I’m still not finished yet, but on track to be finished this week. I am intentionally not building it in one sitting to give it some time to sink in.
This one too about an hour to build. This phase gives the castle the first set of walls and the main door. Not too much to see here.
This one also took about an hour to build. This phase is a little more exciting than Phase Three, in that there is a lot more detail than we saw in the previous sections.
This one has a movie reference:
There’s Merida’s arrow, quiver, and the target from Brave. The best part? Those little tan circles represent the three cakes that her mother and brothers eat to turn into bears!
Main entrance chandelier:
A Grandfather clock:
As an interesting bit of trivia, all of the clocks in the castle are set for 11:55, locking the castle in the last exciting few minutes before midnight.
A vase of flowers:
While not technically a movie reference, I can’t help but imagine Bedknobs and Broomsticks when I look at the suits of armor.
And all together:
This phase only took about 40 minutes. Minnie joins Mickey:
And the castle gets some walls:
This one took an hour-twenty (I’m tracking the time, because I’m curious how long the total project takes).
A reference to Aladdin (the carpet and lamp):
Just under an hour at 50 minutes. The front is coming together now:
This one took an hour. I constructed both Phase Seven and Phase Eight during the third presidential debate. Building Legos made the show of the debate much easier to deal with. And perhaps with a bit of irony (given that I was watching the debate), Donald Duck joins the castle cast:
And the walls start growing towers:
And then I took a couple days off to get ready for a conference this weekend. This phase took almost an hour, and the towers got flags:
For my upcoming birthday, I decided to get myself the Lego Disney Castle. This is an exclusive set that contains more than 4,000 pieces. I have a profound love of Lego, and it seems that they increasingly turn their sights toward developing model kits, not just free form bricks. That makes my previous posts about why Lego instructions are useful all the more relevant. I don’t often spend my time or money on Lego products any more. For a while, I was obsessively buying the Star Wars models, only to burn out of Star Wars. I’ve sold or gotten rid of most of those sets by now, but I still have my Millennium Falcon, which, until this castle, is my Lego pride and joy.
So I got the castle:
When the castle was released in September, it boasted being the set with the most pieces Lego has ever released. The forthcoming Death Star (!) might actually have a bit more. The price tag is also daunting–a whopping $350 (retail)! Before you scoff at the idea of a box of plastic (by the way, the box itself is as big as my daughter), this set has far more custom parts than I have ever seen in a Lego kit. I can forgive the price and exclusivity. I really can’t imagine Lego mass manufacturing plastic mouse ears…
So last night I started the build. The instruction book is 450 pages, and is a hefty chunk of pages. I’ve noticed a couple new features about Lego kits (I also recently bought a newer set for my daughter’s birthday): one is that the instruction books include an inventory of the pieces that are included in the book, including how many and their part number. This is helpful in case one ever needs to get just a single piece (remember when a kit was ruined forever when it was missing one single key piece?). The other is that the pieces are divided into phases, and numbered accordingly. Given that this castle has 14 phases spread across 30 or so bags, I’m grateful for not having to hunt and peck through all 30 bags. I’m also grateful for not having to have all bags open at once.
There’s another piece that Lego has since designed:
It’s a Brick Separator! I’m convinced that my entire childhood would have been different had I had one of these. One of my complaints with my old bucket of bricks was that certain pieces were IMPOSSIBLE to separate, so I stopped piecing them together. I’m convinced that this tool would have encouraged me to free form build more. (Imagine the possibilities!)
Last night, I started building Phase One and Phase Two. Because I can, I thought I’d share the process. I have a conference next week and I haven’t finished my paper yet, so I think it’s going to take me a little bit to get the whole castle built.
I started Phase One last night at 8:49. This stage included building the foundation for the castle. There’s a lot of detail involved in Phase One; the foundation is 3 layers thick, and it feels like one of the most solid modular foundations (as opposed to a single baseplate) that I’ve ever built on. About halfway through, I found the first film reference:
Yes, those are little Lego frogs. Tiana and Naveen. On lily pads! The castle boasts 14 film references, mostly Princess and Fantasyland films, but it adds a layer of detail that makes this castle even more magical.
I finished Phase One at 10:21, so roughly an hour and a half later, and here’s what I accomplished:
It doesn’t seem like much, but, like I said, it’s a really strong foundation. I’m confident that it’s not going anywhere. Since the final product is over 2 feet tall, a strong base is important.
I began Phase Two at 10:23 with the building of this little guy:
Mickey is one five minifigs that comes in the set. When Disney released the minifig mystery bags over the summer, I got a few of them (I wish I had tried to get more, but I didn’t realize they were a temporary thing…like everything else Disney). I didn’t take a picture of his back, but part of building Mickey includes a little cloth tuxedo tail.
I finished 40ish minutes later at 11:09, and it doesn’t look like much progress:
With any luck, I’ll build a bit more tonight. There’s something truly thrilling about building Legos, and it’s a similar something to knitting a sweater or building IKEA furniture. I enjoy the exercise of taking two dimensional instructions and making the three dimensional product manifest, come to life, and become a tangible object for me to enjoy. So, more to come. Stay tuned!
