Exclusive interview: distilling 25 years of LEGO Star Wars into a single book

From interviewing in a heatwave to having his mind blown over Brian Blessed, Graham E. Hancock reveals the ins and outs of LEGO Star Wars: The Force of Creativity to Brick Fanatics.

Available to pre-order from May 1 with a release date of July 20, the coffee table book – written and published to celebrate the 25th anniversary of LEGO Star Wars – promises to dive deeper than ever into the history of a brick-built galaxy far, far away, covering everything from sets and minifigures to video games and community creations.

Former Brick Fanatics editor Graham E. Hancock was responsible for putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys, perhaps), pulling together more than 60,000 words across 312 pages. And while there were parts of the project that would prove tricky – more on that later – the bones of it came together in his head over the course of one very productive training session.

“When the publisher and I were talking about what the book could be, I wrote a paragraph saying it should have this in it, and it should have that in it, and it should treat LEGO Star Wars pretty seriously and so on,” Graham tells Brick Fanatics. “I sent that email, and then I went to the gym. And the whole time I was at the gym, I could not get this book out of my head.

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“I was thinking, ‘Well, this could be the prologue, and then you should have a chapter on this, you could have a chapter on this… but what if you talk to that person? Then you can have a chapter on this. And literally, the whole thing was just forming in my mind so quickly. So when I got home from the gym, I wrote another email out with an entire structure for the book and sent it over to the publisher and they were super thrilled with it.”

If you’ve got any other recent LEGO titles on your bookshelf, you’ll probably be at least vaguely familiar with The Force of Creativity’s publisher AMEET. And Graham says he was pretty much instantly aligned with them on the primary audience for his book, which was always destined to be adult fans.

“I cannot say enough good things about how much the publisher supported me on this, and let me really write a book that would be relevant to the real LEGO Star Wars fans, to people who are really passionate about LEGO Star Wars, LEGO toys and Star Wars toys,” he says. “Those are people I always had in mind and I had the support to make sure that we were speaking to those people.”

With a plan of action in mind, Graham set about gathering material for the book. And with over 50 different people quoted in the finished copy, that meant setting up a lot of interviews – including several with the LEGO Star Wars team that were crammed into just a few sweltering days in Billund.

“The venue where we did the interviews was [LEGO founder] Ole Kirk Christiansen’s house,” Graham recalls. “There was something really nice about being somewhere that was embedded with a history. But it was the middle of a heatwave in Denmark and because it’s such an old building, the temperature was so high.

“We were doing these interviews pretty much back to back, because I wanted to see as many people as I could while I was over there. Doing these sorts of interviews is always better when you can connect with people in person. There’s just something different about doing these things face to face. But my initial memory of those days is how much water I was drinking, and how warm it was in the room that we were doing the interviews.”

While Graham was piecing together the initial pieces of the book’s narrative, the general direction for each of its chapters started to crystallise. As those fortunate enough to get their hands on The Force of Creativity will discover, though, it doesn’t start with Chapter 1: first there’s a prologue, and before that a foreword (more on that later).

“The design of Star Wars is so essential to everything LEGO Star Wars does, for obvious reasons,” Graham says. “I was thinking, ‘How do you set that up? How do you get everyone in the mindset of this before you start them reading about LEGO model design, LEGO minifigure design and so on? The best person in the world to talk about that kind of thing is Doug Chiang, who was handpicked by George Lucas to lead the concept art team on the prequel movies.

“Other than Ralph McQuarrie, there’s no one who has done more to determine the look of Star Wars than Doug Chiang. He’s just an incredible, creative human being. So the prologue to the book is a conversation between Doug Chiang and Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, who’s the design director on LEGO Star Wars. I thought it was really important to get those two guys talking for it, because they both understand design, but from very different perspectives.”

From there, we get to the meat of the book. Things kick off by exploring the origins of the LEGO Group and Lucasfilm’s relationship ‘in a much deeper way than has been done before’, says Graham, and the ways in which the LEGO Star Wars theme – which arrived on shelves only a year after the partnership was announced – established new production precedents for the LEGO Group as a whole.

“At the time, it took two to three years for LEGO sets to be designed,” Graham explains. “And for a new LEGO theme to launch, it would have been an elongated timeframe. But they reduced the timeframe that it takes to design the models for the first batch of LEGO Star Wars sets, and a lot of the practices that they put into place to make that happen are things that were then expanded out to other LEGO themes, since they were kind of new ways of working that they pioneered to make LEGO Star Wars happen in time.”

The book then proceeds through the following chapters: a deep dive into LEGO Star Wars sets, with an overview of the design process from start to finish; the same again but for minifigure and character design, including unusual figures like Jabba the Hutt and the Taun-Taun; the LEGO Star Wars video games; the animated specials and series, including an interview with C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels; the innovative and experimental products in LEGO Star Wars history, like MINDSTORMS and buildable figures; big build experiences, like the life-size X-wing in Times Square; and finally, a spotlight on fan creativity that showcases creations from the community.

