Week 1 Recap – Epic Media

To my Epic Mario supporters,

Wow, what a tremendous week for Epic Mario. We (my fantastic contributors and I) started last tuesday with a $100 contribution right off the bat. At weeks end the project now has just over $4500 in funding which is about 17% of the goal. I also got a shout out from LEGO Master Nathan Sawaya.

The project has been getting a lot of press this week and there is more to come. There was an article about the project in the Willamette Week followed by a blog post on PC World. These were followed up by posts on Engaget, PC Advisor, Joystiq, Boing Boing, Kotaku, Wired, Game Informer, Geek.com, and The Daily What. If you have seen this posted on other blogs or sites, please let me know. I also just completed an itnterview for On The Level Gaming and I am doing another interview with Those Guys tomorrow.

I also want share my appreciation for those of you who have reached out to me with offers of help and support for getting my foundation started regardless of the outcome of this project.

Thank you again to all my supporters out there and keep on getting the word out. I hope that in the week two recap, we will be over 50% funded and have more blogs/articles to share.

Cheers,

~Z~

 

Willamette Week- Full Interview

Hey All,

I recently did an interview with the Willamette Week. Here is a link to the article about my project.

http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-28496-kickstart_my_heart_constructing_super_mario_bros_level_1_1_out_of_lego.html

My appologies to anyone whose name got cut in the final version of the article. The full version of the interview is listed below.

Penelope Bass: What do you do when you’re not building things with LEGO bricks?

Zachary Pollock: I am constantly building things in other ways. I am currently working on my Master’s degree in Applied Craft and Design. My program is a joint venture between Oregon College of Arts and Crafts and Pacific Northwest College of Art. In it I am developing an idea for a toy line made from 3D printed bio-plastics and bamboo derivatives. The goal is create a product that kids can compost or recycle when they break it or get bored with it. I also want the packaging for the toy become an integrated part of the product to enhance its functionality.

This summer I will be traveling abroad throughout the Mediterranean, taking myself on a history tour and then to Tokyo in the fall for the Tokyo Design Week. I really want capitalize on the opportunities I have while in grad school to connect with museums and design professionals abroad. To that end I am also working on an application for a Fulbright to study in sustainable product design in Helsinki, once I graduate.

PB: What brought about the idea to create a mosaic of the entire 1-1 level of Super Mario Brothers? Do you think it’s become iconic imagery?

ZP: Pitfall! for the Atari 2600 came out in 1982 and introduced the side scroll-er genre, but it was Super Mario Bros. by Nintendo in 1985 that defined the genre and a generation. Mario instantly became synonymous with Nintendo and every Nintendo gaming platform since the NES has launched with Mario at the helm. He has spawned a multitude of games (35 current titles available right now at mario.nintendo.com) and practically has a cult following. For my generation Mario is both a hero and legend. I still remember my first experiences every time I played a Mario game on a new console.

The idea for doing a Mario themed LEGO creation started bubbling in my mind back in 2005 when I came out of what Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOL’s) call the dark ages. The dark ages represent the time period between when you quit playing with LEGO as a kid and rediscover it as an adult. I had gone to a convention and been amazed by what I saw people building. I went home that day, dug out my boxes of bricks and began scheming for what I would build for the convention the following year. The plan, which has yet to be realized, was to create a life size television with a NES attached to it created entirely out of LEGO bricks. The screen of the television was going to be a mosaic of Mario that could be swapped out for mosaics of any number of other Nintendo games. I quickly realized that given the size of a LEGO brick it would be difficult to get a proportional representation of the games on a model of a 13″ television. It wasn’t until a last summer that my friends Allison and Leland steered me towards the full size model. I had been working on a series of cross stitched hand towels featuring Mario where one stitch equaled one pixel. While telling my friends about the hand towels we began playing with the idea of doing what would be the equivalent of television screen worth of the the level in LEGO. From there it was an easy leap to creating the entire first level. To my knowledge no one has done the entire level before, and most the mosaics of 8-bit characters don’t adhere to a one brick per pixel ratio.