So, I decided to move in the direction of writing a Second Book, and the idea manifested to also write a Third Book as well. Second Book is going to be an exploration with fellow Disney Doctors, Dori Koehler (author of the forthcoming exegesis of Disneyland and ritual) and Amy Davis (author of such notable classics as Good Girls and Wicked Witches and Handsome Heroes and Vile Villains), exploring Disney Princesses from a few different angles, including the princess as a kore, her role as an archetypal image of American culture, and the evolution of the princess over the history of the films. This is still in the nascent stage, but now that I’ve announced it, that makes it real.
The Third Book is an edited volume for Intellect Books’ Fan Phenomena series. This is a really cool series that looks at fandoms, the culture impact of fandoms, the psychological meaning of fandoms, and how fans connect with their fandoms. Each volume in this series is themed around a specific fandom, and volumes in the series include: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, Star Wars, The Big Lebowski, Twin Peaks, Mermaids… So I’ve proposed a volume to add to the series, one focusing specifically on Disney. From Princesses and Pirates to MousePlanet and Lou Mongello’s WDW tours to the D23 and MMC, this volume plans to explore the delicate intersection between Disney’s consumerist machine versus the organic way that fans connect with Disney.
The aim of this project is academic and focused specifically on the fans, not analyses of the movies etc. The focus is specifically on Disney, not Star Wars or Marvel, because they’re already included in other volumes in the series.
Deadline for proposals isn’t until April, but why not get a head start?
I made the mistake earlier this week of watching the first presidential debate. This debate affected me more emotionally than previous debates ever have, and no amount of very yummy Shiner Oktoberfest could drown my sorrows. Ever since the 2000 election (the first presidential election I was old enough to vote in), I’ve followed politics and media more closely than my happiness would prefer. My interest comes not simply because of political interest, because my liberal arts education actually accomplished what it was supposed to do.
When I was an undergraduate at the University of Houston, two classes had the greatest impact on my view of the world:
In Fall 2000, I took Fascism and German Cinema with Sandy Frieden. On the first day of class, she introduced herself as “a liberal, a feminist, a democrat, and a Jew.” This rather frank introduction gave her an air of authenticity that kept me hanging on every. single. word she said throughout the class. Plus, the sheer exposure to Nazi propaganda and reviewing it through a critical lens exposed me to the power of media that I hadn’t considered up until that point.
In Fall 2002, I took Propaganda and Mass Communication with Garth Jowett. He had us looking more critically at American media and how propaganda techniques are used in both political media and in entertainment to influence cultural perceptions. I remember the fondly when he came in lecturing about then-president George W. Bush. He pointed out that one needs to worry about a world leader who would actually say in a press interview, “After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my daddy.” I later heard that soundbite thanks to Michael Moore, and was even more horrified by the context of that line.
Anyway, in the middle of all this was, obviously, 9/11. It’s hard to go through such a transformative educational experience and not turn a critical eye toward how we, as a country, responded to 9/11 and the aftermath that ensued. This is a difficult perspective to have, and I question whether or not the skepticism that it’s given me is actually healthy…
So it’s even harder to watch political debates like the recent one between Hillary and Trump without massive discomfort. Regardless of one’s political leanings, the debate was a Propaganda Peep Show. All of Trump’s oratory techniques and Hillary’s composure during the entire event was all carefully orchestrated to convince members of either party, and I think it was successful. Liberals are more disgusted by Trump than ever, and I’m going to assume (my Republican friends don’t speak up much around me) that the opinion is mutual on the other side. What really got me, though, as a liberal, feminist, socialist, was that I found myself actually thinking “Yeah! I could vote for Hillary!” I was persuaded. That’s how propaganda works. It’s some external force persuading you to think a certain way, and without you even knowing that it’s happening. That’s what made Nazi propaganda both horrific and successful. It’s what makes me so frightened of Pro-American nationalist rhetoric. It also concerns me that we’re setting up a cultural vibe where the voices of rationalism and reason just can’t be louder than the voices of irrationalism.
As a mother, this election bothers me more than the previous elections. While Mitt Romney wasn’t my first choice for a president, I felt that his politics were far more balanced than several of his fellow Republicans. I was more frightened, since I lived in Texas at the time, about the local elections that were very clearly making an effort to systemically restrict women’s access to healthcare and equal rights for the state’s constituents clearly not in bed with Big Gas and Oil.
This election has me in a panic. It’s not just my daughter’s future on the line, but Just About Everything That Makes America Great is on the line. Our immigration policy, so poetically etched into the base of the Statue of Liberty, is being challenged. Healthcare and student loan reform–my two primary issues–will be thrown back onto the table. And nevermind all of the other stuff that politicians have to deal with. Queue shameless plug for my book for further insights into my thoughts about What Makes America Great. Perhaps it’s a little Mickey Mouse (okay, a LOT, since that’s, you know, kind of the thesis), but I do think that Disneyland perfectly exemplifies American Utopianism and has, in turn, shaped our expectations for cultural constructs.
This is a major turning point for our country. The decisions in November (President, Congress, and Senate) will be game changers, but of what sort depends on the outcome of the elections. Meanwhile, we have to listen closely to the rhetoric. Hillary’s recent campaign about “Is this the president we want for our daughters?” asks a valid question, and it’s the question that will ultimately determine how I vote in November.