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LEGO® Sonic Mania™: From Idea to 
Retail Set 


Sam Johnson's first reaction when he saw that the LEGO Group may be designing a new set 
based on SEGA's® beloved Sonic the Hedgehog™ was elation, that was followed quickly by 
a sense of dread. 


"The first game | had was Sonic the Hedgehog," said Johnson, who is the design manager 
on the LEGO Ideas® line. "So immediately that kind of childhood connection kicks in and 
you have all these nostalgic feelings of, 'l really hope this goes through and | really want to 
be a part of it if it does.' And then | had this dread of, ‘Well, how are we going to make 
Sonic?" 


Earlier this month, the LEGO Group announced it was in the process of creating a Sonic the 
Hedgehog set based on a concept designed by 24-year-old UK LEGO® superfan Viv 
Grannell. Her creation was submitted through the LEGO Ideas platform where it received 
10,000 votes of support from LEGO fans. 








LEGO® Ideas | Product Idea 
Sonic Mania - Green Hill Zone 











The next step was the LEGO Group reviewing her project among the many others that 
make it past that initial hurdle to see if it should be put into production. 


Johnson said he found Grannell's build charming. 


“It's so much in the vein of the actual video game itself which has this kind of colorful 
charm to it," he said. "And it's not over complicated, which | really loved. Sonic has this 
real geometric design to it where the landscape is very stripey and you have these like 
square patterns on it. And it was visually all there, which | was really happy about." 


The submission, entitled Sonic Mania Green Hill Zone, is based on the 2017 SEGA game and 
the beloved Green Hill Zone level. It Also features Dr. Eggman and others from the world of 
Sonic. 


Creator Grannell said she decided to build a Sonic set because the series is so important to 
her. 


“It's a vibrant, earnest world that's not afraid to experiment, perhaps to dangerous degrees 
- but what is a life if not lived on the edge?" she said. “Coupled with the fact that SEGA's 
not only tolerant but encouraging regarding all kinds of fan works | grew up experimenting 
with, and that's got good synergy with the creative play of the LEGO system." 


She added that she also felt that the LEGO Dimensions Sonic offering just scraped the 
surface of what could be done with the gaming franchise in LEGO bricks. 


Once the LEGO Group settled on Grannell's design they had to seek permission from SEGA. 
Fortunately, SEGA had already heard about the project via social media and loved it. 


"Viv had so many special touches and attention to detail for the set in her design: the 
iconic characters - Sonic and Dr. Eggman coming out there - really kind of bringing 
everything to life," said John Choon, director of marketing at SEGA. "We thought when we 
first saw that it was just such a tribute to Sonic and it was just really so classically designed 
that it was a great collaboration and fit for what Sonic represents." 


Now that it is officially approved by both the LEGO Group and SEGA, the two are working 
together on deciding what the final design will look like. SEGA's licensing team is working 
with the LEGO Group on concepts and different versions of the product. 


LEGO Group's Johnson said the two groups also try to ensure that the final product is 
something that fans of LEGO sets and Sonic the Hedgehog would want as well. 


"We have eventually have to make some decisions on the look, the content and how we 
go about marketing the product and how it is released as well," he said. "We also need to 
allocate designers to the project." 


Because the LEGO Ideas sets are one-off projects, Johnson said the team will often borrow 
people from other LEGO Group teams, specifically looking for people who are passionate 
about the particular project. 


In this case, he's assigned himself because he's such a big fan of Sonic. 


It's not the first time Johnson was able to do the design work on a LEGO Ideas project 
based on a beloved property. He was also the lead designer on the LEGO Doctor Who set 


21304 that was released in 2015. In that case Johnson relied on a bit of star-power to get 
the job: His uncle is Paul McGann, who portrayed the eighth Doctor. 


No word yet on what exactly will be included in the final Sonic LEGO set, how much it will 
cost, or when it will come out. 

Explore more... 

In order of appearance 

Sonic Mania —- Official website 

Sonic the Hedgehog - Official website 
LEGO Ideas - Official website 

Sonic Mania - Green Hill Zone - LEGO Ideas 
Doctor Who — LEGO Ideas 

Voltron - LEGO Ideas 

Grand Piano - LEGO Ideas 


Tree House - LEGO Ideas 


Transcript 


Bits N' Bricks Season 1 Episode 10: LEGO® Sonic Mania™: A Conversation 


February, 10 2021 - 0:44:25 


Bricks 





Bits N' Bricks: Introduction - 00:00 


(Child's voice announcing Bits N' Bricks) 


Ethan Vincent 
Welcome to Bits N' Bricks, a podcast about all things LEGO games. I'm Ethan Vincent- 


Brian Crecente 


- and I'm Brian Crecente. Together we look back at the rich 25-year history of LEGO games, 
chat with early developers and seasoned studios who have all tackled the creation of video 
games for one of the most popular and respected toy companies in the world - the LEGO 
Group. 


Chapter 1: LEGO Sonic Mania - 00:33 


(Introduction music) 


Ethan Vincent 


So, Brian, today we're going to be talking about some exciting news to hit the world of 
LEGO bricks recently. It's SEGA's® iconic blue blur, Sonic the Hedgehog™, and he's getting 
his very own LEGO theme set. 


