Emerging from Darkness: My Year in LEGO 2016
2016 was an incredibly pivotal year regarding my relationship with and passion for LEGO. It was the year I officially came out of my, as we like to say in the LEGO community, "dark ages" - the period in which things such as girls, boys, grades, jobs, getting married, having kids, buying a house, and trying to keep the Star Wars canon timeline straight all temporarily distracts us from our love for LEGO. I came out of my dark ages in a big way in 2016. In the span of 10 or 11 months I designed, sourced, and built my first custom set which I launched on LEGO Ideas. I created an online eBay business in order to fund my LEGO hobby, and, most importantly, I created this blog - which now contains over 20 LEGO set reviews, 80 original LEGO photographs, and pages upon pages of posts spanning from articles on the history of specific LEGO themes to my uncontrollable ecstasy that LEGO actually released an official Beatles-themed set this year [thank you, LEGO gods!].
Since we are discussing the year in which I emerged from my dark ages, I'll expand just a bit - okay, quite a bit - on my personal history with LEGO. I acquired my first LEGO set around the year 1984 which places me around 2 or 3 years old at the time. I'm not positive exactly as to which LEGO set was my very first, but there are some candidates. I saved all of the building instructions for all of the sets I owned as a child [if only I'd managed to save all the pieces as well...sigh]. There are two sets I owned as a child from 1984. 1] LEGO Castle - Lion Knights - Supply Wagon  and 2] LEGO Town - Police - Police Patrol Squad .
My instincts tell me that it was most likely the Police Patrol Squad which acted as the gateway into the world of LEGO and was responsible for initially igniting my interest in the brand. Nevertheless, this is where it all started for me. After acquiring a small handful of various Town and Castle sets, I quickly became most interested in LEGO Space. As a child growing up in the '80s I was [and am], of course, a huge Star Wars fan. Star Wars led me to desire toys related to space travel or space adventures. By the time I was old enough to ask my parents for Star Wars toys in the mid to late '80s Star Wars toys were - for the most part - no more. LEGO Space filled that void for me. The creative ship designs and compatible minifigures helped me create and play out my own space fantasies and adventures. As is the case with the question "What was my first LEGO set?," I can narrow down which set was my very first LEGO Space set down to two sets which were both released in 1986: 1] Space Probe  and 2] Starfire I .
With a few exceptions, such as a pirate set here or a Christmas set there, LEGO Space was where all of my youthful focus and desires fell from 1986 all the way until the beginning of my dark ages around the year 1994 or 1995. Looking back at the sets I owned during this period it's clear that my favorite sub-theme of Space was the primarily blue, white, and translucent orange colored Ice Planet 2002, a sub-theme which launched in 1993 and ended only one year later in 1994 [with the exception of the re-release of the Ice Planet Scooter  in 1998]. This was the first sub-theme with which I wanted to be a completest. I was old enough by this point to understand and want collections of things, and I loved the color scheme and ice settings included in the Ice Planet theme. Also, it reminded me a lot of Hoth, the frigid planet featured in Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes Back [and back around we come to Star Wars. Did you think you'd be reading so much about the 1980s and 1990s when you clicked on a post titled "2016: My Year in LEGO"? I didn't think so]. My absolute favorite set from my childhood comes from the Ice Planet sub-theme as well - the Deep Freeze Defender . A truly awesome '90s LEGO Space ship. Thankfully, I've safely kept all the pieces to this set over the years.
This brings us to the end of my childhood LEGO story and to the beginning of my LEGO "dark ages" [Proceed,...if you dare]. My dark ages appear to have begun in the year 1994, based on the last set which I acquired as a child - LEGO Space - Spyrius - Saucer Centurion . This was the last set I received before my interest in LEGO - and my interest in toys in general - come to an abrupt halt. This makes sense, considering that in 1995 I entered middle school and effectively entered the "girls and grades" years. LEGO, sadly, was removed from the forefront of my thoughts and placed in the proverbial attic of my mind where it would remain for the next two decades.
For those of you yelling "When are you going to start talking about the year 2016?!" - good news. This brings our story back to 2016 - the year in which I victoriously emergence from the brick-less and minifigure-free dark ages [shutter]. The journey back to LEGO actually begins around November of 2015 to be precise ["NO! He's leaving 2016 again!"]. Around the holiday season of 2015 my oldest daughter became interested in The LEGO Movie. A fantastic animated film in which everything is made of LEGO...well, digital LEGO, anyway. As a result, the movie was in regular rotation in our house during the majority of that holiday season. Having LEGO visuals constantly running on our television began to slowly peak my interest. Thoughts like "I wonder what type of sets LEGO is offering these days?" started to creep up. Then one day while my wife and I were shopping at the grocery store we came across a couple of The LEGO Movie LEGO sets in the toy aisle. Thinking it would be a fun surprise to buy them for our daughter, we picked them up. These are the first LEGO sets which I ever purchased as an adult. They are 1] The LEGO Movie - Bad Cop Car Chase  and 2] The LEGO Movie - Double-Decker Couch .
