Top Ad unit 728 × 90

'Seinfeld' Gets the Lego Treatment: Popculturology Talks With Custom Builder Eric Stevens

For anyone who grew up playing with Lego sets, you probably used the iconic bricks to recreate your favorite movies and characters. If you're Eric Stevens, you do just that — and get international attention for it.

Stevens became a global star in January after he built a Lego version of Downton Abbey's castle and the show's characters. Those Lego custom creations caught the eye of Downton Abbey fans across the world, with outlets like People and Vanity Fair covering Stevens' work.

If the Downton Abbey sets are any sign, Stevens is about to go viral again. Over the weekend, he posted pictures on Facebook of his latest creation: The cast of Seinfeld and Jerry Seinfeld's apartment from the show.

"I think I designed Seinfeld pretty quickly after Downton came out," Stevens, 24 of Rochester, N.Y., told Popculturology. "I got a lot of suggestions for projects, but they were either things that had already been done (and done really well), or I had no interest in."

The main four Seinfeld characters have been transformed into Lego minifigures by Stevens, with Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer all getting shrunk down. Jerry's apartment has many of the details a Seinfeld fan would expect, from the bicycle sticking out near the bathroom to the fridge that Kramer constantly raided.


Stevens' latest project was inspired by floor plans of TV sets, which he used during the two or three hours it took to design the Seinfeld set. After designing the custom set, it took about two hours to build.

"The long part is always buying bricks," Stevens said. "The big brick store site hasn't seen a major update since 2002, so I ended up ordering a decent number of extra pieces."

While the average Lego fan probably sticks to buying full sets from Amazon or Target, a project like the cast and set of Seinfeld required a more precise avenue to purchase pieces. Stevens usually turns to Bricklink, an independent site that allows Lego fans to buy and sell individual Lego pieces, or eBay.

So why Seinfeld? Downton Abbey was an obvious choice, but Seinfeld hasn't aired a new episode since 1998.

"Seinfeld's charm is its universal nature. It's the 90s, it's New York, but everything that happens to them could have happened to some other person," Stevens said. "Everyone wants to be Jerry — or at least not George. The show lasted long enough and created enough references that we can be constantly reminded of it. I see Al Roker on TV, I associate him with TV Guide and gyros. I met someone named Rochelle and had a strong urge to ask her if she’d ever been to Milan or Minsk. I actually know of someone who changed their name to Vandelay."

Stevens noted that sometimes he'll talk to people a few years younger than him, and they won't understand his Seinfeld references. If any of those people are checking out Stevens' Seinfeld set, they're probably wondering why there's a version of the George Costanza minifigure who's missing his pants.

Lego is having a huge pop culture moment right now, with The Lego Movie becoming one of the year's highest grossing films, sets selling out in stores and the idea of an adult Lego fan not seeming quite so weird anymore. Yes, adult Lego fans are a thing and Lego is catering to their needs with Ultimate Collector Series sets like the upcoming Dark Knight Tumbler and 16-minifigure collectable sets. 

"There has been a big cultural shift in the past few years where things that had been considered 'kiddy' or 'nerdy' are now popular for adults to talk about and enjoy openly," Stevens said. "Lego has made some great gestures toward adult fans, especially recently."

Many fans of Lego who discover the bricks in adulthood consider the time between when they played with Lego sets as a child and then found them again in their later years the "dark ages." Something clicks where the joy of collecting and building Lego sets and minifigs pushes away any embarrassment over being an adult standing at the register in a Toys R Us. 

(As an adult fan of Lego with a collection growing larger than his girlfriend would like, I've been the guy standing at a Toys R Us register. A few years ago, I felt like I had to hide the fact that I was buying Lego sets for myself, but now I enjoy the moment when a kid sees a 28-year-old guy buying a Lego train station and knows that he can keep loving Lego for years to come.)

"There was a big gap," Stevens said about his dark ages. "My last set was around 2004. I bought the Millennium Falcon in 2011, but didn't really come back to Lego until early 2013. I think it was the Collectable Minifigures that pulled me in initially, and then I fell back to my old Star Wars habit."

Stevens lists the Star Wars licensed theme as one of his favorites. The Collectible Minifigures series (especially the Series 8 Deep Sea Diver, which is his favorite) and The Lego Movie theme are also themes that Stevens collects now. When asked what his all-time favorite theme is, Stevens doesn't go with Pirates or Blackton, two much-loved Lego themes.

"It might be an unpopular choice (especially among some older fans), but the late-90s Adventurers theme has some of the best memories for me," Stevens said "I was pretty happy to see Johnny Thunder appear in The Lego Movie, and even more to see that he is included in one of the newer sets."

Since the introduction of the Star Wars licensed theme 15 years ago, there's been a huge shift in Lego from original properties like Pirates, Space Police and Adventures to Star Wars, Indiana Jones and DC/Marvel Superheroes. Some Lego fans pine for the pre-licensed set days, believing that licensed sets keep kids from maximizing the imagination potential of their Lego sets.

"Adventurers/Indiana Jones is an interesting pairing," Stevens said. "Adventurers ended several years before Indiana Jones was introduced, after running its course, I think. I started with the first theme, Desert, and continued to Jungle, but only had one Dino Island set, and none from Orient Expedition. A lot of its audience had moved on to other themes by then, especially with the introduction of Star Wars. Castle gave way to Harry Potter, until recently, Pirates became Pirates of the Caribbean for a little while, and space has seen far fewer sets since Star Wars began."

Stevens thinks there's room for both original and licensed themes in the Lego universe.

"[Lego has] refined their original theme to something that can work around Star Wars. The first space theme after Star Wars began was Life On Mars, which is a more realistic theme ... than previous space themes, including Insectoids, which had ended as Star Wars began. ... There was a gap of a few years, and then the next non-Star Wars space theme was back on Mars. Space Police was all about humans, and Alien Conquest went back to a classic UFO invasion of Earth. Star Wars gets to be about the galaxy far, far away, while Lego's own space is all about Earth or humans from Earth. Adventurers and Indiana Jones couldn't have run side-by-side, but there is a lot of room in between licensed movies for Lego to have some good ideas. The challenge, of course, is that licenses sell really well, and if it weren’t for Star Wars, the company might not be in the position they are in today."

Lego ran into some serious financial issues during the early 2000s, getting lost trying to make action figure-like sets like Galidor and running up huge production costs with runaway component creation. Lego dramatically turned things around, cutting back the number of elements it produced and focusing on its core audience — boys. Lego's lack of female minifigures and sets geared toward both genders might bother critics, but it was one of the things that saved the company. 

In a world where The Lego Movie dominates the box office and toy aisles are full of Lego versions of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, Lego is definitely having its moment. Eric Stevens is too. What's in store for us the next time these two forces pair up?

"I have one set designed (though I know I'll make a few revisions) to be built for an event in September," Stevens said. "I haven't pieced the minifigures together, but I'm really excited for it to come out."

So are we. 
'Seinfeld' Gets the Lego Treatment: Popculturology Talks With Custom Builder Eric Stevens Reviewed by Bill Kuchman on 7/22/2014 Rating: 5

No comments:

© Popculturology. All rights reserved.

Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Powered by Blogger.