Interview: Michael Inglis - Building LEGO Zelda
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Recently we found out that a project to make LEGO Zelda a reality, via the CUUSOO platform, had reached 10,000 supporters and, as a result, has gone forward for consideration by The LEGO Group. There are still hurdles to get over, including the small matter of Nintendo agreeing to license the brand, but it's an achievement to celebrate and, who knows, perhaps some day we'll see this collection in stores.
We caught up with the man behind the project, Michael Inglis, to talk about its origins and why he chose The Legend of Zelda as his source of inspiration.
Nintendo Life: Thanks for joining us Michael, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Michael Inglis: I’m 18 years old and grew up just outside Edinburgh in Scotland. From the age of 12, most of my spare time was taken up by making stop-motion LEGO animations with the large amount of LEGO I’d amassed over my childhood. In late 2007, I posted a LEGO Legend of Zelda animation which caught the eye of a few blogs and since then I have promised people a sequel. As my software and hardware limited me from doing what I really wanted to do, I put it off until I was able to deliver something which was up to the standard I wanted it. In 2010, after coming across the 3D printing website Shapeways, I immediately applied my then limited 3D modelling knowledge to creating a LEGO compatible Master Sword which could be physically made by this company. Since then, I have been using Shapeways to create many LEGO scaled weapons and accessories from various different games and films, through primarily from The Legend of Zelda. Using the renders of the items I had created from the Zelda series, I compiled them into a project on LEGO CUUSOO in December last year. This project has since reached 10,000 supporters and is now being considered for an official set by The LEGO Group.
NL: When did you first become aware of LEGO CUUSOO and the process it offers?
MI: I, probably like many others, first heard of LEGO CUUSOO through Minecraft’s success in reaching 10,000 supporters. Having all the material I needed, I wasted no time in compiling it into my own project which, if I recall correctly, only took a couple of hours.
NL: For those who don't know, can you briefly explain how LEGO CUUSOO works?
MI: LEGO CUUSOO is a platform backed by The LEGO Group which allows users to submit ideas for sets. These sets can be ‘Supported’ by other users on the site. When a project reaches 10,000 supporters, it is then reviewed by The LEGO Group and if it passes their review, designers refine and develop the idea and create an official LEGO set. It’s basically a free Kickstarter for LEGO sets.
NL: When you set up your project for The Legend of Zelda last year, what made you choose that particular Nintendo franchise?
The Legend of Zelda was introduced to me at such a young age. It’s basically been a part of my growing up. I invested hundreds of hours into Ocarina of Time as a child and gained a massive appreciation for the series.
MI: The Legend of Zelda was introduced to me at such a young age. It’s basically been a part of my growing up. I invested hundreds of hours into Ocarina of Time as a child and gained a massive appreciation for the series. Being unable to read when I first played it, the scripted narrative of the game went completely unnoticed, so what I was actually doing was left only to my imagination. This initial impression of the game, I feel, was so overwhelming that every other game I’ve played has been compared to this experience and has fallen short. For me, it’s always been Zelda. Perhaps if I was introduced to more Mario, Metroid or Kirby at such a young age, it might have been them.
NL: Can you share what programs or tools you used to create your designs?
MI: All of my models have been created in Autodesk Inventor. I’m obsessed with how accurate a model is, so dimensions and scale are important factors to be taken into account and Inventor handles this brilliantly. The decals used on the Minifigures were designed in Photoshop.
NL: How long did it take you to produce the drawings, and did you go through many drafts or experiments before settling on the final results?
MI: I often miss out the planning step of the creative process and dive straight into the model. This allows me to complete a design such as a sword usually in a couple of hours. Earlier examples such as my first Master Sword took me a couple of weeks as I was relatively new to the software and had to actually sit down and think about how I could go about creating the model. I recall the decal for Link’s face went through quite a few renditions. I had originally planned a manga style which featured eyes very close to the ones featured in Twilight Princess. This created quite a lot of backlash among the comments with people relating it to The Clone Wars series of heads. I eventually settled on the more basic LEGO-esque eyes seen on the project header today. While not my own personal preference, it seemed to appeal to more people.
NL: Initially you covered the franchise in general, but responded to LEGO feedback with a scene from the Ocarina of Time finale: why did you choose that particular example?
