Star Wars Miniland Grand Opening at LEGOLAND
Bricks build iconic scenes from the Star Wars saga...
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March 31st saw a different kind of Star Wars premiere in sunny Carlsbad, California. It wasn’t for a film or television show, but rather the incredible new themed “miniland” at LEGOLAND! We at Figures.com have been waiting for this event anxiously and it didn’t disappoint. With no time to spare, our intrepid duo of Southern Californian reporters left Los Angeles at 6am this morning headed toward LEGOLAND. Not really sure what we’d find, we were ready for anything!
Arriving through an administrative entrance, we got to check out the “VIP” area decked out with a red carpet, photo ops, and more. We were joined by a wide variety of press outlets ranging from websites to major local media like radio stations and network affiliates. For a little fun, a Lego Darth Vader appeared on the red carpet to take pictures.
Soon after, the red carpet began with an interesting array of celebrities (not necessarily Star Wars-related) attending the event with their families. On hand were such luminaries as Tony Hawk, Christian Slater, Joel Gretsch (4400, V), Shawn Hatosy (Dexter, Southland), Brooke Burke (Dancing with the Stars), Sharon Leal (Hellcats), Clone Wars voice actors James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Catherine Taber (Padme Amidala), and more. All were friendly and happy to pose for pictures.
Food was provided while we waited, and we got to check out a huge Empire Strikes Back mosaic as well as life-size statues of Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and R2-D2 made of Legos. Members of the 501st patrolled the area as well, really giving the event a Star Wars feel.
Also mingling with the crowd were Lego Master Model Builders and designers answering questions and talking about the new miniland. Some of the cool details:
* The Star Wars LEGO scenes are 1:20 scale and use 1.5 million bricks
* Each scene (7 total) is approximately 200 square feet
* The Geonosis arena is scaled to 1:180; if it was at the same scale as the figures it would be larger than the entire miniland!
* The “Crystal City” building on Christophsis has over 70,000 pieces
* The Clone Turbo Tank in the Kashyyyk scene uses 10,180 parts and took builders nearly 170 hours to assemble. By contrast, the Millennium Falcon has 19,200 pieces, but only took 143 hours to design and build
* In the Naboo scene, the palace was built from more than 15,000 bricks
* Before assembly in California, eight model designers and two animation electricians at the LEGOLAND in Germany
* Though you can’t tell by looking at them, LEGOLAND models are glued together and treated with an anti-UV coating
* The Star Wars Miniland took 13 months to design and construct. In it are 600 battle droids!
Once everyone was checked in, the guests and press corps moved over to the miniland section of LEGOLAND, where Master Builders have recreated cities and landmarks from around the world in brick-by-brick miniature. On hand was famous Star Wars superfan “Obi-Shawn” to host the opening ceremony. LEGOLAND’s own Model Shop Supervisor Tim Petsche talked about the work that went into the new exhibits and thanked local government and business support that made it possible, including the mayor of Carlsbad who was in attendance! The emotional highlight of the ceremony was Carson Wiener, a young boy whose Make-A-Wish request brought him to LEGOLAND to work with master builders. He got to return to see the Star Wars miniland, and was surprised with an appearance by Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher! LEGOLAND made a sizeable donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation on behalf of Fisher, and the two special guests were the first to see the new Star Wars creations. A spirited announcement described the Lego scenes, one for each film (including the Clone Wars movie).
Episode I: The Phantom Menace brought us two locations from Naboo, the battlefield where the Gungans held off the droid army (with a moving droid carrier) and the palace at Theed complete with Qui-Gon Jinn fighting Darth Maul and Anakin’s Naboo Starfighter that really takes off and lands.
From Episode II: Attack of the Clones came a sprawling Geonosis scene with Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Padme fighting beasts in the arena while just outside the Jedi-led Grand Army of the Republic attacks the droid army of the Separatists. In that diorama visitors can push a button to hear the acklay scream, and outside Yoda’s Republic Gunship moves up and down.
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith presents two planets with the Battle of Kashyyyk (featuring the amphibious droid army and a massive Clone Turbo Tank with moving parts) and Mustafar where Obi-Wan and the recently converted Darth Vader duel on a moving platform.
From the classic Episode IV: A New Hope comes an incredible Tatooine landscape with Lars and Beru’s moisture farm, jawas, sand people, and Mos Eisley complete with the cantina (the band moves and plays music) and the largest Millennium Falcon ever built with Legos!
Next door is Hoth from Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. This scene covers the entire first part of the film from Luke in the wampa’s cave to the probot and tauntauns all the way to the pitched battle against the imperial AT-ATs. Be on the lookout for rotating rebel turrets, a Luke swinging from the belly of an AT-AT, and a button to hear the wampa roar.
Finishing the series is Episode VI: Return of the Jedi with a huge Endor scene. On one end a massive shuttle drops off Darth Vader to the forest moon next to an 8 foot tall shield generator tower. On the other is a complex series of scenes in and around a grove of trees. At its base are rebels and ewoks fighting stormtroopers, and a button sets off a mad speeder chase before an ewok trap smashes an AT-ST. High above in the trees is a full ewok village!
Finally, bridging the story between Episodes II and III is the Clone Wars represented by the Battle of Christophsis. The crystal city is depicted with the largest Star Wars Lego structure, a massive tower that looks amazing. On the torn up street below it the droid army clashes with the heroic clone troopers; while Obi-Wan and Ahsoka fight alongside the troops Anakin can be found on top of the huge Octuparra droid!
While the average Star Wars fan might not recognize every single minute element in the miniland scenes, he or she is sure to enjoy them and get a kick out of the new spin Lego has taken on the story. The two of us are very much into Star Wars, and spent a long time picking out all of the little details. Meanwhile, dozens of children tried to soak it all in, shouting out when they found their favorite characters or asking their parents what each scene meant. Families and young fans had a blast with the miniland scenes, and with the interactivity of pressing buttons for sound and movement, this exhibit is sure to be a hit for a long time to come.
Star Wars sets and pieces were sold at LEGOLAND before, but of course with the new presence there’s more for sale. Immediately adjacent to miniland is the new Empire Emporium where you can complete your Star Wars Lego collection, arm your younglings with fun lightsaber toys, or get a minifig keychain for you. Furthermore, in a special temporary exhibit just inside the park’s main entrance was a 40 ton sand sculpture capturing iconic scenes and characters from Empire Strikes Back in Lego form. This presentation was part of “The Sand Guys” on the Travel Channel.
For Star Wars fans of all ages, if you find yourselves in the San Diego area you should definitely check out this great new miniland at LEGOLAND!
A special "Thank You" to LEGO for allowing us the opportunity to witness this truly grand opening!
Report by Scott Rubin
Photos by David Yeh