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Review: Legoland California blends epic and mini scales for Star Wars Miniland

April 01, 2011|By Brady MacDonald | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
  • Brady MacDonald / Los Angeles Times
Brady MacDonald / Los Angeles Times (60561524.jpg )

The new Star Wars' models take shape at Star Wars Miniland renders epic battles, iconic cityscapes and massive machines in an intimate 1:20 scale at Legoland California.

The new Star Wars attraction, which opened Thursday at the Carlsbad kiddie park, utilized 1.5 million Lego bricks to build a visual timeline stretching from the first film in the series to the latest television cartoons based on the space fantasy, bridging a three-decade gap between parents and children.

Photos: First look at Star Wars Miniland at Legoland California

With approximately 1,400 square feet of models, the totality of Star Wars Miniland would fit inside an average home. On opening day, it felt like every Legoland visitor wanted to see the new attraction at the same time, making for a massive crowd in a relatively small space.

"This is just like what you build," said Debbie Tamondong, of Illinois, pointing to Gungan soldiers and battle droids squaring off in the Battle of Naboo.

"Except a lot better," said her 11-year-old son Cole, who persuaded his parents to plan the family vacation around the Star Wars Miniland grand opening. "And a lot bigger."

And that is the draw of Star Wars Miniland: Anybody could build a 6-foot-long Millennium Falcon if they had 143 hours and 19,200 Lego bricks.

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Star Wars Miniland is a father-and-son dream come true. While the cute and genteel Legoland theme park has always appealed to minivan moms and their stroller-bound charges, the new Star Wars attraction adds a dose of testosterone with its abundance of war machines and battle scenes.

Slack-jawed boys marveled at the models, identifying every Legofied character, spacecraft and subplot while their perpetually adolescent fathers snapped photos of all the miniature scenes. Young and old sized up each Lego model, building backward in their minds, counting bricks and weighing construction strategies as they dreamed of other worlds and imagined the plastic possibilities.

Most of the Star Wars models were built at 1:20 scale, although sizes were occasionally fudged in favor of coherent appearance at the expense of precision accuracy, said Legoland model builder Ryan Ziegelbauer.

"You’ll notice there’s no Death Star," said Ziegelbauer. "It just would have been too massive."

Among my favorite scenes, movie by movie and planet by planet:

Naboo ("Episode I: The Phantom Menace"): Trade Federation battle droids marching in formation backed by hovering attack tanks.

Geonosis ("Episode II: Attack of the Clones"): A terrifying Hailfire droid tank bristling with an array of missiles.

Kashyyyk ("Episode III: Revenge of the Sith"): A massive Clone Turbo Tank that looked bigger than my chocolate Labrador retriever.

Tatooine ("Episode IV: A New Hope"): Tusken Raider sand people riding through the desert atop shaggy bantha creatures.

Hoth ("Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back"): Luke Skywalker dangling by a tether from an All Terrain Armored Transport.

Endor ("Episode VI: Return of the Jedi"): Ewoks playing in a treehouse on the forest moon.

Star Wars Minilands will open at Legolands in Germany and Denmark later this summer.

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