I’ve not previously been invested in Ninjago as a theme. Since emerging from my Dark Ages though, I have hopped from City to Lord of the Rings, with a stop off a long the way via Harry Potter and Atlantis, in recent times settling for the relative psychedelia of Friends and Elves (This is not an endorsement of minidoll design, more just a quest for more colour), as well as participating in my other joy: Super Heroes. My MOCs over the last few years are as likely to be Miniland Scale, Micro Scale or even a combination of the two.
So: as you can see, not a strong thematic structure to my builds or collection as there may be for other builders. It is, I admit, a bit of a hodge podge. So, when someone said to me this year, “Look at that: Ninja Steampunk Pirate Airship,” how could I refuse? It was an offer too good to refuse.. Pirates, Ninja, Airship, and also Kai’s little Ninja Glider looked extremely swooshable too. Wait a minute. What’s the deal with Kai (I’ve not followed the show at all)? So thats Cyborg Ninja Steampunk Pirate Airship. Mashup complete.
Or is it?
There have been a few reviews of the Raid Zeppelin, which have all said some pretty similar things. Good builds: both the airship and the ninja flyer are a little unstable on their own, especially with the wings pointing downwards. This makes them both immensely swooshable: they cry out to be played with! But, there are only 7 segments to the balloon of the airship: 8 are required to make the full balloon. It makes it kind of hard to make a even a brown onion out of it without trick photography. And the Sky pirates Pirate characters are pretty interesting: Doubloon has an element of Samaurai about him, Clancee is one of the Venomari, the Snake people. He is apparently living his lifelong dream: to be a pirate. Only his sea sickness and air sickness hold him back from making the most of his life choice.
There is a problem here: Don’t worry, it’s me, not you.
So: here is my issue. The ship has a bit of the steampunk vibe- especially in the shape of the balloon, with the flame emerging from the back. There are some Asian design motifs too: the shape of the canopy at the rear of the craft as well as the tiles on the canopy. I don’t take any issue with this. However, the majority of steam punk craft feature heavily with brown, dark grey and black. There are frequently metallic gold/pearl gold or silver accents representing brass or iron fittings on the craft. Dark red accents are occasionally a thing. But bright orange? Really?
Okay: I have mentioned why this works in the Ninjago universe sets previously. Mainly because the pearl gold is part of the colors used for the ninjas of Sensei Wu, and especially in their dragons. So I understand why Lego designers may have decided to leave this as orange. (gold=good, orange = the bad equivalent of gold, but still not using gold here because that would be wrong). But it jars with the model’s shape tending towards a steampunk aesthetic. There are models, and competitions that set out to take a set and ‘steampunk-ify it’ (- is that even a word?). I am to setting out to make this set more consistent with my preconceived ideas as to how it should have looked.
So, I hope I haven’t lost people yet by what is meant by a steampunk inspired aesthetic. Imagine that instead of moving slowly towards steel, aluminium or carbon fibre based construction and diesel or avgas powered vehicles in the 20th century, a miracle of power to weight ratios occurred in Victorian times, resulting in steam engines becoming a practical power source for all manner of vehicles: cars, tanks, submarines, airships, and the array of pipes and valves that go along with it. The finishes tend to be in polished wood, with brass fittings. Imagine the Nautilus from the Disney film 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, but on a planetwide industrial design scale.
I now started to think about replacing the orange with brass (or in lego, Pearl Gold). As previously mentioned, there are a few Elves sets around the place, resulting in a supply of Pearl gold curved slopes, and plates with bars attached, as well as offset tiles (1 x 2 plate with one stud), but the large Katana blades and claw/clip fittings holding onto the balloon need a bit of a recolour as well.
Enter the dragon
This is where the Elemental Dragon came in. Lots of gold claws and clips, as well as katana blades and chains.
And the bowsprit: Rather than appearing as a white ghost, I substitute some wood and brass, including the mounts for the dragon’s reins as a substitution point for the horns on the side, to enhance the menacing look. But it kind of looks more like a tiki…I’l take suggestions here.
So some substitutions, and the addition of a boiler, and polishing up of the steering thruster made a bit of a difference for me. OHS dictates the addition of side railings: brass clips and wooden rails if I can find them- No, I couldn’t, so I have ended up using chains. Of course, there are a few things that don’t make sense. How does the jet flame emerge from the balloon, without the balloon exploding? What is the mechanism of elevation: hot air, or a lighter than air gas? Again, explosions…
For my response to this, I shall paraphrase Douglas Adams: It is held up in the air because it is aesthetically pleasing, artistically right. It is, after all, a toy, based on a fantasy story, made into a cartoon. I do not let issues of comic book physics prevent me from enjoying the look of a craft.
I believe I’m happy enough with my modifications to this.
What do you think of the final outcome?
Have I gone a little over the top with my modifications?
Have you made any improvements to sets you have bought, but not quite felt satisfied with? How did they turn out?
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