26 July 2019

21318 Treehouse: designer interview with César Soares

Posted by Admin
This week, the LEGO® Ideas set 21318 Treehouse was officially revealed. It has 3036 pieces and is coming out on 1 August for £179.99/ US$199.99/ €199.99, but LEGO VIPs can already order it now. Our review is coming soon but here is an exclusive interview we had with the set's designer César Soares, with Monica Pedersen from Marketing also present.

Wow! You kept it at a good size then.

César: Yes, this is actually very close to the fan submission size [by Kevin Feeser – Ed.]. I think his is a bit taller.

Was it the intention to stick as closely as possible to what had been voted for?

César: Yes, absolutely. We always try to stay as close as possible. We have to change some things. In this case, the base for instance. He had a square grey base and the whole thing is very organic so a square base would look a little bit odd. So we thought, why not make it more organic, make it green also to mimic the grass or plants, and a little stream. Another thing is the cabins; in the original submission they were all brown. And actually the first sketch model was all brown but then Sam [Johnson, the creative lead of LEGO Ideas] wrote me and said, “hey, they don’t pop out as much as we would like, so make them another colour.” That’s why they are medium dark flesh instead of brown, and the same thing with the roofs. They were dark tan and brown as well, so again we felt a little bit of colour might add something.

And then of course, the most noticeable and exciting colour change are the leaves – including that large foliage piece in Flame Yellowish Orange for the first time!

César: Yes, you have the two sets of leaves in the same box. The last part you build is the treetop, and then you choose if you want to use the green or the yellow ones so you can have a spring version or an autumn version.

© 2019 The LEGO Group

Are there other new colours of parts in there?

César: Not a lot. The only new colour I’m sure of is the yellow leaves [of which there are 55 – Ed.]. All the leaves are made in the new plastic material. You get 185.

So, is this the leafiest set ever?

César: Oh yeah, by far. The second one was the Ewok Village. It had around 60 I think. [33 of Design ID 2417 and 21 of the smaller Design ID 2423 – Ed.]

Keeping the leaf elements attached to the model is key, isn’t it? You don’t want to be picking these up all the time.

César: No, so only four are not connected with anything else, all the others are either sandwiched between bricks, or they’re connected with the carrot-top.

I’m surprised they let you include any that were not connected firmly.

César: Well, it has two connection points and they’re not hanging, so that was fine.

© 2019 The LEGO Group
I see you did not use the new lantern piece for the lantern.

César: Correct, I used the piece from Black Panther, it’s like a crown thing. The real lantern looks really nice but for this set, I tried as much as I could to brick-build everything. Chairs, tables, beds… and I’ve definitely tried to include some things here that, you know, are like little Easter Eggs. There’s going to be an exclusive piece, a 2x2 bow with a wooden carved inscription chosen by the fan builder. So that’s quite nice.
© 2019 The LEGO Group 
What are the play functions?

César: The top comes off and then you can remove the roofs and, faithful to the original submission, you have the cabins: the main bedroom, the bathroom you could say, and the kids room. You don’t have a kitchen but you have a bonfire there with chairs.

In terms of the changes you had to make to the fan submission to meet LEGO standards of stability: were the branches the main thing?

César: Yes, actually it was the main trunk that supports the cabins. That was definitely a big challenge. They’re suspended and they’re big. You have to be able to play inside, or at least do some kind of action. You can press it if you like, it won’t break, you can press it really hard.

Monica (pushing down on a cabin): If Marketing can touch, then it must be ok!

© 2019 The LEGO Group

Then there’s also this set of stairs going up which was also quite challenging; not easy but we did it. So there’s a lot of playability, you can say. You want to go inside and discover what’s here and there. There’s also a couple of Easter Eggs as you play along, but I will save that for when you guys build it.

Having met you as an AFOL before you joined The LEGO Group, and seen many of your medieval and magical builds, it was a surprise to hear you were joining the Star Wars team.

César: Yes, and I’m still in LEGO Star Wars but LEGO Ideas projects are often a passion for the designers. Sam would agree with me when I say that a lot of designers go to him and say, “hey, can I do this one? Can I do this?” So that’s exactly what happened with this one. Before I joined LEGO I actually built a couple of treehouses as a LEGO fan and so I said, “this is right up my alley, so hey – can I do it?” And he said “yeah, if we do it, you can!”.

So that conversation was before the decision to actually make it had come in?

César: Yes, as soon it got 10,000 votes.

Monica: Sam says that every single day, someone from the design team comes up and says, “if this is something you’re going to make I want to be the one doing it.” That’s LEGO Ideas: there’s not a single design team as you have on the other lines. Sam is the creative lead and then he effectively borrows the designers that are coming begging on their praying knees, you know, “can I please make this?”

César: It’s a plus if you have a certain passion for something. That’s how it works.

© 2019 The LEGO Group
Well, the passion really comes through, it’s a stunning model. It’s one of those kinds of sets that you always really wanted as a kid - like, “I want to build the most amazing LEGO treehouse ever!”

César: I think that treehouses are so magical and so whimsical. Even today, if I could live in a treehouse, I would love it, I am sure!

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  1. Some of César's pre-LEGO designer Treehouses:
    Thoryn Arper Tree House
    Barenroot Tree -

  2. I know it's totally weird (to be fair, so am I), but in the "changing seasons" pic towards the top, all I notice is that the upper right branch and two 1x1 tiles on the railings blink every time the leaves change color, and even weirder is that the dark-blue roofs flap like bird wings.

  3. It really is a model that just begs to be played with, I'm tempted to get one now and store it until my daughter is old enough.

    I'm sure a "winter" season version is being built by a fan right now if not already completed, I bet it looks great too.