May you encounter magicians and $17 dark-tan camels on your LEGO journey.
At this point in my journey, I had bought two LEGO sets and a Classic box of bricks, and had the versatile pieces that came with the LEGO Klutz book. I also had a large resealable bag of random pieces I’d found via the LetGo app. A stressed-out mother had told her LEGO-loving son that she wouldn’t buy any more sets for him unless he sold some of his existing stash. In typical child fashion, he had taken apart all his sets and dumped them together. As an adult you will, of course, sort and store your LEGO in a much more efficient way.
My collection was more than sufficient to make several interesting brickfilm (LEGO stop motion animation) masterpieces, but instead of using what I had, I still felt like I needed more. Hahaha!
LEGO sets aren’t cheap. Surely there was another way? My good friend, Google, rushed to the rescue. When I searched for something like “used LEGO,” I quickly discovered that there were 5 LEGO aftermarket retail stores, i.e. a used-LEGO stores, in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Even better, the nearest one was only a 10-minute drive away. Sweet!!!
Bricks & Minifigs
“Welcome to Bricks & Minifigs!” The friendly welcome softened the feeling of overwhelm only slightly. The place felt a bit overpowering because I’d never seen that much LEGO in once place, was a newbie, and didn’t know where to start. There were three tables full of random pieces you could sort through, shelves with sets, odds and ends, and paraphernalia, and glass cases full of LEGO people, also known as minifigures.
I explained that I was new, wanted to make a brickfilm, and needed a hospital room. After walking around a bit, I hadn’t seen any hospital sets. Since I was the only person in the store, the lady emerged from behind the counter, stepped up to the bulk tables, and quickly built me a hospital room with only random pieces she happened to find. “My son has had me building nothing but firefighter stuff, so this is a welcome change,” she explained.
Now I have a better sense of what she was doing, but at the time I thought it was magic. I wouldn’t’ve known what to do. I wasn’t familiar with the most common pieces and the easiest ways to use them, or scale, or how to add details and make things look polished.
As I stepped up to the counter to pay, I told The Magician that I wasn’t coming back. She smiled knowingly and handed me my hospital room.
Making brickfilms takes a lot of time because you have to take so many photos in addition to coming up with a story, creating the physical setting for that story (like a hospital room), adding cinematic elements (like different camera angles), adding sound, and more. My thought was that I would make one more LEGO animation, sell my puny collection, and move on. Maybe I would change my mind and start filming humans again, or completely immerse myself in making mini-documentaries.
(Un)fortunately, I did indeed return to Bricks & Minifigs. That’s when I saw the $17 camel.
Let’s travel back in time to better understand the significance of the camel.
The $17 Camel
My first two narrative short films had been horrific. Neither one had had a plot. They had both been embarrassing!
Consulting my pal, Google, I found Two Pages A Week, a site where an award-winning screenplay writer was posting a 2- or 3-page script every week. In general, one page is equivalent to one minute of a completed project, so the films were short enough for me to make on my own. The scripts were also free, requiring only permission to use them.
One of the first scripts I read was about soldiers of Ancient Rome working in the desert. There were plenty of other elements to focus on, but I became fixated on the camel. It appeared at the very beginning and was mentioned again at the end, but I could’ve easily left it out. Instead, I became obsessed with the camel.
I raged against the writer, Robert J. Lee. “What was he THINKING? Who has access to a camel?! How much would it cost in terms of labor and insurance and how many people would be needed if there were a miracle and you could get, say, a zoo, to help you? The guy was NUTS!”
I went on to make 5 of his scripts as well as 2 of his guest writer’s scripts. The last short film I made with humans, when circumstances all but drove me to stop motion animation, was his. So was my first brickfilm with dialogue.
The LEGO camel in question, the Dark Tan colored one, was more expensive than you’d expect because it was only made for one particular set and then never made again: The Fight for the Dagger (Set 7571) from The Prince of Persia theme. That made the camel rare and pricier. A quick look on Bricklink in September 2020 shows the price range for that camel in the USA to be $15.86 to $68.29.
Once I had committed to paying $17 for the plastic beast, I realized I was also committed to LEGO and stop motion animation.
Not just the camel, but all the Roman soldiers and other pieces used in “Ignavi” came from Bricks & Minifigs, and The Magician helped me make my set a lot more visually interesting. Her work eventually shifted, and so I saw less of her and more of the husband and wife owners of the store. I later filmed them and their children. I made them a wedding-anniversary brickfilm and thanked them at the end of my minifigure walk-cycle video. Their daughter made the piano that appears in “Pandemic!” my contest-winning brickfilm.
My advice to you is to go to the Bricks & Minifigs website and see if there’s a store near you. You can buy, sell, and trade LEGO sets and bulk LEGO there. It’s also a way to learn more about the LEGO community and support a local business.
So you’d think that I was on my way and cranking out brickfilm after brickfilm after using the $17 camel, right?
No, not so much; I got distracted. I’ll tell you about it next time!