Brian Crecente 


Yeah, | couldn't be more excited. This actually isn't the first time the diminutive speedster 
is getting a minifigure of his own though. He showed up as an expansion pack with LEGO 
Dimensions, but this time around, it's not just going to be him. 


(Sonic Mania music) 


Ethan Vincent 


That's partially tied to the way this all came about a 24 year old super fan named Viv 
Grannell submitted a Sonic theme set to LEGO Ideas®, and once her project got 10,000 
votes from fans, the LEGO Group assessed whether it would make a good set and after 


consulting with SEGA, of course, decided it would. So they've green-lit it for official 
production and release. 


Brian Crecente 


Yeah, one of the things | really love about this set that Viv made is that it's not really based 
on the original Sonic the Hedgehog, instead it's based on the 2017 Sonic Mania game. 


(Sonic Mania game sounds) 


Brian Crecente 


The cool thing about that game is that its development was actually led by this guy named 
Christian "Taxman" Whitehead, who is a developer who got his start creating a bunch of 
Sonic the Hedgehog fan games. So his work, which was so well received by not just SEGA, 
but a bunch of fans of Sonic the Hedgehog, ended up leading to him getting a job from 
SEGA who hired him to make these sort of smartphone ports. And eventually they brought 
him on to lead development on Sonic Mania, which was meant to be this sort of, | guess 
you could call it sort of a combination of a look at the classic Sonic and sort of updating 
him. So Sonic Mania, when it came out 2017, went on to become the highest rated Sonic 
game in the past 15 years. 


Ethan Vincent 


Wow, okay so, this is kind of meta, right? There's a LEGO brick fan creation based ona 
SEGA game fan creation, is that right? 


Brian Crecente 


Yeah. | mean, that's exactly right. And while the Sonic Mania - Greenhill Zone fan set that 
was made for LEGO Ideas, isn't a LEGO video game, it's so much up our alley here at Bits N' 
Bricks that we decided to do an episode about it. And we were lucky enough to interview 
folks from the LEGO Group, from SEGA, and even the fan creator Vic Grannell. 


Ethan Vincent 


Yes. And so we're going to dive straight into this first section, looking at the LEGO Ideas' 
creation process and who better to talk to than Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson, Samuel 
Johnson, who is the design manager on the LEGO Ideas' line. But | also have to add here, 
Brian, in addition to reviewing LEGO fan creations, Sam is an incredible designer with the 
LEGO Group who has helped design several LEGO themes from LEGO City, to LEGO 
Ninjago, LEGO Harry Potter, and LEGO Jurassic World. | mean just an immense amount of 
sets he's been a part of and helped design. So let's go ahead and dive into our first 
conversation here with Sam. 


Chapter 2: Conversation with Samuel Johnson - 03:47 


(Game music) 


Brian Crecente 


So when you first saw Viv's Ideas build, what was it that you thought? Was there any initial 
thoughts you had when you first saw her build for the Sonic set? 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


Yes, yeah, that one has been really exciting to me. It's the, you know, the first video games, 
like the first video games console that | had was the SEGA Mega Drives, which it's called in 
the UK, or the SEGA Genesis in the US. Yeah, | had a SEGA Mega Drive, which my dad 
bought for me, and the first game | had was Sonic the Hedgehog. So immediately that kind 
of childhood connection kicks in, right? And you have all these nostalgic feelings of | really 
hope this goes through and | really want to be a part of it if it does. And then | had this 
dread of, well, how are we going to make Sonic? How are we going to make Sonic the 
Hedgehog? And because we had the LEGO Dimensions that came out some years ago 
now, and that's also finished and gone, and | was just wondering, does the LEGO Sonic still 
exist? Can we still bring him to life? So that was a kind of scary feeling that | had of like, 
well, if we say that we can do it, then we need to have Sonic, you know? You can't do the 
set without him. 


Brian Crecente 


Right, absolutely. Was there anything in particular about her build that stood out? 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


Yeah, | really like how it's kind of charming the build. It's not very, you know, complex in it's 
build the same way that we sometimes get, you know, the Medieval Blacksmith that just 
came out - where it's this really elaborate build to create a house - it's really simplistic, and 
it's so much in the vein of the actual video game itself where it has this kind of colorful 
charm to it, and it's not over-complicated, which | really loved. You know, Sonic has this 
real geometric design to it where, you know, the landscape is very stripey and, you know, 
you have these like square patterns on it. And it was really like, visually it was all there 
which | was really happy about, bright colors and just really fun to look at. 


Ethan Vincent 


So, Sam, in looking at this set and seeing this fan creation, what would you say was there in 
particular about this creation that really won the team over? 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


| think something that was really winning for us was the way that Viv presented it, you 
know, it was really kind of naive in its way of being presented with having hand-drawn 
details on, where some people try really hard to replicate the exactness of, maybe a Star 
Wars spaceship or something like that. But she's really gone into this level of, | really want 
to get my ideas out on the page, and you can just really see her like, thoughts from her 
brain splashing onto the page where it's really fast and it's really, you know...but it looks 
exactly like how you would want Sonic to look, you know, it's simplistic and colorful. But 
the team was really just excited about, you know, it's a really cool gaming IP that LEGO 
Dimensions had back in the day and never really took advantage of how cool it really is. So 
we're really hoping that by taking it on, we can really give, you know, something that 
everyone has really been wanting for a really long time. 


