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10K Club Interview: Naruto: Ichiraku Ramen Shop by David and Diego Escalona

Today we introduce 10K Club twin brothers David and Diego Escalona (aka. DadiTwins). As passionate anime/manga fans they set out to pay tribute to Naruto; one of their favourites and one of the most famous of the genre via their creation the Naruto: Ichiraku Ramen Shop.

Please do help us congratulate them in the comments down below!

About Yourself

  1. Who are you?
    David Escalona and Diego Escalona. We are twin brothers, so that is the origin of our nickname “DadiTwins”.

  2. Where are you from?
    We are from Logroño, a small town in the north of Spain.
  3. How old are you?
    We are 35.
  4. What do you do for a living?
    Well, this is a bit funny because we studied in the same schools and university. We decided to study the same Electronic Engineering Degree and finished it the same day. Then, we started to work (yes, the same day) in the same company, and we have been working there for 12 years now (wow, time flies!). All the achievements we reached in our lives were together, people use to say that we form a kind of perfect team because we complement each other. In our day-a-day work, we design and develop any kind of software, from high-level plugins, desktop, web and mobile apps to low-level firmware and libraries, everything oriented to the electronics developed in the company we work.
  5. What hobbies do you have?
    Although there are some little differences in the things we like, you could almost say that we love the same things, which is an advantage, as we can share our hobbies and collections! Among others, we love theme parks, manga, anime, everything related to Disney, Harry Potter, Star Wars and videogames. We love to attend events and conventions related to all these hobbies. LEGO, of course, is one of our all-life passions!

    We also spend a lot of time creating things in any form related to our hobbies. For example, we are part of a cosplay group and we have designed several costumes and props (including the Ghostbusters’ proton packs!).
  6. Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
    We are relatively new in the LEGO social media space, but we started an Instagram account that we try to keep updated. You can reach us with the user name @twinsbricks or from this link.
  7. Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud it and do you have a photo of it?
    We have been playing with LEGO since we were children and we created a ton of MOCs and models with the bricks from the different sets we had in those times. Since then, we have been acquiring many LEGO sets in common, but we have them built and displayed in shelves. We do not have a special place to store thousands of LEGO bricks and build with them (we wish we could!) so, almost all our MOCs are digital.

    We are most proud of one specific MOC. It is a replica of the Disneyland Fire Station building, which includes a classic fire engine, Walt Disney’s secret apartment and a custom mini-figure of Walt Disney himself. We love this MOC because of what it means to us, as it represents an incredible adventure we lived with Disney 5 years ago. Thanks to the designs we made in Disney Infinity, we could be part of the magic for some time and visit Walt Disney’s apartment in person! We tried to submit the MOC as a LEGO Idea, however the Disneyland IP was banned at that moment.

  8. How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
    Not a single year comes to mind when we did not have a LEGO brick around us. We still remember those days of our childhood building things with LEGO while watching a Disney movie... the good old times! The only thing that we can say for sure is that we got our first LEGO set from our grandma when we were three, and that was the starting point of a passion that persists today.
  9. 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.
    We define ourselves as makers and creators and, for us, LEGO is one of the best ways we have found to express our creativity. But that is not all, we can say that LEGO played an incredible role on deciding our future. One of the reasons that led us to become engineers was LEGO, as it woke up our passion to design and create things, and that is what an engineer does after all, isn’t it?

    We always look for the way everything works and how it is built, and LEGO lets you experiment that with the different products it offers. We are pretty sure LEGO Technic and LEGO Mindstorms will create a ton of amazing engineers as it did with us.

    Talking about entertainment, we have played almost all LEGO videogames (yes, LEGO Universe too). We loved all of them, but if we had to choose, we would pick LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Jurassic World and LEGO Harry Potter sagas.
  10. What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
    If we had to choose an old theme, it would be the LEGO Western without a doubt. We own all the sets that were for sale in Spain in those times. We had a lot of fun with them as we used to create giant MOCs with all the sets combined during summer vacations!

