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