Deconstructing Lego is a blog that analyzes Lego sets under a variety of lenses, sometimes comparing similar sets from different years or creating a story based around a set or analyzing the implicit message that a set creates.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

8277-1: Giant Model Set

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
A robot sent from the future to enslave earth.  This giant beast can also transform into both a helicopter and a cat thing.

Its red eyes glare at you, inspiring fear in your very bones.  The long, jagged arms reach out to grab you, squeezing you with two giant pincers.  The claw slowly opens up, and then snaps shut around you via the power of rubber bands.  It then tosses you away to your death.

A very interesting set for a number of reasons.  Each of the three models has the same 'core' which means that when you want to build a new model you don't really have to take it all the way apart.  This is a nice time saver, but also very odd as I've never experienced another set that does this.  Additionally, aside from the helicopter, the constructions are very abstract.  Why does the robot have ears?  What exactly is that cat thing?  I believe the cat thing may move a bit, but it's hard to tell from the cover art.  It certainly has wheels, which is also an interesting choice.

There appears to be a chair in the head of the robot, so I would imagine it could be controlled by a technic-scale figure.  I can't see any chairs in the cat thing though, but obviously the helicopter has two.

Regardless, it's a really nice introductory Technic set, with lots of gears and SNOT techniques.

4519-1: Rail Crossing

A small service pack set, providing the builder with another piece of railway.  This is an interesting piece though because it is a criss cross.

Feel like I would be pretty worried that two trains would crash into each other.  Also feel like the most basic design for train tracks is the oval or circle, but this allows the builder to create the figure-8, which is another popular track layout.  However, the cross pieces generally don't make right angles, but rather are slightly askew, if that makes sense.  It's an interesting choice, but I'm not sure if it's something that I would use in any of my layouts.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Heart of Darkness

He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision - he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath - "The horror!  The horror!"
5976-1:  River Expedition is clearly The LEGO Group's take on the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness.  Johnny Thunder takes on the role of Charles Marlow, captaining the ship down the Congo river, delivering ivory to his Belgian employers.

Kurtz is the man with the mask atop the temple wielding snakes of course.  Really interesting that one could easily view it as a Heart of Darkness inspired set.

I guess it does bring up the issue of why Johnny Thunder and Dr. Charles Lightning are exploring this dense, dark river.  The obvious answer is some sort of National Geographic expedition, with cameras to record their findings.  But I wonder if there is more to it.  Are they seeking to appropriate the riches of the jungle for themselves, stealing from the natives?

Probably not.  Throughout many of the adventurers series there are three groups.  Thunder and his companions, the natives, and a third group of villains.  The villains generally change depending on the subtheme (Jungle subtheme introduced Senor Palomar, for example) and are usually trying to steal the treasure for themselves.  So it would appear that Johnny Thunder has no ill intentions, but rather is a genuine explorer, seeking knowledge.

However, the newest Adventurers subtheme, Pharaoh's Quest, does not feature any video equipment nor any villains.  In fact, the main protagonists are the ones raiding the tomb (below).  An interesting development that should be investigated further.

Friday, December 17, 2010


The Lego city government relinquished control of the mail system, opting to sell the rights to a small mail delivery service.  From humble beginnings, this small time bike courier service would one day grow into the large delivery organization we see today.

6420-1 Mail Carrier started it all.  Just a boy and his bike, and the will to deliver.

But this would not suffice for long.  Lego city has a lot of mail that needs to be delivered, and with that came 7731 - Mail Van.  A sleek hybrid vehicle, the proprietor of LEGO CITY MAIL LTD. had grown, now sporting facial hair, and wearing glasses, a result of the millions of letters he read throughout his career.

Things quickly went down from here though.  Mail delivery had once been his calling, but now with all the revenue he started getting into hard drugs and hiring Lego prostitutes.  When his dealer was detained by the Lego City Police, he knew he needed his own supplier.  Using funds from the now expanding courier service, our delivery boy bought his own delivery plane.

7732-1 - Air Mail was just a front to support his cocaine habit.  No borders, not security checks, just weekly deliveries of pure Colombian powder.  How depressing.

Lego City, The ultimate Police State?

There are currently approximately 140 LEGO Police sets, from 1977 all the way up to the present.  Nearly every year featured a plethora of these sets.  Lego city houses nearly a dozen different police stations of various sizes and capabilities.  But why the need for such a large police force?

A common theme to these police stations is the inclusion of a helipad on the roof.  We see it time and time again, from this 1986 set up to the current 2011 police station below (note that this set may be missing a helicopter, but it does still include a helipad).

Why the need for so many helicopters?  The answer is that Lego City is a police state, with helicopters constantly flying around, monitoring the citizens, and instilling fear into their very acrylonitrile butadiene styrene bodies.  There are around as many helicopter sets as there are police station sets.  Is crime such an issue in Lego city that there needs to be such a large police force?

When will the oppression and fear-mongering in Lego city end?  Or will it just continue to deteriorate as the Lego police force becomes more invasive, setting up mobil monitoring stations and wiretapping innocent civilians?

