Monday 23 December 2013

"We're ready to believe you"

So, with my MOCs of ECTO 1 and the Ghostbusters HQ building now completed (you can read about them here and here respectively) it's time to wrap things up with the piece de resistance - the Ghostbusters themselves.

I had initially intended to make do with generic minifig parts for the guys, but after spending ages fruitlessly scrolling through pages and pages of minifig torsos, legs, heads and hair on Bricklink desperately looking for something suitable I decided to admit defeat and call in the experts., owned and run by minifig customization gurus Nick and Caroline, had previously supplied me with custom stickers for my ECTO 1 and Ghostbusters HQ models, and prior to that they made me some excellent custom Watford F.C. minifigs, so they were the obvious choice. They were happy to design me a set of Ghostbusters minifigs from scratch, and a few weeks after I contacted them the minifigures below arrived (click pictures to enarge).

Peter...."He slimed me"

Egon....collects spores, molds and fungus

Winston....."Ray, when someone asks you if you're a God, you say YES !"

Ray....."Symmetrical book stacking, just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947"

The torso designs, which are stickers, are superb, right down to the individually named overalls and the walkie talkies hanging from their belts. I also love the shoulder patches. Care has obviously been taken to find heads and hair which approximate the appearance of the characters - Peter is suitably sneering and slightly dischevelled, Winston has his little 'tache, Egon is clean-cut, calm and collected, and Ray has obviously seen a ghost.... You can see the guys posing together below in front of their HQ building (click picture to enlarge).

To complement the set of Ghostbusters minifigs I thought it'd be cool if I could come up with a design for Slimer (below), surely the most readily recognisable ghost from the movie. I played around on LDD for a while in order to try and come up with a LEGO version of the gluttonous, mucus-distributing phantasm which would be at least vaguely reminiscent of the real thing.

A Class 5 full-roaming vapor (from cinemascope-blog)
Once I'd arrived at a design which I was reasonably happy with I contacted and they agreed to have a crack at customising it. I therefore went ahead and sourced the parts, built Slimer, put him in an envelope and sent him to Sheffield, and below you can see what Nick and Caroline sent back (click picture to enlarge). My Slimer consists of just 7 elements - a lime green robot body sandwiched between a 2 x 2 dome top and a boat stud, with phone handsets for arms which are joined to the body by way of Technic half pins. He's then been beautifully brought to life by a couple of custom stickers - I have to say I'm delighted with him !

To finish things off there was one last thing I needed - the Ghostbusters' equipment, and specifically their backpack particle accelerators. I quickly threw together a simple design for the backpacks at the same time as I was experimenting with designs for Slimer (LDD screengrabs below - click to enlarge).

Ever since the release of Series 11 of the Collectible Minifigures I've had the Welder stood on my desk, and I was never in any doubt about which element I'd use for the Ghostbusters' wand, or particle thrower, which fires the charged particle beam. The only downside was that I couldn't find the element ("Minifig, Utensil Welding Gun") in LDD in order to add it to my design above, so until I finally got to assemble the backpacks out of real elements I just had to use my imagination and hope it would turn out OK.

You can see Peter Venkman complete with his particle accelerator backpack and wand in the pictures above (click to enlarge). That welding gun works pretty well I reckon. The main downside of all the kit is that once the backpacks are attached the Ghostbusters need to be mounted on a minifigure stand, or stuck on a baseplate, to stop them toppling over. All four guys plus Slimer can be seen posing below with ECTO 1 (click picture to enlarge).

With everything finished I could finally bring together all the different parts of the build - ECTO 1, the Ghostbusters HQ building, the Ghostbusters minifigs and Slimer - and take the photograph below (click to enlarge). I've obviously taken a few liberties with the design and relative scale of the various components, but all things considered I'm pretty happy with how it turned out in the end.

So that wraps things up, then. I hope you've enjoyed reading this series of Ghostbusters-themed posts, and if you have any comments or feedback about the models then please feel free to share. Anyone interested in getting a set of Ghostbusters minifigs (or indeed any custom minifigs) should drop Nick and Caroline an e-mail at All that's left is for me to wish all Gimme LEGO readers a Merry Christmas - have a good one, folks - and I'll be back with my annual round up of the best and worst of the year with the 2013 Gimme LEGO awards.

"I ain't afraid of no ghost !"
< -- Ghostbusters HQ                                                                                 Model on Display -->

Monday 9 December 2013

Spook Central

Having focused my previous post on the Ghostbusters ECTO 1 Cadillac, my attentions now shift to the Ghostbusters HQ building. Before I get into that, however, I need to apologise for the title of this post -  I'm well aware that "Spook Central" is actually 55 Central Park West, the Ivo Shandor-designed super-conductive antenna inhabited by Dana Barrett and Louis Tully rather than the Ghostbusters' converted firehouse, but Ray Stanz's "Spook Central" quote has stayed with me ever since I first saw the movie so I couldn't resist....

Finding photos of the building wasn't too hard, although that's assuming that all you want to look at is the front and the left side.... If however you're interested in the roof, back and/or right side of the building then you're probably out of luck - I couldn't find any images of these aspects at all. As I trawled the web for images and information, I was interested to discover that up until recently the building still functioned as a working firehouse. That may however no longer be the case - according to this article it was threatened with closure back in 2011 due to budget cuts (sniff). Can any locals give us an update ?

