My name is Bob and this is the story of how my Red Dwarf LEGO idea came to be.
It all started back in 2015, I decided to dig out all the old 'Vintage' LEGO I had as a child and restore it to it's former glory. As I was building the sets I noticed many of the parts had been lost, so I set about the task of somehow replacing them. I searched online and discovered websites such as www.brickowl.com, and the LEGO 'pick a brick' store. I could not believe how many people were selling used and even new LEGO parts. It seemed that just about every LEGO part ever made was available from suppliers right across the globe.
Later that year I decided to watch a Lego documentary called 'The Secret World of LEGO'. During the documentary they told the story of Thomas Poulsom, a LEGO fan who pitched his own creation - The 'LEGO Bird project' via the LEGO ideas website.
So what is LEGO ideas? It was simple, LEGO fans create a submission for a potential new Lego set. They then publish the idea on the ideas website for other fans to 'support' and any idea that receives 10,000 supporters goes into review with LEGO. They then decide if it becomes an official LEGO set.
Then it hit me, why don't I create a submission of my own? I had the suppliers in place, a good understanding of the building process and my own inventory of parts. But what to build ? The first thing that came to mind was the cult science fiction UK comedy Red Dwarf. I am a massive fan having grown up watching the show. I searched the LEGO ideas website to see if an idea had been pitched, there was 1 or 2 submissions but nothing like I had in mind.
I began by taking screen shots from the show and pinning them to the 'Man Cave' now the 'LEGO Cave' walls. Continuity was a running gag on the show, sets and characters changed from series to series, so I had to decide on which series I was going to recreate. I settled on the series X decor as this was the most recent series at the time and it complimented LEGO's dark red quite well. I knew this would not please all the fans, such as the 80's and 90's fans like myself so I included 'nods' to the older series, such as the ships's senile computer system - Holly, Blue Midget space craft, the Holly Hop Drive and one of the ship's robot 'Scutters'. I then ordered every single LEGO part I thought I might be able to use in dark red and dark blue and the build began.
So began lots of trial and error and painstaking re-builds. This took the longest time as parts that I'd ordered didn't always look or fit together they way I'd imagined. The door alone went through 3 different design changes until I'd settled on a look I was happy with.
I worked on the idea whenever I had the chance, during lunch and after work. I turned to a work colleague for motivation - Paul Zdanowicz, who had encouraged me right from the start. He did photography in his spare time and even offered to do me a shoot for my idea once complete.
As the build began to take shape I had to decide what to do about the stickers that could be used in the set and most importantly the minifigures (little LEGO people). The stickers were drawn on a large scale then scanned onto a computer, shrunk down and then printed onto self adhesive photo paper. As for the minifugures, I cataloged a large section of LEGO torsos, heads and legs which might have been suitable, but they were never going to be an exact match I'd be happy with. I decided to search the internet, I knew there were companies out there who designed custom minfigures and a thought I'd try my luck to see if anyone had made Red Dwarf ones. To my amazement I discovered minifigs.me
I decided to pitch my idea to them, I would create the set and they would supply the Red Dwarf minifigures. I sent them an email and waited patiently.
They replied that they would be happy to supply the minifigures under the condition they were given full recognition for their work and were named as collaborators. I agreed. After 7 months of development and building, the idea was ready to launch, Paul Zdan Photography was primed and ready.
I published the idea on the LEGO ideas website and on May 29th 2016 it was live and ready to support. At first I reached out to friends and family, then Facebook was the next obvious choice so I posted the idea in a couple of big Red Dwarf fan groups - 'Red Dwarf Posse' and 'A Real Red Dwarf Fan Club' . The support gradually started to appear, a few hundred supporters over the course of the first week. And then it happened....Websites - Nerd Approved and Gizmodo ran a story on my idea, in it's first 15 days of being live the Red Dwarf LEGO idea had now gained 1000 supporters thanks to them.
After that, mentions quickly followed from other big sites - Den of Geek, IMDB, Loaded, British Comedy Guide, The Palace of Wisdom and many more. I set up my own 'Bob's Vintage Bricks' Twitter and Facebook groups to help gather support for the idea.
