I get panic attacks sometimes.
I don’t like to say I “suffer” from them, because I feel like that word should be reserved for people who need serious medical attention. It’s enough to say I get them, and I don’t like them. I can’t imagine there’s a person who does. Everyone’s are different, but mine often combine the feeling that I have a ton of stuff that needs doing in too little time, while simultaneously holding me in place and keeping me from actually doing any of it, save obsessively checking Twitter to see if new Star Wars news broke.
So when I saw the movie Lego: A Brickumentary, and I heard Trey Parker talking about how he loves to build Lego sets in his free time because they’re just about following instructions and that relaxes his mind, I decided it might be a good idea to give that a go. But maybe I shouldn’t have substituted a McFarlane Building set in the equation…
Now, it’s not that I’m afraid of tiny zombies. I adore tiny zombies and find them cute. But on multiple occasions during the building of this set, I had to stop because I was freaking myself out rather than relaxing. How did this come about? Let’s start by saying it was cumulative.
1. Bad Kitty.
From the box, Dale’s RV looks pretty easy to put together. It’s not anything weird, just a Winnebago with the typical McFarlane dirty wash and attention to small details added. But it’s actually in a lot of pieces.
Normally, I would settle a box like this on my lap. But things are not normal when there is a rapidly growing kitten in your house – one who likes to (a) eat small plastic things; (b) knock toys off shelves in order to get said plastic things; and (c) leap on my lap at random times. A leap into the box means a scattering of the pieces, and yelling at the cat long enough to keep him away so I can pick them up without him attacking my fingers (it sounds cute, and it is. It is also REALLY ANNOYING if you have to get anything done whatsoever).
Finally, I decide upon the bed, where anything that falls out of the box will presumably just land on the white mattress and be visible. This is an okay plan.
2. The Missing Piece, Part 1.
One of the things that distinguishes McFarlane bricks from others is the way the company mixes black swirls in with the plastic to make it look dirtier and grittier. Unfortunately, the folks who make the instruction booklets didn’t get the memo. See the camo-painted square tiles above? They’re shown as flat cream color in the booklet, which took me a while to figure out. And then…one was missing. You can probably see above where it ought to go.
Now, with a Lego set, I never feel I have to worry about missing pieces. They usually include extra pieces just in case. With a company that’s just starting to expand, and seriously trying to compete with other construction sets, there was the very real possibility of mistakes being made. So rather than be calm knowing the instructions could be filled, I started to fear that in fact they could not. And how long could I keep rifling around in the box looking for the thing I wasn’t seeing? In an hour the wife will be home, and I’ll have to find a place to put this where the cats can’t get it, and then I’ll have to make dinner, and then I’ll have to get back to editing, but if I take too long to make this the review will be out of date and,…and…
That’s how the mind of a panic attacky person works.
3. The Missing Piece, Part 2.
A couple of days later, I decided to just try and build the thing without the piece I couldn’t find. It’s an interior carpet piece anyway, and this toy is built with exterior display in mind. In fact, an extra page in the instruction booklet makes it clear that originally the design was meant to be stationary, and only after the books were printed in color did somebody realize that a toy vehicle should maybe have wheels that turn. So there’s a black-and-white insert page explaining how to do that.
One big plus this vehicle has over many Lego sets is that there are no decals – all the key details are painted or printed on. I like that. However, when you’re looking for the one brick that’s identical to a hundred others except the tiny yellow print on it, it’s a bitch. And for whatever reason, the walls of the Winnebago are primarily made of one-by-two bricks, which seems wholly unnecessary, except perhaps to cut down on tooling. And when you’re looking for a particular white one-by-two, in a mini sea of one-by-twos, and you have to turn over every single one, and you don’t have faith that it’s necessary in the first place, so then you start sticking them all together in a tower so you can see them all at once, but the tower starts falling apart because you’re not constructing it carefully, and, and, and…
If you’re thinking I had to take a break again and wait a couple more days, you’re catching on.
