Angus MacLane and the LEGO Community

Angus MacLane is significant to the AFOL community for a number of reasons. For one, he’s an animator at PIXAR who worked on WALL•E (among others) and also directed the short from that film, BURN•E. And, more specifically, Angus builds LEGO; he is an AFOL. His LEGO WALL•E is one of the better ones out there (hmm…something about animating the character helps you to understand his dimensions pretty well ;D ). And he’s made up some of his own themes, like Space Dwarves (here and here) and Clown Wars. A lot of those creations were covered in the Spring 2009 issue of BrickJournal in an interview by Joe Meno.

Enter the CubeDudes

Another theme that Angus invented appears quietly on September 21. Angus posted 102 characters in a new scale he’s developed called “CubeDudes.” Umm…wow! Bigger and blockier and cuter than miniland scale, this scale feels very “cartoon” but also professional and crisp. The heads are a 3×3 block making use of color variation and different SNOT techniques (depending on the character).

CubeDudes Batman CubeDudes Optimus Prime CubeDudes Raphael CubeDudes Storm CubeDudes Voltron Cube Dudes Mr. T.

The Brothers Brick caught on pretty quick followed by oodles of other blogs. And what is this, just another blog post about Angus Maclane’s CubeDudes. Nope. After building a couple CupeDudes myself, I started coming up with a whole slew of questions that weren’t covered in the various musings of the blogosphere.  So I went to the man himself, and Angus graciously permitted me to interview him.

CubeDudes Snake Eyes

Why CubeDudes/ What inspired you to come up with them?

AM: Sadly, I have a variety of restrictions when it comes to Lego building.  I don’t have a lot of room to build anything large.  I don’t have a lot of free time to build so I wanted to find something to make that didn’t take very long to complete.  I had just seen G.I.Joe: Resolute and I was inspired to make a “Snake Eyes” in Lego.  I know there were a few “Snake Eyes” Mini-Figs out there on the internets but I’m not really into decals.  So I thought about making him in Mini-Land scale.  I started building the head and realized that with the eye pieces a 3×3 scale would look much better than a 2×2 scale.  I then thought that having him super-deformed would be much more appealing.  After I finished Snake Eyes, well I needed a Storm Shadow so…and I just kept going.

How did you settle on the “standard” you ended up with? Was it a lot of trial and error, or did you hit on it pretty quick?

AM: It came pretty quick once I started building Snake Eyes. I think it took me about five or six ‘Dudes until I established the rules for myself.  The biggest changes in settling on the design was the availability of pieces. Originally the arms were 1×3 round slopes which made for a really stylized “Popeye” type arm. Since those elements are less common and don’t come in tan I nixed that idea even though it was an extremely appealing aspect of the design.

Actually one of the biggest choices I had to make was  what color to settle on for the caucasian skin tone. I had to choose between yellow or tan and I ended up going with tan. This was mainly because there were many more characters that needed yellow for their costumes than tan.  Of course now I can’t really do Indiana Jones or Duke from G.I. Joe because they will appear half nude.

original sketches by Angus MacLane of Snake Eyes

Which CubeDude(s) came first?

AM: In order:  Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Destro, Robocop, Cobra Commander, Cobra Soldier, Baroness.  After that I’m not sure. I wanted to do a chunk of Cobra and G.I.Joes.  Cobra was easier because they use common Lego colors.  A lot of Joes are shades of green that I don’t have much of.  That’s why the Joe character choice seems so random.

What is your favorite overall character or theme that you’ve built of the CubeDudes so far? and why?

AM: Robocop is probably my favorite character.  His design just ended up working out so well.  In making him I arrived at the convention of using a white 1×1 round stud as teeth and gums. Although a lot of the CubeDudes use this design it is somehow the funniest to me on Robocop.

CubeDudes Robocop

Why did you build so many before posting? Just trying to blow us all away, or ensure that you had the opportunity to build all the cool ones you wanted to first? =)

AM: There were a few reasons I built the amount of CubeDudes that I did before releasing them.  First of all, I was much more excited about building the CubeDudes than taking pictures of them.  Originally I had planned to release them in conjunction with The Transformers sequel or the new G.I. Joe movie as a shout out to the original (and in my opinion) superior design choices.  When those dates came and went I just kept building.  I asked my good friend Scott Clark to photograph them and as soon as they were ready I posted them.

I decided that before I released the images I wanted to make sure that I had built at least something in a bunch of properties that I cared about.  Now I’ve only built a fraction of the ones that I want to build, but I made a big enough variety to sketch out the vision for the breadth of my CubeDude genre interests.  For example in the initial release I had made a few movie themed properties that were fairly well known.  Now that the CubeDudeMovie folder is established I might go and make My Dinner With Andre CubeDudes since there is a frame of reference.

How long did it take to build all those? Were you on vacation or something?

AM: I started over a weekend and it took me a while to figure out the first few designs.  After I settled on the style I made trays with the 15 or so different main elements and put them on my drawing table at work.  When I had a moment here and there I chip away at a few at a time.  I’ll have the body of one ‘Dude and a head of another that I will be working on at the same time.  It takes me about 10-15 minutes to make one CubeDude and I average about two a day. I’ve been working on this for over 4 months so that’s why I have about 100 now.

Angus MacLane's workshop

I see you’ve got a decent selection you’re taking to BrickCon — but not all…did you have to re-use a lot of bricks and tear down during your process, or do you actually have every single one of those built right now?

AM: I have not broken down any of the CubeDudes that you see pictured.  They are on shelves on my wall at work.

Are you hoping to set up a collaborative display at Brick-Con (i.e. hey, everyone build a CubeDude and bring it?)

AM: I think some sort of collaborative display or a CubeDude building workshop would be really fun if people were interested.  Unfortunately I think that it is a little short notice for this year.

Did you have any characters you tried to build that just didn’t fit into the CubeDudes format?

AM: There are a ton of characters that I want to build that have color schemes that Lego hasn’t made or hasn’t made a ton of.  More purple would really help me out in making villains such as Lex Luthor,  The Joker, Grimace, etc.

As far as failed attempts- I tried to do a Princess Leia in Boush Bounty Hunter disguise.  I ran into problems with the “muzzle” and decided to abandon it.

CubeDudes Aliens/Predator Development Sketches by Angus MacLane

CubeDudes Predator by Angus MacLane CubeDudes Ripley by Angus MacLane CubeDudes Alien by Angus MacLane

You mentioned setting up a template for CubeDudes in LEGO Digital Designer. Do you do a lot of work in LDD? Did you use it to help create the CubeDudes?

AM: Lego Digital Designer is a good program, but I don’t really use it to build anything from scratch.  I find I get more ideas and happy accidents when I build with real bricks. Also LDD doesn’t allow a few SNOT techniques, so that can get frustrating after a while. I did build a CubeDude in LDD that I’ll get around to posting online soon.  LDD let me build it almost exactly as I would have in real life (except for the SNOT ears).

What pieces do you wish The Lego Company manufactured that would make it possible to make a wider variety of CubeDudes?

AM: Oh there are a few elements on my wish list.  As I said more purple (light and dark) would help out.  More light and dark green elements would be greatly appreciated as well. 3×3 plates would save me a lot of pieces.  1×1 round tiles and inverted cheese slopes would be sweet.  Cheese slope corner pieces would make better hair.  1×2 solid cheese slopes would make a lot of adult fans of lego happy.

A big thank-you to Angus for taking the time to answer my questions! And now it’s time for you to go build your own CubeDude and add it to the CubeDudes pool on Flickr!