There’s plenty to pick out in and amongst those chapters, most of which you’ll need to get your hands on The Force of Creativity for yourself to discover, but the LEGO Group has already teased a glimpse at a couple of unreleased LEGO Star Wars buildable figures.

“The LEGO Group needs to be protective with that stuff, and one of the reasons is that a good idea never goes away,” Graham says, before referring to the sketch model of the Yavin 4 Rebel HQ shown off in the 2009 LEGO Star Wars Visual Dictionary, which ultimately materialised last year as 75365 Yavin 4 Rebel Base. “But obviously there are some things that we know about. We know that there was a Super Battle Droid and Clone Trooper on an AT-RT planned for the buildable figures series.

“I was able to speak to the designer behind a lot of the buildable figures, and I just said, ‘Wouldn’t it be so nice to be able to show the LEGO Star Wars fans these two models that they knew were designed and were going to be released?’ And everyone was super pleased to be able to show these two figures and be able to give fans a taste of what they looked like, because of all the work that had gone into designing them.”

That wasn’t the only nugget Graham was able to unearth during the writing process. One of his favourite memories of compiling information for the book is rewatching the animated specials, and clocking Brian Blessed’s name in the credits for The Padawan Menace.

“I was like, ‘That’s really strange,’” he recalls. “Boss Nass didn’t have any dialogue in that show. He just did the noise that he does in the movie. And honestly, would they have had to credit him if they had just taken that sound effect from The Phantom Menace? So when I spoke to [writer] Mike Price, I asked him. And they did get Brian Blessed to record the Boss Nass noise just for that special, and I was absolutely amazed by that. It’s a level of authenticity that you probably didn’t need to go to.

“But those are the sorts of really nerdy details I was able to ask people about. And, you know, some of them didn’t make it into the book, because there’s not room for everything, and you still have to make sure that this is a narrative, and that it’s focusing on the most important and interesting aspects of whatever you’re writing about. So sometimes those little anecdotes and things you’d have to leave out. But there were so many stupid little things like that, that I was able to ask about.”

The Force of Creativity isn’t just a book: it’s also stuffed with an entire time capsule of collector’s items, from a print of an unreleased Zam Wesell minifigure to an unused script for a LEGO Star Wars animated special.

“One thing we talked about at the beginning was that it would be nice to have some limited-edition prints that people can frame,” Graham says. “And when that idea started getting kicked around, I pitched the idea of rather than just having prints with it, what if we had a time capsule with different artifacts from throughout the history of LEGO Star Wars? We couldn’t have LEGO in – it had to be flat things that would fit in a box with a book.

“But it occurred to me the thing that sparked off the entire collaboration between LEGO and Star Wars was the invite to the 1999 Toy Fair, which is a little cardboard box that was sent out to toy buyers. It has a diorama of Luke Skywalker fighting Darth Vader, and when you open it up, it plays the Star Wars theme tune. So it’s a really cool artifact of LEGO Star Wars history, but no one can have it because it was so rare.

“What if we had a version of that where you just got the box flat, and then you could fold it up and build your own scene and put it inside? This thing is so expensive to buy on the aftermarket, and the next best thing is having your own replica of it. So it was things like that that made it feel like such a compelling concept. And again, once we started kicking the idea back and forth, it just seemed like the right thing to do because the book is looking at 25 years of LEGO Star Wars.

“In addition to that Toy Fair box, we’ve got a script for an unproduced LEGO Star Wars animation written by Michael Price, who’s an executive producer on The Simpsons. It would have been a LEGO Star Wars late night talk show hosted by the Emperor. And this is something that wasn’t made and won’t be made. But we get to see it, we get a little peek into the script for it, because we were able to put it in the time capsule.”

Image: Brickset

So, that foreword: as you might already have heard, none other than Star Wars legend Billy Dee Williams has penned the introductory passage to The Force of Creativity.

“He’s voiced Lando Calrissian in a lot of different LEGO things over the years, including in The LEGO Movie, which has to be the all-time best cameo in a film ever,” Graham says. “Emmet and the master builders are stuck in the middle of the sea, and one of them says, ‘What, do you think a spaceship’s just going to pop out of nowhere and have a hyperdrive?’

“And then the Millennium Falcon turns up, and then you get Billy Dee and Batman having this back and forth. And it’s just everything as a kid that you play out with your LEGO minifigures but happening on the screen in front of you, and it’s glorious. Billy Dee Williams had that connection with LEGO Star Wars that made him feel like a really appropriate person to write the foreword to the book.”

The Force of Creativity will be available to pre-order from May 1 for £129.99 / $149.99 / €149.99, with a release date of July 20.

Don’t forget to check out all of this year’s LEGO May the 4th deals – which are already underway at LEGO.com and several third-party retailers – and the rest of our 25 Years of LEGO Star Wars coverage.

Support the work that Brick Fanatics does by purchasing your LEGO using our affiliate links.

Author Profile

Chris Wharfe
I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then.

Chris Wharfe

I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then.

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