Rawr Rawr Rawr I’m a dinosaur!

Earlier this week, we shared the announcement of the new Jurassic Park: T-Rex Rampage set featuring a brick-built dinosaur. At the same time, our friends in Billund were sending us two copies as part of a toy photography collaboration. I received one on Friday. I binge-built it in order to enjoy the sunny weekend with Rex.

In this blog post, I want to share my first impressions about this set from the point of view of a Jurassic Park fan, LEGO enthusiast and, of course, toy photographer.

First impressions

Despite being aware of an upcoming mystery Jurassic Park/World big set for a while, I only discovered its actual content when the press release was out. (I could have known a bit earlier, because Stefan and Julien saw it during the RLFM days, but decided to keep it a surprise.)

I was expecting a classic Jurassic Park set. Something like a big playset, similar to what LEGO did for Star Wars with the Ewok Village, Assault on Hoth and Betrayal at Cloudcity. A couple of dinos, the complete cast of the first movie, and buildings/scenery/vehicles. But I didn’t expect a giant brick-built T-Rex and gate.

At first, I had quite mixed feelings. On the positive side, the dinosaur looked good. The face seemed to have quite a lot of expression for a brick-built dino. But I had no idea how much motion Rex actually had as it is hard to judge from the few official pictures.

But I decided to wait (a bit impatiently) before judging. From experience, it’s hard to judge the potential of a LEGO construction based on a few still images. And sometimes, having the model in hands, or looking at it through a camera, can be a whole different experience than pictures or videos.

Building the set

I built the gate on Friday evening, it took me a bit more than 4 hours with a break for dinner. I spent Saturday afternoon building the dino. 15 bags and probably around 8 hours in total. The instruction manuals start with the dino and then the gate. I decided to do it the other way to avoid procrastination. I knew that once I would have finished the dino, I wouldn’t care too much about the gate.

Overall I found building both the T-Rex and the gate enjoyable, varied and including cool SNOT building techniques. They’re both very well engineered to be sturdy and stable. The build also contains one of the most hilarious Easter egg left by the designer I’ve ever seen.

Rex

Motion

Rex looks great and has plenty of motion. The arms have great posability as they are made of multiple ball joints. The legs can be rotated, and very slightly angled. However, the main purpose of the leg movement is to angle the body. Don’t expect much of a walking pose as the knees can’t be angled. It might be possible to get one, but Rex needs some help to stand up as she’s too heavy to stand on one leg.

The tail uses multiple ball joints that allow to move it, a bit like a snake toy from the 80s. However, most segments of the tail are attached with more than one ball joints, probably to add friction so the tail stays in place. This prevents it from moving vertically.

Finally, the head, neck, and jaw can be moved. The base of the neck can be angled up and down. The head is attached to the neck with a big ball joint, but it doesn’t have enough friction to stay angled up. The eyes are made of what appears to be a new printed tile which really adds to the expressiveness of Rex’s face.

Sira helped me holding Rex’s head angled up while taking photos. Without her, the head was angle down.

Rex for Photography

Overall, Rex has plenty of movement but it’s not perfect. Also, I can’t stress how this set is a display set, not a playset. Just playing with Rex at home, there were often parts falling off from me not being gentle enough with the joints. This is even more of a problem for outdoor photography. During my first photo session, I almost lost bits from Rex’s foot that fell off in the forest while I was trying to get a walking pose.

In addition, while Rex is very well balanced on flat surface, it’s sometimes a bit of a problem outdoors when the ground isn’t even and slightly inclined.

Surprisingly, getting Rex posed like was quite a challenge because of ground wasn’t flat and even, making her fall constantly.

On a more positive note, with the body, head, legs, and tail attached with ball joints, it is fairly easy to detach them. So Rex can be transported quite easily in a box to go play outside.

