May 13th 2012 - Two weeks ago, I proclaimed "Tell the world the universe belongs to us today!" when my milestone Nintendo Power interview became published. I was busy working all day, otherwise I would've been able to grab several copies -- therefore I bought three issues from the Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Center the next day on May 2nd!
I will donate my airship to either LEGO Store, Nintendo World or FAQ Schwarz -- mark my word.
Since my actual e-mail interview was much too long to fit in the eventual 2-page spread, the folks at Nintendo Power streamlined the whole correspondence -- however, right here you can see a verbatim copy of the full, raw interview between Nintendo Power's editor Phil Theobald and me!
Nintendo Power: How long have you been a Nintendo fan? What is it about Nintendo that appeals to you?
Baron von Brunk: When I was 6 years old, my sisters and I received a used Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas; the original "Super Mario Bros." game was the first game I had for NES - and since then, I've been true to the franchise up until the era of 3-D Mario games. I still played some of the GameCube titles when they were launched (in fact, Dr. Mario was always my chosen Super Smash Bros. Melee fighter), but frankly, nothing can compare to the thrill and replay value of the primary series for NES and SNES! I got my first N64 when I was 12 years old in the same year it was released, and although I also owned a Sega Genesis at the time, I began a subscription to Nintendo Power and often harvested the cheat codes within. For me, Nintendo is like the Walt Disney of video game universes. It's got the content, value, quality, recognizable characters, and need I say. . . "magic!" (and I guess you could say Sega is like Looney Tunes)
NP: How long have you been a LEGO fan?
BVB: "LEGO" was actually the first word I could spell as a wee lad -- long before my own first name, coincidentally! I received my first LEGO (and DUPLO) sets at some point when I was 2 or 3, and basically, I've consistently been playing with them ever since. The red Space Futuron minifigure diagram tattoo on my forearm is a testament to my longtime devotion: the red astronauts were rare and only came in expensive sets, whilst my family was kind of poor -- thus, I never actually owned a red spaceman when I was young, since we could only afford smaller sets. However, now that I'm a grown man, I can finally have that coveted astronaut at last -- for all eternity in the form of ink! As for my LEGO Robin Hood tattoo? Well, come on; Robin Hood's awesome -- and my second favorite LEGO category is Castle!
NP: Why choose LEGO bricks as an artistic medium?
BVB: Although I'm a multimedia artist and currently employed as a graphic designer, LEGO remains strong as a viable and renewable resource for making just about anything, so long as you can think of it (and you have access to certain parts). With the art of LEGO, you can essentially create anything from scratch and continuously keep on expanding things -- and if you're dissatisfied with the outcome, simply dismantle it & rebuild -- and renew!
NP: How do you decide what type of model you want to create?
BVB: My creative process is actually quite simple: I think of an arbitrary idea, such as a vignette or custom minifigure -- then I do a Google search to see if it's been done before in the form of LEGO. If it hasn't, I immediately begin steps to build it. If it has been done before, then I build it anyway, and trying to "one-up" the ones I've seen online; the latter scenario doesn't happen often, as a lot of my published designs were strictly originals. Sometimes I go through phases and only build robots and mechas, and other times I become obsessed with architecture and house designs. Since you have so many choices for colors and styles, making models of both polar opposites (technology/sci-fi vs. housing/scenery) is no impossible feat. For the record, before I built my ship I only noticed LEGO Mario airships from the recent 3-D Wii games, in which the ships look very pirate or steampunk like -- and I said, "Cool, no one's tried to make a true, original Super Mario 3 ship -- this project's mine for the taking -- and mine will be especially awesome!"
NP: How long does it take to create your models? Tell us about the stages of building a model.
BVB: Since I'm such a fast builder (and a mighty fine brick engineer) that the actual construction of a model takes virtually no time at all -- hours to a few days. I can theoretically churn out a detailed and functional original creation overnight -- however, trying to find rare parts and waiting for packages of specially-ordered pieces always causes delays. My airship was worked on throughout each weekend during the winter 2011-12, and during the weeks, I'd place orders for parts online and await them to arrive, and usually they'd be there by Saturday when I could resume building. Sometimes I run into delays due to engineering and structural problems, which can also cause setbacks -- and often times, those particular problems can only be solved with the aide of rare parts that I have to order online -- which then brings us back to square one, as I await for parcels to arrive!
NP: Where do you get all of your LEGO bricks?
BVB: My personal collection of pieces were gradually acquired throughout my childhood and teenage years. When I grew up and got a job, I discovered a magic website called Bricklink.com, which is more or less a global "candy shoppe" of LEGO pieces -- with every single part known to man being cataloged for easy purchase. When I design a custom model that requires a specific type or color part, I browse through their site and order an estimated amount of pieces. Other than that, sometimes I'll randomly pick up a new LEGO set from Target or Toys R Us -- and if I can dodge the crowds of tourists, I go to the official LEGO Store in the Rockefeller Center and fill up a large cup of "Pick-a-Brick" pieces (usually en mass, such as a whole cup of 2x2 round reddish brown bricks, which made up the hull of my airship).