Brian Crecente 


| think personally, | think it's so cool that this is a set that's not just based on Sonic, but 
specifically on Sonic Mania, which in and of itself was a fan sort of creation. Was that 
something that you liked or in terms of which Sonic she chose to go with? Were you happy 
with that decision? 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


Yeah, so as | heard her choice of Sonic Mania, it really is a bit of everything from the whole 
Sonic World, that game, you know, it has the fan background to it where, you know, the 
fans have been helping to create the game, and just have hands in nearly every aspect of it. 
But then it also hearkens back to the origin of Sonic, where it came from and what 
everyone has grown up with or experienced over their life, you know, maybe you didn't 
start off with the original Sonic, maybe you came in as it became more 3D, and it has a bit 
of everything in it, this game. So | really think that it was a great choice for her to go with 
that. And, yeah, it really speaks to the anniversary, the huge 30th anniversary that Sonic has 
coming up very soon. 


Brian Crecente 


Right, Yeah, no, obviously that's great timing. So you, once you all have looked at a project 
that has received 10,000 votes, and then you accept it. What is sort of the next step? What 
is the process of taking this idea creation and turning it into an official LEGO Group release? 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


So what my role is, once we get the kind of go ahead and say, we've made the arguments 
of which project we should do, and then we have a team that's making the decision of it's 
going to be that one. So we say, well you're going to do Sonic Mania, and that's the one 
we're going to go ahead with. And so then one of the big things is contacting the people 
who own that IP. So in this case, it's SEGA, and we've been in dialogue with SEGA in the UK 
who are working directly with Sonic the Hedgehog. And, we're having a lot of discussions 


about, you know, what are SEGA's plans and what are LEGO Ideas' plans for the project 
and how can we align and to create a product that is what they want, but also what the 
fans themselves who voted for this, what they're asking for. So we have eventually to make 
some decisions on the look, the content, and you know, and how we go about marketing 
the products and how it's released to the world. And then my job as the design manager is 
to allocate the design team to it - to that project. So whichever project it is we're always 
looking for the most passionate people, or, you know, also the most available people to us, 
because we actually borrow a lot of our designers from other teams because they really 
show passion in these one-off projects. So we're looking for the right people to do it, and | 
was able to get a graphic designer, her name's Lauren to work with me on the project, and 
she's real big fan of SEGA and Sonic as well. And, | was also a little bit selfish where | said, 
I'm going to do this, so! was able to be the designer on the set as well as leading the team 
as well. So | put myself back into the pool of designers, if you like. 


Ethan Vincent 


That's great. So you obviously look at this creation, you look at, you know, let the fans want 
here and what SEGA's interested in. What do you do in terms of design? | mean, do you try 
to stick to that original fan design or do you tend to expand upon it, or even like remove 
elements when you're converting it over to the official. 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


Yeah, so we're ultimately trying to respect what the fans created and also the other 10,000 
fans that have voted what they actually voted for. So | really want us to be able to deliver 
what people have asked for. So, what our discussion with IP partner, for example, SEGA is 
who we're talking about now, our discussion with them would be, we really want to keep 
the essence of this, you know, the charm, that Viv put into this design, but we also want to 
offer something special that maybe people aren't expecting, or maybe something that links 
to a world event that's coming up. 


Brian Crecente 


Yeah, it's great to see these sort of relationships building between the LEGO Group and 
different game studios. Obviously we saw that with Nintendo, and so one can't help but 
wonder, is this just the first, the first creation? Personally, | would love to see something 
like a LEGO brick created Game Gear or Dreamcast. Do you think something like that could 
ever be in the works? 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


| think for LEGO Ideas, we always hoped that that one off idea may be the spark that ignites 
something maybe much bigger, you know, so if you think about when LEGO Ideas was 
quite early on, we took on the Ghostbusters IP. And Ghostbusters, there was not really a lot 
going on for that IP at that time, so it was very kind of risky for the LEGO Group to take on 
the IP and with no movie attached, no anniversary or anything. And now you look at what 


happens to that IP after that, you know, LEGO Dimensions and LEGO Ideas, and then 
further, LEGO Ghostbusters product. You know, it really expanded into something huge for 
the LEGO Group. And then, | can't talk about that without mentioning LEGO Minecraft, 
which came from LEGO CUUSOO, which evolved into LEGO Ideas. And you think about this 
one tiny box that we made for, | think it was $24.99 or $34.99, it was really quite a small 
box. There's now spawned to this entire product assortment. It's really fantastic that we 
can open up the eyes of the LEGO Group and see like - oh look at this cool opportunities 
that are out there. So we always hope that by taking this leap of faith into, right now SEGA, 
that maybe this is just the start of something massive. | hope that for every product that we 
make. 


