In today's 10K Club interview, you will be introduced to a creator of a model from the world of Pandora. Ivan has been a member of LEGO Ideas for several years and has become known as the Fan Designer of the LEGO Ideas Sesame Street set that launched in 2020.
Please welcome Ivan Guerrero (aka bulldoozer) and his creation Avatar: The Illuminated World of Pandora. Help us congratulate him and learn more about his creation.
- Who are you?
Hello, my name is Ivan Guerrero.
- Where are you from?
I’m from the Philippines.
- What do you do for a living?
For a living I direct commercials.
- What hobbies do you have?
Aside from designing with LEGO bricks, I also enjoy collecting comic books and memorabilia from my favorite movies. I like building miniatures too.
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
You can follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/bulldoozerbricks and Instagram at @bulldoozers_lego_ideas
- How and when did your interest in LEGO come about?
I was exposed to LEGO at a very young age but fell out of the building when I was a teenager. I rediscovered my love of LEGO just a few years ago, mostly because of LEGO Ideas sets and LEGO Dimensions packs that featured characters based on my favorite movies.
- What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play games, or 'just' watch cartoons.
For me, LEGO is an amazing medium for creative expression. There is an infinite number of ways to design and build. You can construct the same model in so many ways, using different techniques. There is something about constructing with interlocking bricks that I find both satisfying and challenging. It’s like building a jigsaw puzzle, but you don’t really know what the puzzle will look like.
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
In building this new project, I would say that I was inspired by sets with unique animal builds, particularly Legends of Chima and Fantastic Beasts. There are some really inventive creatures in those sets and I tried to channel some of that creativity in my set.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
My current favorite sets are the 1989 Batmobile and the 1989 Batwing. As a fan of Tim Burton, these are the closest we’ve had to playsets based on his imaginative films.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
Right now, I am really enjoying building with LEGO brackets (parts 36841 and 36840). These parts are versatile and let you build in different directions. There so much you can do with these pieces.
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
I’m constantly amazed by the work of Pablo Sánchez (Bricky_Brick). His work is always so detailed and well thought out. And he releases new projects regularly. I also enjoy watching the videos produced by Tiago Catarino. There is such elegance to his building techniques. I try to emulate that whenever possible.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO-related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
I regularly read articles on Brickset, Tips and Bricks, and New Elementary. On YouTube, I follow Beyond the Brick and Brick Vault. I also enjoy reading Blocks Magazine every now and then.
ABOUT YOUR PROJECT
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
The very first time I saw Avatar, I was overwhelmed by the world of Pandora. There was something unique and elegant about the way James Cameron went about world-building in this film. The plants and animals all felt very real and familiar, even while they all looked so alien. Pandora felt like a real place you could visit someday. I think that’s part of the alchemy of Avatar — the feeling of wanting to travel to this fictional world. That’s part of the reason why I rewatched the film while on lockdown last year.
As I watching, there was something in the film’s theme about how living things are all connected to each other that really resonated with me. If you recall, organisms on Pandora are all linked by a vast neural network -- connecting every Na’vi, animal, and plant species. I felt like that concept was very timely and relevant, especially in the world that we live in today. I wanted to capture that idea in this LEGO set. The idea that we’re all part of a biological circle of life.
- 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?
After watching the movie several times, I tried to get my hands on any additional resource materials on this world, including behinds the scenes videos, wiki entries, and books. I also paid close attention to the Avatar theme attractions at Walt Disney World and the Cirque du Soleil show to get a better grasp of how to translate the world of the film into three-dimensional form.
What I wanted to do with this set was make it true to the film Avatar, without necessarily making it a literal translation of any one scene from the film. The idea I was trying to capture in this set was “world-building” and so I had to find a way to compress the entire moon of Pandora into an abstraction of that world. There was a lot to fit in, so I went through several phases of layouts before I settled on an arrangement that highlighted the land, air, and sea habitats of Pandora.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
The first things I built in this project were the Pandoran animals. Since they all had six limbs, I wasn’t sure if I could replicate each one on Minifigure scale. It was really challenging to do, especially since I basically couldn’t use a lot of existing LEGO animal parts. In the end, I had to use different techniques to create the limbs for each creature.
In creating the 26 flora species, I was meticulous in selecting which types of plants would translate well into brick form. Putting it all together was also a challenge. There was so much to fit in. On top of that, I also wanted the project to feel like a real, living organism when assembled. I looked at a few different sources for inspiration, including coral reefs, landscaping videos, and videos from the “Pandora: The World of Avatar” attraction at Walt Disney World. I’m hoping that if the project does get produced, it will feel like we’re taking home a small piece of Pandora.