The Gate

From the front, the gate looks great and is really sturdy. However, it’s big and can’t be disassembled easily for transport like Rex or the Disney castle. I initially planned to take the gate outside for my first photo session, but I had to change plan as the lake where I go in the winter is currently infested with mosquitos. (And the gate won’t fit on my bike to go further away, where mosquitos aren’t much of a problem.)

The gate, Rex and way too many other dinosaurs packed in a big box… All of it for nothing as there were way too many mosquitos to take a single photo.

The back of the gate also features small vignettes depicting iconic scenes from the movie. Some of them are really well detailed and fun to build, but they are really crammed into the gate. There’s little space for a camera or light without disassembling everything.

The Minifigures

I’m pleased to see the Toys R Us exclusive minifigure of Ian Malcolm is part of the set. I’m also pleased with the other new minifigures, but the one I’m really happy with is John Hammond. Every time I look at him, I hear him say “I spared no expensive” or “Welcome to Jurassic Park!”.

Did you know that John Hammond considered opening Jurassic Park in Northern Finland before Costa Rica? He changed his mind when he was told that dinosaurs might not enjoy winter… But maybe choosing an island subject to storms and volcano eruptions wasn’t a much better idea?

On the other hand, I don’t understand why not all characters are included. I can forgive the missing Tim and Lex which can be found in the JP Velociraptor Chase. But I really wish Donald Gennaro and Robert Muldoon had been included. It’s possible LEGO didn’t include them because they intend to release later sets with them. (But maybe not…) Still, it’s pretty disappointing in such a big set to not find the entire cast.

Is it worth it?

Apparently, this set has received quite negative comments from the AFOL community. As a Jurassic Park fan, I can understand the disappointment. I wish all characters would have been included and finally get a LEGO version of the Jurassic Park tour car. As a toy photographer, I would have preferred a playset, rather than something that’s aimed at being on display. (Particularly when I’m currently lacking space for displaying large sets.) I would have preferred to get minifig-scale dinosaurs, and previously unseen ones like a Brachiosaurus.

Another critique I’ve seen reading comments online is that the set is expensive. One I disagree with. Maybe if you only care about the minifigs it is. But comparing it with other large licensed sets, I think it’s not outrageously expensive. At 250€\$ for over 3000 pieces, it seems like a pretty good value. In comparison, the Star Wars Y-Wing and Tantine IV are 200€ for less than 2000 pieces and don’t include more minifigures. Betrayal at Cloud City is below 3000 pieces and cost 350€. And even Apocalypsburg cost 300€ for a mere 58 pieces more.

But as a LEGO fan, I have to admit the brick-built Rex is epic. The engineering behind it is pretty amazing despite a couple of points that could be improved. As a dinosaur fan, if I hadn’t had the opportunity of this LEGO collaboration, it would have been hard to resist not ordering it day one.

Photographing large toys – part 1

I’ve always felt quite uncomfortable when I have to photograph relatively large toys. I’m used to photographing minifig-size toys and when I need to move to a larger scale, I usually struggle. It’s completely out of my comfort zone. Bokeh is an important element of my photography and with a larger scale, it gets more difficult to rely on it. As an outdoor toy photographer, another challenge with large LEGO sets is transport.

For over a year now, I’ve been forcing myself to photograph larger toys, mostly complete LEGO sets and builds. My main goal has been to have photos of the entire build, not some close-up shot of details. (I consider close-ups as cheating as it would amount to going back inside the comfort zone.)

In this two-part blog post series, I want to look back at how I practiced photographing larger toys, in particular, large LEGO builds. Today, I will talk about how I rehearsed and trained myself. This will lead to talking next week about the story of how I ended up photographing the Disney Castle as the Ultimate Challenge. and what I learned along the way.

(And maybe there will be a third part later after receiving the new LEGO Dino…)

Continue reading “Photographing large toys – part 1”

The May Recap

May is over and it’s time for our monthly #SiPgoes53 review. Last month we explored Carrie Fisher, Haruki Murakami, Florence Nightingale, Anton Corbijn, and Leonardo Da Vinci. It’s time to look at your entries that caught our eyes on Instagram.