PB: What were some of the LEGO product lines you designed for yourself when you were younger?

ZP: The very first line was a series of spy vehicles. Cars with hidden machine guns, and vans that opened up to reveal one man helicopters. In 1989 when Batman came out I instantly began doing dozens of versions of vehicle and movie set related themes. When I was 14 and began getting passionate about architecture I switched to doing models of houses and monuments. But my favorite line was probably the balanced breakfast. I created a TV tray filled with bowl and box of cereal, a plate of toast and a glass of orange juice. I even included a spoon. In retrospect that models were pretty rough but it was really fun to make and I will probably revisit the project someday.

PB: Do you feel LEGO has become a neglected form of play/expression?

ZP: Not at all. I think that the idea of playing LEGO bricks is alive and well. All you have to do is spend five minutes at LEGO convention or in the LEGO aisle at a store watching kids stare and point, to know that the spirit lives on. There are a lot of choices for kids these days but I think that The LEGO Group has done a great job of trying to keep up with current trends and themes. Their partnerships with other intellectual properties like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and the upcoming Lord of the Rings sets have really added to that success. Given the opportunity to buy a toy that is both LEGO and Star Wars is a win/win that I never had as a kid and that I revel in now.

I try to to take every opportunity I can to foster the passion for building with kids. I have designed some sets for the children of friends and give my godson Lucas bricks every chance I get. My sister also works for an after-school program which runs a LEGO centric summer camp that I will helping with this year. I think that there is something innate about our desire to create things, and LEGO bricks offer a infinite number of possibilities to foster that creative need.

PB: How long do you estimate construction of the piece will take?

ZP: That will depend on how many people want to help build it. The sample section that I built used 1600 bricks and took me a few hours to fabricate. Certain sections like the ground will be easier and quicker to build because of the repetition, so that will speed up the process. If I were building it by myself it would probably take 200 – 300 hours, but I think I will get a lot of people that want to be a part of the building process which is exciting. Everyone that contributes to the project will get invited to building sessions.

PB: Will Mario be present in only one location, or several panels throughout the piece?

ZP: That is still up in the air a little bit. Mario has 28 different poses in the first level of the video game. I will either include one of each of those all at once so that each panel of the project will have one Mario in it, or I will swap out the Mario models at different times during the duration of the display so over time Mario will actually progress through the level, smashing bricks and stomping Goombas along the way. It kind of depends on what the contributors want to see.

PB: How do you buy your LEGO sets? Are they available in bulk? What is the typical cost for a set?

ZP: I acquire LEGO bricks in a number of ways. Most of the sets that I buy, I will purchase directly from the LEGO store or from LEGO.com. Older sets I will usually get from second hand vendors like Bricks and Minifigs or Bricklink.com. Bricklink is also a fantastic way to get individual bricks if you have that one piece that you just can’t find or if you need a couple hundred of it. For this project since I need a substantial amount of brick that is all identical I will get it directly from LEGO. They have a great selection in the LEGO store that you can buy in bulk by the cup, though I am a little beyond what will fit in a cup. I have found that a good rule of thumb for pricing a typical set is about ten cents per brick. So if you get a 200 brick set, expected it to cost about $20. There is some fluctuation depending on licensing fees for cross market sets like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but it doesn’t get too ridiculous. You can also find bricks on occasion at Goodwill. They are often mixed into random bins of stuff sold by the pound. It takes some work but you can come across some good finds.

PB: Can you tell me a little about how the project relates to the foundation you would like to start?

ZP: To see how Mario ties in, I need to explain a little about how I see the organization working. The goal with the foundation is to create an environment where I can partner with the pediatric wards of hospitals and businesses to work together creating projects with the kids.  The way that it will work is that I negotiate a partnership between the two entities. The businesses will provide financing and the hospitals will provide access. I will go in to the hospitals and work directly with the kids to get them excited about the project and work with them developing a project that they would like to build. Then I will flush out the structure and design of the piece back in the studio. Next comes the critical element. I will bring participants from the businesses into the hospital to actually build the project side by side with the kids and to hand out LEGO sets for all the kids to keep. I think it will create a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved. The kids get to take part in project that will become a permanent part of hospital, and the businesses get a chance to give back to the community.