The future, too, seems bleak, as the police move into space to further their oppression...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

5984-1 - Lunar Limo

Can we just start by  Look at this thing.  It's a space police set but...look how sleek and unblocky it is.

Alright so, we have a limo, the ultimate symbol of the Western Bourgeoisie, but in space, and piloted by a criminal.  In the space future, are criminal the bourgeoisie?  Or is this a commentary on the modern bourgeois, white collar criminals, bankers and wall street barons?

The limo itself is pretty blinged out, with gold all over.  And the main criminal, Brick Daddy (my god, what a name) has some absurd gun/vehicle, so it's safe to assume that he isn't a white collar criminal.  But what is his motivation for busting Jawson out of jail (an assumption based on his orange jumpsuit). 

But why break him out of jail?  It's hard to say.  He he has room for Jawson in his limo, so my guess would be they work together.  Interesting that the space police only pursue aliens (will probably discuss this issue later...xenophobia etc.) but that the aliens are generally able to work together.  Are the aliens being oppressed?  Do they turn to a life of crime because they are unable to find jobs in lego city, and are forced to reside in the cold confines of space?  A topic that deserves further discussion I think.

Ahh but let us examine Brick Daddy himself.  The obvious conclusion is that he is a pimp.  The purple suit, tricked out ride, hat that matches the rest of his outfit.  It's really the only conclusion.  So, assuming that Brick Daddy is a Jawson...his bitch/prostitute?

Well, he is interesting looking...large mouth...not really sure what to say.  But I think this is a fair hypothesis of the situation.

Overall, and odd crime vehicle...unless if he is a pimp, in which case it all makes sense.

8403-1 - City House

The city house.  A very different set from the general city line.  We have the standard small building with no back, which we find it many city sets ranging from fire to police.  Of note, there are solar panels on the roof and a green (presumably for recycling) which evokes an image of modernity, contrasted with the tree fort on the left and a grill, 1950s holdovers.

Clearly, a recently gentrified neighborhood.  The solar panels were purchased because of the tax break that Obama provided.  Where else would you see a treehouse in a city?  Not to mention a yard.  Obviously a vacant lot next door to their rowhome/townhouse which they appropriated on the cheap.

But let us examine the family itself.

An average white family, mom, dad, and a son.  Mom is clearly a fit and good looking woman, able to wear a tank top and drink wine.  I would say 28 years old.  The dad, a young 33 year old yuppie, is for some reason using a wrench to cook hot dogs.  He yearns for that father he never had, that father which would teach him how to grill, how to be a man.  He keeps his facial hair stubbly to appear young, but we all know he is past his prime.  The shirt, clearly some sk8r brand shirt, a futile attempt to reclaim his youth.

And the son...a red headed stepchild.  How else could such an abomination be created?  Wearing his Hollister hoodie, he doesn't realize the truth behind his existence...that swingers party when both mom and dad began going through their midlife crisis, and 'Ted' lied about his vasectomy.

The family seems so happy, always smiling.  As soon as the son enrolls at the state university though, a divorce is assured.

The only question that remains is, who will get the dog?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

6411 - Sand Dollar Café

We enter into a paradise (hence the theme name of 'Paradisa') of bourgeoise excess.  A seaside resort produced in 1992, in the aftermath of Reaganomics and 1980s consumerism.  A dramatic shift from the ever-present city themes of police, fire department, and hospital, Paradisa was an escape, a community comprised solely of resorts and the upperclass service industry.

Let us first examine the minifigures.  Five in total; two female patrons and three male servants.  Is Paradisa a resort for women, where all the servants are men?  Perhaps.  The chef is clearly rushing to bring the madame her fifth margarita of the morning, while Charlotte is windsurfing, enjoying the way the lifeguard ogles her.  Ice cream boy Kevin lusts after the tanning goddess, wishing she would suck his popsicle.

There is a bike in the set, which seems to go along with the resort town motif.  Are there roads in Paradisa, or merely dirt paths for leisurely walks and bicycle rides?  There seems to be a lack of overall infrastructure, so the roads probably aren't in very good condition, if at all existant.  

Can such a resort town subsist in this economy?  Is there any real infrastructure, schools, police departments, etc?  In fact, I don't think there have ever been Lego school sets.  Probably for the best because they would be kinda lame.

Paradisa best serves as a strange contrast to the usual Lego city sets.  Paradisa was clearly targeted towards girls, with the increased pink and pastel colors, along with a surprising number of female minifigures (especially for the time).  Is The Lego Group insinuating that girls are interested only in vapid resort towns and consumerism?  In some ways, Paradisa feels more like a fantasy than other 'fantasy' themes.

Friday, June 4, 2010

6446 - Crane Truck

The lowly crane truck.  Coming around to tow your precious vehicle.  Maybe you drove your lego car into a castle and it exploded, or a dinosaur ate half of it.  Inevitably, everyone needs to deal with the tow truck.