Bringing these sets home, opening them up, unfolding the building instructions, and putting together, step-by-step, these sets with my daughter brought back all of the great LEGO memories from my childhood but, most importantly, reminded me of all the things I love about LEGO - the creativity, the design, the concentration, the excitement to see the finished build, the minifigures, the play. It all came flooding back. I wouldn't say that this is the moment in which I officially emerged from the darkness, but I was certainly starting to see the light peaking through.
The true "I have emerged!" moment or moments occurred between late January and late February of 2016 ["Are you finally going to discuss 2016?!"]. The first moment: With the experience of building the LEGO Movie sets with my daughter fresh in my mind and my interest in current LEGO offerings thoroughly peaked, I decided one night in January of 2016 to make a casual visit to LEGO's online shop just to see what kind of sets were now available - to see just how LEGO had evolved over the past twenty years. I was fully prepared to see drastic changes to the LEGO product line and for the current sets to be more detailed than the LEGO I knew from the early 1990s. Still, I was not at all prepared for what I found. I should preface this by saying that I was a huge Ghostbusters fan growing up, and I still am today. Thus, when I entered LEGO's online shop in late January 2016 I couldn't believe what I saw. The set which was the main feature in LEGO's online shop at the time was the newly released, 4,634 piece Ghostbusters Firehouse Headquarters .
I was completely blown away by the scale and the detail of the Firehouse Headquarters set. I had never seen anything so remarkable built with LEGO before, and here it was as an official, purchasable set! I was so impressed with the set that I couldn't keep my excitement to myself. I had to share this with someone! It was late at night, and my wife was asleep. Do I wake her up out of a calm, relaxing sleep to show her a picture of LEGO? Not if I want to stay married. Instead I saved a few of the set images to my phone and I sent them off to my dad and brother. They were blown away too - albeit, perhaps, not quite as enthused as I was. Nevertheless, that was the last and final push I needed to officially emerge from my dark ages.
Set Images of Ghostbusters Firehouse Headquarters 
After discovering the awe-inspiring Firehouse Headquarters set, I didn't leave the shop. Instead, I created an online LEGO account and began filling my Wish List with various sets: Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Millennium Falcon , The LEGO Movie - Benny's Spaceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP! , Scooby-Doo! - The Mystery Machine , etc. I was officially back! I dug around in the proverbial attic of my mind, found where I had last left LEGO, dusted it off, shined it up, and placed it back where it belonged - in my mind's family room [this metaphor is breaking down] hanging out with the other things in my life which are always on my mind: my family, Star Wars, The Beatles...you get the idea.
The second moment: Although the experience of seeing the Ghostbusters Firehouse Headquarters set which led me to create a LEGO account and Wish List is, perhaps, the true "emerging from the darkness" moment," I also consider the first shopping excursion on which I purchased the first LEGO sets as an adult which I purchased not for my children - but for myself - as the moment in which I fully emerged from the grasps of the age of darkness and went running passionately toward the beautifully illuminated light brick. The first time I went shopping for LEGO for myself occurred during the last week of February 2016. My wife and I had called the week off from work in order to have a week home alone with the kids for some quality family time. One of those days was spent doing some casual, modest impulse buying at our local Target store. While on our shopping adventure with the kids we happened to find [which I now know is a miracle] a few Series 14 LEGO Collectible Minifigures  blind bags. We thought it would be fun to open the packs at home with the kids, so we bought 3 or 4 packs. Of course, being newly emerged from the age of darkness, I was ecstatic to pick these up.
We got home and immediately opened up the packs. First of all, any adult out there claiming that they can't understand why all the kids today are into these blind bags and the blind bag craze, you don't understand the addictive power the blind bag. What's inside?! Which figure are we going to get?! Wait, there are 16 possible figures to collect? Each bag comes with a fold-out sheet displaying all the possible figures you can collect? Oh, that figure looks really cool. No, that figure looks really cool! Oh, I have to get that figure. No, I have to have that figure!! No, I have to HAVE THEM ALL!!! Blind bags really are a dangerous product. Just say no, kids. Unfortunately, we fortunately were unaware of the allure of the blind bag's addictive nature, and after we had opened our three or four bags we had bought, saw how downright cool the figures were, and the other possible figures to collect, we were left - you guessed it- wanting more.... This leads us to the "second moment." My first LEGO purchase as an adult where the LEGO is being purchased not for my kids but for me.
