LEGO My Mickey!by Gregg Jacobs, contributing writer
Mouseplanet readers know that I'm a big Disney shopper, and I've scored some really wonderful finds over the years. I love things that are new that feature new properties or that spring from the minds of talented Disney designers. I love antiques and other older items that remind me of Disney history. I'm a big watch guy, so of course, have a Disney watch collection, and also love animation art, so drool over any kind of Disney artwork. That said, I generally collect whatever strikes my fancy. People ask me what my favorite find is from over the years, and I'm never able to choose (how do you choose between your children, after all?).
All that said, as I don't live in a 100-room mansion with unlimited wall space. I need to spend our hard-earned money on things other than Disney merchandise, like maybe food and shelter, so I've become more discerning over the years, and think through my purchases very carefully.
Every now and then, though, I see an item that sets off alarm bells in my mind, and all I can think is, I must have that now! I mean, I hear "Wowee!" in my head and see some form of Happily Ever After fireworks going off in the sky. Such was the case with the Mickey Mouse LEGO Art Set. I don't even really know why. Something about it really spoke to me and made it a must have, and I'm glad that it struck me that way. I haven't visited a Disney park in well over a year, and needed a little bit of the magic. This turned out to be a really fun experience in addition to a great collectible, and gave me a pick me up at a time at a time when I needed one.
Disney and LEGO have had a very good long term and fruitful relationship. There are, of course, the shops at both The Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World. There are also many Disney licensed Lego products that range from cute and fun for the kiddies to downright expensive and ambitious.
Getting back to my "must have," I've certainly admired the LEGO sets that I've seen, but had never really been into them myself. Then one day, I was doing my periodic (and compulsive) browse of ShopDisney.com and came across this set. I hadn't realized the LEGO made 2D kits, but they do through the LEGO Art series.
In describing the LEGO Art Series, LEGO says, "Discover the pleasure of a different LEGO building experience! Celebrate some of the world's most iconic artists, bands and characters with these unique LEGO Art sets. Create wall art to display, with [several] building options in each set so you can choose your favorite. While building, immerse yourself in the soundtrack, with stories closely linked to the piece. If you're up for more, two of the sets offer a bigger building challenge and an ultimate piece of art to display!"
There's a lot to unpack there for these 2D LEGO projects, which form an image, with a frame, that you can put on a stand or hang on the wall, but let's take the description step by step. There aren't a ton of them available yet, but the iconic artists, bands, and characters include, in addition to Mickey/Minnie Mouse, Harry Potter, Star Wars, the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe.
More on this later—but when they say several building options in each set, they mean it. The directions give you a choice of several images that you can assemble based on which pattern you follow.
Next, the pieces actually do come with a soundtrack for you to download and listen to while you work. The soundtracks are less music and more talk, with experts on the topic telling stories about the subject.
Finally, and again more on this later, some of the sets offer the option of combining kits to make an even larger finished product (yes, they're already trying to get you to buy a second kit).
The best way to describe the project itself is to compare it to the latest craze in the craft world. According to the arts and crafts experts in my family, scrapbooking is out and diamond painting is in. In diamond painting, an image (either from a standard kit or from a kit you have made from an image of your own) is broken down into "stones". You then use a tool and follow a pattern to attach the stones to an adhesive backing. The end result is a "diamond painting" of the original image. It's a painstaking process, but a lot of fun, and the effect of the finished product is actually very cool.
The LEGO Art sets are the same idea, but LEGO'ized and actually a lot simpler (though I'll take this opportunity to point out that they are advertised as being for adults, ages 18 and over as clearly stated on the package). I will now get back to our regularly scheduled program, the Mickey Mouse set I drooled over and write about what assembling LEGO Art entails.
The Mickey set is advertised as having 2,658 pieces. These consist of plastic brackets that will ultimately form the frame, nine "plates" with LEGO dimples that will form the backing, and hundreds of color pegs in nine different colors, separated out in bags.
The set comes with a very detailed guidebook. The first few pages have some nice pictures and a concise history of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Disney animation.
Then we launch into the instructions, which actually aren't terribly difficult. As I said earlier, there are nine different plastic squares that form the backing, each with 256 bumps or "studs" in LEGO speak. The pegs are plastic circles with holes in the back, that fit snuggly on to each stud, LEGO style. Each page of instruction has a layout of each section, with number and color coding, showing you exactly where each peg goes.
You add each of the pegs to the board in the pattern they give you in the guidebook until you're done with a section. If you make a mistake, they provide tools to help pry the errant peg out from the board, though I found it to be easier to just pry it up with my finger. You will make some mistakes, but they're easy to rectify and you can continue on. When a section is complete, you then move on to the next one and flip to the next page in the guide.
