11 June 2019

75936 Jurassic Park T. rex Rampage: designer interview with Mark Stafford & Marcos Bessa

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Just announced, 75936 Jurassic Park: T. rex Rampage is a new Direct to Consumer set (D2C, basically ‘the big ones for adults’) that has 3120 pieces and will be available from 19 June 2019 priced US$249.99/ CA$299.99/ £219.99/ €249.99/ 1899DKK. We saw it a couple of weeks ago in Billund and can confirm it is spectacular! While there we spoke with its designer Mark Stafford and LEGO® Jurassic World team manager Marcos Bessa to get some insight into how the set came about.

© The LEGO Group 2019
Our review is coming in a couple of weeks’ time but to set the scene, here are some key details from the press release. The T. rex dinosaur measures over 8” (22cm) high, 27” (69cm) long and 6” (17cm) wide and features snapping jaws with a posable head, arms, legs and tail. The gate has an opening function and measures over 16” (42cm) high, 18” (48cm) wide and 5” (14cm) deep. The wall framing the gate features a dinosaur nest and six other scenes inspired by the movie, shown later in this post. This set includes six minifigures: John Hammond, Ian Malcolm, Ellie Sattler, Alan Grant, Ray Arnold and Dennis Nedry, plus a baby dinosaur figure. The John Hammond, Ray Arnold and Dennis Nedry minifigures are new.
© The LEGO Group 2019
Hello guys; this just looks phenomenal and I want to build it immediately! Were you excited about building a massive dinosaur?

Mark: Yes, especially as the only other massive thing I’ve ever built [THE LEGO MOVIE 2 Batmobile] got cancelled. That might be the most intricate model I’ve managed to do, but this is not far off, so I’m happy. I love this dinosaur.
Marcos: Well, this technically still hasn’t come out but, you know, hopefully it will… (laughs)
Mark: Nooo! It can’t be cancelled! There’s a box printed, it can’t be cancelled now!

© The LEGO Group 2019
How did this project start?

Mark: It actually started when we came to Jurassic World, the first movie. We went around the design offices to see what existed already, if anybody had done anything - and we knew when Mike Psiaki started at The LEGO Group in 2012 he had built a big T-Rex. And we went and stole it, basically. I actually have it here.

He built this back when he was fresh and new. He always loved building dinosaurs, he’s quite famous for it. He built a load of dinosaurs for The LEGO Adventure Book back in the day, which I got to translate little bit so it’s not the first time turning one of Mike’s into a big thing.

And how did Mike Psiaki feel about not getting the gig to create this set?

Mark: I think he would have liked to do it himself. But honestly, I think Mike would like to do everything himself!
Marcos: It happens all the time, honestly. We often start out with many sketch models of things that are going around in meetings between design leaders and markets and IP partners to discuss the ideas, and then when we sign off on one idea, like this one, that’s when Mark started officially working on it and he takes everything that he has to work from. He basically built that from scratch, but he had all these different versions of reference models to take inspiration from.

What did you retain from Mike’s version?

Mark: The spacing he developed for the tail, that allows it to have this wonderful curve. The joint that he worked out for the hip was actually used for Voltron before this, so it had been perfected from this original sketch and then I just took it from Voltron and brought it back to the dinosaur.

So the idea for a dinosaur set originated from TLG?

Mark: Yes… the elephant in the room is the LEGO Ideas one. Mike’s is from 2012 so we knew it predated that. I was aware it existed, but I purposefully didn’t go and look at it. When I finally did look at it about two weeks before I finished, I was annoyed that we chose the same colours for the dinosaur and the gate but the reason for that is when you look at the actual movie, those are the colours that they are. And the T-Rex is the only dinosaur that is in every movie. So there’s not much that you can do.

Well, you got kicked for releasing the Ghostbusters Firehouse after someone had their version on LEGO Ideas, didn’t you.

Marcos: Yes, it’s a very similar situation. You work from the same reference, and do your best to represent it within a system that is limited in terms of colours and shapes.
Mark: It’s a Jurassic gate with a dinosaur and the colours are the same, but the scale is very different. This is twice the size [of the LEGO Ideas one]. As far as I am aware, none of the elements were used in the same way.

How did you decide the scale?

Marcos: I created the brief for Mark to start this product because I’m the lead on the franchise so I lead a team of designers and create their briefs, and for this one I did tell Mark from the get-go, “go crazy with the scale, as big as you can, do the best dinosaur we can”… and then he went too crazy.
Mark: Yeah he said go crazy so I started with this… which is twice the size of the one I finished with. [Mark pulls out a huge prototype comprising only of a head and body.]

© 2019 The Brothers Brick/Chris Malloy
Woah. Did you have a giggle when he brought that, Marcos?

Marcos: I was like… where are you going man? I mean, go crazy, but within reason!
Mark: And it’s awesome. But it is actually too heavy for LEGO hinges… I’ve got this sort of ‘collapsing’ issue with it. It didn’t matter what I do, even the Voltron-style hinge, it was too heavy for that. There was no way to get it to balance so I had to come back down to the scale that Mike had chosen. It turned out he’d chosen it for a good reason!
Marcos: There’s only so much weight our System can withstand and we are aware of the limitations. We take them very seriously of course, so we had to be reasonable with the approach. But yes, it was great to see this! I could see the joy draining out of Mark’s eyes as I was telling him, “man this is way too big,” but he recognised it himself.
Mark: I actually said “I’d love to keep it this scale but I can’t”. It was as I got to this size, plus the tail, and the legs… I actually had these puny legs on it so it looked like some sort of scrawny rat creature… it was already unable to stand!

This is what happens when you play with DNA.

