Mind Games: Interview with Brandon Griffith
Even if you don’t know who Brandon Griffith is you are probably well aware of his work, especially since we just posted his Return of the Jedi chess set last night. As icgetaway he’s created the extremely well recieved Star Wars Chess Board Trilogy among many other builds and the recently successful STUDS collectible trading cards Kickstarter campaign. As a quarter of OneLug he’s participated in building what is possibly the biggest and best loved of the Lord of the Rings MOC’s to date, so who is the man in the beaver’d hat and where does he get those wonderful toys?
[fbtb] Let’s start with the basics: name, age, and what do you do for a day job?
[BG] Brandon Griffith, 30, Sound Designer.
[fbtb] How old were you when you first got into LEGO? Do you remember your first set?
[BG] I started building when was 2 years old. Like most people, I played with lego until I became a teenager and entered my dark ages. When Star Wars Lego came on the scene in 1999, I started buying LEGO again. It wasn’t until 2002 that I started building My Own Creations!
[fbtb] What was your inspiration to create such intricate chess sets with Star Wars as the basis?
[BG] Actually, the very first MOC I built coming out of my dark ages was a Star Wars Chess Set. It was very basic and contained figures from all 3 movies of the original trilogy. Several years and MOCs later I had the idea to revisit the chess set and make it better. At this point LEGO had switched licensed figures from Yellow heads to Flesh heads. Plus, they released a ton more sets offering a much larger variety of figures. So, I decided instead of updating my current set, I would start over.
[fbtb] Is this something you think TLG missed as an opportunity?
[BG] Yes, and no. I think LEGO would sell a ton of them. Unfortunately, it’s my understanding that they can’t produce them because chess is considered a board game. And some other company currently holds the rights to produce Star Wars Board games.
[fbtb] Lucas gets asked this all the time, but I’ll believe your answer. Was this always planned as a trilogy or once you finished the first one did it just seem like the natural thing to do?
[BG] Yes, when I decided to rebuild the chess set, I quickly realised that there where a huge amount of Star Wars minifigures available. Enough so that I could include almost every major character from every major scene in the original trilogy if I so wanted. I decided to do that and the best way to do that way make three chess sets. One for each of the trilogy.
[fbtb] For your RotJ set, was it always going to be Endor? Did you ever consider a Jabba’s Palace/tatooine setup?
[BG] The thought did cross my mind to do a Tatooine theme ROTJ, but Ewoks make such good pawns. I had to go Endor.
[fbtb] Any chance you’ve seen enough redeeming value in the prequel trilogy to warrant them being immortalized in chess form?
[BG] I thought about it. Truthfully, I just don’t have enough passion to do a prequel set. As of now, I have no plans to make any of them.
[fbtb] How about a Clone Wars themed set?
[BG] Again, not a huge fan.
[fbtb] Now that they’re finished, which one was the most difficult to develop/build and which is your favorite?
[BG] The most difficult was the ROTJ. Using a color pallet of Dark Green and brown is not easy. Dark Green has such a limited part pallet.
The ESB is by far my favorite. I spent a lot of time and extra care on it. Not only is it my favorite movie of the trilogy, but it has my favorite planets, locations, scenes and moments.
[fbtb] What’s to become of your trilogy? Permanent display, storage, sale or back to the parts bin?
[BG] I would love to have a display case big enough to house them. Each of them is 25”x25”. So the footprint is quite large. For now they are in storage. I wont ever take them apart.
[fbtb] If you are finished with the Star Wars sets, is there another concept you have for a future chess board? LotR perhaps?
[BG] LotR would be cool, especially with the new sets out. I am burned out on making chess sets at the moment. Maybe a Marvel vs DC chess set if they release enough figs???
[fbtb] You’ve worked on many collaborative builds as well as your solo (no pun intended) projects, do you find it easier to work alone and if so which is more gratifying?
[BG] It’s definitely easier to work alone. But, there is nothing like a good group build. For instance the OneLUG. When we finished that, it was truly a great feeling sharing this massive accomplishment with not only your fellow builders, but close friends.
[fbtb] Whose idea was it for the ‘Last march of the Ents’ build and was there any point where you thought “this is not going to happen”?
[BG] It was originally conceived by myself and Remi Gagne. We later brought on Bruce Lowell. Together us three built the tower. Alyse Gagne, helped build the base and Ents. It was hard and time consuming, but never did we think we couldn’t pull it off. Once you start having doubt, your doomed to failure.
[fbtb] If there was one MOC you would be proud to be remembered for what would it be, solo and collaborative?
[BG] The OneLUG is definitely a good one. The chess sets have gotten a lot of press. The one MOC I am probably most proud of that I have built thus far is “…see your enemy…” which is a large mosaic based on Agent Smith form Matrix Revolutions. For the MOC I want to be remembered by, I don’t think I have built it yet.
[fbtb] You do commission work like the phenomenal Back to the Future 3D mosaic, do you find it difficult to put that much work into a project only to let it go when you finish?
[BG] Well, there are 2 kinds of commissions, “art builds” the one like the Back to the Future and what I call “Basic Builds”. Art builds are MOCs. We pour ourselves into it, usually get a good amount of time to work on it; a pure creative process. Basic Builds are builds that are catered more towards what the client wants and doesn’t demand a lot of detailed building. Basic builds are easy to let go of, Art builds are not. I really like the way the Back to the Future Mosaic came out and it was hard to let it go. Fortunately, I know the guy and have been to his house recently to check it out.
[fbtb] How much planning goes into one of your larger builds, or do you just wing it and adapt as you go along?
[BG] It varies. The chess sets had a good amount of planning and research. I wanted to make sure each piece represented a scene from the classic trilogy and captured the details from the movie that everyone remembers.
[fbtb] Switching gears for a second, tell us a little bit about the idea and inspiration behind the STUDS collectible cards.
[BG] Many people are familiar with some of the amazing creations out there in the adult Lego community, but not the builders behind the models. Trading cards were a passion of mine growing up, so when I had the idea to create a project that would showcase the artists as well as their models, it seemed a natural fit. Thus STUDS was born.
[fbtb] You’ve been very busy lately, is there anything else you’re working on that you could share with us to look forward too?
[BG] It’s top secret.
[fbtb] You’ve obviously been influenced heavily by movies and television in your builds is there anything you’d love to build, but just haven’t had the time or inspiration?
[BG] I have a few things in the works based around some Marvel characters. I will leave it at that, don’t want to spoil the surprise.
[fbtb] You seem to be a bit of a movie buff. With the Monster Fighters theme out now would that be something you would run with or is there another theme or property you’d love to see?
[BG] Monster fighters is definitely a great line. I do like the movie licensed themes the best. It would be great if they came out with a TRON theme.
Quick fire Questions:
What’s your favorite non-licensed theme? Vikings
What license would you love to LEGO to go after? TRON
Is there another builder that you haven’t worked with yet that you’d like to? ARVO Brothers
What’s your favorite Star Wars set? 7191 UCS X-Wing
Lastly, where did you get that beaver hat and can you hook me up? I bought the hat at the minifig cosplay store.