Design-wise the building's basically an elongated box with a big, arched front door and lots of windows. As such, I figured that it'd be reasonably easy to come up with something that looked vaguely similar to the real thing, with extra brownie points available for managing to imitate some of the more distinctive details. One of my biggest headaches was the question of scale. My plan was to build a model that wouldn't look too out of place alongside LEGO's range of modular buildings so that I could eventually display it alongside the modulars as part of my LEGO City Layout, but I also wanted to try and build it so that it'd fit into one of the showcase cabinets that LEGO brand stores make available to LUGs to display their own models, similar to what I did with my City College building. In the case of the showcase cabinet, it'd mean not making the building any deeper than one and a half standard baseplates, or 48 studs. With this in mind I powered up LDD and got to work, arriving at the design below after a few evenings (click pics to enlarge).

In terms of scale, it's a bit of a fudge. The finished model should hopefully (just about) fit in a LEGO showcase cabinet, but it'll probably be a bit small for my City Layout; when it's time for it to take its place in the layout I'll therefore consider stretching it by half a baseplate in length which should hopefully do the trick. Other design choices included a decision to go with dark orange for the upper level of the building as I thought it probably offered the best approximation of the real thing. In the absence of any photographs to guide me otherwise, I chose to make the two long sides of the building fairly similar but deliberately included a few differences which I'll mention later. I also decided to put a large window into the back wall, in order to avoid it being blank and boring. Talking of windows, I really wanted these to be light bley but was dismayed to discover that the parts I'd need to get the effect I wanted weren't available in that colour. After some experimentation I eventually decided to go with black windows, a choice which would allow me to design the windows as I wanted them without hopefully compromising the look of the building too much. Finally, I decided not to add interior detail, at least initially, as it wouldn't be readily visible in the finished model and would slow me down a lot. Reasonably satisfied with the overall look of the building on LDD, and able to live with the compromises, I moved on to the job of sourcing the necessary parts to build it.

As described in my previous post about ECTO 1, an inventory of parts was obtained by generating an html building guide via LDD, the last page of which consists of a parts listing. Then it was once again a case of raiding my loose parts stash for as many of the 2,440 parts as I could find and getting the rest from various Bricklink stores and LEGO's own Pick a Brick (PaB) and Bricks & Pieces (B&P) services. I initially feared that the dark orange elements might be tricky to source, but most of them were actually surprisingly common and affordable via Bricklink; a few were admittedly a bit of a pain to track down, but they were definitely in the minority. I ended up getting most of the window elements from PaB and B&P as they turned out to be considerably cheaper direct from LEGO. Given the sizeable number of elements in the model I sorted the parts into 3 clear crates to make the build a little more straightforward - one crate for elements 2 x 2 studs or less, one crate for larger plates, and one crate for bricks and everything else - and you can see the crates containing all the sorted parts laid out below (click picture to enlarge).

The LDD building guide took absolutely ages to generate - at least 30-40 minutes, believe it or not. Once finally completed, it broke the build into an eye-watering 1250 steps which helps to explain the long wait I guess. You can see a couple of sample screenshots of the building guide below (click pics to enlarge).

In marked contrast to some MOCs I've assembled from their LDD building guides, I have to say that construction of this model was a pleasure - straightforward, relaxing and therapeutic. I've captured some snapshots of the build at various stages of completion below (click pictures to enlarge) so you can see how it all came together. The base of the building consists of a couple of layers of dark bley bricks and slopes, upon which the light bley ground floor is constructed. The main difference between the right and left sides of the model is the absence of doorways on the right side; other differences are more subtle and only likely to be evident to the most eagle-eyed of readers - I'll leave you to find them ! The ground floor windows are mounted on jumper plates and offset backwards from the outer wall by half a stud which I think makes the model look a bit more interesting. The blue structure protruding from the middle window is presumably some sort of air conditioning unit.

Prior to 2012, the eye-catching dark orange colour utilised in the upper part of the building hadn't appeared in official LEGO sets in any great quantity, and I'm therefore indebted to LEGO for releasing Set 10224 Town Hall last year as this has helped to ensure that there's a decent quantity of affordable dark orange bricks in the hands of Bricklink sellers. The paving effect on either side of the windows on the upper part of the building is something that I'm rather partial to and have used in previous MOCs such as my City College building. The technique has also been utilised in official sets such as Set 10197 Fire Brigade. It's achieved by stacking 1 x 1 headlight bricks and attaching bley tiles to their forward-facing studs so as to create a paving effect on the outer surface of the wall. The downside of this technique is that it requires a whole lot of headlight bricks - almost 400 of them were needed for this model.

You can see a number of pictures below (click to enlarge) of the finished model taken from various angles. It's a fairly sizeable build - 38 cm (15") long by 26 cm (10") wide by 38 cm (15") tall - and it's heavier than I expected. Because of this it's rather cumbersome to transport, and in hindsight I should probably have constructed the model in three stackable levels similar to what LEGO do with their modular buildings. I'm not sure why I didn't think of doing this from the beginning, to be honest, and I don't think it would be a difficult modification to incorporate, so I may do it at some point. 

Having recently aquired a small supply of silver metallic 1 x 1 round tiles I was pleased to find a use for them as decoration on the small air conditioning units (picture below - click to enlarge) that you can see protruding from some of the windows on the upper level. I'm not sure they provide much from the perspective of realism, but they do add some welcome bling....

Once again the finishing touch came courtesy of who provided me with custom stickers of the Ghostbusters logo to stick onto the sign hanging above the front entrance. The upper level of the building is supposed to be flying the U.S. flag; I'll probably try to dig out an official LEGO U.S. flag from one of my old sets when I get a chance, but for now a couple of pennants in red and blue are doing the job well enough so there's no hurry.

You can see the finished Ghostbusters HQ building below together with ECTO 1 (click to enlarge). So far so good, then, but we're missing an essential component - the Ghostbusters themselves ! Have no fear, however - I'll bring you Pete, Egon, Ray and Winston in the final instalment of my Ghostbusters trilogy in a couple of weeks time, so check back then.

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