MI: As I’ve previously mentioned, Ocarina of Time was extremely impactful on my perspective on the series as a whole. The main intention for the set was to include all three characters. In Ocarina of Time, this, I believe is the first moment all three characters are together in adult form. Whilst the finales of newer Zelda games are far bigger and considered to be more ‘epic’, I feel they move focus away from the primary objective — saving the princess. In my own opinion I would comment that Ocarina of Time’s finale harnesses the ‘saving the princess’ concept in its purest form. As Link is charging up the seemingly endless stairs, the organ music gets louder, the suspense builds and we are met with a helpless princess which the hero has to save. There are no distractions, no other objectives. This moment, I feel, brings out what the series is really about.
NL: Support seemed to boom once word got around, particularly in late April. At what stage did you realise that the number of supporters was increasing quickly, and what was your reaction?
MI: My initial reaction was obviously delight followed by an immense feeling of panic. I realised that I might not get the Minifigures and set I had been working on over the course of about a month finished in time. I was originally intending to upload the set and the Minifigures all at once, but it became apparent that the project might reach 10,000 supporters before I did that. I had to then upload them individually as I finished them. After a few 14 hour long shifts, I did finally manage to finish everything and fully appreciate all the attention it was getting.
NL: Once you hit the magic 10,000 mark, did you celebrate in any way?
MI: Not anything out of the ordinary! I woke up around 15 minutes before it hit the 10,000, which was indeed lucky! My half dazed self then spent the next quarter of an hour frantically mashing F5 every couple of seconds. When the orange ‘Achieved’ box appeared at the side of the page, I, with a feeling of great satisfaction did a small fist pump before going downstairs to make myself a cup of tea.
NL: LEGO has posted official congratulations and warned that the process could take several months. How nervous are you for the project's prospects, especially considering the fact that Nintendo will need to approve?
MI: Having Nintendo’s approval was always the main concern. I was always quite confident that The Legend of Zelda would appeal with The LEGO Group’s core audience. While I am incredibly wary about how closed Nintendo are when licensing their key franchises, I still remain slightly optimistic in that we have seen both Mario Kart K’Nex and Pokemon Mega Bloks in the past. As fantastic as it would be though, I’m still not holding my breath.
NL: We can't let you go without quizzing you about the games themselves. So, which Zelda is your favourite and why?
MI: Despite all my rambling on about Ocarina of Time, I have grown more and more to appreciate Majora’s Mask as I’ve gotten older. Taking a step back and looking at what is actually going on within the game is incredibly dark and disturbing. I love the fact that each individual character has so much personality and I feel over time, you genuinely feel like you get to know them. I also love the time aspect of the game. The game lures you into a false sense of security by letting you know exactly what someone will be doing at a certain time in the day but rips it straight from you by rendering you completely helpless as the Moon looms over Clock Town. The whole concept, tied with the themes and characters the game presents, I think is truly magnificent.
NL: Do you prefer the 2D or 3D games?
MI: Being of a generation that was introduced first to 3D games, I missed out on most 2D titles as I was too busy being born or getting my nappy changed. I have however tried my hardest to get through as many 2D titles as I can to gain a better perspective of the industry as a whole. Despite possibly sounding slightly hypocritical with what I’ve said about Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, I feel 2D games had a time and a place and rely a lot on nostalgia. I say this because I personally have found it incredibly difficult to initially start playing them. I have to say though, I still have huge appreciation for the style and am massively in support of seeing another 2D Zelda title on the 3DS.
NL: Finally, do you have any other LEGO proposals in the works?
MI: Unfortunately not for a long time! I considered several months back doing a Skyrim one as I’ll be looking into modelling several different weapons and pieces of armour, but after seeing both the Serenity and the Winchester projects rejected from CUUSOO, I doubt very much they would consider a concept from - what is in essence - quite an adult game. I however intend to keep 3D modelling LEGO scaled accessories and expand on what I’ve already done, both with the Zelda series and any other franchises which I’ve so far untouched. I might also get that sequel for the Zelda animation done one of these days!
We'd like to thank Michael for his time. If you want to learn more about his LEGO projects or watch his stop-motion videos, check out the links below.