideas The LEGO Group will bring tomorrow? With - for me - its share of excitement?
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
I like the complex pieces. Like #87087 (Modified Brick 1 x 1 with Stud on 1 Side).
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
I have a French Blogger who runs a blog, Abracadabriques. I really like her writing style which, in addition to being brilliant, describes things with great sincerity. She is not just a box opener, she is a passionate person who transmits a passion.
ABOUT YOUR PROJECT
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I have always been a great fan of locomotives, sailing ships and ocean liners. As a child, I collected everything related to them. Why these three specifically, I don't know exactly, except that my grandfather was a commander in the Merchant Navy. But why trains? Because Thomas the Tank Engine maybe? (Because that's my first name and I couldn't escape it as a child) Anyway. I had this passion to the point of wanting, at one time, to be a naval architect.
Years later, my girlfriend encouraged me to get back in touch with LEGO bricks, but as I couldn't afford to buy as many bricks as I needed to experiment with my hands, I got Studio, from Bricklink. Knowing my love for trains, she encouraged me to make one. Obviously, I chose to make the Orient Express. A sumptuous French train, at the heart of many stories. It took passengers across Europe in luxury carriages for many decades. It gradually disappeared, but today there are plans to revive it.
If I could travel back in time and could afford a ticket, I would take the Orient Express (before continuing with a crossing on a transatlantic liner). What a time! I have a bit of a fascination with these coal-fired steam engines (well, nowadays it's more than urgent that we do without coal).
- 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?
This project took me a long time. Hours, days and nights.
Being my very first project, I started without any preparatory work - which increased the design time on the software. I first chose the wheels which determined the scale of the project. From there I just built by looking at pictures of the Pacific 231 K 8 locomotive.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
The main problem I had was with the wheels. There are no LEGO parts with the size of track wheels I wanted. I had to do some fiddling which, at this level, makes the project unfinished. But I have no doubt that if the LEGO designers get hold of the project, they will find the right solution.
- 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?
The preparatory work is important. I have too much of a tendency to make the parts one after the other and to link them as best I can. I think that having a holistic vision is essential to get to the point, to gain efficiency, both in the form and in the number of pieces used.
I reworked the project several times to reduce the number of parts, to correct inconsistencies and many other mistakes that had been made.
- 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 locomotive has been on LEGO Ideas for almost a year! And I know that other projects will stay even longer. The construction and promotion times are incomparable!
You have to be willing and patient. Sometimes it's very hard because you feel like you've given a lot of yourself to a build and yet the growth in the number of supporters and the number of people interested in the project is disappointing. You don't feel that they have the same passion for the project as you do. But that's normal and I face the same problems in my job as a scriptwriter. There are projects that will grow for a long time, but surely. Others will never reach their goal, no matter how good they are.
Besides, on LEGO Ideas, the time spent between the publication of the project and the 10K is not an indicator of anything. I say to myself for all those whose projects are tortoises: let them remember the fable of La Fontaine, The Hare and the Tortoise.
“There is no point in running; you have to start on time.”
We have seen projects reach 10K in a few hours and others, months! A good example is the typewriter. Posted in March 2018, the project reached 10K in October 2019. One year and 7 months. And yet we know it's a magnificent project that has succeeded brilliantly! A beautiful tortoise.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
This is a reward for a lot of patience and commitment. A relief and a wave of positive emotion. I have achieved something, and I have given myself the right to be proud, at least for a little while.
Of course, I had a thought for the 10,000 people who supported the project. If I know a handful of them, who are the thousands of others who gave me this moment of happiness?
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
2991 bricks. Yes, it was tight.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
The wagon is simpler in its construction, but I really enjoyed making it. It is a vehicle and a place at the same time, full of elegance. In the end, it was quite sober, but it was important to show that it was something rich and detailed.
I'm not unhappy with the removable roof, which offers a bit of interactivity on an exhibition model.
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
I use Stud.io by Bricklink.
ABOUT LEGO IDEAS
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
My only advice is to use your imagination. Making LEGO MOCs is about turning plastic bricks into something that tells a story and inspires.
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
I was able to promote my project thanks to the great LEGO community on the Internet. There are many Facebook groups dedicated to LEGO Ideas or themes like LEGO trains.
I also think I was incredibly lucky. A chance that I owe to this AFOL community.
I sincerely thank everyone who supported me, sent messages, and shared the project. Without them, none of this would have been possible. Each project is an adventure that 10,000 of us share.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
I had a crush on the Tree House. It is a jewel of poetry. It inspires nature and escape. It incorporates the "DIY construction" aspect, like we do with our LEGO bricks. We are close to the mise en abîme.
I also loved the concept of Steamboat Willie, done in black and white. The rendering is magnificent. It is a pity that it went off the shelves before I decided to buy it!
Can I say that ideas have been overlooked: yes, of course. There are so many incredible ideas, and the keyhole is so narrow!
First, there are the ones that do not make it on LEGO Ideas, because of lack of visibility. It is indeed awfully hard to promote a project and there is inevitably a part of luck. These are mysterious and multi-factorial laws, which we are sometimes powerless against. And among the few ideas that reach the 10K mark, there is also a choice that must be made by The LEGO Group according to their own criteria. To choose is to give up. Of course, there are beautiful projects that will never see the light of day.
But I’m delighted that the Bricklink Designer Program allows some of them to exist in a different way, it is a nice initiative and I hope it will last in time!
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
This platform is a gold mine of ideas! The social part is limited, but the number of projects is huge! So I advise everyone who would like to publish an idea to take great care of the presentation, especially the images. People have to click on the project. Show everything that can seduce!
Don't do as I did, don't publish your project too quickly. Wait until you are sure that it is at least a minimum of completed.
- 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 have ideas, such as the idea of turning the RLS Legacy, the flying frigate from Disney's Treasure Planet, into bricks. But it's a real challenge. If a MOCer want to join me on the project, I'd love to.
- 10k club
- 10k club interview
- product idea
- the orient express - a legendary train
- thomas lajon