4. Nobody at the Wheel.
Once you have all the one-by-twos in one place, the construction of the upper part of the toy is basically bricklaying, just like the Governor’s Room playset. Same brick shape, too. And as I suspected, there isn’t much to the interior. If you want to recreate the bathroom scene from the show, you’ll need to do your own customizing with more bricks. If you want to put the Game of Thrones Iron Throne in there instead, you probably can once that set’s out.
There was, however, one key detail missing from the interior that should have been there – the piece to connect the steering wheel to the dashboard. And at this point in the construction, I knew it couldn’t be anywhere in the box. That’s the sort of detail that even though people looking at the toy can’t see, I WILL KNOW. And I will feel obliged to explain that it’s missing.
Fortunately, the folks at firstname.lastname@example.org were very nice, and a couple of days later, I received the part in a little baggie inside two envelopes.
That was not the end of the struggle.
5. Bum Steer.
It would have been nice if the piece designed to connect the steering wheel to the dashboard actually fit into either the steering wheel or the dashboard.
Worse, because it’s small and a piece with a bend in it, it is very hard to force in without stressing that bend and risking breakage. After pulling out the dash, I managed to get it in there, but the wheel would not budge, even using the hot water trick.
So I found a tiny pair of scissors. Stuck one blade in the steering-wheel hole, and slowly rotated it, shaving of tiny flakes from the edges to make that hole a bit bigger. I’d say this is a bad idea for a kid’s toy, but if your kid wants Walking Dead pseudo-Lego, they’re either old enough to do shit like this, or you’re a negligent parent.
Eventually the whole thing fit, but I think you can clearly see all the stress marks. And my fingertips really hurt.
6. No Disassemble!
Building one of these toys is just stage one. Unbuilding them to where you fucked it up the first time – like because you didn’t realize those windows could fit on in different ways – then rebuilding, happens next. And then a third rebuild because you pushed to hard on one piece and it made an entire wall collapse. And the GODDAMN side-view mirrors that pop off if you so much as look at them. I swear, if my life were a movie, those mirrors would be foreshadowing, and cause a chain reaction at a crucial climactic moment. Glue the damn things in immediately.
McFarlane’s building philosophy is to make the Lego-ish under-structure complete first, then add on all the detail bling. But this isn’t the best way to do it. Let’s say the bling brick, as we’ll call it, fits on a sideways stud in the side of the vehicle. It would be easier to add it in as one is building said wall, rather than wait until the wall is finished and try to plug the brick into a fully four-sided hole, as opposed to the preferable building the sides of the hole around it. KnoWhutIMean?
7. The Final Indignity.
The last stage of any article about toys is photographing the final product. I decided to take it outside, to my building courtyard where there’d be no pets, and bring the Daryl Dixon set as well for some highway effects.
One thing I’ve learned is that, as cool as these toys are to display, they’re fragile and don’t transport well. Having had my apartment flood twice, I can’t afford to have much in a displayed state, lest it have to move fast. And you lose bits on these minifigs. I think despite what The Lego Movie told you, a Kragle should be employed.
So, a couple of things. The set comes with two zombies, and Dale.
The zombies are articulated at the hips, but Dale comes with two non-poseable sets of legs, for sitting or standing.
Oh yeah, and I finally found that last square tile. It was stuck inside one of the top vent pieces, creating a “false bottom” of sorts.
Similarly, there are two different canopy pieces – out, and retracted – depending how you want to display. Random sets will have a canopy piece signed by Todd McFarlane. That blue lawn chair just falls apart every time. It’s fucked.
I have to say I really applaud the ambition of what they’re trying to do in future sets.
Eventually, you’ll be able to build an entire prison interior, as well as guard towers and gates around it. It’ll make the kind of massive playset companies just don’t do any more, but Todd made it in pieces.
A few too many pieces, methinks. Less work to put these together would make me personally happier. I am tempted by future sets, however, despite the…the…
Just as I set this stuff outside to photograph, the rain begins to fall. Looks like another delay….