It was clear after opening our blind bags that we weren't going to be content with continuing our day without opening, well, more blind bags. Even though it was already late - 8:00 P.M. - [okay, that's late in parent time, kids! Every body settle down!], my wife and I decided that I should make a second LEGO run. In fact, not only should I run out and grab more LEGO Collectible Minifigure blind bags, but maybe...perhaps...possibly I should also get a couple of sets which both my wife and I had our eye on [my wife was clearly infected by the LEGO bug as well]. We decided that during our week off with the kids we would allow ourselves to indulge in our youthful side and allow buy ourselves some awesome toys. I hoped back in the car, told the kids to keep playing with the minifigures and that daddy would be back with more fun soon! The second LEGO run of the day started back at Target. Since I knew Target had more LEGO blind bags, I started there. Next, I moved on to Toys "R" Us for the main event. I picked up the very first LEGO sets for myself as an adult. I picked up 1] Star Wars - Droid Escape Pod , 2] LEGO Ideas - Ghostbusters - Ecto I , 3] Scooby-Doo! - The Mystery Machine , and 4] Scooby-Doo! - Mystery Mansion . A fantastic and satisfying first adult LEGO haul.
I returned home with my haul, and my family and I had so much fun assembling these sets with over the last few days of our vacation together. My experiences with LEGO since that first adult haul has, honestly, only gotten better. I had an incredible year in LEGO in 2016, if it's not already apparent. In addition to emerging from the darkness, I also created my first custom designed LEGO set and launched the project on LEGO Ideas. It was an absolute blast creating and designing the project, and there's one thing I've learned very quickly from posting a project on LEGO Ideas - the LEGO fan community is one of the most kind, welcoming, supportive, and encouraging communities of which I've ever been a part. I've been a part of a number of other creative communities where envy, ego, and unhealthy competition tends to poison the community. LEGO fans are not this way at all. They are extremely warm and friendly and always incredibly respectful of each other. I've very proud to be a part of this community, so thank you, all you LEGO fans out there, that are putting out your Welcome mat for others and spreading the kindness!
The project I launched on LEGO Ideas is called Autumn Café, and it's meant to represent a locally-owned and well-loved coffee establishment during the season of Fall [my favorite time of year to sit in a café with a warm cup of coffee]. I designed the project using LEGO's Lego Digital Designer [LDD] software, and the entire design from start to finish took about a week or two and resulted in a set consisting of over 1,600 pieces. I'll confess that the day I discovered the Lego Digital Designer program I could use to build LEGO designs using an inventory of an unlimited amount of digital bricks was a joyous day to say the least. Once I had inventoried all of the pieces I used in the program to design the model, I then went through the process of sourcing the pieces necessary to build a tangible version of the project. I learned two very important lessons while sourcing the 1,600+ pieces I needed for the MOC 1] It's incredibly difficult to source 1,600+ LEGO pieces and 2] It's very expensive. If you ever hear your fellow LEGO fan complaining about LEGO charging almost $300 dollars for a $4,000 piece LEGO set, smack them! That's an incredible deal compared to the price of 4,000 individually-acquired LEGO pieces.
Designing and Constructing Autumn Café
Nevertheless, after the pain-stacking and wallet-shrinking sourcing work was complete, it was so tremendously gratifying to slowing construct a set which I designed. Forgetting whether or not it was a good design or not - it was just stimulating to see a LEGO model I designed slowly come to life. The end results are something of which I'm very proud and whether I design more models in the future, I'm so happy to have my Autumn Café. From designing to sourcing to constructing to launching the LEGO Ideas project, the creation of Autumn Café was certainly one of the most gratifying creative experiences I've ever had. I also would like to thank the LEGO blog All Day Bricks for their interest in the project and their wonderful to review.
The Finished Product: Autumn Café
In addition to launching my first LEGO Ideas project, there was something else of note which I launched in 2016 - this blog. I started the website as a place to to document and share my thoughts on official LEGO sets, share LEGO photography, custom LEGO designs, along with any other LEGO-related thing I might stumble upon and find interesting. To be honest, I really treat the blog as a LEGO journal which just happens to be public. I love looking back periodically at my previous posts to see what sets I had recently acquired and what my thoughts were on the set or theme.