When you have multiple sections complete, there are LEGO pieces that you apply to the back to connect them to each other.
It all looks kind of abstract in the beginning, but as you move along, a familiar face begins to take shape,
You just continue along following the patterns, adding pegs and putting the sections together until you see a familiar smiling face looking back at you.
It's actually a very therapeutic and relaxing process. In total, it took me a leisurely eight hours or so over two nights to complete. I was moving along, but not rushing to finish, so that's probably a pretty accurate time estimate for anyone who wants to take this on.
The kit actually comes with some very cool features. Earlier, I mentioned that each of the LEGO Art sets comes with a soundtrack. A soundtrack with a LEGO set sounds kind of strange you might say, but it actually makes sense. The guide has a QR code that you can scan with your phone to download the audio track. I expected a bunch of boppy Disney tunes to keep me company while I was working, which would have been fine, but what I got was much different.
What it was was a 1 hour 15 minute walk through Disney animation history with some well known Disney animators. An interviewer had a chat, podcast style, with Brian Blackmore (who I met years ago at a Disneyana Convention), Ron Cohee, Jeff Shelley, and Dave Pachecco. They talked about Disney history and how Mickey and Minnie Mouse were created, and then about the process of drawing them and bringing them to life. It was a round robin conversation that was very interesting, for Disney geeks and non-geeks alike.
After they were done, they brought in Fiorella Groves, the LEGO designer who created the kit. She talked about her love of animation and Disney, and about how she went about creating the kit. You might think it's easy to take 2,300-plus pegs of different colors and arrange them to look like a smiling Mickey Mouse, but it turns out it's not so easy. She talked about her creative process and how over a number of weeks, she kept moving pegs in and out to give Mickey just the right look.
Again, having a soundtrack to a LEGO set sounds kind of odd, but it was nice background to have while working, and I learned a few thing. It turned it into a nice themed experience.
The next feature is also kind of mind blowing. The kit you bought is not one Disney character, but actually two! You have a choice. You can do Mickey Mouse as I've been writing about all this time, or, with the same set, you can do Minnie Mouse. The guide has two sets of instructions: one for Mickey and one for Minnie. The pieces given will facilitate building either character. There are plenty of extra pegs left over when you're done, so I'm assuming the idea was to make sure there were enough of each color to build either character.
Now of course, they encourage you to buy two kits so you can build both characters (I only bought one and built Mickey). If you do so, obviously upon completion, they'd be the same size, so you can display them together. Should you choose to build/buy both, the instructions give you two options. You can "frame" each separately and put them next to one another, or you can actually build them together and create one large piece of artwork with the two facing each other. The finished single product measures 16 inches by 16 inches, and if you double them up, it would be 16 inches by 30 inches, so it's a sizable piece of artwork.
There are holes in the back of the finished piece, so with a nail, you can hang them on the wall, or you could do what I did. I got an inexpensive small easel from Amazon and put it on a shelf. It can also stand on its own, though its a bit tippy, so don't do that on any surface that may get a jolt.
I mentioned early on that LEGO has set these as being for those 18 and over. I think they want to portray it as a Zen adult experience. It does require some patience and there are a lot of little pieces, so I think I'd steer my 6-year-old nephew away from this one, but the 13-year-old can probably be counted on not to make a mess and have some fun with this. I think pre-teens or older would get a kick out of it.
At the time I'm writing this, you can buy the set at ShopDisney.com for $124.95 or on Amazon for $119.95. It's pricey, as most LEGO sets are, but it was a lot of fun to put together, and the end result is really substantial and beautiful.
Now back to why this was a must have for Gregg: It was something unique that I hadn't seen before. The final image is fun and beautiful and plays right into my Mickey Mouse-Disney artwork wheelhouse. It gave me a chance to so something creative while spending time at home. Those things all played into my choice to buy it, but it was something more than that. I think all we Disney Parks fans have an "I'm here" moment when we go, when the magic really hits and we know we've made it. For me, for whatever reason, it's always been when I've spotted Mickey for the first time, usually in one of the parades. I see him up on that float, get that familiar light feeling in my gut and know I'm in for a wonderful time.
For obvious reasons, that hasn't happened in a while, so this gave me a chance to spend some time with the little guy. I was badly in need of a fix and got to immerse myself in that Disney magic for a bit, even if only at my kitchen table, and think about all the great memories with family and friends at my favorite place. That alone was worth the price of admission!
As always, my best wishes to everyone out there. I hope everyone is well and that we're all starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Until next time!