Brian Crecente 


Yeah, I'm sure that there are a lot of people who would love that. It's interesting you bring 
up Ghostbusters, and it makes us think about this idea that, you know, some of these IPS 
that you just talked about tend to do really well on LEGO Ideas. Do you feel that IP related 
builds have a better chance at winning over approval and fans when they go through the 
Ideas project? 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


Oh, that's a tough question because | know from...you know, it's just a fact that every IP 
has it fandom, right? So whether it's a vehicle IP, say Ferrari, or it could be a movie IP like 
the Avengers, it could be down to furniture or something like that. There's an IP for 
everything. So when you tap into that icon that everyone knows, or a huge group of 
people know, of course then maybe you have people who really love that because of that 
IP, which is why we choose a lot of brand new IP in LEGO Ideas because we feel like maybe 
it brings new people that we've never seen have an opportunity to own a LEGO set, and 
now they have something for them as well. So of course it has a great chance because 
there is this following out there that may come to the LEGO Ideas' platform. But then when 
you think about original ideas that someone has just come in, come up within their head 
and sketched down and made a cool model out of, | would say that they have an equal 
chance because, you know, there's just some great ideas out there, like the Tree House, 
which launched in 2019, you know it's a really awesome LEGO model and really been selling 
great and really reached a lot of people, not because we put an IP spin on it, but because it 
just meant something to people, you know, it has that dream of, you know, the dream tree 
house that everyone wanted when they were a kid, but their dad never built it in the 
garden for them, or something like that. And so we have a very strict process of the LEGO 
review...the LEGO Idea's review gate that, you know, iron things out and make it equal for 
everyone that reaches 10,000 votes. So we're looking at lots of different criteria. But then 
when you think about just on the platform itself, that there's many ideas that we have 
never, never even thought of ourselves like a musical piano. We've never even thought 
about doing that as a LEGO set, but 10,000 people showed us the way to do it. And that 
was really cool that people see - Oh, | really like music. And this really shows me something 


special with LEGO bricks. So if you have an original idea and it has that kind of special spark 
to it, | would say it has as good a chance as anyone. 


Brian Crecente 


Do you have a favorite among the Ideas sets that you've either worked on or you've seen 
released? 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


Yeah. | mean, | don't want to feel...l don't want to be biased to any of them 'cause | really 
think LEGO Ideas has such a strong product assortment. It's just all kinds of crazy things. I'm 
super proud of LEGO Voltron that we launched back in, | think it was '17, 2017, where it is 
before | was working permanently on the LEGO Ideas' team where | was working for a 
team called LEGO Nexo Knights back in the day, if you can imagine 2014, when that came 
out, | think it was 2016 Nexo Knights was launched. And the design lead on LEGO Ideas at 
the time, Tara Wike actually, which | believe you've interviewed her before - she works on 
the minifigure's team. She was walking around my area and talking to the people who like 
to make LEGO robots as their hobby. And, she was showing them a picture of this LEGO 
Voltron model that was made by a guy called Lendy asking, like, what do you think, do you 
think we could do it? And everyone's like, nah, | don't think so, | mean, look how big it is. 
You know, it's never going to stand. It's never going to be stable. And then - Hey, it has 
this huge transformation where it has to split into five lions. And, | was sitting there 
listening to this conversation and | literally just went to her and | took the piece of paper 
out of her hand and said, give me that, I'll give you a LEGO Voltron. And so | made myself 
the designer on it right there and then | was like - I'll give this to you. And, | couldn't do it. | 
was not good enough (laughs) | really tried. | really tried my best, and | took it to like a 
forum where we talked about, would it be possible with all this weight and this structure 
and everything. And | showed them how | imagined it working. And | had a kind of working 
prototype if you like, but it just wasn't there. You know, it wasn't stable. And then | had this 
guy who was relatively new to the company, his name's Niek, and he was hanging around 
my desk like - Are you going to...is this a real product, you know, is this is going to be a real 
thing? And we were trying to keep it secret from everyone, but you can't really hide a 40 
centimeter robot that sat on your desk, you know, you can't really hide that. So | ended up 
just saying to him, yeah, you know, | can't do it. I'm really struggling. And he said to me, do 
you mind if | try? And so we got together and we tried out some different ideas. So we had 
it in all different sizes and proportions to try and realize it, make it for real. And, then | went 
on some holiday with my kids and when | came back, Niek had nailed it, you know, he'd 
really done a great job and he got it to work and got it to be stable. And then it ended up 
on the shelf. So really proud that we managed to do that. 


Ethan Vincent 


Wow. 


Brian Crecente 


That's awesome. 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


And | think another one that I'm really happy about is LEGO Doctor Who, which is from 
2015, I think it quite awhile ago now. That's the first LEGO Ideas' set that | designed. | was 
looking on Twitter at the time, which is like old days of Twitter, and | saw someone posting 
about that LEGO Idea submission before it reached to 10,000 saying, how cool would this 
be? And he tagged all these actors who had played the doctor in Doctor Who, and one of 
them actually responded to him saying, that would be awesome, but only if Sam Johnson 
gets to be the LEGO designer on it - that's crazy, right? So | screenshot at that statement 
and | sent it to the LEGO Ideas' team and | said, Hey guys, even the doctor wants me to be 
the designer on Doctor Who, how can you say no to this? And, you know, they had other 
people approach them and say, | want to be the designer. I'm a big fan. And I'd send them 
- the doctor wants me to do this. And so | got the gig to design the product, worked with 
BBC on how design it, and then it was later that | actually revealed to them, when we were 
writing the story for the building instruction, was that actually this actor who played 
doctor, the doctor in Doctor Who, his name's Paul McGann, who played the eighth doctor, 
he's actually my uncle. 


