About a year ago, we posted a LEGO themed Sonic Mania project from community member toaster. The goal for any project posted to LEGO’s Ideas site is to reach 10,000 signatures, at which times, the project will be reviewed and determined if the licenses can be obtained and if the project will move forward in any official capacity. Fast forward to today, where the project is creeping ever so close to that goal, having been sign almost 9,000 in just a hair under a year! We spoke with toaster at length about the project, including its inception, inspiration, and the reception so far. Hit the jump to hear what she had to say!
Sonic Mania is easily the best Sonic game we’ve seen in a long time, was that the reason why you decided to use it as the backdrop for this project?
toaster: It’s not the only reason, but it’s absolutely relevant. I’ve been a Sonic fan since I was like like six or seven with Advance 3. Gems Collection’s CD and R ports, Heroes, X and AoSTH reruns – all of which gave me a reasonably varied palate for the hedgehog’s adventures. This is both with respect to historical sidescrolling versus three-dimensional racing, and active versus passive entertainment – and in all that time since, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a unanimous embracing of something from this series like how Sonic Mania, its spinoffs, and DLC was received. It’s so evident how much love went into it to current, lapsed, and new fans alike, and I wanted to find a way to show my own passion. My reasoning was also informed with respect to the content. I know other fans aren’t as enthused about Green Hill as they were back when Sonic Adventure 2 or even Sonic Generations came out, but good pop-culture-based LEGO sets are like good Smash picks in that they’re meant to be the straightforward but quirky celebrations of iconic media. LEGO Ideas has previously introduced sets like the Back To The Future Delorean, Doctor Who‘s TARDIS control room, and the Flintstone’s house and car, right? They’re the face of things to the people who go “Hey, I remember that!”, even if more-involved fans might prefer the time-traveling train, the Eye of Harmony, or Fred’s worksite with the brontosaurus. In that respect, Sonic Mania‘s rendition of Green Hill Zone is perfect – the right blend of original spice and well-known concepts for lots of people to fall in love with. Plus, everyone loves giant mechs – so the boss is perfect for that!
toaster: I’ve been a LEGO fan for longer than I’ve been a Sonic fan, so I’ve always wanted something that melded the two, and always felt pretty miffed for most of my childhood that the twain couldn’t meet. With the worldwide launch of LEGO CUUSOO (later rebranded Ideas) in 2011 and the strong success of Minecraft on the platform, it was clear an avenue had been opened – but it wasn’t immediately obvious how to approach it. The Dimensions set mentioned in the question was absolutely a dream come true – but it was fairly limited. No Eggman, no badniks, no environment – just one obvious vehicle and one not-so-obvious one. Something better was possible using this as a stepping stone, so I knew I had to do something! That of course eventually evolved into what I submitted last February.
toaster: When I originally started putting things together in 2016, I used a piece of software called LEGO Digital Designer. I’m sure it was a fairly revolutionary piece of kit back when it was originally launched in 2004, but it was definitely limited and not updated frequently enough to get the latest and greatest piece designs. For various reasons I had to drop the project then, but when I came back to it at the start of 2019 a new piece of fan-engineered LEGO design software had entered the picture, called stud.io! There were way more parts to work with and it had a built-in rendering tool chain to allow for high-quality images to be made of models constructed in the program. Another option that was now available is Mecabricks, which works in a browser, but I elected not to use it because my internet connection isn’t always solid. Then, I used image editing software to add some “prints” and stickers to the renders (types of decorations directly applied to the parts). This is the only aspect of things with any pre-required knowledge other than enjoying playing with bricks and having friends who can give you feedback – everything else, anyone can do it! Then I wrote a description and submitted it to the site, which I believe is something only over-18s can do without involving a parent due to legal stuff. I know some people do sketches of their concepts to figure out what it’d look like before they start putting it together, or work with physical part collections. I didn’t do that because I like charging into projects headfirst and unfortunately my part collection isn’t the most robust, but if you do have a digital design you want to bring to the real world, sites like BrickLink and BrickOwl are good choices to get all the parts together easily!
toaster: Working on it while I was a full-time student recently diagnosed with ADHD, while keeping timely and relevant and not letting it get to me whenever things would slow down. Social media has been widely proven to be bad for you in how it manipulates attention spans with the “thrill” of watching arbitrary numbers go up, and the project’s supporter number – despite the real-world positive consequences if it hits the threshold – is certainly another kind of unhealthy beacon I’ve been drawn too closely to. My time at university is over now but I do have to get a job in the near future, and figuring out how to balance these struggles is definitely going to be tough. To a degree, the project achieving its goal would be as much a release for me as it would be a celebration. For a less existentially terrifying answer, I think how this has exposed me to sections of the fanbase I’d never even thought to consider existed before. It’s been quite difficult to get my head around the fact that I’ve received quotes and replies on my promotional posts from people who actively hate Classic Sonic, rather than just prefer the Modern incarnation. I know I’m talking to Sonic Retro here so there’s an implicit bias in our worldview, but it’s still a shock to see the other side of the coin has its extremists too!
toaster: Yes. Next question!
Kidding. But yeah, it’s been a lot. When I started my project, the only other Sonic-themed concept on the site that had gotten anywhere substantial was started at the very beginning of 2017, and had ended up being laid to rest at 1367 supporters (~15%) almost two years later. It was started by a friend of a friend who had a good eye for detail and some fandom connections, and it was a pretty solid design, so it was an absolute travesty when it didn’t end up setting the world on fire. With that precedent, I fully expected things to go nowhere. Thankfully, the outcome wasn’t quite like that. The project blew past that previous record on the second or third day, and various gaming outlets – I think the most left field one was the Spanish language version of IGN specifically, I’m not sure why the story ended up that regionalized – ended up picking the story up, not to mention all the Sonic fansites such as the one you’re reading this on right now. It was all definitely a shock, but a good one!
We’re closing in on the gap to make this project a reality, what can others do to help spread the word and get others to hopefully sign up to back the project?
toaster: First up, if you haven’t already registered an account and clicked the big blue button, please go do that before you read the rest of this! Now that that’s sorted, do you know anyone who abstractly likes Sonic but isn’t very “online”? Maybe a coworker with an Amy Rose figurine on their desk? Your sister’s university roommate who gave you a thumbs up and blew a vape ring when they saw your Eggman shirt? What about a partner who gave you Tails socks for Hannukah because they don’t quite understand your hobbies, but do understand what it means to love you? Your bestie who helps you reapply the red streaks to your hair every time you cosplay Shadow the Hedgehog while they’re dressed as Naruto? Or perhaps a nephew or niece who’s obsessed with Sonic Forces, always has a go on your Dreamcast whenever they come over, and is super excited to see the new movie with the person who taught them about their special interest in the first place? THESE are the kinds of people that this project couldn’t possibly reach without your help. Now, don’t *annoy* them, but letting them know it exists isn’t necessarily enough; you may have to remind them, maybe even more than once – but it’s the best way to help that isn’t just sharing to random Facebook groups (and the best way to avoid getting reported for spam nine times out of ten). Still, sometimes a simple digital share can definitely go quite far. There’s a wide world out there, so even if things seem saturated in our neck of the woods it’s entirely possible someone could’ve missed out. So please – if you can, give them a push!
Be sure to follow toaster on Twitter and sign the project over at LEGO Ideas (it takes just minutes to do and is super easy!) Remember, if you or someone you know has a project that you’d like to see feature on the Retro Spotlight, hit us up on Discord, Twitter or Facebook, or drop us a line on the forums!