Inspired by stories from autistic children and their parents, the LEGO Foundation joins Play Included™ to reimagine the ‘Brick-by-Brick™’ programme and help uplift children and young people who may benefit from social communication support to boost emotional wellbeing
Billund, Denmark, March 31, 2021: Ahead of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd, the LEGO Foundation announces their support of Play Included™ C.I.C., a UK-based social enterprise dedicated to training teachers and psychologists to use LEGO® play for therapeutic purposes as part of the successful Brick-by-Brick™ programme. The partnership is based on a shared belief that all children should have equal opportunities in life to develop the broad set of skills needed to thrive in the 21st century, such as social communication skills. The LEGO Foundation and Play Included recognise and value the unique talents of autistic children and want to help support them through the partnership. Together, they will strengthen and expand the Brick-by-Brick learning through play concept, reaching more children aged 5-18 years who can benefit from it.
Sometimes, its not about being in charge, or having all of the action. Sometimes its just about hanging around, waiting for something to happen, or to be sent off on some errand. At least, that’s how it sometimes appears to bewhen you are living the life of a Scout Trooper, the subject of the latest LEGO® Star Wars Helmet.
I recently took a look at the forthcoming 73504 Darth Vader Helmet sculpture, the latest from the LEGO Star Wars team. With over 840 pieces, that set has the highest part count of any of the helmets currently available. The LEGO Star Wars helmet other set due for release in April, 73505 Scout Trooper with 471 parts, has the current lowest.
Thanks to the AFOL Engagement team, I received a prerelease copy of this set for review purposes – it will be hard to avoid comparisions with the Vader helmet.
The set comes in the ‘standard’ helmet box, with its instruction manual, 5 bags of elements and a sticker sheet. As we already mentioned, the set has significantly fewer elements than Vader’s helmet, and as such the instruction manual is almost half as thick.
Last year, we were introduced to LEGO® Star Wars Helmets – the first sets to be labelled 18+, introducing a new subtheme of LEGO Star Wars Sets. Today, we get our first official look the new LEGO Sculptures for 2021, aimed at the adult market: Two helmets – And a droid.
We have 75304 Darth Vader, 75305 Scout Trooper and 75306 Imperial Probe Droid. These sets will be available to pre-order in some markets from today, and are due for a general release on April 25, 2021.
Along with a number of other Recognised LEGO Fan Media, I took part in a roundtable discussion with some of the LEGO Star Wars Design team – , including Jens Kronvold Frederiksen – the Creative Driector of LEGO Star Wars. We covered a range of topics – which included discussion of the new helmets, and the Probe Droid.
There were a number of interesting things to learn about these models:
The LEGO Group have recently announced the LEGO® Star Wars Helmet sculptures for 2021: 75304 Darth Vader and 75305 Scout Trooper, as well as 75306 Imperial probe Droid (not an actual helmet).
Today, I would like to look at the 75304 Darth Vader Helmet .Couretsy of the AFOL Engagement team at the LEGO Group, I have been fortunate to receive a prerelease copy to build prior to its release on April 25. The set has 834 parts and has a recommended retail price of: $69.99 USD/ €69.99 EUR/ £59.99 GBP/ 89.99 AUD / 99.99 CAD. It should be available for pre order now, in some markets (unfortunately, not Australia).
Darth Vader was the first character from the Empire that we met, within the opening minutes of Star Wars/ Episode IV/ A New Hope – and we never see his face until the closing minutes of Return of the Jedi. In the mean time, all of his characterisations can be attributed to his posture, camera angles, and the voice of James Earl Jones, added in Post Production. As such, his helmet is an integral part of his character.
Let’s take a look at what’s involved in putting it together…
A few weeks ago, the LEGO® White Noise playlist was released on Spotify and other music streaming/digital download platforms. After spending some time listening to the tracks, I found myself with a number of questions: Was this designed to play while building LEGO sets (where the ‘searching sounds’ might be reduced, due to presorting elements?) or as a way to drown out other sounds, to provide that white noise interference to allow your mind to focus on whatever activity you have at hand.
As a recording to listen to, I found the sounds nostalgic, but I did not find myself getting lost in the listening experience. My personal emotional response to the recording was limited: while the sounds are familiar, there is something about it that didn’t get me lost in the experience. BUT I don’t think that is the point of using this playlist. It perhaps serves a stronger role as a source of random frequencies, at relatively unpredictable rhythms – white noise is typically used to try and block out extraneous sounds, rather than elicit a true emotional reposnse.
I reached out to the AFOL Engagement team at the LEGO Group with some questions, and Primus Manokaran, the Creative Director for the Project, was kind enough to send through some answers:
Thirty nine years and forty nine weeks ago, a little bit after tea time, we witnessed the launch of the first Space Shuttle, Columbia. The era of ‘shirt sleeve space flight’ and reusable orbiters had begun. Ten years and 10 days later, the Hubble Space Telescope was deployed from the space shuttle Discovery. Finally, on April 12 2011, thirty years after the launch of Columbia, the Shuttle Atlantis flew the final Mission.
The program caught the imagination of 12 year old me, culminating in many doodles, dreams, and the occaisional MOC. If only I could find the picture.
So, this month, we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the first Shuttle launch; the 30th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope deployment; and the 10th anniversary of the final flight of Atlantis.
And the LEGO Group have released a huge new version of the Space Shuttle Discovery – over 55 cm long, it comes with moving rudder and elevons; opening pod bay doors and carries the Hubble space telescope. With 2354 pieces, it is quite a step up on the 7470 from 2003.