    If we talk about “new” themes, Harry Potter is by far our favourite one. We are trying to acquire all the Harry Potter sets, but it looks like they are infinite. Hogwarts has been re-edited three times, so far, four if we count the micro-scale set! We have a pic of the complete first edition in a giant pseudo-MOC we made about 15 years ago to group all the sets! A fun fact is that we didn’t want to modify any of the original sets, so it is a little mess.

  11. What is your favourite official LEGO set ever? Why?
    At this point, we have some discrepancies (at last!)

    Diego: For me, the best LEGO set is The Disney Castle (71040). I’m a total fan of Disney parks, so this set was a must have. I love every single part of the castle, from the base to the top of the main tower. The building techniques used in this set are gorgeous and the interiors are just amazing. It is incredible the amount of Disney movie references you can find in this set!

    David: The Hogwarts Castle (71043) is my favourite set. I was always hoping for something similar, and when it was announced, it was like a dream come true! I am now waiting for the rest of the castle… ;)
  12. What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
    Diego: I think hinges (any kind of them) would be my choice. They offer a ton of flexibility, possibilities and shapes you cannot get using just standard bricks. I remember I was aware of every single hinge piece we had when we were kids. In those times, we didn’t have a lot of hinges, so we had to plan our custom builds having those pieces in mind before starting them!

    David: In my case, I like every brick with side studs. I remember having to “trick” the LEGO plates by connecting the side of a plate to the line between studs in another plate to get that effect. When the bricks with side studs were released I was like… Finally!!
  13. Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
    Diego: It wasn’t until we bought the Ghostbusters Firehouse Headquarters (75827) that I actually went curious about the designers behind the LEGO sets. Then, I discovered that Marcos Bessa was also behind my all-time favourite LEGO set, The Disney Castle (71040). But it doesn’t end there, he was also the author of both Simpsons sets and my lovely Ewok Village (10236)! Amazing! Since then I followed all his new creations. So, I guess he is my favourite designer hehe.

    David: For me, Justin Ramsden is my favourite designer as he worked on two of my favourite sets: Hogwarts Castle and Stranger Things. He did an amazing job with the castle, it is really difficult to work with micro-scale sets but the result was impressive. Same with Upside Down (75810), the creativity of that set is outstanding! Talking about fan designers, my favourite one is Bricky_brick. I love most of his designs, especially Pirates of Barracuda Bay and his European architecture sets!
  14. Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
    Most of the LEGO content we consume comes from social media feeds as we are subscribed to a lot of them. We can say that Beyond the Brick is one of our favourites. Also, Tiago Catarino’s Youtube channel is awesome! If you look for inspiration, that is one of the best places, for sure. In terms of MOCs, we tend to visit Rebrickable as it has tons of interesting designs. You can learn a lot from them!

About Your Project

  1. Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
    In the entertainment room of our house, we have several shelves full of books, LEGO sets and collectables. We tend to mix figures and LEGO sets with our books and manga collections, so this gave us the initial idea. Why aren’t there any manga or anime related LEGO sets yet? Wouldn’t it be awesome if all of us, manga and anime fans, could exhibit a beautiful LEGO anime set next to our favourite manga collection? The amount of manga and anime fans around the world is extraordinary high, and it grows day by day… We thought that there is a totally unexplored and huge market out there full of possibilities. So, we saw in LEGO Ideas the perfect way to combine two of our passions and bring an idea that could become the first LEGO set based on a manga/anime ever! Challenge accepted!

    So, being Naruto our favourite manga/anime as well as one of the most popular and familiar of all times, we decided to design a LEGO set around it. The timing was perfect too because starting past year, Naruto is celebrating its 20th anniversary of the manga, being 2022 the 20th anniversary of the anime. Naruto has millions of fans of all ages and it is well known around the entire world. Children (and adults, of course!) could even play with their favourite heroes and recreate stories of the series. It could work!