(Laughter) 


Brian Crecente 


So, so you played everybody. 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


Yeah, totally. 


Ethan Vincent 


Total insider card. That was a good one. 
(Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson laughs) 


Brian Crecente 


That's great. 


Ethan Vincent 


I think | just got a really good insight into the process and I'm not talking about this really 
fun nepotistic moment- 


(Laughter) 


Ethan Vincent 


-but I'm talking more about like this idea of how intricate and complicated and interesting 
it is to first of all, have designs come in that maybe stump you, right? Where you go, huh, 
this is amazing. How did they do this? And immediately, | guess there's an impulse to 
dismiss, right? And say, this is never going to work structurally. It doesn't work. It's not 
really within the LEGO DNA, all this stuff. But it is interesting once the designers then go 
through that process and break it down and kind of maybe, for lack of a better analogy in 
music, like transpose it into like proper LEGO DNA, then it starts working and coming to 
life. | find that so fascinating, Sam. 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


Yeah. | think, you know, it's not just only LEGO Ideas where this happens, you know? | 
Imagine all those designers working in Star Wars, every time they see one of the new 
movies, they're like - Oh no, look at that spaceship - you know, because it could be, you 
know, a real crazy shape or something like that. But LEGO Ideas, the platform, it gives 
people the right to go and make whatever they want. And if they can make it work in their 
own home, then they can submit it. So then it's my job to realize it in the real world, you 
know, working on the International Space Station, which we launched early last year, we 
realized very quickly that the International Space Station is not made to be built in earth 
gravity. So it was very difficult to make that structure, even though the model is a 
miniature, to make that structure it was very heavy weight, very huge solar panels on each 
end to make that work in earth gravity. So that was actually a huge challenge for us to stop 
it from snapping in half and all this kind of thing. And so there's just...the LEGO Group has 
very strict stability guidelines and quality guidelines, and we really want to meet those 
every time. So we're really trying our best to do our diligence in making great techniques 
for building and making it fun for everyone to build, and also in LEGO Ideas, we're just 
daring to make something that's a bit more off the wall and a bit different and really not 
just another model, but like a whole experience, you know, it should be experience from 
the minute that you purchase the set or even pick up the set on the shelf to opening it, to 
building it, to enjoying the build, to enjoying it on display in your house, and then maybe 
even smashing it again at the end. 


Ethan Vincent 


That's awesome. | wanted to ask a little bit about the creation process. | know that there 
was an early concept called LEGO Factory as well, which relied on LDD and, you know, 
individuals really... | guess maybe die-hard kind of LEGO fans to create their creations 
digitally and then submit those and LEGO Factory would do that. Do you find that many of 
those participating in LEGO Ideas are that digitally literate and submit it in that form? Or 
how do you normally get your submissions and how does that work maybe with the digital 
front? 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


Yeah, it's actually surprisingly a lot of the fans on LEGO Ideas, quite versed in using, LEGO 
Digital Designer, or perhaps Studio from BrickLink or maybe some other software that they 
have at hand. So a lot of the submissions we're receiving maybe the 3D design that goes 
with it, the files for that, at which we're able to...which really gives us a good kickstart on 
starting the design and really making those shapes that the designer has originally had in 
their head while sitting at home building with their own bricks or on the computer. And 
with this we often get a submission, like the tree house, which | mentioned before, where 
all we had was around 10 photographs from Kevin because he, you know, that wasn't his 
hobby wasn't building digitally, he just likes to have the hands-on experiences of holding 
LEGO bricks in his hand. And so you get, you know, LEGO Ideas it opens up for all different 
kinds of people with all different levels of experience in perhaps design, or presentation, or 
you know, it could...or maybe they just do it for fun. 


Ethan Vincent 


Awesome. 


Brian Crecente 


So, I'm curious, Sam, with this particular set with the Sonic set, was it...was that a digital 
creation, a physical? How did that come to you and how do you think it was crafted? 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


Yeah, so speaking with Viv she of course has the LEGO Dimensions Sonic set, which she 
very proudly got on her desk. But then we had been looking at her submission and you can 
see, you can often see from the images whether it's a render from a 3D software or if it's a 
photograph, just because that's what we're working with, you know, every day when we 
look at packaging, for example, so whether it's going to be a render or if it's going to be a 
photograph which some boxes have. So we can quickly see that her submission was a 
render. But | was wondering if she had actually built any of it for real, because there's also 
some things we find, like the Blacksmith, Clemens had never actually seen the model in real 
life. So the first time he saw it was on our end while we're holding it on webcast- 


Brian Crecente 


Oh wow. 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


-speaking with him. So | had to...I'd also ask, have you, have you tried to build any of it for 
real? And she's like, yeah. And she showed me Doctor Eggman, the model that she had on 
her desk there that she'd been trying out and stuff. And obviously not every brick is 
available in every color. So maybe requires the, you know, painting a brick if you dare, or 
going on to LDD and making your own colors of the bricks in the software there. 


