Until recently I was oblivious to the possibility of adding lights and sounds to LEGO sets, but having just come out of a mini Dark Age and having my interest in LEGO Star Wars rebooted - J. J.Abrams style - in time for The Force Awakens, I found a whole new landscape to the buying/collecting/building/displaying hobby.
Light-up LEGO bricks isn't something so new that a LEGO hobbyist's reality is going to get shattered - in fact, LEGO have had their own range of lights and sound bricks since the early 90s - but the Star Wars community might find this as novel as I did.
There are a number of light and sound options for different sets available - we have already reviewed one option (see the Related Stories links at the bottom of this page) - and so for today we are focussing on the Brickstuff UCS 75192 Millennium Falcon kit.
Before going on, I have to highlight that my kit was custom made for me, and this isn't a service that is normally provided. My ultimate intention is to case the UCS Millennium Falcon in a sealed glass case, and so interior lights, sound chips and remote control unit wouldn't be required. As a result, this review doesn't include any commentary on the control system, internal lighting or the sound quality of the full assemblages that are currently available at Lightmyfalcon.com, the purpose-built portal for their popular UCS Millennium Falcon starter kits.
Opening the box that the parts arrived in brought forth a number of sealed bags, each labelled with their contents. As my lighting solution was a simplified one, I only had six bags of LEDs and cables: the mandibles, the cockpit, the engines, the dorsal quad cannons, a power distribution board and the USB power lead. Each of these was laid out in the appropriate quadrant of the table so that I could work my way around the largest LEGO set in the world.
Fitting all the LEDs and cables was a simple enough job because the instructions provided by Brickstuff are well illustrated and clearly written. Threading the fine wires through the framework does need a touch of patience to make sure they don't end up somewhere strange, and connecting the clips to the power boards requires good eyesight and fine motor control though. Nothing an average person can't handle though, especially one who has already managed to build the UCS Millennium Falcon!
As I discovered when I came to the quad cannons, Brickstuff helps make the job a little easier - and ensures the final product looks that much better - by pre-installing some of the cables into LEGO elements. While the owner/pilot of the Millennium Falcon might not be too worried that the Falcon looks like a pile of junk, I didn't want a birds nest of cables adorning the top of the model so this touch put a broad smile on my face.
Quizzing them about this surprise, Rob told me that Brickstuff modifies the bricks, which they source from Bricklink, themselves in a small work kitted out with a variety of drill presses and adhesives. Expressing an understanding of the LEGO community's distaste of Kragle, Rob explained that it was something the company had debated over for a long time and had come down on the side of glue so that the customer experienced the final product to the best possible effect.
Though the bulk of the products made by Brickstuff are largely LEGO light and sound kits, this small Minnesota company is primarily about coming up with innovative solutions and have worked with model train, dollhouse, scale model and cosplay enthusiasts too. Talking with Rob Klingberg, the Chief Enthusiast at Brickstuff, it's clear that they are keen as mustard to come up with solutions that would make any fan go "wow".
Once all the LED lights were fitted and the cables run I replaced the Falcon's hull panels… and realised that I couldn't easily connect the power. How I rued my decision not to include the remote control unit with my order but in a follow-up email, which demonstrated how tuned in Brickstuff are to customer care, I learned that they have just finalised a wireless control module that will allow me to illuminate my Falcon with a simple voice command.
That's the "wow" factor that Rob and the rest of the Brickstuff team hope for when they devise something new. Until this solution is available my only recourse was a quick bit of jury-rigging, and within a few minutes the Falcon was all fired up and ready to glow - and the smile on my face was as broad and bright as the now-lit up engines!
This light and sound kit is just the tip of the carbonberg, for Brickstuff has many more products available. From starter kits that contain the parts necessary to complete simple installations, to advanced kits that are designed for specific LEGO sets - like their brand new 10221 Super Star Destroyer kit which was launched on May 4th. If you're a bit more imaginative you could design your own light and sound array with their pick-and-mix selection, so if you're hoping to add some special effects to 75171 Battle on Scariff you'll likely find your solution with Brickstuff.
They've even developed a selection of mini OLED and LCD video screens that could display vital medical data in your 75203 Hoth Medical Chamber or even a tactical display of the Death Star's weaknesses for a Yavin IV rebel base MOC.
Now that I've got a taste for brightening up my LEGO Star Wars collection I'm planning on adding some exterior lights to the Falcon, which will be made easy with the DIY section on the Brickstuff website, as well as getting stuck into their upcoming kit to upgrade the 75244 Tantive IV cannon, navigation, engine and cockpit lights.