    The next step was to choose “what” to design. The place we selected was the Ichiraku Ramen Shop, one of the most iconic buildings of the Naruto series. This place radiates happiness, brings to mind many beautiful moments of the series and it is a Ramen restaurant, after all, something never seen in LEGO! It is also a well-known place in the series, so all fans would be familiar with it. We had the possibility to give Ramen a very important role in the set, making this Japanese food a key element of the idea. It was so perfect we couldn’t believe it!
  2. 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?
    We think it took us about 3 months of work on the project from day one to the day we finally submitted it to LEGO Ideas. During that time, we went through different phases, from research and design to build and graphic art.

    Although Ichiraku Ramen Shop appears multiple times along the manga and anime, there is not much information about the building itself, some parts were never displayed! We found that even the colors were slightly different depending on the source we checked, was the roof green or blue? The only things that seemed to be clear were the interior of the restaurant, the main facade and the overall shape of the building. So, we understood that we had to complete those diffuse zones on our own with a little of imagination and creativity.

    We knew about the peculiar architecture of Konoha (the village where the building is located), as it is a mix of traditional Japanese style with old and new sorts of technology. However, we still had to quickly research elements that could give the set that special appearance. We thought that the electric pole with cables and the food cart where Teuchi buys the Ramen ingredients were ideal to demonstrate that contrast.

    We worked on several small models and building techniques that helped us to take important decisions about sizes, colors, roofs, furniture, etc. We didn’t have the main building yet, just a lot of elements and small building tests to get an idea of the final appearance, and what is more important, would it be possible to build what we had in mind? With all the decisions made, we finally created the main building; the process is really fast when you have solved all the problems beforehand!

    The last phase was the design of the custom art and minifigures and we think it was the most challenging one. Creating minifigures in LEGO is a really complex task, moreover if they are anime characters! We spent a lot of time researching and deciding the perfect expressions for each minifigure.
  3. What special challenges or frustrations did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
    You may think that recreating something that already exists in LEGO is easier than imagining something new. After years of experience creating things (not only in LEGO) we can assure you that, sadly, that’s not true. You face a lot of challenges when recreating an existing element. The first and most important one is that you are totally limited in a lot of aspects, you don’t have the freedom to add or change something just because you don’t like it or fits better. You must keep it as similar as possible while translating it to the bricks language. Another important issue when recreating something is that people generate their own expectations about the final look and you must meet them. While we were building the set we knew that all Naruto fans are familiar with the Ichiraku Ramen Shop and have an image about it in their minds, so we couldn’t let them down! We were really scared about the opinions these fans would have about our design when seeing the final result!

    The second challenge was much like creating a perfect triangle. You must combine scale, size and number of bricks in perfect harmony. We spent quite a lot of time deciding about the scale and size of the building. Think of it this way, making it just two studs bigger than necessary impacts a lot in the scale and the final number of bricks of the set!

    Finally, we want to talk about the minifigures, as it was one of the most challenging parts. We have some experience in graphic design, so creating all the custom art and decals was not the main problem. However, we had no experience in minifigure design at all, and that really scared us. Anime and manga characters appearance is very peculiar. They have many western facial features, mainly big eyes and mouth, which is exactly the opposite of standard LEGO minifgures. We cannot really tell the number of retries we did to create the first Naruto face, modifying the size and position of the eyes, the mouth and the eyebrows. You have to keep the balance between the real anime character and the LEGO style so that you can easily recognize that character in the minifigure without losing that particular LEGO feeling. Now, multiply that by seven characters with two faces each… That is a lot of work!
  4. 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?
    We would start with “buy a better computer guys, you cannot spend over 2 hours for a single render!” Hehe, now seriously. We would suggest ourselves not to leave all the custom art for the end, for example. It took us a lot of time, and sometimes you get a bit tired when working on the same thing for a long time. It would have been better to combine the building process with the custom art design, so you can mix the work and have a better idea of the final result.