(If you want to join in the SiPgoes53 series you can still join at your own pace and leisure. Just tag along and creatively explore our handpicked 52 humans. One every week.)

Week 18 – Carrie Fisher

(If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out Feature Friday blog post as a May 4th tribute to Carrie Fisher.)

Week 19 – Haruki Murakami

Week 20 – Florence Nightingale

Week 21 – Anton Corbijn

Week 22 – Leonardo Da Vinci

Week 23 – Christopher Lee

For this week of #SiPgoes53, we’re starting the month of June with another movie celebrity, Christopher Lee.

The actor

Christopher Lee has a cinematic career spanning almost 7 decades. He is best known for his iconic roles as a villain. Most notably, Dracula for the oldest ones, Count Dooku and Saruman for the youngest ones. In addition, he’s also known for playing other villains such as the Creature of Frankenstein, Lord Summerisle, Sir Henry Baskerville or Francisco Scaramanga.

One key feature of Christopher Lee such was his iconic strong deep voice which led him to also to voice acting. I can only recommend listening to the beautiful original poem of the Nightmare Before Christmas he narrated.

Although limited by his age, Christopher Lee continued acting until passing away 4 years ago (on Friday) at the age of 93.

I always ask myself ‘well, what else could I do?’. Making films has never just been a job to me, it is my life. I have some interests outside of acting – I sing and I’ve written books, for instance – but acting is what keeps me going, it’s what I do, it gives life purpose.

Christopher Lee

The singer

To me, Christopher Lee is also of importance for his work as a music singer and narrator, and in particular as the oldest Heavy Metal singer. Having grown up with French dubs of Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings, I actually heard Christopher Lee’s true voice for the first time as a teenager while listening to Rhapsody’s Magic of the Wizard’s Dream.

Following this first collaboration with a Heavy Metal band, he continued to do narration work for Rhapsody. (I can only warmly recommend the wonderful 16-minute long “Mystic Prophecy of the Demon Knight” which ends with Lee’s beautiful narration.) Later he also replaced Orson Welles as the narrator of Manowar’s re-recording of their first album. His last musical appearance was as the narrator on the opening track of Hollywood Vampires, a rock band formed of Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, and Joe Perry.

But next to these collaborations with existing bands, Christopher Lee also ended up with his own personal project and released two concept albums about Charlemagne. He even became the oldest person to enter the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his heavy metal version of Jingle Bell.

My Elven Charlemagne, inspired by the cheesy but never tiresome video clip of the Bloody Verdict of Verden.

Your image

What will you create for this week? Which aspect, or role, of Christopher’s Lee life will you reuse? Let us know and don’t forget to tag your photos on social media with #SiPgoes53 and #SiP_Christopher_Lee.

Week 22 – Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci, another brilliant mind that is so famous it seems pointless to present him. Yet while his “Mona Lisa” could be the most famous painting in the world, Da Vinci was a lot more than a brilliant painter. Inventor, drawer, writer, sculptor, engineer, mathematician, and so much more. Da Vinci is the ultimate example of someone who was truly interested in anything with a neverending curiosity and imagination.

Continue reading “Week 22 – Leonardo Da Vinci”

Arabian Nights

Last time, my first post about the new Disney minifigures was about relatively new Disney characters. Now it’s time to look at older characters. In particular, the ones from my childhood.

One of my favorite Disney movies, if not my all-time favorite, is Aladdin. Mostly because of its villain who fascinated me during my childhood.

In company of my brother, ready to celebrate carnival some 25 years ago.

Upon the release of the first Disney series, my disappointment was strong to see Aladdin and Genie, but no Jafar. I had no hope to see him as part of a second wave. Yet it happened. (Most likely thanks to the live-action adaptation to be released in a few weeks.)

Continue reading “Arabian Nights”

Week 18 – Carrie Fisher

This week, our human being is no one else than Carrie Fisher, the big screen incarnation of Leia Organa. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you might notice that assigning this week to her might not have been a coincidence.