Epic Mario creates an opportunity for me generate get the word out about my larger aims of starting a foundation while tapping into my community at large and the large LEGO community for support in creating a noteworthy project. There are are couple of ways that Epic Mario will give back to the community. A portion of the net proceeds will get funneled back into Kickstarter to support projects in the Portland area and the areas that my contributors are from. After the project travels for a year, several panels from the project will be donated to the annual auction at Child’s Play. Child’s Play is a charity that was started by Mike and Jerry at Penny-Arcade.com. “Child’s Play seeks to improve the lives of children in hospitals around the world through the kindness and generosity of the video game industry and the power of play.” They raised over $3.5M in contributions last year. I hope to someday develop my foundation something of that scope, or to partner with them to create a LEGO centric wing of their organization. The conventions that Epic Mario will be displayed at also help contribute to their local communities as well. Many are run by Non-Profit organizations like Bricklandia, Inc. which puts on Bricks Cascade here in Portland. Lots of these organizations run programs to foster the building spirit with kids of all ages.

PB: Any ideas on what you’d like to illustrate next?

ZP: I have a few projects that have been percolating over the last few months, and one that has been on the back burner for a couple of years. in 2009 I created a life-sized bust of Bender from Futurama. I would like to finish the rest of him and create a free standing model. That piece would be about 5’8″ when completed. I also have plans in the works for a couple new architecture models like a Minifig scale version of the zombie proof house designed by KWK Promes, or Case Study #22 by Pierre Koenig. Really I am just in the infancy of my LEGO aspirations. There are so many amazing builders out there in the LEGO community. I would really love to apprentice under some of the master builders like Nathan Sawaya or Adam Reed Tucker to develop my skills further.

A word on Epic Mario from LEGO Master Builder Nathan Sawaya

“The basic game play of Mario Bros and LEGO is the same – it’s all about leveling up.  Can I advance Mario and his brother Luigi through the sewers of New York?  Can I make my next LEGO model bigger, taller, better?  In addition, Mario and LEGO are both classic retro games that harken us back to our childhood.  It will be interesting to see if Zachary Pollock can level-up and blend the two fan favorites.” - Nathan Sawaya, artist and founder of brickartist.com

Thanks again to everyone who contiues to support the project!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/plaidsquirrel/epic-mario

~Z~

Trademarks and Updates

I want to give a quick thanks to Bill Ward who made sure that my use of the LEGO® trademark fell within the comapny guidelines. It was a fantastic bit of information and I will be sure to keep within those guidelines going forward.

The site has been up for about 12 hours now and I have just under $500 donations, including one $100 and one $250! A very special thanks to everyone who has donated. I am in the midst of emailing a blurb about the project to LUGs in every state so hopefully the contributions will start to ramp up tomorrow.

If anyone has a fantastic blog they would like to see the project featured on, please let me know so I can reach out to them.

Cheers,

~Z~

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/plaidsquirrel/epic-mario

Epic Mario is Live!

Cats and kitttens, boys and girls, children of all ages, I am thrilled to announce that I have just launched my kickstarter site called Epic Mario. I need to raise just over $26,000 and have only 30 days to do it. I need your help. Please donate! Every dollar helps, and by all means, tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell your friends neighbors and and your neighbors fri…ends. Please blog it, tweet it, tumbl it, and sing it to the mountains! This is a tremendous project and your support is the key to its success.

Cheers,

~Z~

Here is a link to the project. Please Donate!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/plaidsquirrel/epic-mario

8-Bit Awesomeness (Part 2)

This is the extended version of my project bio from the kickstarter page.

“Epic Mario” combines Legos and Mario for epic sized fun!

