It's a one year anniversary of sorts, as LEGOLAND celebrates the launch of the Star Wars Miniland expansion in their Carlsbad, CA park. The 1:5 scale dioramas represent all 6 films and The Clone Wars television series utilizing over 1.5 million bricks. LEGOLAND held their ribbon cutting ceremony this morning and invited 22 kids from The Make A Wish Foundation. Members of the 501st Legion were also in attendance.
A gallery of 3 foot LEGO mini figures was one of the main additions to the expansion. 12 characters lined the walkway down to the main Star Wars Miniland area and end capped by a life sized Chewbacca and R2-D2 on one end and a new and pretty stunning Life Sized Darth Maul on the other. The figures look even more spectacular at dusk with the Light Up Lightsabers!
“LEGO Star Wars Miniland proved so successful last year with our guests, we knew we had to expand it,” said Peter Ronchetti, LEGOLAND's General Manager. “The LEGO Star Wars Gallery is just icing on the cake to the additional details that have been added to each of the seven scenes in LEGO Star Wars Miniland. Our Model Builders, Animators, Technicians and Maintenance Team have done an incredible job bringing the popular saga to life!”
The expansion also included some spectacular additions, most notably an Opee Sea Monster taking a bite at the Bongo Sub in the Episode I portion. LEGO Master Builders Gary McIntire and Ryan Ziegelbauer, who put 3 months of dedicated and arduous work on the project, took us for a tour of the 7 dioramas and highlighted the additions and enhancements, and even told us of a couple of Miniland figures that didn't make the cut.
EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE
With the 3D re-release last February, there were a lot of enhancements to this section. The Theed Palace featured an all new sculpt in its rock facade where the palace architecture is sculpted into it. Anakin's Naboo Starfighter in the Theed Hanger lifts and turns to shoot down the Destroyer Droids. Gary admitted that once technology and engineering catches up with their imagination, they'll find a way to make the Starfighter fly off.
The Planet Core is built under the palace featuring the all new Opee Seakiller. They unfortunately couldn't fit a Sando Aqua Monster within the confines of the Core environment, but they did consider it at one point. They also added a few STAP's to the Battle of Naboo diorama.
EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES
The Nexu was updated to correct the tail and a new mechanical feature added to have it climb up and down the arena post as it attempts to have Padme for lunch.
EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH
The new Anakin Starfighter was added to the Mustafar landing platform. Gary and Ryan confessed that somewhere in the bowels of the workshop, there lies an injured dying and pregnant Padme Amidala Miniland figure that they obviously couldn't get past the censors. The Obi-Wan and Anakin final battle mechanism was enhanced to feature more movement.
The AT-AP's in the Kashyyyk battle scene are new additions.
EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE
This is by far my favorite diorama because the designers added so many nuggets from the film that astute fans would key into immediately. There's Old Ben telling Luke about the "wretched hive of scum and villainy" that is Mos Eisley. Gary even pointed out the details to the Sandtrooper patrol being guided by Garindan to spot the Rebel spies having the correct arrangement of colored pauldrons as seen in the film.
The Cantina scene looks fantastic with everyone in the right place from the Tonnika Sisters to Evazan and Ponda Baba. There's a new Ronto with Jawa from the Special Edition also added.
The crowning glory for this environment is the magnificent Sandcrawler featuring lights and all the authenticity. You would think that the designers would utilize new pieces for this construction, but look closely and they actually used the legs from a Yoda mini figure for a section of the side panels! Brilliant!
Oh yeah, two more Miniland Figures hiding in the bowels that will never see the light of the day in the park; Charred Owen and Beru.
EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
An awesome environment capturing every scene from Hoth. They added Han and Chewie shooting down the Probe Droid and a new Ion Cannon. A mechanism for Luke to hoist up and down the gut of the AT-AT was also recently upgraded.
EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI
New scenes include the Ewoks trapping the Rebels in their net. Ryan mentioned that to add weathering, the net was dipped in coffee. A new scene with Leia and Wicket was also added.
THE CLONE WARS: BATTLE OF CHRISTOPHSIS
An additional tower was added and more detail included in the platform. There are also new rocket pack Clone Commandoes seen flying down to assist Anakin.
With the almost year round sunny San Diego weather, the dioramas have the added benefit of the natural outdoor terrain that definitely make the scenes close to authentic and more organic. I suggested that the next expansion should include a Jabba's Sail Barge, or if they're really ambitious, just construct a ginormous Death Star!
The fun continues this weekend with LEGO Star Wars Days. On March 31 and April 1, the park will feature out-of-this-world fun activities including a Droid Hunt with the 501st Legion, Star Wars Costume Contest, Jedi Trivia, eight-foot LEGO Yoda Build, Star Wars T-shirt Contest and more. For the first time, the LEGO® Star Wars experience is continuing through April 15 with additional Star Wars™ activities for guests to enjoy. For more information, visit www.LEGOLAND.com.
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY MIKE SULLENGER
ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEO PROVIDED BY LEGOLAND