Animefringe Cover Story:
Macross in the key of LEGO
By Jake Forbes and Jack McKeen
The toys of the moment may be action figures from McFarlane and Bandai, and imported
Gundam model kits, but the toy of the century (well, last century, and by inference,
the best toy ever) comes not from Japan, but Denmark. No toy is so ubiquitous
in the last fifty years as the LEGO brick, and for good reason. While Gundam kits
and mechanized ZOIDS may let kids build their own toys, only LEGO lets kids take
them apart and build entirely new creations. In the last couple of years LEGO
made its first ventures into licensed toymaking with Star Wars and Mickey Mouse
sets. Isn't it inevitable that anime inspired LEGOs come next? Animefringe went
straight to the source to find out.
LEGO's response: "We have no plans to
produce licensed anime-inspired LEGO building sets."
Ummm... Damn. There went our cover story.
Jake: "Hey, Adam! LEGO's not doing anime sets! What do we do now?"
Adam: "How the hell should I know?!! It was your stupid idea!"
Jake: "I suppose you'd rather we wrote 5,000 words on the virtue of
Bug Bug Magazine?"
Adam: "Look. You got yourself into this mess. We need pictures of anime
LEGOs, so if LEGO's not making them, go find someone who is!"
Undaunted, I went to the most logical place to find LEGO experts: my local toy
store. Some years ago, there had been a beautiful LEGO city in the store window,
a medley of movie inspired LEGO scenes from Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Godzilla,
King Kong, and more. Perhaps the store owners could direct me to this LEGO building
maestro, legend of the lock blocks, this god of the plastic brick. I asked the
manager in hopes that he might have left some clue.
Jake: "Excuse me, I'm a reporter for Animefringe..."
Jake: "Animefringe. Anyway, we're doing an expose on anime LEGOs. Could
you tell me how I might reach the builder who made your fabulous window displays?"
A dark cloud passed over the woman's face and a stillness filled the room.
I knew I had hit onto a sore spot. This wasn't going to be as easy as I'd thought.
Manager: "Sure! I've got his address right here."
To think, I was so close to having the answer, only to have it torn away from
me by a lowly shopkeep.
Manager: "Are you going to take the address or not?"
It seems my charms worked.
I looked at the card "Jack Daniel McKeen." Not much of a name for
a LEGO builder is it? Oh well. I'll take what I can get at this point. It didn't
take me long to find the guy's address. I quickly built up the courage and knocked
on his door.
MAC II, complete with "castle door" armor plating!
Jake: "What kind of father would name his son "Jack Daniels?"
Jack: "My name's Jack Daniel. No 's.'"
Jake: "I suppose his name was Jim Bean McKeen?"
Jack: "Actually, no."
Jake: "Wait wait.. let me guess. Your great-great-grandfather was a pirate.
Captain Morgan McKeen?"
Jack: "Look, asshole. You got a problem with my name?"
Jake: "No. I just want to see your LEGO models."
Jack: "Oh, well come on in!"
I immediately knew I had come to the right place. Here was the home of an otaku.
He had 9 EVA figures, all the Final Fantasy collectibles, Lodoss Wars wall scrolls,
the $250 Perfect Grade Gundam model... and he had LEGOs. There are billions and
billions of LEGOs in Jack's bedroom. And what he chooses to build with them
Let's start with the Veritechs. Jack based his models on the superdeformed
toys from the 80's (the ones that the new Toynami ones are based on). Like the
original toys, Jack's LEGO models transform into all three modes: Fighter, Guardian,
and Battoid. He created Skull Leader, Max's and Miriya's Veritechs, each with
slight differences. Despite their relatively small size (8" high) they
are as articulated as the best veritechs on the market. In proper "Jack-style"
building though, they are very fragile and are NOT TO BE TOUCHED BY ANYONE BUT
JACK. I tried transforming one behind his back--it took him an hour to repair
An Invid Scout... ready to get its scout on.
The other UN Spacy Destroids were based on the Exo-Squad rereleases of the
old Matchbox toys. In order to keep the color schemes as accurate as possible
Jack was forced to be rather creative with what pieces he used. A closer look
at the enormous MAC II (Monster) reveals that its feet are made of rowboats
and castle doors. The Spartan also proved something of a challenge as it was
built before LEGO started offering beige bricks on their own. The resulting
models are perfect recreations from the show, and are fully articulated (and
unlike the Veritechs, are even strong enough to be played with by a child...
not that Jack would ever let a child touch his LEGOs).
What good is an Earth Defense Force without something to defend against? Jack
gave equal attention to recreating all of the known Zentradi and Invid crafts,
including Battle Pods, a Recon Pod, Officer Pod, Power Armor, Invid Shock Trooper,
and Invid Scout. Once again, color limitations challenged Jack's ability with
the green Zentradi Power Armor, but the results speak for his skills. It's quite
a stunning recreation.
For all of these LEGO models (and the Gundam on the cover) Jack followed the
sacred rule of LEGO building: Thou shalt never use glue on thine creations.
In order to create a cyclone to LEGO man scale, Jack had to bend that rule.
Okay, he flat out broke it. It's just a LEGO space man with wheels glued to
his shoulders and boots glued to his feet, but I'd like to see you do better
at ¾" high!
What's next for Jack's collection? An Alpha Fighter, Radar X, and SDF1 are
all that he needs to complete the full Macross vehicle collection (ignoring
of course the unpopular Southern Cross). Then Jack will build a war-torn cityscape
to display the sets in for a local toy store. If he's lucky this one might go
on tour to other stores in California like his past ones did.
Cute little lego cyclone! How adorable! And he's smiling!
Jake: "Thanks for sharing your collection with us, blockhead."
Jack: "Don't call me blockhead! Why is it that whenever the media covers
my LEGOs they call me a blockhead!?"
Jake: "Hey, my roommates and I are throwing a block party. Wanna come?"
Jack: "Sure!... Wait a second! F#$% you, man! You come in here, insult
my name, break my models..."
Jake: "Chip off the old block, eh?"
This year LEGO did release two mecha inspired LEGO sets in their Life on Mars
series, but if it's actual anime mechs that you want, you'll have to go to Jack
McKeen or build them yourself. All it takes is a little creativity, an eye for
detail, and $10,000 worth of plastic bricks.