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  • Go Big, or Not at All: Voltron’s Journey


    Sara Skahill

    Voltron, Defender of the Universe, just would not stand up.

    ”This was heart-wrenching. It was a possibility that the model might be declined, as it was far from meeting The LEGO® Group’s strict quality requirements,” Samuel Johnson, design manager says of the first Voltron exploratory model.

    LEGO Ideas 21311 Voltron started its journey as a fan model built by Lendy Tayag. Lendy submitted his model to LEGO Ideas, where it gathered 10,000 submissions and entered the LEGO Ideas Review. But you probably already know that part.

    As part of the review, LEGO Designers explored the feasibility of the model. Could it be built? Was it stable? Are the elements used still active in the LEGO portfolio of elements?

    “A few of the designers had looked over the photographs of Voltron and each of them had the comment ‘It can’t be done!’… Overhearing this, I said, ‘Give it to me! Of course it can be done!’” says Sam.

    Sam’s wish was granted and his team got to work – only to find creating Voltron was harder said than done.

    “Lendy’s model looked fantastic and was ultra-poseable, which was super eye catching, but when we tried to replicate it by building our own copy, the model would just NOT stand up,” Sam explains.

    591956269_Volt1.thumb.png.1754854f3ca4fbbd97f4e997105e902a.png

    The first exploratory model

    So they built another one – which stood up better, but had a tendency to lean forward…a lot. So that wouldn’t do either.

    1989685774_Volt3.thumb.png.087d17689ef93f0c9820fe86558e408d.png

    “It was at this point that we had seen Lendy himself building smaller Voltron models, so we got to thinking, ‘maybe ours should be smaller,’” Sam recalls. Hoping this would fix the stability issue, the design team started experimenting with a different scale.

    450716111_Volt4.thumb.png.f5cc7b4ac2e8f93b10e9c2ed3b7f9ed2.png891874353_Volt5.thumb.png.347b15ba865814911a5f9ce402a3e41c.png

    Designer Niek van Slagmaat built the model on the left, while at the same time, designer John Ho built the model on the right.

    Which lead the design team to…

    1715196804_Volt6.png.4dd5c16985b6f735c6871abda8cf3041.png

    Which stood up! But was a far cry from Lendy’s project….

    1291173634_Fanmodel.thumb.jpg.9d0d566c88e47a3a5f1560432d7921f4.jpg

    “So, we sat back and all agreed that this little thing was definitely NOT what Lendy or the 10,000 voters wanted,” Sam recalls.  “This is not our Voltron. We have to go big or not at all!”

    The team rallied, and aspired to create the model the project deserved.


    1633334076_Theteam.thumb.jpg.a5b1e727f09fea551c3fff34960d9df9.jpg

    Pictured the Design team (left to right starting at the top): Samuel T. Liltorp Johnson, Design Manager; Niek van Slagmaat Designer;  Mark Tranter; Graphic Designer, Hans Henrik Sidenius, Model Coach; Jean-Marc Laniox-Warrer, building Instructions Developer

    They returned to Lendy’s original model, and with great care, attention to detail, input from the IP partner and a whole summer of work, Niek created…

    1381511800_Volt8.thumb.png.104db7c39ed5fea0e2d90151c06d1588.png

    Ta-da, the almost final model. It still had to go through a vigorous round of quality testing. This includes testing with young kids and teens to see if the transformation was easy enough, and also to ensure the model could be handled by consumers without breaking. Then, the model was heat tested to look for weak points which were corrected and…

    Final.jpg.08edaab152095a3cb75676dcf51131d2.jpg

    The LEGO Ideas 21311 Voltron you know today was born!

    “The volume of elements used is so complex that we used 16 bags to create the build flow,” Sam explains. “This is one of the first times that a ‘sub-build’  in a LEGO set has its own artwork on its building instruction manual.”

    This means you could build the model yourself, or with a team of up to five people building simultaneously, because, as Sam says, “team work is the true essence of what Voltron is all about.”

     

    Edited by Sara Skahill

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    Love this! Voltron is absolutely my favorite set out of the entire IDEAS line and I am so happy to see this story about the process behind it making it from concept to finished product.

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    Great article! I always love to hear what goes into the design process. It makes me appreciate the set even more. I'm glad they didn't give up, because the model is fantastic! Question; what would have happened if the designers couldn't make it to work? Or do they make these early prototypes before they announce which project is chosen?

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    This is fantastic!  It CAN be done!  Great work team, and an even better model to play with, or display.

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    I've still not built this, it's on my pile of shame. But I feel inspired to dig it out and give it a build now.

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    On 11/11/2019 at 4:10 PM, Anna - theBrickBlogger said:

    Great article! I always love to hear what goes into the design process. It makes me appreciate the set even more. I'm glad they didn't give up, because the model is fantastic! Question; what would have happened if the designers couldn't make it to work? Or do they make these early prototypes before they announce which project is chosen?

    Hi Anna, here is the answer I received back from Sam: 

    The reason that we in the design team create prototypes early on is to aid in the review process. If we cannot create a prototype that is close to the LEGO Group’s standards then it may mean that we will stop development and make the decision that the project will not pass the review.

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    54 minutes ago, Sara Skahill said:

    Hi Anna, here is the answer I received back from Sam: 

    The reason that we in the design team create prototypes early on is to aid in the review process. If we cannot create a prototype that is close to the LEGO Group’s standards then it may mean that we will stop development and make the decision that the project will not pass the review.

    Gotcha! And it makes a lot of sense. My guess is that's why the treehouse was under review for so long too, and now the piano. Thanks, Sara, for checking! :)

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    This is by far my favorite Ideas set. Of course a lot has to do with the IP being my favorite cartoon from the 80s but the build itself and the model are fantastic. This was the first LEGO set I HAD to have the first day of release! I built it over the course of that day and absolutely LOVE this model. 

    The build is somewhat repetitive (due to the twin-ish arms and twin-ish legs) but this is to be expected. As a child I was envious of a friend who had the die-cast Matchbox Voltron but now I have one that is even better!

    Also, the box is a piece of artwork to be appreciated as well. I am trying to see if I can get it framed somehow but that side project has to wait while I build for our LUG's upcoming Winter Village display. 

    Thanks for sharing this story along with the pictures.

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