Brian Crecente 


Right, right. 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


So she, so she had built her submission in the software and then drawn over it...it looked...it 
was perhaps, like paint or something like that. You know, Microsoft paint to draw the 
details on it. It was really fun to see though, it was like hand-drawn details and everything, 
but using three...digital software. But that...so she was able to hand over a lot of her files 
of, you know, | built Eggman like this, | built the landscape and the ring like this. What do 
you think? And that gives us a really good starting point for a conversation about how | 
would build it and how she would build it. And then once the kind of happy middle ground 
that realizes her design, but maybe through more stable building techniques, and to 
helping...we were basically helping each other solve the problem of getting this set out to 
market. It was a really great collaboration. And we really like to work with the fan in this 
way. So, you know, it's a back and forth discussion because originally, it came from them, 
the idea. So we want to respect that they have a hand in the design team, you know, 
they're part of the design team. So they should, of course, have as much say as anyone 
else. 


Brian Crecente 


That's very cool. Thank you so much, Sam. Very interesting. And I'm so jealous that you 
were able to do that Doctor...I'm actually right now, going through and watching every 
single episode of Doctor Who from the beginning. 


Ethan Vincent 
Brian's binge-watching it, right? 


Brian Crecente 


Yeah, I've been, binge-watching it for about six months | think. I've already re watched all 
the new ones. So, | think I'm on the...I'm about to get to the third doctor. No, the fourth 
doctor, I'm about to get to the fourth doctor. But very cool that you had a hand in that. | 
still look at the dimension set and | just love it, and obviously the set you built was amazing 
too, designed | mean. 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


Yeah, I'm really happy with how it turned out. | was recently reading an old article about 
that set the other day that...'cause | had done an interview for, totally forgotten about it. 
And | found this article online again, and | had all the pictures of all the Daleks that I'd made 
to try and make one that was right for the set. So that was really cool. And | remember we 
built this TARDIS in normal, standard LEGO blue. And then when we showed it to the BBC, 
they were like, 'no way, that is not the color of the TARDIS.' 


(Laughter) 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


And I'm like, yeah, | know that, but if | do it in dark blue, then | have to change, | think it 
was 15 different LEGO bricks to dark blue, which is a real manufacturing nightmare to 
change so many bricks in one go, for one set in a weird color, like dark blue that not a lot 
people use, you know, in every LEGO set. And, so that was just like, Oh no, I'm going 
(laughs) someone's going to kill me when | do this (laughs) so, you know, it was, you know, 
you're at the [mercy of] the IP partner though, like with them and their requirements, right? 
So I'm really happy with how it turned out. | think it was a really special set, and maybe 
once in a lifetime, right? 


Brian Crecente 


And it's retired now. Do those ever come out of retirement? Or once they're retired that's 
it. 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


It's very rare that you see a LEGO set come out of retirement. There isn't like the Taj Mahal 
or something like that. So it could be that was my once-in-a-lifetime Doctor Who TARDIS 
set... 


Brian Crecente 


Well, Doctor Who came out of retirement so maybe the set can, too. 
(Laughter) 


Samuel Thomas Liltorp Johnson 


It could regenerate into a new LEGO set, right? 
(Laughter). 


Ethan Vincent 


That's awesome. 


Chapter 3: LEGO Superfan Viv Grannell - 30:58 
(Music) 


Ethan Vincent 


Well, I'm excited to see where this project goes now that it's inside the LEGO Group and in 
the hands of its creators. 


Brian Crecente 


Yeah, me too, but | bet neither of us are as excited about this as Grannell is. 


Ethan Vincent 


Oh man, as a fan, you know, just submitting that, seeing the votes come in and being so 
close to being picked. You spoke to her about the project recently via email, how did that 
go? 


Brian Crecente 


Well, Viv Grannell is amazing. You have to understand that the process of getting a LEGO 
idea accepted as an official release can be really arduous. It's a process that includes a lot 
of these meetings behind the...sort of scenes meetings between the person who created 
the idea and the LEGO Group. And they end up getting a lot of small updates just to kind of 
keep them in the loop. So Viv told me that she was expecting sort of another sort of 
incremental update back in 2020 when the Ideas' team invited her to a meeting. So she 
said, she shows up thinking that this was going to be this, you know, tiny thing. And as she 
put it, she was bamboozled. She said they actually told her the project was greenlit and 
she was beyond ecstatic. And to quote her, she said - I'd been effectively holding my 
breath since it became obvious 10,000 people were going to support it. So having a sense 
of certainty on the outcome really helped. 


Ethan Vincent 


That's awesome. That's cool. Did she say why she decided to do a set based on this 
particular video game character? 