1985 was a particularly great year. I was six, and being six is pretty awesome. It was the year that I got my very first 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System and with it Super Mario Brothers. A game that I believe will live on in the collective consciousness for time immemorial. It was also the year that I designed the first Lego set that I felt was worthy of their attention. I took photos and drew instructions and wrote The Lego Group a letter asking if they would kindly share my idea with the world. My mother being the wonderful women that she is sent with my package a letter asking them to humor me with a press kit. In the first lines of the letter she wrote “My son Zack is a Lego maniac.” A year or so later there were a commercial on the air with those exact sentiments.

For as long as I can remember I have been building with Legos. As a child, many a long afternoon was spent on the floor of my bedroom endlessly building, un-building, and rebuilding. Planes trains and automobiles were just the tip of the iceberg. Then there were gadgets, gizmos, and contraptions. By the time I was 14 I began designing entire product lines of Lego sets and illustrating the instruction manuals so I could build them again later. That drive for building continues to this day, but the scale has changed.

Traditional Lego sets available for purchase have anywhere from about 20 – 1,000 pieces. In the last several years The Lego Group has started releasing more and more sets the push the envelope of brick count and complexity with their sets, which now top out at over 5,000 pieces. In comparison, my projects have hovered between 6,000 – 15,000 pieces for the last several years. This project trumps all of that by leaping to almost 780,000 pieces. No one that I am aware of has done a Lego mosaic this sale before. It will stand seven feet tall and over 90 feet wide.

This project has several goals. First and foremost I want to inspire a new generation of Lego enthusiasts, and to hopefully show some people that have forgotten, that building with Legos can be done at any age. Second, this project aims to push the limits of imagination about what you can do with Lego bricks, and particularly to break down stereotypes people have about both Legos and video games only being toys. I want to show the world Legos and video games can be works of art as well. Last but certainly not least, I (and I think many other people) really want to see the entire level 1-1 of Super Mario Brothers made from Legos, because it is just FUN! Sometimes as adults we forget to have FUN. I want to create a little nostalgia and a little excitement.

Now for some FAQs

What does your contribution pay for?

Primarily it pays for Lego bricks. 780,000 of them if I get enough funding. Your money will also go to other materials critical for the installation of the work. Items like plywood, Plexiglas, and mounting hardware.

The funding will not cover items like labor (of which there will be a lot), transportation of the finished project to various conventions around the country and the associated convention expenses. That stuff I will figure out a way to handle if I can get your help with funding the materials.

Where can I see it when it is finished?

I will be posting updates to the project at http://pladsquirrel.wordpress.com It will also be on display at 2012 BrickCon Expo in Seattle and as many other conventions as I can get to over the year following its completion like PAX and Comic-Con, pending their approval. 90’ is a lot of real estate at a convention.

When will it be finished/how long will it take?

I am currently a working on my Master’s degree and due to the scale of the work it will take quite a lot of effort to get it assembled. Just building the display for it will take me a week of Saturdays. My goal is to host a series of brick building parties in the Portland area. Every contributor will get an email invitation to these events. I will be providing food and beverages and hopefully with 10-20 people each time, we can get the mosaic assembled in two or three work sessions of a few hours each.

8-Bit Awesomeness (part 1)

For those in the know, I have been talking about an epic Lego sculpture for sometime. Well that time has finally come. In the next day or two I am launching my kickstarter site to raise funding for the largest Lego project I have ever tackled. Level 1-1 of the classic Super Mario Brothers, entirely in Lego. If funded entirely, the project will be built to the scale of one brick per pixel and will feature over 768,000 pieces. I hope to unveil the project at PAX this year pending the approval of the guys over at Penny-Arcade. I also want to show it at Brick Con (and any other convention I can make it to next year). So if you guys want to see this thing built, please dontae to my cause once I get the site up. I have built a sample section of it for reference and to give people a visual for kickstarter. I will be posting updates here as the project moves along. Check back soon for more details.

 

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