NP: What inspired you to incorporate Transformers into your LEGO models?
BVB: Now we've gone to the third franchise! As I mentioned "LEGO" was the first word I could write as a child, "Starscream" was one of the first words I could pronounce! That being said, throughout my early childhood years, I'd try to slap together rickety LEGO versions of Optimus Prime or even the Autobot cassettes. When I was about 15 or 16 years old and my skills greatly improved, I'd make custom transforming robots from LEGO that were vaguely inspired by actual characters. I did make several transforming pistols like Megatron or Shockwave, although in retrospect, my designs were in no way a comparison to my NES Zapper made recently! I took a break from making Transformers when I was around 17, and picked it back up again when I was 22 (around the time Michael Bay totally ruined my childhood when he released his first atrocious "Transformers" movie). However, at that point I was getting quite interested in the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise, ergo a lot of my models in the late 2000s became more Japanese mecha than transforming robot.
NP: Describe the process of designing a transforming LEGO model.
BVB: Making a fully-operational Transformer clone is actually quite tricky -- a builder must frequently switch the project back and forth between robot and alternate mode simultaneously in order to test its functions. I'll attach a few bricks or tiles in robot mode, then immediately I'll transform it to its other mode to see if the pieces would work -- if they don't look right, or if they interfere with its transformation cycles, I have to remove what I just added and try to improvise. I do have a bit of an edge, however: my two recent LEGO-formers were based on the toy transformation cycles of Shockwave and Soundwave, which meant the whole time I concentrated and thought about how I could duplicate their same techniques. Even with the knowledge of how real Transformers toys function, it's still a complicated task -- especially when you're trying to mimic a specific Nintendo peripheral, which has to conform to a certain size to maintain accuracy. For example, my Game Boy "Domaster" is almost perfectly equal to the width of a real Game Boy, but a few centimeters longer, otherwise his chest would be too big and his legs too short. To avoid having him appear like a stumpy ape, I was forced to make the bottom of the Game Boy part slightly elongated to keep the legs in proportion. Plasmashock (the Zapper) has a similar issue: the arms (which make up the gun stock) ended up making the gun much bulkier than an authentic slim and smooth NES Zapper. It was either that, or give Plasmashock tiny stick-figure arms!
NP: Do you have a favorite model that you've created? Why is that one your favorite?
BVB: One of my favorite custom creations was actually made when I was 12, and thus not documented online -- it was a giant spaceship based off a Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer and merged with the concept of a NASA Space Shuttle -- and in the color scheme (and using parts/minifigures from) 1995-96 era Space "Exploriens." Basically, it was a giant white spaceship with green and blue lasers all over it! I liked it because it was the mobile base for my spacemen, and because it predated the Star Wars merchandise license with LEGO, it was the closest thing I could have to owning Imperial vehicle replicas. My favorite contemporary model was made in mid-2009 when I was still living in Lancaster, PA: a large 16th century Tudor style "dollhouse" with a windmill. It was intended to be part of a giant medieval LEGO city which I titled "Brunkland" and planned to take up an entire spare room for floor space. When I moved to New York, I dismantled the large medieval house and put it into my storage shed along with my master collection. Many of the models I've built in New York were made with specialty pieces I specifically ordered to make a certain project (e.g. the airship built entirely from bulk containers of Pick-a-Brick parts from the LEGO Store). As for Brunkland, I'll eventually finish building it when I move into a larger house/apartment that has more floor space -- in which case, the massive 4-story house shall see the light of day again -- and possibly suffer attacks from my various LEGO mechas! Hopefully the brave Brunkan knights can gallantly defend its ramparts. . .
NP: Are there any projects that you're planning to work on in the future?
BVB: At the moment, now that I've knocked out my major Nintendo-related projects, I'm going to take a break for a while, and then resume and focus more on small dioramas of movie scenes -- such as vignettes inspired by Tremors, Clash of the Titans or maybe even Beetejuice! However, at the precise moment, I am almost finished building a large 16 cm cubic sculpture of a Super Mario question block, which is composed of transparent pieces similar to my airship's stained-glass window -- and to answer your questions, yes, it will also have a lightbulb in the middle and thus serve as a quirky little night-light for my bedroom! Another potential video game LEGO project I'll build could be something from Splatterhouse II for Sega Genesis -- which would be pretty violent & bloody, in contrast to my squeaky-clean Mario creations made previously! Also as promised early on when I built the Zapper, I considered making rival Sega Genesis related Transformers to battle my heroic "Nintendobots!" Generally in the interim periods between major projects, I do smaller things like making custom minifigures -- and now that I've harnessed the art of making decal labels for LEGO pieces, some truly custom figurines will be showcased. Who knows what the future holds -- stay tuned, kiddies, and keep checking my website for updates.
Is anyone else suddenly now reminded of "Cover of Rolling Stone" by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show!?
-Baron von Brunk
March 13th 2012 - You wanted a good follow-up to my awesome Transformer/NES Zapper from last month , and lo and behold, I have not disappointed you!
