Monday, 5 August 2013

Ready for Launch

When a call went out on the Brickish Association forum a few months back asking if there were any AFOL bloggers interested in attending the official LEGO Galaxy Squad launch I replied like a shot. The Galaxy Squad theme is the latest in a long and often illustrious line of LEGO Space themes, most of which I've eagerly embraced; given this, plus my enthusiasm for the launch venue - the UK's National Space Centre (NSC) in Leicester - it was a total no brainer. It did briefly occur to me to wonder why LEGO was hosting a launch event well over 6 months after the first wave of Galaxy Squad sets had first appeared at retail, but I wasn't complaining....


A formal invitation (above) and itinerary duly arrived, and so it was that last Saturday I saddled up for the trek to the East Midlands with my reluctant wife and excited son in tow. I was already pretty familiar with the NSC (below) - the Brickish Association have exhibited there for the past few years (see for example here and here) and it's a friendly and interesting venue where I've always felt at home.


On arrival, attendees were ushered into the spacious Shuttle Suite and treated to tea, coffee and pastries. The attendees were I assume journalists and bloggers, accompanied by assorted family members; I didn't recognise anybody there apart from Richard Hayes, fellow AFOL and the webmaster over at Brick Fanatics. As you can see from the picture below (click to enlarge), the Shuttle Suite was set up with a number of circular tables, a couple of large projection screens and a smattering of LEGO banners to brand the event; each table featured a different Galaxy Squad set which someone had already had the pleasure of building.


Elyssa from Norton, LEGO's PR Agency, formally kicked things off at around 10.30 a.m.. She welcomed attendees and told us what was planned for the day prior to showing a brief introductory Galaxy Squad video and then letting us loose on the demo sets. The kids (and a few of the adults) had a great time playing with the sets; I was already pretty familiar with most of the Galaxy Squad sets, but one thing that hadn't really sunk in prior to my extensive play test was how many of the models are designed to be split into a couple of separate and self-contained play elements, generally a flying machine of some description and a land-based vehicle or structure. This alone confers substantial play value, and that's before you consider the variety of other play features built into the sets, be it the excellent motion-induced movement of the legs on Set 70708 Hive Crawler (shown below with Set 70707 CLS-89 Eradicator Mech - click to enlarge), the grasping pincers at the front of Set 70706 Crater Creeper, and the almost ubiquitous opening cockpits, flick-fire missiles and spring-loaded catapult-type weapons. While we were demoing the models a series of brief Galaxy Squad-themed videos were playing in the background on a loop on the projection screens; I subsequently discovered that these videos are all available on the Galaxy Squad micro-site, and you can see them here if you're interested.


On arrival the kids had been given a well-stuffed goody bag containing a couple of Galaxy Squad polys, an NSC-branded soft toy and other bits and pieces. I was pleased to see my youngster immediately dive into the polys and build them unaided, starting with Set 30230 Mini Mech shown below.


Once attendees had had their fill of the demo sets they were free to roam the NSC. In addition to the usual space-related attractions at the venue, a number of Galaxy Squad-related activities had been laid on for NSC visitors, enabling the general public to join in the fun. An area was set aside for free-building with loose elements from Galaxy Squad sets, and some of the best creations were on show. Visitors could also participate in the construction of a Galaxy Squad-related mosaic (below), and DJ's from local radio station GEM 106 were broadcasting live from the venue and ran a "guess the build" competition for kids with Galaxy Squad polys for the winners.

Galaxy Squad Mosaic - Work in Progress....
Galaxy Squad launch invitees retired to the Shuttle Suite at 1 pm for lunch; unfortunately, on the way to the buffet, my boy spotted some laptops running a Galaxy Squad online game and we spent the next half an hour or more trying to extricate him.... Once we'd prised him away from the laptop and fed ourselves it was time to listen to Duncan Titmarsh, the UK's only Certified LEGO Professional, give a talk about what it's like to build LEGO models for a living. Duncan, the founding director of Bright Bricks, a fellow member of the Brickish Association and a renowned builder, talked about some of the projects he's undertaken, including his stupendous 35-foot high Christmas tree at London's St. Pancras Station and a half scale working model of a Rolls Royce aircraft engine. After Duncan's talk the audience spent around 15 minutes firing questions at him, such as what he'd love to be asked to build ("a full-sized London bus"), what are his favourite LEGO themes ("Creator because they contain lots of parts, and Galaxy Squad and Friends because of all the interesting colours"), and whether building models for a living diminishes the pleasure he gets from LEGO ("No - it's still fun").


After Duncan's talk, my family and I briefly popped into the NSC shop to grab a few souvenirs (they have some seriously neat holographic postcards in there....), said our goodbyes and then headed off back down South.

My NSC holographic postcard, except you'll just have to imagine the 3D effect....
In truth, the 'unveiling' of the Galaxy Squad sets was a bit of an anticlimax for me since they've been on the market for months already and I already own some of them. Certainly the timing of the event seemed a bit odd, although I suppose the much-later-than-average launch of the Galaxy Squad theme in the UK might have something to do with it, and I also suspect that the majority of attendees weren't AFOLs and thus may not have been previously aware of the theme. Regardless of all that, it was really good to be able to see the whole range of sets at close quarters and give them a thorough hands-on playtest with the help of my youngster. I was already a fan of the theme before the event, and now my son's a fan of it too....

I've not previously attended many of these press events so it was an interesting experience; thanks to Elyssa for the invitation to attend, and thanks also to NSC for being great hosts as usual.

5 comments:

  1. Dave, the split function of the sets is actually a feature of the theme in general.. If you look at the logo you'll see the ship splitting at the right side and flying in 2 directions. Almost all the GS team ships in sets that come with 2 GS team figures do so, with the exception of the original red team set (although you can put the mech on the speeder and he does have a jet pack)

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  2. Was great to catch up with you Dave, with regards to launch, it transpires that the States was sent sets early by mistake and by the time the mistake was realised retailers were already selling them.

    The plan was for the theme to launch worldwide in the summer as a 1 wave in and out theme.

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  3. Wow, you lucky. What an amazing experience and I'm happy to see blogs like these are still alive and kicking.

    Hennie
    Amsterdam

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  4. That looked like so much fun! I would have loved to be there! Although it is weird that they did it so late. Still very cool!

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