The latest LEGO Ideas set, 21322 Pirates of Barracuda Bay, does a few things. It offers an intricate, detailed building experience. It fits two distinct models into one box. Most of all though, it references the classic LEGO Pirates in a thorough and heartfelt way.
To capture that feel, LEGO Model Designer Milan Madge and LEGO Graphic Designer Austin Carlson thought about everything – from the look of the Jolly Roger flag to the colour of the sand. In this exclusive interview, the two creatives discuss that process.
How did you capture the look of the classic jolly roger flag while still updating it?
Austin: That was a very long discussion – but a good one – because this is the fourth version. There is the original, then there is the second one which is a bit more cartoony, but the skull head is closer to a minifigure shape, then the third one has swords. Essentially the discussion we had was about getting it as close as possible to the original whilst aligning to our current standard of minifigures. If I remember the traits correctly, the bones should be identical to the original. The silhouette of the head is closer to a minifigure head and uses the decoration from the minifigure skull.
Milan: The thing that I really like about a lot of LEGO themes, but old Pirates in particular, is there is no good guy or bad guy. The kid can choose who they want to be good, who they want to be bad, it’s about creating a world in which kids can do whatever they want. When I played with pirates as a kid the pirates were always the good guys.
I remember having this discussion with Austin when we were making the jolly roger, I remember saying, “just please don’t make it look angry. Don’t put angry eyes on it.” Firstly, I get confused by that angry skull thing anyway, but also I like it just being neutral – as neutral as a skull and cross bones can be – so you can choose what side it is.
Austin: It just brings back the original charm of what made it good in the first place.
Was there anything else in the model that you tried to replicate from the classic sets?
Milan: I made a version that I have thrown out, I am a bit disappointed about that – I should have kept to show people – but I made a version with yellow sand and blue water to see what it would be. To be honest, it looked horrible.
Austin: Yeah, I remember that version [laughs].
The build process seems to be particularly thought out in this set, to be varied and engaging. Was that a conscious effort?
Milan: There are lots of hidden things. When you are building the first island, the island splits into two islands. When you build the first island you build a complete island, a little coral reef and a dock for the boat. If you stop after bag 5 you have a complete world there, you have a whole island, with some minifigures. I didn’t want it to feel unfinished if you stopped at any point of the process.
Austin: You want to make sure that kid or adult is enjoying that build through experience. What separates us from other toys is that, it is not just opening up a box and you have the thing already made. It is like you are basically learning how you can actually hack into it and alter it, it does matter if you are making it an easy enough language so people can learn that while building through the set.