And there have been dozens of versions of the shuttle from across the years, and you might also consider that the early LEGOLAND® Spacecraft in the late 70’swere also inspired by it: The Shuttle program was already in the public consciousness, with atmospheric tests occurring with the Shuttle Enterprise for 4 years before the first lauch of Columbia in 1981.
Here are a few examples that have appeared in town, Technic, and indeed the Creator Expert line. I have chosen to ignore the ‘Bat Space Shuttle’ from 2016.
This post has been coming for a little while. There is some history along with a rabbit hole or two: A week or so ago, it was International Women’s Day. In the past, I have written up some articles looking at the trends in gender representation in different LEGO themes over time. This year, I thought I would take a quick look at a couple of licensed themes and see how representation of female characters has changed over time. When I say representation, I probably really just mean ‘how many are presented to us in sets.’ I started with Harry Potter, Marvel and Star Wars. That’s actually quite enough.
In fact, I decided to leave it at that: ‘It shouldn’t take too long,’ I thought to myself. ‘Probably by tea time.’ It turns out that individual definitions of ‘not too long’ and ‘tea time’ might vary.
In the past, an annual update typically took about a day or so to complete. Of course, I failed to take into account that LEGO Star Wars has been running for over 20 years, and has had over 1000 different minifigures (including small, brick-built droids) associated with the theme over this time. Harry Potter has been running on and off for a similar period, albeit with a hiatus from 2012 – 2018. I have opted to present this information in a couple of articles. But before we begin, some background…
We have observed in recent years, since the introduction of LEGO® Friends, that the gender ratio of minifigures in LEGO City has become more balanced. In 2011, only 6 out of 64 minifgures released in the City theme were clearly defined as female (9.3%), while 23(36%) were clearly male. Thirty five of these figures were not clearly defined. Come forward to 2016, when I first examined this data: 41 minifigures out of 145 were clearly female (28%), while 61 were clearly male (42%). Last year, the situation was far more balanced: in the first half hear release of LEGO City, 35.3% of minifigures were female, 38.2 were clearly male and 26.5% of figures did not have clearly defined gender characteristics. This is focussed on figures released at that time. If you looked at LEGO City and Creator sets displayed in the print catalog for 1st half year 2020, the gender ratio was closer to 40%male; 40%female and 20% not clearly determined.
LEGO® Star Wars
Now, the Star Wars franchise has always had few issues as far as gender balance amongst the characters depicted on screen is concerned: With Aunt Beru, Leia, Mon Mothma, a few patrons in the Cantina and a couple of dancing girls in Jabba’s Palace being the only characters that stand to develop any form of story in the original trilogy – be it in the films, or extended universe.
The Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005) was not significantly better, with Amidala and her handmaidens, along with Shmi Skywalker being the primary female characters engaged in the narrative. A couple of silent female Jedi are present onscreen, but do not gain their voices in The Clone Wars. There is the bounty hunter Zem Wessel, but she is killed by Jango Fett before she extends to a second page of dialog. We do meet Aunt Beru, and she is the only one of these characters to survive past the end of The Revenge of the Sith!
The Sequel Trilogy (2015-2019) had a greater number of female characters central to the story, particularly Rey, but there were others, including Rose and the Stormtrooper Captain Phasma.
But it is outside the Skywalker Saga: The Clone Wars, Rebels, Resistance, as well as Rogue One and Solo and, more recently, the Mandalorian that we see and increased number of interesting characters – including some strong female characters such as Asohka Tano, Hera Syndulla, Bo Katan, Sabine Wren and Jyn Erso, as well as speaking roles being given to Jedi who otherwise remained fairly quiet during the prequel trilogy. We also gain an insight into societies beyond the points of central government, as well as some of the different forms of political intrigue across the galaxy. I am grateful to my son for encouraging me to go back and watch these series that I might have missed at the time of their original screenings.
Minifigures have also appeared over the years tied into Electronic arts Star Wars Games (Knights of the Old Republic; Battlefront), as well as novelties tied into animated specials and advent calendars.
The Monkie Kid LEGO® sets arrived around ten months ago, and the second year’s sets have just been released. and I am excited to discover that the series has recently arrived on Australian television. Last weekend, the Pilot episode was braodcast on 9Go, and is now available to stream using the 9Now app. The series is available in full for New Zealand residents to watch on TVNZ’s on demand website. New Episodes are braodcast on 9Go on Saturday 10:00 am (Eastern Australian Time), and repeated at 4:50am Sunday! They are broadcast as double episodes, back to back. Episodes can be viewed after broadcast the 9Now website/App.
Every year around this time, the LEGO Group presents its annual report: taking in all aspects of the company. The document always includes a small paragraph or two on which themes performed strongly in a given year.
While the metric used to define this performance has not been presented to the public, it gives us a good idea of the sorts of material that pepople are buying, and which themes are strong sellers. Prompted by some online discussion, I have gone back to 2011, and tracked down the strongest performing themes for the last ten years, as referred to in The LEGO Group’s annual report. What we found out may not come as a surprise at all. Or perhaps it will?
Join us while we look through the last 10 years – we will look at the themes directly referenced in the annual report, look at some of the highlights, and maybe even evoke some mild feelings of nostalgia along the way..
Interstate travel in Australia is becoming a little easier now, and anyone heading to Sydney for the Easter Break might like to pencil in a visit to the Sydney Tower Eye- not only is the centre celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, but it is also Playing host to Brickman Ryan Mcnaught’s exhibition, Brickman Cities. The Show opens March 26, and runs until July. Sydney eye is operated by Merlin Entertainment, who also operate LEGOLAND parks and discovery centres around the world. Ther will also be able to show selected LEGO 4D movies, as well as offer a ‘Make and Take Zone’ for the Kids.