    Also, our first version of the roof was plenty of bars of different sizes trying to give it a more detailed look and feel. At first, it didn’t look bad at all, but when we finished all the roof it was really overloaded. We finally had to make big changes in there to reach the version you see now. So the advice would be “do not spend that much time on that, you won’t use it!” Anyway, like everything in this life, you must fail several times to be successful, with the difference that you are not really failing, but learning!
  5. 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?
    As pointed before, the project took about 3 months to be finished and submitted to LEGO Ideas. It is hard to combine your hobbies with your job, but the quarantine helped there. After that, we created new characters and several scenarios that we posted as project updates, so we can say that we have never stopped working on this project.

    To be honest, we didn’t even think about promoting the idea when we submitted it. The only thing we did was a presentation video on YouTube that took us a day or so. However, after the idea was up for a couple of days, we understood that you need to keep it alive, you cannot simply leave your idea in the portal and ignore it. So, we decided to make regular updates in the project, at least one or two per week. We also took care of reading and answering every single comment people wrote there, positive or negative, any constructive feedback is always welcome. This means that we have been promoting the idea all the time it was up for voting. We mainly created updates with some characters and several scenarios demonstrating the playability of the idea with the minifigures, just like a fan would do! Then, we posted those updates on our Instagram account.
  6. How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
    We don’t think that this feeling can be expressed with words, it is really an amazing and magical moment. It is even more special when you are relatively new in the community without previous entries and without a fan-base or followers. The reception we had by the LEGO Ideas community was overwhelming! We received a ton of kind and awesome comments from this amazing community, which encouraged us to believe in our project even more! Thank you all for your support!

    It is curious that the project required only 9 weeks to reach the 10.000 supporters in LEGO Ideas, much less than the time we spent building it, crazy! We knew our idea was not bad at all, but we never expected to reach this goal being it our first entry... and much less in a couple of months!
  7. Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
    We didn’t want to get crazy on this. Big sets are amazing and really tempting to design, but they require a lot of space for display and to play with and, not to mention, they are expensive! We wanted our set to have the perfect size for display in a shelf near a manga collection (at least this is how we imagined it hehe). So we aimed for the middle of the brick limit, we wanted it to be around 1500 bricks tops, and we almost did it!

    Including the seven minifigures with their accessories and all the Ramen elements, the set has a total of 1647 bricks. There are still some optimizations that can be made to reduce that number, but we leave it to the amazing LEGO designers in case LEGO selects this set for production.
  8. What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
    In this case, we would like to talk about the Ramen and the way we have represented it in LEGO. The easiest and simplest way to do it would have been by creating a sticker or decal for a 2x2 round tile. But, for us, that was really flat and, as we said previously, “simple”. So, we decided to go one step further and re-imagine this food in a more creative way. As a result, we created up to 8 ingredients in separated tiles so they could be combined in the two bowl sizes included in the set. Not everybody likes Ramen with the same ingredients, right? This also gave the Ramen a more important role in the idea, which was part of our initial goal.

    There are other elements we can mention. For example, did you know that there are pipes connecting the gas tanks from the exterior to the oven and the sink inside the restaurant? Or that you can open the refrigerator and put Ramen ingredients inside? We are also especially proud of the electric pole, as it is totally integrated with the building and all those cables give it the Konoha style we were looking for.

    There are a ton of details in the set, just take a closer look to the pics!
  9. If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
    At last a short answer! We were more familiar with LDD, but this time we decided to use Bricklink Studio 2.0 to create the building and the renders. Seriously, the tool is extremely easy to use and the renders it generates are fantastic! To apply the decals and stickers to the bricks we used Bricklink Part Designer. From there, you can export the modified bricks to Bricklink Studio in just one click.
  10. If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
    All the stickers and decals included in the set were made by us. We decided to create everything from scratch rather than picking already created images so that we could make our own version and scale them to the desired size. We learned to use Adobe Flash when we were 16 (in those times it was Macromedia Flash) and we have been using it ever since. It is really easy to use and good enough to design and export images in any size. We spent a lot of time creating the templates for each minifigure element (for example, each leg required 4 different templates). Then, we used them to draw all the decals required by each minifigure; we made around 14 decals for each one. We loved the final result so much that we added some images to display all the minifigures of the set together in the submission.


