Building a better (Lego) Jedi
Comic-Con 2011: Lego and Lucas discuss their long-standing relationship and what the future holds for their partnership in toys and entertainment.
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Who was there: Derek Strothard, Matt Shell, and Chris Gollaher of Lucasfilm; Jill Wilfert and Matthew Ashton of Lego; and Michael Price and David Scott, respectively the writer and director of the new animated Lego Star Wars special, The Padawan Menace.
What they talked about: The panel began with a brief discussion of the Lego Star Wars games and the latest release, The Clone Wars. The product manager behind the games at Lucasfilm, Derek Strothard, explained that one of his favorite parts of working on the series has been coming up with the unique humor that the partnership affords. He went on to say that he thinks the series is so popular because there's magic that happens when you combine Lego and Star Wars--it creates something that not only appeals to both adults and their children, but also creates opportunities for humor that appeal to both as well.
The discussion then moved on to the actual Lego toys. There have been more than 200 sets released over the years (as illustrated by an absolutely awesome Lego Millennium Falcon shown on the screen). Gollaher explained that there will be six new sets in the main line available early next year, but there will also be some smaller exclusive sets thrown in as well.
He talked a bit about his favorite Lego Star Wars product: the Death Star playset. Gollaher said that in the planning phases, he wrote down dozens of requests for things that should appear in the set, thinking that most of them would not make it in. To his surprise, the designers at Lego came back with everything in, to which he said that most of the people at Lego are big fans of Star Wars as well, so it's stuff they want to see in their products too.
Lego designer Matthew Ashton then talked about his favorite set--The Battle of Endor--which he said gave him an opportunity to revamp the Lego Ewoks because he was displeased with how they looked. Ashton then stated that Lego and Lucas rerelease Lego sets fairly often and cited the newly announced Tie Fighter Lego set as an example. It was originally released in 2006, so children that were only three or four when it first came out are now in the target audience. The Tie Fighter will feature some changes over the original set and will include four figures, including a pilot, an Imperial officer, and more. Ashton also announced that a Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar would be hitting store shelves in time for the holidays. Behind each door, there will be a miniature Lego Star Wars figure as opposed to chocolate, which is traditionally found inside.
The final topic of discussion was the new animated Lego Star Wars special, The Padawan Menace, airing tonight on Cartoon Network. Michael Price (who has also written for The Simpsons) said that he's a huge fan of the Star Wars universe and that jumping into the Lego aspect offered some great opportunities for humor. The director, David Scott, mentioned that his greatest challenge was blending some elements of the original and prequel trilogies--one example shown revealed Darth Vader stumbling into scenes where he wasn't supposed to be (since The Padawan Menace takes place in the prequel trilogy), with George Lucas subsequently coming into the shot to take the Sith Lord away.
The takeaway: Star Wars and Lego are both huge properties on an individual level, so not surprisingly, sticking them together has proven to be an incredibly fruitful relationship for the parties involved. Best of all, it seems like the partnership has just hit its stride as more entertainment spanning different mediums, including games, comes out of the Lego and Star Wars partnership.