Brian Crecente 


Yeah, she said that Sonic is a series near and dear to her heart, and in her words, she said - 
it's in a vibrant and earnest world that's not afraid to experiment, perhaps to dangerous 
degrees, but what is a life if not lived on the edge? Coupled with the fact that SEGA is not 
only tolerant, but encouraging regarding all kinds of fan works. She said she grew up 
experimenting with the creative play of the LEGO system. So she was a really a longtime 
fan of Sonic and felt like these two sort of melded together well. So she, when she started 
looking at what she wanted to do and decided on Sonic, one of the first decisions she 


made was that she wanted to work with, what is now considered the classic Sonic, which 
is the green-eyed Sonic, but she also wanted to include something from the modern 
version of Sonic the Hedgehog and the Sonic the Hedgehog games. So that was this idea 
of bringing in Doctor Eggman, and of course the backdrop for the minifigure and the figure 
you would build, is the classic Green Hill Zone. And that was chosen she said because she 
feels it is the quintessential starting point of Sonic's many adventures. So working on this 
project, she actually started back in 2016. And then it was launched on Ideas in February, 
2019. 


Ethan Vincent 


Wow, that's quite some time there. What's next for Viv? | mean, does she have plans for 
any other project ideas in particular, maybe ones based on video games, or is she going to 
continue that trend kind of? 


Brian Crecente 


Yeah, | asked her about that and she said she was actually working on a, as she put it, a low 
budget, Junkbot pitch, based on that classic LEGO.com game that so many people love, 
and | know you and | have talked about. But then she was surprised to find that Junkbot 
actually appeared in the official Haunted House set, and that kind of took the wind out of 
her sails for that set at least. So, there's some other ideas she said she's working on, but 
she's trying to keep those secret right now. Of course she's also a huge fan of a lot of the 
other LEGO Ideas' video game creations out there, including that amazing Metroid 
concept, that's been making the rounds recently, as well as the Legend of Zelda castle, 
Portal 2, and Earthbound Mother sets. And | know, Ethan, you and | have talked a lot about 
these. They're just amazing creations. 


Chapter 4: Conversation with John Choon - 34:53 
(Music) 


Ethan Vincent 


We also chatted with John Choon. He's the director of marketing at SEGA, and we talked 
to him about the company's decision to embrace this LEGO Ideas build. 


Brian Crecente 


So, John, how did you first hear about the LEGO Ideas Sonic build? How did you, how did 
that sort of first come across your desk? 


John Choon 


Yeah, the first time was really through our internal teams and our community team, which is 
really in tune with everything out there on social and the community. And we saw stuff pop 


up on social media about this project. And so we heard about it and of course our licensing 
team thereafter as well, because they'd been working on a program with the LEGO Group, 
we...yeah, we just saw it and we loved it. 


Brian Crecente 


Did you have any sort of specific initial thoughts when you took a look at it? 


John Choon 


No, | thought it was amazing, you know, super cool to see, you know, the fan creation and 
the idea of Sonic Mania into a LEGO format, which was just really on point and everybody 
who saw it, not only myself thought that's cool that needs to happen. 


Brian Crecente 


| think | personally, | love the fact that this is...this set, the Ideas' set that was created was 
based on Sonic Mania, which obviously you're aware is its own sort of fantastic fan-driven 
game. And then you have this fan driven LEGO kit. So it's sort of like a very meta | think, 
was that something, when you mentioned Sonic <ania, was that something that came to 
mind when you were looking at it? 


John Choon 


Yeah, it was just a really cool concept in general, you know? We saw it and thought super 
unique, very much on point with what Sonic represents through LEGO format, a very 
imaginative attention to detail everything. So it was really cool. 


Brian Crecente 


So I'm sure that there are a lot of times that fans and maybe even other companies want to 
do something with Sonic. What was it about this particular creation that you think won 
over SEGA? 


John Choon 


| think Viv, you know, the lead designer had so many special touches and again, the 
attention to detail for the set in her design to that kind of characters and Sonic and Doctor 
Eggman coming out there, really kind of bringing everything to life. So, we thought when 
we first saw it, it was just such a tribute to Sonic and it was just really so classically 
designed that we thought it was a great collaboration and fit for what Sonic represents. 


Ethan Vincent 


So, John, what does this process look like on your end, on SEGA's end, you know, with 
LEGO Ideas? Are you just looking at a lot of different builds or how does this work? 


John Choon 


| think that the main thing is our licensing team is leading the charge on the design, 
working closely with the LEGO team. And so we see concepts, we see the product being 
developed, but really it's really a collaborative process where our team, as well as the 
LEGO Group's team, they're working hand in hand on the design from the very beginning, 
and of course with Viv, to really bring it to life. 


Brian Crecente 


So what about the LEGO Group do you think makes for a good match with SEGA when it 
comes to both of your brands? 


John Choon 


| think the LEGO Group is just such a recognizable, iconic brand with a name that, you 
know, everybody out there really kind of knows, but also the product is so great with the 
commitment to the quality over the years, and it's really about creativity and encouraging 
innovation. And so | think SEGA also strives to do similar things with our core values, for our 
products, and what we we're trying to bring from an entertainment standpoint. So | think 
because of those things, we make a good fit in my opinion. And | think hopefully that will, 
you know again, lead to more things in the future. 


