PART 1 OF 3 : OPTIMUS PRIME REVIEW (Eric Tsai MOC)
TL;DR Summary (Just read the first paragraph for a quick overview if you want to skip the rest of the article)
READ MY LIPS (or words): MUST HAVE for every Optimus Prime fan!
This is a very accurate and handsome version of OP but it comes with a stern warning, it’s an extremely HARD build to do (with the instructions provided by Blocks Magazine), and VERY fragile especially the head design. It’s NOT meant to be played with, but VERY MUCH a posable item with a kazillion points of articulation. The BONUS of this build is it’s ability to TRANSFORM into the famous truck mode! The original designer, Eric Tsai needs to be credited for DAMNED HELLUVA 'EFFIN GREAT JOB! (Pardon my ‘almost' French use of language).
This is as close as you can get a great representation of an Optimus in Lego. As we all know Kre-O has the rights to this franchise, we’ll never get one of this officially. I ordered the Optimus Prime from Samuel Soh from the AFOL Marketplace after looking just at the photos that was up there. Didn’t think twice, just looked cool. Didn’t know who designed it, didn’t know where it came from, until today, the day I picked it up from Samuel and started my search.
Origins and Designer
This OP became popular because it was featured in the Blocks Magazine, Issue 16, February 2016. I bought the magazine (iPad Version) after getting the bricklinked parts from Samuel as I wanted a clearer version of the instructions, and was also hoping to find out more about the design process. Unfortunately there wasn’t much beyond the instructions, but I hope to reach out to Eric and find out more!
Eric Tsai is the original designer and I must say he must have spent a lot of time and experimenting to get this final look and feel. His other builds can be found on his flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/43747340@N02/
What made this build very intricate is that it uses all the right coloured elements. The bright blues and the bright reds. What made it even more accurate are the silver elements used for the mouthpiece and the chrome grilles for the torso. Having these right coloured elements are like having your favourite toppings on your favourite ice cream, just makes it exponentially better.
Quoting Eric from the Magazine, the parts that are most important to make OP recognisable is the head and the chest. I think this is a brilliant way of ensuring that when someone looks at a design, the key elements that make OP himself is capturing those exact items. I felt that Eric executed the head piece very well indeed!
The Magazine can be bought on the iPad for SGD $10.98. I decided to buy it because in the preview mode, I could see some articles that would interest me and also to have a “good copy” of the instructions once I tear down my OP. At the same time, I thought it would ethically be the “right thing to do” since I wanted to build the OP. Anyhoos, to each his own, I don’t judge anyones actions.
The parts and Bricklinking - Thank you Samuel Soh!
The total build comes in 318 pieces. And I have to credit Samuel Soh for actually taking the time to “Number” the bags according to the steps in the Magazine. This is certainly useful and I applaud him doing this for the community. Although I’ve repeated this many times - the process of bricklinking and sorting, and packing, and meeting AFOLs at different times of the day and payment and etc, is a tedious process. I appreciate the efforts. Note that although Block Magazine gave the instructions, they did not give an inventory. Samuel practically had to look at the parts one by one and figure out the right elements to get. For those of you who have collected Samuel’s bricklink, you will notice that he has separated the parts into 14 ziplock bags just like Lego set would be! This is an incredible amount of extra work and it’s important as the bags are labelled as such to help you in the build steps that the Magazine has published!! Tedious and meticulous work!!! Thank you, thank you thank you!!!
*WARNING: PATIENCE REQUIRED* The build is actually a very tough experience! Due to number of “illegal” builds, the most complex work is the headpiece. Not to mention that the instructions featured is quite minimal, you will need *ALOT* of patience. I kid you not, it took me about 3 hours to get it done. (ok, it was at the end of a long work day as well). Everything you see on the headpiece - the two cheeks, and the back piece is all held together by 4 studs, yes, only 4 studs, which means a SINGLE stud is basically holding one cheek. And within that cheek piece, they’re all also held together by single stud designs. If I had the courage to use Kragle on these parts and make it permanent, I think I would do so. It may be something you want to consider if you are planning to leave it as a permanent fixture.
I could say that the OP is built in a modular fashion, 5 in total consisting of the head, the upper chest area, pelvic area, and then arms and legs. Each section is built, and at the end you piece it together. Because of the feature where it’s transformable to a truck, there are parts that use minimal pieces to mount them
The Optimus Prime Head
This deserves a mention on its own as this essentially captures OP in all his glory. From the mouthpiece to his “earphones” - to his forehead. Very well executed design, I don’t think it could get any better with this number of piece count.
Another interesting observation is that if you remove Prime’s head, I find that he’s quite appropriately portioned to the rest of his body. It’s almost like if you get the right sized head element, it would be the perfect Lego looking official set. I’ve said it, and I’m saying it again and again, Lego missed out on a golden opportunity here by not taking up the franchise.
What makes this build truly outstanding is that it has the ability to transform into his alternate mode, the infamous truck. By removing his head and with very little imagination to a traditional Takara or Hasbro toy lover, you can transform him using very similar steps into the final truck mode. What’s unique here is the process of transformation almost mimics the plastic toys that we used to love from the 80s. The two fists form part of the sides and the front and the legs bend backwards to provide the support for the wheels. What more could any fan ask for? I did notice that the front wheels does not fully touch the surface after transforming, I’m pretty sure I got something wrong somewhere, I’ll need more time to figure it out. Whatever the case, OP deserves to be standing tall in robot mode instead of vehicle mode.
I’m covering this right a the tail end because it’s not the best of execution out there in terms of execution. It took 13 photos to depict the construct of the OP’s head, and if you ask me, that’s far too little or simply insufficient angles to show the right way to fix it all up. Trust me, its hard to explain here until you actually build lit. 14 photos to build the upper torso arms and 5 photos to depict the lower pelvic area and the remaining 7 photos to complete the legs and feet. 39 photos for a 318 piece build is too little. This photo build guide is really a test of your skills in Lego. If you’ve yet to give it a go, my advice is take it slow and easy, and reference the main “completed” build as much as possible. Knowledge of the what OP looks like in the Takara/Hasbro toys will help. Never forget, a good set comes with good build instructions, you better be appreciating the Lego folks out there who builds manuals they’re the unsung heroes of our fun and pleasure time.
I could go into a lot more details and share further thoughts but I think I’ve done enough spoilers here or hopefully got you so excited that you wanna just go out there and get one yourself. So, I’ll get off this keyboard now and leave you to it… decide if you’re going to bricklink this item (of which you’ll need to reach out to Samuel to get the parts list) or start hunting the pieces on your own. Good luck!
Stay tuned for Part 2:
Interview with Eric Tsai - the man himself! The interview that Blocks Magazine should have done but did not!
The Exclusive in Part 3:
(drumroll...) What Blocks magazine missed (HINT: for those of you Magazine owners who spotted a difference between the cover and the contents in the magazine). Keep your pants on boys and girls!