The creators and cast of Red Dwarf soon heard about the set and before I knew it I was getting retweets from Doug Naylor(one of the shows creators) Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn, Clare Grogan, Norman Lovett and even Star Trek DS9's Terry Farrell(Terry had played CAT on the unaired american pilot episode of Red Dwarf)
Then came mentions in Bricks magazine and SFX magazine.
After the dust had settled from the initial great start (the idea had reached 3500 supporters by the end of June) I decided to check in with my minifigure collaborators Minifigs.me and we discussed updates for the idea. They added Talkie Toaster tile, an old favourite from series IV who then returned in series XII and they even updated the Holly computer screen as well as including the female incarnation of the character. I tweaked the Blue Midget spacecraft front and made a body for the Toaster.
Minifigs.me asked me if I was attending Bricktastic. I'd never heard of Bricktastic. They insisted "you need to contact them and get a place at the show to display the idea". Bricktastic was a LEGO show held in Manchester every year, ran by a charity called who donate LEGO sets to children's hospices and Hospitals. I contacted them and explained all about my idea, they were happy for me to display. I arrived at the show not knowing what to expect. I took some business cards that I had printed so I could give them to each and everyone who showed interest in my idea.
The show really benefited me, not just for gathering more supporters, but I was able to network with a whole community of AFOL's (Adult fans of Lego) and I exchanged details with as many people as I could. It was at this show where I first met Terry Fisher who had created a LEGO Land Rover and like myself was trying to achieve 10,000 supporters for his creation. Terry and I got on famously, we exchanged notes on how we could improve support on our projects, rather than see each other as competiton.
I also met Mark Guest, who at the time ran Bricks Magazine. Mark had already done me a mention in his magazine but spoke about me having a full feature that would also contain an interview. Before going to the show I had prepared a memory stick with photos and press releases I had recieved so far. I gave the the stick to Mark and explained that everything he would need was on it.
After a busy weekend I was back to work on Monday, during my lunch time I checked the LEGO ideas website to see how I was doing. I couldn't believe it, the support was now over the 5000 mark. The show couldn't have benefited me that much could it? I searched online - 'Red Dwarf LEGO' and there it was, a mention on the official Red Dwarf Website!
I couldn't believe that a show that I'd grown up watching and was a big fan of, had done a feature for me on their website. The website mention had pushed the idea right to the top of LEGO idea's 'popular' section.
All the new support kept me motivated and I was soon contacting organisers of other LEGO shows ready to spread the word. I also, contacted newspapers such as the Liverpool Echo, the Huddersfield Examiner and Metro who kindly ran an article for me. After a couple of months spreading the word, Mark from Bricks Magazine was back in touch and we did a full in depth interview about the idea. My interview ran in the October issue 17 edition, I was thrilled as it was covering Star Wars - Rogue One Lego that month and I knew most Sci-fi fans would be buying it.
The final push required came from the last place I expected.. a fan page from the Czech Republic called 'Cerveny Trpaslik' - english translation 'Red Dwarf'. As it turns out Red Dwarf had quite the audience in the Czech Republic. I contacted the moderator of the group who happened to speak English and he was quite happy to give my idea a mention. I couldn't believe it, close to 1000 more supporters in just 1 weekend.
The support kept on growing, but it was LEGO themselves who finally helped me clinch the 10,000. They placed me on their 'Staff picks' for the week. I was overwhelmed, over 7 months of planning and building had paid off. The Red Dwarf LEGO idea took just 5.1/2 months (out of a potential 2 years) to make it into review.
Review started and lasted for what seemed like an eternity. I was up against some strong competition, 11 other amazing builds who had also reached 10,000 supporters between September 2016 - January 2017. I was even up against my friend Terry's LEGO Land Rover idea. But we still wished each other good luck throughout review. I wasn't one to sit around waiting for the result so I started work on a new idea.
The winner was finally announced in August 2017. The chosen creation was Jake Sadovich's amazing Ship In A Bottle, a well deserved win.
The instructions for the Red Dwarf LEGO will be posted on this website on August 2020(LEGO ideas own the rights until then) so for now I am focusing on my brand new Teen Wolf LEGO idea.