I hope you all in the LEGO fan community find value in the blog as well. Even though my approach to the blog is of a personal nature, I strive to create quality content of a professional grade. I want the blog to provide valuable content, a high quality experience, well-written posts, and an overall good sense of design. That's going to be my goal moving forward. If you're new to the blog and interested in checking out some of the past articles available on The Lego Brick Guy, here are some recommendations. These are some of my favorite posts from 2016:
- Review: LEGO Star Wars: Rogue One AT-ST Walker  - posted October 28th
- Review: Creator Expert Volkswagen Beetle  - posted October 7th
- Retro - posted May 18th
- A LEGO Home for the Holidays: A History of LEGO's Winter Village - posted December 7th
- Can Buy Me Love: The Beatles Yellow Submarine Now Available - posted November 1st
- "I"ve Finally Finished Constructing My New Lightsaber." - posted on May 28th
Lastly, I thought it might be fun to start an end-of-the-year tradition here at legobrickguy.com where I list off my top five favorite LEGO sets released throughout the year. There are some rules I must follow: 1] I must own the set and have built the set in order to include it on the list 2] The set must have been released during the year in question - for instance, all the sets listed on my top five countdown for 2016 must have been released on or after January 1, 2016 and no later than December 31, 2016 ["Okay. Okay. We understand how countdowns work! Give us the top five already!"]. Okay, here we go:
The Lego Brick Guy's Top 5 Sets of 2016
LEGO City - Fun in the Park - City People Pack  - attracted a lot of attention as being the first set to include a proper minifigure-scale wheelchair - this set represents a great sense of diversity and community. It's more than just the inclusion of the wheelchair. It's the overall sense of acceptance of all which this set represents very well. Whenever a toy can not only be incredibly playful and fun but also encourage acceptance and a healthy community, that's more than a little impressive and inspiring.
LEGO Ideas - The Beatles Yellow Submarine  - this inclusion of this set on the list [at the number 3 spot, no less] may be due to my undying passion and love for all things Beatles. That being said, I do still think this a great set for Beatles fans and non-Beatles fans alike. It's a vibrant, lively, and very accurate brick version of the iconic Beatles Yellow Submarine from the film of the same name designed by LEGO fan Kevin Szeto. Plus, thanks to this set we now live in a world where officially released Beatles minifigures exist.
Disney Castle  - this set certainly requires no introduction. The epic 4,000+ piece LEGO model of the well-beloved Cinderella's Castle which can be found in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Florida. The sheer size of the model [over 29" high] is something to behold. The exterior and the interior of the model is filled with tons and tons of detail and makes for an incredible display set as well as a playset any child [or adult] would love. On top of it all, this set is the only way to acquire [through official LEGO channels, anyway] a Tinkerbell minifigure. So cute.
Ghostbusters Firehouse Headquarters  - as mentioned in detail above, this is the set which is largely responsible for pulling me out of my LEGO dark ages. This is the kind of set which I always dreamed LEGO would offer when I was a child [you know, back in the days before licensed LEGO sets]. Now that LEGO has officially released such a set, it does not disappoint. The exterior of the model is an incredible minifigure-scaled replica of the famous old Hook & Ladder Company 8 Manhattan, New York firehouse made famous by the Ghostbusters franchise. The interior is a LEGO wonder. The model opens like a dollhouse and the inside includes all of the rooms you see in the Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2 films - the firehouse entrance with the desks of Janine Melnitz and Peter Venkman, a kitchen, a bedroom, bathroom, dark room, and - of course - even a fire pole! On top of it all, the set includes virtually every main character from the franchise. A truly remarkable, collectible, display-able, playable, incredible set. My pick for best set of 2016.
Just Missed the List]
LEGO Collectible Minifigures - The Disney Series  - the anticipation for this particular collection of LEGO Collectible Minifigures was extremely high throughout 2016 prior to their release. When they finally hit the market there was no denying that the excitement for these minifigures was justified. An incredible collection of classic Disney characters which have been loved by generations now in LEGO adorable and wonderfully detailed minifigure form. Now, when is Series 2 of the Disney Series going to be released, LEGO?
Looking Ahead to 2017
There you have it! That rounds out the year in review here at The Lego Brick Guy for the year of 2016. What an incredible year in LEGO. I can't wait to see what LEGO brings us and the creative experiences LEGO inspires in the year 2017. As a Star Wars fan, I'm particularly excited to see what the LEGO Star Wars theme will offer us, considering that 2017 is the year in which the very first Star Wars film - Episode IV: A New Hope released on May 24, 1977 - will celebrate its 40th anniversary. The rumor mill is already hot with what types of sets/promotions LEGO may release to celebrate the milestone anniversary. Perhaps, another Ultimate Collector Series [UCS] Millennium Falcon set? After all, it's been ten years since the release of the previous UCS Millennium Falcon . Only time will tell. Anyway, thank you to the LEGO Group and the wonderful LEGO fan community for making 2016 a fantastic year, and here's to an even better 2017!
Happy Building! -Chad Steahly [The Lego Brick Guy]