- 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?
As I was nearing 10,000 votes, I found out that Jon Landau, the producer of Avatar, is a big fan of LEGO designs based on the film. If I had known this, I think I would have tried to share the project with him. I think he‘d really enjoy seeing this project become a real set.
- 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 took me about a month to build the project. I had to do a lot of research into the world of Pandora. There are 18 animal species and 26 plant species included in this project and I wanted to be very respectful of the source material.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
It took me exactly 100 days to get to 10,000 votes. I was so happy the project got enough votes during this review period. One of my goals for this project was to have LEGO review an Avatar set in time for Avatar 2 in 2022. I’m really hoping the project will have enough time to be reviewed in time for all the upcoming sequels.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
I initially built the Pandora playset with about 2,800 pieces. I figured I could still pack in more stuff, so I tried to optimize portions of the build and add in the mech-like AMP suit, as well as more Minifigures. My final part count is 2,963 pieces.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
For this project, I tried to incorporate a lot of unexpected parts in unique ways. For instance, I used the lobster claw (92944) as ahead for the flying creatures, a comb (92355) as tentacles, whips (61975) as ferns, and so on. My design has a lot of unconventional part usage to create the alien world of Pandora. I think the LEGO Group team will have a lot of fun playing with this set.
Another unique feature I played around with wasn’t necessarily a building technique, but rather paint application and use of color. For this set, I proposed glow-in-the-dark pieces to mimic the bioluminescence of the Pandoran flora and fauna. I think that is something we haven’t seen before in LEGO Ideas sets and has the potential to create some truly otherworldly fun sets down the line.
One of my favourite Easter eggs in this set is the tiny Na’vi book that belongs to Dr. Grace Augustine. Not only is it based on a real prop from the movie, but “Na’vi” is also my name spelled backward.
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
I continue to use LEGO Digital Designer for my projects because I still find it to be really user-friendly design software. After working on the first draft, I import it into Studio to polish, refine and render the build.
- If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
I use PartDesigner and Photoshop to make my minifigs and stickers.
ABOUT LEGO IDEAS
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
When developing an idea based on existing intellectual property, it’s important to keep the fan base in mind. Since fans are my primary supporters, I try to connect with them early on. I include several well-researched references and Easter eggs that I know will resonate with hardcore supporters. If my design manages to strike a nerve with a passionate fanbase, there’s a good chance they will help in promoting the project.
If a project gets selected, it's possible that it may be the only product the LEGO Group produces based on that license. Given that, I try to make my projects really special, detailed, and exciting. I try to pack in a lot. For my 123 Sesame Street and Community: Greendale Community College sets, I wanted to make them feel like the definitive versions of those sets, even featuring props from beloved episodes.
I’ve also learned to value "playability" — making sure that my projects have a fun factor that fans will want to play with over and over. If you have a lot of fun creating a set, there’s a good chance it will come across in the build.
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
In promoting a project on social media, I’ve learned the value of creating posts that engage and entertain. People don’t necessarily want to vote for something, especially if they need to make an account to do it. It’s important to craft posts that are fun, fun to share, and elicit an emotional response. If a post goes viral, that’s even better!
I like to prepare a lot of content before I submit my projects to LEGO Ideas. That way I can build a bit of momentum when promoting. For Avatar, I made a series of fun posts including a guide to the animal life of Pandora, fun facts about the movie, updates on Avatar 2, and vintage Pandora travel postcards.
In addition, I also created two short videos. One was a trailer based on the movie, the other was a short anaglyph 3-D animation. You can check both of them out below. Make sure to wear your 3-D glasses! :)
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
Right now, I’m eyeing three projects that I think have the potential to go far: Matryoshka Dolls (by BOTA and MIKE), Folding Book Nook (by fourbrickstall), and Peanuts 70th Anniversary (by SoGenius106). I think those three projects have a lot of creative potentials.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
If someone is just starting out on LEGO Ideas, I highly recommend learning from all the projects that have gotten approved and those that didn’t. Try to learn what made them work and how you can set your project apart from all others that have come before it. It’s also important to build something that you love, especially since sometimes it can take several months to get to 10K. You need to be really passionate about your design.
- 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?
Most certainly. I’m hoping my next project will be a collaboration with another fan designer.
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