Interesting name, crane truck.  Feel like proper nomenclature would be tow truck.  Wonder what the significance of the socket wrench on the truck and on his shirt is.  Maybe they wanted a generic tool for their logo in order to convey an idea of mechanical skills.  The blue cap represents the blue collar work that this man is involved in, towing trucks and possibly repairing them.

Let's look at the vehicle itself.  Red is a pretty common color for tow truck (white being second most in my opinion) and the yellow lights on the top are also commonly found on such vehicles.  But there is something missing - a roof.  Why was this vehicle designed with no roof?  It's a small set at only twenty-six pieces, but I feel like a roof is an essential part of car construction.  This set was released in 1999, one of the worst years for Lego sets in terms of both sales and design quality.  Crane Truck was released during Lego's dark ages, and it shows.  Compared to the 1986 set Super Tow Truck it pales in comparison.  Just look at the two sets, Crane Truck hardly even resembles a vehicle when compared.  No headlights, smoke stacks, fenders, or any other small details that make a truck look like a truck.

Looking at the 2009 set Tow Truck we get probably the best example of a lego tow truck set.  It looks and feels like a real truck;  thick and wide, with real truck details.  I suppose it's important to keep in mind that these sets all had different piece counts and prices, but the modern set is just great and really exemplifies the sorts of sets that The Lego Group can produce.

6921 - Monorail Accessory Track

A set of broken dreams, unfulfilled promises.  A set useless on its own, but perhaps excessive when combined.  It's meant to be combined with other monorail sets, in particular space themed monorail sets.  There's something beautiful about the simplicity of the photo I think, just a large oval, with a drawing of a monorail to illustrate the purpose of the tracks.

I never had a monorail myself, but they always looked pretty cool.  I did receive several 9volt train sets, however, which I think I are in a lot of ways better, but harder to integrate.  The great thing about the monorail is that it's hand-powered (I think?) so it adapts well to whatever you're building.  The monorail is both futuristic and modern, whereas train tracks are modern and historic.

Wonder if anyone ever got this set, but didn't have a monorail already to go along with it.  Would be kinda depressing I suppose.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dr. Kilroy's Microcopter

Look at this helicopter.  Does it even have landing gear?  That whirly blade is so small, how can it carry a doctor (who is probably kinda fat, let's be honest), a camera, a shovel, and a gun.  Also, why a rifle?  Feel like a doctor shouldn't bring a gun, or just a small one maybe for personal protection.

How does he control the helicopter, seems like there is a single oddly shaped joystick.  No other controls or meters to show fuel (imagination), altitude, etc.  Also, seems like he can't sit down all the way.  What an odd design.

Of course, this is a small stocking stuffer that was actually given away with candy/food in some regions (Japan I believe) so accuracy/aerodynamics don't need to apply.  Still a silly sort of design though I suppose.  The color scheme is nice, very Octan.  Wonder if Octan ever caused an oil spill?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

6155 - Deep Sea Predator

What is a deep sea predator? When I think of the phrase, an anglerfish or giant squid comes to mind, not a shark. Regardless, this Aquashark set premiered in 1995 under the Aquazone theme, the first of several underwater Lego themes. It made use of magnets, like many Aquazone sets, along with moveable joints (the two arms) that weren't used in many other sets. Since then the Lego Group has introduced several other methods of creating moveable joints and arms, usually with more success.

Look at the shark that it comes with. Does it believe this submarine is also a shark, perhaps a godshark? Were the Aquasharks able to train sharks to do their bidding, to domesticate them?

Why were the Aquasharks and Aquanauts eternally fighting for the chrome crystals. Were they a power source? Crystals according to both Rock Raider and Power Miner (two similar themes from different generations) mythos were a source of power. The Mars Mission theme also featured the 7645-1 Crystal Reaper, again collecting (really exploiting and colonizing the Mars natives, but that's for another entry entirely) crystals to fuel their machinery. Therefore, it can only be assumed that these crystals, and the battle for them, were yet another in a long series of Lego themes centered around collecting crystals for energy. Aquazone premiered before elaborate backstories were established for themes (only a few years after), so this is primarily conjecture.

It's interesting that the crystal becomes such a valued Lego piece. They are chrome, which is one of the least produced Lego brick colors, and of course traditional crystals are rare and valued as well. On bricklink they average around 20 cents a piece. They really serve little purpose in building, other than being a crystal, or adding detail to something, because they can only be attached to a stud.

Back to the set however, the large glass screen would make it nearly impossible for this submarine to really be a 'deep sea predator' because the immense pressure would instantly crush the glass. The design itself is much like a shark, with a large fin on top and small fins on each side. Compared to other Aquashark sets, it's a medium sized submarine, being piloted by only one Aquashark, and seems to be built primarily for battle, but also able to collect crystals.

In closing, I believe the topic of collecting crystals will be key to many Lego themes and will be discussed in the future. Although the Aquasharks are the 'bad guys' in this theme, their connection to sharks and the sea itself makes it possible that they could be defending their world against the Aquanauts.