Mark: But you know, I kept a few things from this version like the fact that when you look down the snout you see its eyes looking at you; that’s there on the final model. It’s a predator, it has to have stereoscopic vision otherwise it can’t chase things. Mike’s model is lovely and it looks like a T-Rex but I gave it nostrils and a tongue and everything, trying to make sure it looked like the one in the movie as much as I could.
© The LEGO Group 2019

Did you need to change many elements to new colours for this model?

Mark: Most of the elements here, they have been in those colours before. I did change the small 45° cutoff wedges (Wedge 2 x 1 with Stud Notch, Design IDs 29119 & 29120) to both Dark Tan and Dark Brown for this model. And a couple of other things, I think it is the first time these big arch pieces (Brick, Arch 1 x 6 x 3 1/3 Curved Top, Design ID 6060) have been in Dark Brown.
Marcos: And it comes with a line-up of characters, four are exclusives - so that’s where you spend a lot of your frames.

© The LEGO Group 2019
Aside from the minifigures and their display stand, what were the discussions around what else to include alongside the dinosaur? Obviously you ended up with the gate.

Mark: We had Mike’s dinosaur and we wanted it to be in a D2C set but by itself it’s just gonna be a large Jurassic set, its not going to be D2C size. One of our designers, James, built a gate slightly smaller than this and when we paired it with Mike’s dinosaur, everyone was like, “we should do this”.
Marcos: Undoubtedly Jurassic Park. Because you have these icons. Funnily enough, even though we have never necessarily seen the two together in a movie, they’re just the two biggest icons of the franchise.

© The LEGO Group 2019
Mark: When we were doing the gate we wanted to call back to that first movie because it is a classic, so we put a bunch of vignettes in the back, very ‘adult fan’ style. We have the toilet, the computer room for Samuel L. Jackson to report form, this is the room with the switches that turn the fence back on, and then the ‘life finds a way’ with the eggs, we’ve got the spray can being buried in the mud… eating jello and ice cream, which no expense has been spared on… and of course we had to have the Jeff Goldblum meme room with the shelves.

© The LEGO Group 2019
I note the gate says Jurassic Park but the box is branded Jurassic World?

Marcos: It’s part of a bigger franchise now, that’s how the IP partner places it.
Mark: How often we will go back to Jurassic Park rather than move on with the franchise, we don’t know at this point so it was like, “what can we put in here that is incredibly iconic to the movie and makes everybody go, “yesss!”?
Marcos: We are fortunate enough to have very passionate people working on this product and we are all very big fans of the franchise.
Mark: I had the movie on my computer the whole time I was designing it; freeze-framing it, making sure the buttons were the right colour in the right order, the right number of stacks… I’m hoping I’ve put details that, when people watch the movies, they’ll be like, “oh wow there ARE shelves behind Jeff Goldblum with cans on!”

Thank you both, we can’t wait build our own.

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  1. My problem with this one is that the Ideas one looks so much better (and it was done before the notched slopes, so it could look even better) & less toyish..
    And sure, the Ideas one also looks more fragile, but I'd still be willing to buy a fragile set designed for adults, rather than this one.

    1. Agreed. Senteosan's Ideas set was a better scale and included the Ford Explorer. I really wanted that set. I'm conflicted on this release due to price (would be okay if included Explorer) and because, regardless of what they say, they didn't respect an ideas set that DID reach 10k votes by a designer who's submissions earned, what, 26k votes!?

  2. What a great interview! Both designers sound like they really geeked out on this assignment, and it's a pleasure to read.

  3. Ok, the box brand is Jurassic World.. but why the UCS plaque too... makes no sense.

    1. This seems to be a mandate from the IP owner — other toy companies' new Jurassic Park/The Lost World/JPIII products are also branded as Jurassic World, sometimes with a sub-brand like "Jurassic World: Legacy Collection".

      My guess is that despite the different movie titles, the studio expects to make more money on merchandise if it's all under a cohesive brand, rather than if they were all branded according to the individual movies, customers might think of them as separate or competing brands that they ought to choose between, or even just be less likely to come across JP/TLW/JPIII products when doing a Google search for the brand name that's being promoted most heavily via the marketing and buzz surrounding the new movies.

      I LOVE buildable creature sets, but don't care enough about Jurassic Park or Jurassic World to have any interest in buying this. It's definitely more impressive to me than the molded dinos in the rest of the theme, though. And $250 seems like a pretty fair value for the volume of contents.

    2. Or they're trying to steal glory from the first film to help bolster the new movies after how badly the last one was received.

  4. I'm still really not convinced by this - if they'd sold the T-Rex on it's own, at a sensible price, I'd have bought it in a heartbeat. But this set as a whole just...isn't really a set. If they wanted to do a JP set, at least including the Ford Explorer would have gone some way to solving the problem - it's kind of the central part of both the gate opening and the T-Rex rampage scenes, so it would have helped to tie the set together. As it stands right now though, if people part this set out so I can just buy the T-Rex, or if it goes down in price enough to make it worth buying for the T-Rex alone, I'm interested, but the gate is just...a gate. There's not really any purpose it can serve.

  5. We still need that batmobile!!!

  6. "And the T-Rex is the only dinosaur that is in every movie. So there’s not much that you can do."
    Except for the velociraptors i guess

    1. And Parasaurolophus. But after that, I don't think there are any that have appeared in 4/5 films, though there are several that have shown up in three.

      Anyways, Parasaurolophus probably wouldn't be all that interesting, and the raptors just weren't really big enough to hang a premiere-level set around. I mean, I _suppose_ you could release a super-giant raptor that's the same size as the T-Rex, but then it would be even more out of scale, and frankly the T-Rex always played a more prominent role in the films. But just imagine this gate, with a large, brick-built Parasaurolophus standing next to it...