Brian Crecente 


Kind of getting back to the design of this particular kit. They, | think like what Viv has said is 
that she wanted to sort of blend sort of the modern era with some of the retro sort of 
memorable moments of Sonic. Do you think that Green Hill Zone is sort of the classic in 
your mind, the classic Sonic, or are there other zones that you can think of that would have 
been a better match or as good a match? 


John Choon 


Yeah, | think Green Hill Zone is definitely one of the most recognizable and classic, you 
know, things that Sonic has to offer, just from the world's standpoint. So the fact that it 
naturally happened that way organically, | think it works great because Viv is, you know, 
she's a super fan and | think she, you know, did what she wanted to do in her design, which 
just pays tribute to, you know, classic Sonic and the past Sonic designs from the game, 
which is the...| think it was just a natural fit. 


Brian Crecente 


Do you have any sort of favorite elements of Sonic that you'd like to see, either appear in 
this set or some future LEGO creation? 


John Choon 


Yeah, | think just the characters, all the different characters, you know, from over the years 
where there's classic and modern. But Viv, in what the set right now has to offer is pretty 
cool because it does have, you know, we talked about Green Hill, it's got Eggman and a 
few different characters, but | think the universe is so rich with a lot of various characters 
that | think offering that in the future would be cool. 


Brian Crecente 


Excellent. Is there anything else you'd like to add about this team-up? 


John Choon 


No, we're just super honored to be able to participate with LEGO Group on this 
collaboration in celebration of the 30th anniversary for Sonic. And we're really excited to 
see it come out, you know, how fans respond and what the response is going to be in 
general. But we're just thankful for the opportunity that it's here and it's ahead of us. So 
thank you to everybody who made it happen. 


Brian Crecente 


And we're actually, | should note, we're recording this before the announcement hits. Do 
you have any sort of expectation for how fans, like do you think people are going to be 
completely surprised by this? 


John Choon 


| think because there's been some history with, you know, Sonic and the LEGO Group in the 
past, it's not going to be a complete surprise, but | think it's going to actually, yeah, it's 
gonna make people go a bit crazy, this brands coming together, it's going to be, | think, a 
great surprise. 


Ethan Vincent 


What are you going to do when you get to have the set and put it on your desk? Are you 
excited to have this LEGO iteration of Sonic the Hedgehog? 


John Choon 


Yeah, for sure, you know? I'm giving it a special spot. Not sure exactly how big it is, I've 
seen the pictures and some of the specs, but definitely got to make space for it 'cause it's- 


Ethan Vincent 
Yeah. 


John Choon 


-you know, it's going to be awesome. 


Brian Crecente 


Well, thank you so much, John, for joining us. | really appreciate it, and | too am very much 
looking forward to having a little Sonic sitting on my desk. 


John Choon 
Thank you guys. Appreciate it. 


Ethan Vincent 
Thanks, John. 


(Music) 


Chapter 5: Conclusions — 41:46 


Ethan Vincent 


One of the cool things about the LEGO Ideas' concept, Brian, is how this all goes back | 
think to the simple notion of building and sharing. Like these gems of ideas, like these little 
bubbles kind of surface to the top and take shape and the entire community votes on that 
idea and it gains real traction and attention....And then, the LEGO Group is willing to invest 
the time, the energy, the resources to allocate creative, accomplished designers on that 
project and help kind of fine-tune and release it to the public. It's a really cool process and 
I'm really glad to see the LEGO Group embracing this possibility for fans to create and 
publish these sets. 


Brian Crecente 


Yeah, and don't forget those creators also get a bit of money made off of these releases. | 
think it's such a wonderful symbiotic relationship that ends up helping everyone involved 
and delivering some of the most surprising sets of each year. | think back to some of these 
other amazing Idea creations; Ideas gave us things like the set based on the Friends TV 
show and a working grand piano and even Sesame street, and of course there's also 
Minecraft, which actually started on LEGO Ideas' predecessor, CUUSOO, way back in 2011. 


Ethan Vincent 


Yeah. We're definitely looking forward to that next great LEGO Ideas' video game set that 
hits its goal and gets the official green light, just to appear on the shelves. And hopefully, 
we'll be talking about that in the future in our podcast as well. 


(Postscript Music) 


Bits N' Bricks: Credits - 43:29 


Ethan Vincent 


Bits N' Bricks is made possible by LEGO Games. Our producer is Ronny Scherer. Your hosts 
are Brian Crecente and Ethan Vincent. Episode producing and editing by Ethan Vincent. 
Writing by Brian Crecente. Mixing and sound design by Dan Carlisle. Original music by 
Peter Priemer and Henrik Lindstrand from the award-winning game LEGO Builders Journey, 
which you can play on Apple Arcade today. 


We'd like to thank our participants, Samuel Johnson and John Choon. We'd also like to 
acknowledge the entire LEGO Games team, as well as the LEGO Ideas team for their great 
support. For questions or comments, write us at bitsnbricks@LEGO.com. And as always 
stay tuned for more episodes of Bits N' Bricks. 


LEGO, the LEGO logo, DUPLO, the Brick and Knob configurations and the Minifigure are 
trademarks of the LEGO Group. © 2021 The LEGO Group. 


All other trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners. All rights 
reserved.