It’s a toy! It’s a plane! It’s…an X-Wing made entirely of LEGOs?
That’s right: almost 30 years to the date after the release of Return of the Jedi, LEGO is stoking Star Wars fans with a life-sized replica of the iconic aircraft, which just debuted in Times Square. Some 5.3 million LEGO bricks were used to build the 46,000-pound model, besting the Mecha Robot to become the largest LEGO creation in the world.
How’d they do it? “Very carefully,” quips Eric Varszegi, a LEGO “master builder” who consulted on the project. And yes, that’s his actual job title.
Planning began roughly 18 months ago, at a LEGO facility in the Czech Republic. Execs knew they wanted something big and Star Wars-y to promote their new toy-inspired animated miniseries (The Yoda Chronicles, premiering May 29 on Cartoon Network), and recreating a fan-favorite flier like the X-Wing “just seemed like a great thing to do,” says Varszegi.
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But this was no ordinary plaything. The official X-Wing prop planes—as LEGO learned from Lucasfilm—measure 42 feet from tip to tail, with a lengthy wingspan. They’re also 11 feet tall. Structurally, says Varszegi, there was no way a creation that big could rise from LEGO bricks alone, especially if it needed to weather earthquakes (a must when it moves to a Legoland theme park) and support kids in the cockpit (hello, photo-ops).
So the engineers started sketching. Their solution: a steel substructure, which would be wholly covered in real LEGO bricks to preserve the illusion of LEGO-ness. They also chose to keep the wings closed, because the open “X” formation would be tough to execute safely.
Once plans were set, 32 builders worked day and night to make them a reality, placing one tiny LEGO after another. “That first brick is always the biggest challenge,” Varszegi recalls. “If you put it in the wrong spot, it will throw everything off.”
Several months later, the finished X-Wing was shipped to the States—because, alas, it cannot fly. The model will stay in Times Square through Saturday, before trekking West to Legoland California, where it will join LEGO replicas of the Taj Mahal, the U.S. Capitol, and maybe, eventually, a Death Star?
“At life size?” says Varszegi, laughing. “There aren’t enough LEGO bricks in the world.”