Posted by Jeremy on January 24, 2018 at 09:48 PM CST
The latest attraction from LEGO opened nearly a year ago, and in the build up to their anniversary they are hosting their first LEGO Star Wars Days so Rebelscum dispatched its crack LEGO reporting team to check it out.
If you haven't been to a LEGOLAND Discovery Centre (LDC) before - think LEGOLAND park, indoor and smaller. That shouldn't put you off though, as the reduced scale means that all the LDC's attractions are accessible from a central zone and you can keep an eye on your children while they have fun in a safe environment for a couple of hours of play.
Whereas the LEGOLAND Parks, also owned and operated by Merlin Entertainment, have experiences that can be shared by the whole family, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres are most definitely designed for children because all the attractions - from rides, soft play area and LEGO building zones - are built for under 11's.
In fact adults must be accompanied by a child unless it is a special adults night (which I'd missed by a single day). But when it comes to MINILAND adults, with their greater height, have the upper hand - the view of the compacted iconic Melbourne cityscape is best viewed above the glass partition. No sticky finger prints marred my experience.
From the start visitors are given the expectation that this will be a hands-on experience, and neither the facilities or staff fail to deliver. On entering all visitors go through an induction whereby they are treated to a short interactive video on how LEGO is made. And then it's through the doors to the first ride (Kingdom Quest) before being deposited in MINILAND.
Much like the LEGOLAND Parks, each of the LEGOLAND Discovery Centres around the world has a unique MINILAND display. Melbourne's includes Eureka Tower, Victoria Market, the Yarra River, Flinders Street Station and Federation Square, the Shrine of Remembrance war memorial, Royal Exhibition Building (coincidentally the location that hosted Brickvention on the same weekend), Luna Park and the beach at Brighton. Notably this MINILAND at this (and perhaps all?) LEGOLAND Discovery Centres uses minifigs instead of standard MINILAND scale people.
Beyond MINILAND is a central area that has a number of build areas (DUPLO Farm, an earthquake table plus the highly popular LEGO Racers Build & Test track), a 4D cinema (which is curiously showing a movie from the defunct Chima theme), the Merlin's Apprentice ride and LEGO City Fire Academy climbing and soft play zone. To the sides are a number of birthday rooms and the creative workshop where one of the Master Model Builder team will teach your kids how to get the most of out their LEGO.
And that's LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Melbourne in a nutshell. But what of their Star Wars Day takeover?
Despite being a life-long LEGO fan I hadn't been to a LEGOLAND Discovery Centre before, and had only attended one official LEGO Star Wars event at LEGOLAND Windsor all the way back in 2005, so I didn't really know what I was walking in to. I was expecting something with much more impact and in my mind I'd pictured Star Tours with studs. I had visions of the entire place decked out with Star Wars bunting, posters and greeblies but the effect was more of a subtle addition that was less a theme than an overlay.
I reminded myself that today was all about Son of LEGOscum's experience, and not mine so I tucked away my preconceptions and got on with it.
On the day we went it was quiet and within minutes we were in. Sadly there wasn't anyone from the local 501st garrison as they were all attending the two day Brickvention event that was on over the same weekend.Initially my ten year old son was on the fence but it didn't take long before he was leading me around by the wrist, so if the photos are a bit blury I was shooting one-handed and at speed.
With scavenger hunt card in his grip our first destination in our LEGO Star Wars Days tour was MINILAND, where a number of LEGO Star Wars sets had been placed throughout the Melbourne landscape. Initially I found their inclusion a touch crass and commercial, but I was won over when I discovered shoppers at Victoria Markets being worried by an AT-ST Walker and a T-16 Skyhopper swooping down on a party of picnickers. The most apt was the placement of Resistance Transport Pod and Battle on Scarif playset on the Brighton beach front.
The placement of the UCS Slave I on top of the circular Hamer Hall was particularly Bespin-esque, but perhaps the siting of Kylo Ren's Command Shuttle and First Order stormtroopers outside the Shrine of Remembrance could be rethought.
What made the MINILAND experience really special was the night time light show. Every ten minutes or so the lights would dim as if the sun was setting, and the models would come alive with special light up bricks and a CGI fireworks show was projected on the walls. The icing on the cake were the three Star Wars silhouettes, and none of them were more atmospheric than the shadow of the Death Star II because the fireworks evoked the end sequence of Return of the Jedi. Yub nub.
Next on our hyperspeed tour was the Millennium Falcon build and take. While I queued, Son of LEGOscum went off to the Racers Build & Test area to construct some race cars and try them out of the drag and stunt tracks. With a one-in/one-out door policy we didn't have to wait long before we were both sifting through trays of elements, racing to build our mini Falcon's.
Next door, conversely, was the world's largest LEGO Millennium Falcon. Surprisingly it wasn't a huge draw and Son of LEGOscum and I had the display to ourselves for the first 15 minutes. It must of been all his shouts of "cool!" and "amazing" that pulled in the crowds, because not long after we left the side room it was packed.
I can't say I was overwhelmed though. With an area of around 16 m2 (around 170 ft2) it was a bit too big to take in, and the lack of greeblies meant that once you got close up the surface detail was all studs. I can't help but think that a few hull features would have helped liven it up - but I get why it doesn't: its chief purpose is a travelling build for mixed ability/age groups and not a diorama aimed at wowing AFOLs, and that's fine by me. I'd really like to know what the smaller model, set to one side, was for though.
The Falcon was not the only super-sized Star Wars ship on hand. Out in the main play area were two huge TIE Fighters set on plinths with a "do not touch" sign which, judging bythe missing bricks and food splats - had plainly been ignored. Neither of these had any information signs so there's no telling how many bricks or hours went into building them. If anyone from Merlin or the LDC is reading this, please share their stats!
If there was anything that disappointed Son of LEGOscum it was that we couldn't get into the Creative Workshop where the new 30380 Kylo Ren Shuttle was available as a second make & take experience. For some reason it had a sign-up sheet and the sessions ran every hour. Had here been any advance notice - not even the LDC's events page mentioned it - he would have signed up straight away.
As with most attractions the last port of call is the gift shop where plenty of current LEGO Star Wars sets were in stock - but despite having the world's largest Millennium Falcon on display they didn't have 75192 UCS Millennium Falcon in hand.
LEGO Star Wars Days is running through to the end of the month (January 30th) at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Melbourne. Check the website for entry conditions and ticket prices.