As you’ve likely heard, Legoland California will soon be unveiling a new addition to the Miniland section of their theme park: Star Wars Miniland, a collection of seven scenes from the six live action films, plus the animated Clone Wars movie. While the features are not yet complete, GeekDad was given the opportunity this past weekend to have the very first look at the models and layouts. Someone has to be first, so, like Dutch Vander, into the trench I went.
“I love Lego and I love Star Wars,” says master model builder Ryan Ziegelbauer as we begin the tour, “so this project has been unbelievable.” We begin walking up a hill perched above the rest of Miniland, toward the Star Wars scenes. Landscape workers are busy creating the desolate ice planet of Hoth. They’re spreading white sand to simulate snow around a couple of AT-ATs, while the rebel base and the all-important generators sit nearby.
Looking more closely, I notice Luke hanging from the roof of the wampa cave and I see markers pinpointing where snow speeders and other models will be placed. Later, Ziegelbauer shows me a model of Skywalker suspended in the bacta tank that will be placed in Echo Base before the scene’s completion. The love for Star Wars and Lego is evidenced by the many wonderful details that any fan will truly appreciate.
Early reports on the new display said that there would be more than 2,000 models constructed from more than 1.5 million bricks. I ask Ziegelbauer about this number and he reflects, “I think that number is low. We’ll need to count again — there are 750 battle droids alone.”
It’s amazing that there are even half of that. The Miniland project has been on the quickest of fast tracks and the hands that imagine and build the many models have been very busy. It began just 12 months ago, in March 2010. As you can imagine, Lucasfilm has been very involved in the process and helped to select the scenes, which were chosen for a variety of reasons. Primarily, the scenes had to be prominent in the movies and look interesting, but they also had to work within the limitations of the Lego bricks. “We would have loved to do the Battle of the Death Star, but (because of our scale) it just wouldn’t fit,” says Ziegelbauer. Miniland models are built at a 1-20 ratio.
Each of the seven scenes will feature some animation, including the Cantina Band in Mos Eisley, the destruction of a couple of speeder bikes on Endor and the nexu emerging in Geonosian execution arena. Overall, the scenes will include:
- Episode I: The Theed Royal Palace, hangar on Naboo and the invasion of Naboo
- Episode II: The Geonosian execution arena and a battle scene between Dooku’s droid army and the Republic
- Episode III: Order 66 on Kashyyyk and the duel on Mustafar
- Episode IV: Mos Eisley spaceport (with a massive 19,000-brick Falcon), the cantina and the moisture farm
- Episode V: The Battle of Hoth
- Episode VI: The forests and landing platform at Endor (forests are actually bonsai redwoods)
- Clone Wars: A battle scene from Christophsis, between Separatist battle droids and Republic clone troopers
Many of the models were built at a workshop in Germany and transported to California for the opening. At the Carlsbad park, Ziegelbauer and his co-workers put finishing details on the models, customizing as they see fit, then complete the models with a healthy coating of U.V. protectant. The Star Wars Miniland is a permanent installation and there will be an intense interest in keeping the Star Wars models looking their very best. Similar Minilands will be revealed later this year at the Billund and Deutschland parks.
For the California grand opening, Star Wars celebrities and members of the 501st Legion will be on hand to open the attraction. There are also plans for special events when Star Wars Days come around this year. Further, all three parks opening Star Wars Minilands will also be involving park guests with a large mosaic that guests will help build. (If you attended Celebration last year, you know what the mosaic looks like.)
The work that has gone into these Miniland models is impressive and just looking at the details of each scene is enough to bring a smile to the face of any Star Wars fan, which is what happens to me during my tour. Just a few Lego bricks are enough to kindle memories from the films and suddenly I’m 10 years old again. But it’s not just the guests who will be taken by the exhibit. “I can’t believe they pay me to do this,” says master model builder Gary McIntire as he attaches gaffi sticks to Tusken Raiders. It’s no surprise that he’s grinning ear to ear.
Star Wars Miniland is scheduled to open March 31 at Legoland California.