Within a matter of a mere few days, this thing started to go viral pretty damn fast! Below are some select articles of interest:
First came those nice folks at Gizmodo:
"And Lego builder Julius von Brunk has managed to merge all three into a single Lego creation that has me reaching for my credit card, even though I doubt they'll sell it. Domaster and Tetrawing, as they call it, is a near perfect Lego replica of a Game Boy, complete with insertable batteries and game cart. But it transforms into a perfect Soundwave clone, complete with its own version of Laserbeak from the Tetris cart. I need building instructions, and I need them now."
Around the same time, I received quite the praise from Neatorama:
"Combine LEGO, Transformers, and Game Boy, and you’ve got a toy geek’s dream creation. Julius von Brunk built a Transformer (named Domaster) out of LEGO bricks that changes from a classic Nintendo Game Boy to a robot! Domaster’s blaster weapons are double-A batteries (made of LEGO pieces) that fit inside his thighs for storage. Domaster has a sidekick, too, a robot bird named Tetrawing that transforms into a Tetris game cartridge -that fits in Domaster’s Game Boy slot!"
Then we have Gamesta, which gave some interesting input:
"Some lovable genius has made something so awesome; it’s like visual heroine to us older nerds. LEGO fanatic Julius von Brunk has concocted an entirely shape-shifting Gameboy Transformer, with additional Tetris cartridge. The duo named Domaster & Tetrawing took about one month to engineer and work out all the kinks. It even comes with letter decals for extra details."
Nerdgasmatron certainly lived up to its name:
"Over on MOCpages, a user by the name of Julius von Brunk has made a transforming Lego Gameboy and Tetris cartridge. Both the Gameboy and cartridge transform, with the latter turning into an avian sidekick for its larger comrade. The Gameboy (named Domaster) is complete with 2 AA battery blasters, and the smaller Tetrawing can fit snugly in the back when in console form. "
But best of all came yet again with the fine fellas at Destructoid!
"Enter Julius von Brunk, the LEGO hobbyist who recently constructed the amazing Mario 3 airship. His follow-up is on a smaller scale technically, but it's just mind-fuck-blowing conceptually. It is -- get this -- a Transformer built out of LEGO bricks that turns into a Game Boy. Cheese and crackers, a motherf*ckin' LEGO Game Boy Transformer!"
Let's see what else the internet brings us, folks! I'll be sure to add any subsequent notable references in the media, see keep checking back, loyal Brunkamaniacs! Feel free to retweet and reblog as your hearts desire!
-Baron von Brunk
March 3rd 2012 - My mighty LEGO Super Mario Brothers 3 airship has gone viral, thanks to a recent CNN interview!
According to CNN Geekout:
"Julius von Brunk, of New York, New York – who calls "Super Mario Bros. 3" the "Cadillac of games" – has captured one of the famous airships, complete with Mario and Luigi, in a format most appropriate for video games: Lego blocks (just the latest geeky creation with Legos, mind you)."
Next came Michael Fahey and the nice folks at Kotaku, who also did an article about my NES Zapper Transformer. This time, they praised my engineering savvy and dedication to the classic video game!
(follow Mike on Twitter):
"After months sequestered in his secret underground lair, LEGO artist Baron von Brunk emerges with a massive Super Mario Bros. 3 airship that rivals any other block-meets-pixels creation I've seen. Behold its glory. Okay, so he probably doesn't have an underground lair (though you never know, he is based in Queens, New York). What Baron von Brunk does have is a six foot long folding table covered with the most magnificent work of Super Mario LEGO work I've ever seen. It's got mini-ships. It's got lights. It's got sounds. It's got Bullet Bills in mid-fire. It's even got a control deck, something the airships in the game seem to have left out."
Destructoid was soon to follow in the Brunkamania applause!
"In November 2011, LEGO hobbyist Julius von Brunk began construction of a Super Mario Bros. 3 airship, the realization of a dream he's had ever since playing the original NES game way back in the day. He would work on weekends, ordering specialty pieces from BrickLink.com and overcoming engineering roadblocks via the magic of alcohol. Over 8000 pieces later, he has finished his masterpiece, dubbed "The Fireflower." This thing is ridiculous! Using clear LEGO parts, he has created the illusion of flight, but the surprises don't end there. There are little Mario and Luigi minifigs, Bullet Bill cannons, torches, an end-of-level warp pipe, and satellite ships. There's a fireflower mural on the stern of the ship that lights up, a hidden chamber of mosaics behind the mural, and even a control room cabin! For God's sake, give Mr. von Brunk a big round of applause. We are not worthy to be in his presence."
In some instances, certain rebloggings of my original Tumblr article have been re-posted over 500 times on certain peoples' pages! Once again, thank you all -- such as new Tumblr followers and Facebook fans for praising my hard work, as I strive to build only the best of truly geeky projects. With any luck, I can hopefully get this brute on display at the LEGO Store or Nintendo World in Rockefeller! Maybe even a SoHo gallery; let's find out!
-Baron von Brunk