About LEGO Ideas

  1. Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas Product Idea?
    We will give a couple of tips that other 10k members have already talked about in their interviews. It is nothing new, but we consider them really important.

    Build something you really like and build it for yourself, not for others.
    Only building something you really feel is worth building will make your idea transmit all the passion you put in it. So, our recommendation is to build and create an idea because you really like it and you would enjoy building, displaying or playing with it. This is not a job or a commission, only a hobby, right?

    Put all your love in your idea presentation, including the cover image!
    You can’t imagine how important the cover image of the idea is. We spent a lot of time going through successful ideas before deciding the final cover image of our own one. It is the first thing people will see in the portal and it needs to be attractive, it needs to generate interest to make people click it and know more about your idea. Once there, you should have a nice and detailed description, not just a few lines explaining something that is already shown in the pictures. You should give some more context about the set, the backend, the reasons that led you to build it and why it would be a great idea. You can even use images within the description to make it more enjoyable or to separate sections.
  2. What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
    We can say that in terms of promotion and popularity we started from scratch. We created our LEGO Ideas account a couple of years ago, but we didn’t have a fan base there as we didn’t post anything, back then. We were totally unknown as we didn’t have any followers in LEGO Ideas or a YouTube channel with 100k+ subscribers or an Instagram account with thousands of followers. So, all we could do to promote our idea was to create an Instagram account and start posting all the updates we were making for the project as well as sharing the idea in a few Facebook groups. Only with that and the presentation video, we found ourselves really impressed by the number of supporters we were getting from the LEGO Ideas community members. Our number of supporters was increasing by 1000 per week! Crazy, right?

    When we reached 9k supporters, a very important manga and anime blog came across our idea and wrote an article about it. The article went viral in just a couple of hours and a lot of manga and anime blogs from all around the world started writing about the idea too. We got the 1000 supporters left in just one day! We can’t imagine what could have happened if this article had been written since the very beginning.
  3. What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
    Diego: We own a lot of LEGO Ideas sets, but my favourite one is Saturn V (21309). The set looks spectacular anywhere you place it. It has something special (maybe the historical moment it represents) that differentiates it from others. About overlooked ideas, I arrived a bit late to support it, but I’m in love with this @Buggyirk’s Pinocchio puppet. I’m sure it will reach 10k supporters if he submits it again!

    David: Not in my hands yet, but for me, Pirates of the Barracuda Bay (21322) is just impressive. I cannot tell the amount of reviews and building videos I have seen about that set. I love the colors, the display, the Caribbean atmosphere it gives off and the fact that it can become a real ship just fascinates me. The set is really beautiful! If you ask for non-produced ideas, there is one idea still available to vote I like a lot, which is the Giant Minifigure. I always wanted to have a giant minifigure and, if it is made out of LEGO bricks, what else can you ask for?
  4. What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
    We like LEGO Ideas because, as we said before, it is the perfect place to combine your passions. It is an amazing layer that links the LEGO fan community with the company itself. If you like LEGO, you can create and submit an idea based on your own hobbies. You can express your creativity by designing your own LEGO set and let others see it, talk about it and share some ideas. We think most LEGO fans have dreamed to become an official LEGO designer and work for this amazing company sometime in their lives. We know that having a LEGO set designed by ourselves is not like being an official designer, but it is close enough!

    If you have something you think could be a good idea, go for it! You need to spend some time preparing the pictures and writing the description, but the LEGO Ideas community will extend you a warm welcome!
  5. Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint what that might be?
    Ah yes, we have more ideas in mind, we just need to find the time to create them! If the past quarantine had something good was that we could have spent even more time together to work on this project. We really enjoyed it and hope we can submit more ideas in the future!
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