The Hollywood Star

Carrie Fisher is most well known for her iconic role as Princess Leia in Star Wars movies. Daughter of a famous singer and a famous actress, it’s no surprise that she made her Broadway debut at the age of 17 and a year later in Hollywood.

Besides Star Wars, she never really had any other leading role as an actress. She had a few other major appearances, including one as the wife of Tom Hanks and one with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. She also appeared in the cult movie the Blues Brothers.

In addition to acting, she was also involved in scripts of movies such as Hook and Sister Act (we will probably talk later in the year about that one).

The woman

But Carrie Fisher is a prime example that the life of a Hollywood star isn’t always all glamorous. She was suffering from bipolar disorder and was relying on drugs to medicate its effects and feel “normal”.

Although traces of cocaine and heroin were found in her body, the exact cause of her death, which occurred in December 2016 after losing consciousness in a plane, couldn’t be exactly determined. But it reminds us how mental disorders and social pressure can have a terrible impact on someone’s life.

May the 4th be with you Carrie.

PS: We are planning to do a group blog post featuring photos from different toy photographers to celebrate Carrie Fisher on Saturday. Whether you are a Star Wars fan or not, if you have a toy photo (about Carrie Fisher or Princess Leia), old or new, you can leave a comment to be part of it.

Week 17 – Ching Shih

For many of you, Ching Shih might be among the most obscure human beings on our list.

The Pirate Woman

Ching Shih is a Chinese pirate woman who terrorized the seas of China in the early 19th century. She can be considered as the most successful pirate ever. Not only she commanded the biggest pirate crew, but she also died as a free old woman.

My Elvish Ching Shih
Continue reading “Week 17 – Ching Shih”

Week 16 – Einstein

Albert Einstein… Is it really needed to present (the one who’s probably) the most famous scientist? If so, here’s a brief insight into his life.

The Scientist

Einstein was a theoretical physicist who revolutionized physics with the theory of relativity. One of Einstein’s goals or dreams was to have a single scientific theory that could explain all physical phenomenon. In particular, at the beginning of the century, classical physical laws couldn’t explain a recently discovered phenomenon: electromagnetism.

This is what led him to state the theories of special and general relativity which reconciled Maxwell equations (electromagnetism) and classical Newtonian mechanics.

It is quite a coincidence that the first image of a black hole was revealed last week… Indeed, the idea for the existence of black holes roots in Einstein’s theory of relativity. (Credit: Event Horizon Telescope, CC BY 3.0)

For much of his life, Einstein dreamed and tried to find a way to unify physical laws. Although known from the general public as a genius, he often ignored new theories and was laughed at by mainstream physicists. He never managed to find said a theory. Nowadays, finding a theory that explains everything is still the major challenge in theoretical physics.

Continue reading “Week 16 – Einstein”

Taakse jää! Taakse jää!

Disney Revival

In my previous post, I mentioned that I grew up in the 90s being heavily influenced by movies from the second Disney golden age. Still today, I’m a huge Disney fan. But between the 90s and today, there’s been a gap during which my interest in Disney animation movie went down.

Indeed, towards the end of the 90s, quality in Disney animation went down. With the arrival of computer animated graphics, (non-Pixar) Disney really struggled. Things started to change in 2006 when Disney bought Pixar, and John Lasseter, Woody‘s father, was put in charge of Disney Animation Studious.

But I didn’t catch the train back then. I had no expectation from Disney anymore. Things changed with Frozen. I didn’t see it in a movie theater, but one or two years after its release. Frozen blew my mind and made me realize that we were entering another Disney golden age.

So not only Disney had a strong influence on me in the 90s, but it keeps influencing me nowadays with new film releases.

After the first Disney CMF series, I thought we would soon get a second one… But it didn’t happen. When this new series was announced, I was truly thrilled. And excited when I saw that some of my favorite characters were part of the series.

Continue reading “Taakse jää! Taakse jää!”