Earlier this month I got a chance to catch up with Alex Schranz, one of the most creative Lego guys out there right now. Known to fans as Orion Pax, he has taken the world of custom Lego creations by storm. Orion doesn’t simply make Lego customs, he takes Lego parts and creates magic. He reimagines just about every cool toy that’s ever been around, as if they had been made by Lego. He also goes outside the box and makes Lego toys out of brands that would never truly be licensed. I hope you read this interview, look at the photos and then check out Orion’s Flickr stream for even more goodies. He’s always got something cooking in his Lego laboratory.
Hi Alex, thanks for allowing us this interview. Your Lego creations are out of this world. Even someone who really isn’t into Legos has to admire the work you’ve done. Let’s start with the basics, how and when did you get into Legos?
I got into LEGO when I was a kid, I had my dark ages between 12 and 18 and been on it since then. As a kid I was pretty crazy about all the cartoons I used to watch on Saturdays and Sundays. My parents didn’t have the money to buy me all the nice toys that came with the TV shows like Transformers, MASK and Star Wars. So I started copying these with LEGO. When I got back into LEGO I remembered that. I guess that’s why I’m Lego-izing all the toys.
Obviously you have a love for not just Legos, but tons of other 80’s toy properties as well. Do you collect other toy line or do you just recreate them through Legos?
For sure, as a toy designer I’m a big fan of toys. And since I didn’t have them as a kid I try to keep up on that. Recently I bought a few MASK vehicles on Ebay. I also collect 80’s related toys. No Star Wars though. At least not that much.
Legos started pretty humble in the 1950’s, but thrives today perhaps more than any other toy out there. Why do you think Lego has endured all these years?
Because its a very unique toy that allows you to have play experience over and over. It is collectable and it does switch generations. Also it is a medium to express yourself. You can combine every new set with your old LEGO.
When building your creations, do you seek out parts or do you just have like a million Lego pieces and home and can cobble together just about anything from your supplies?
Since my collection grew over the last few years and still is, you always have the challenge to sort out, get new material, dismantle old creations and sort the bricks back into the storage. Even keep up to date what new elements come out can be very time consuming. So it’s not only building. When I start building I usually have an idea what parts I need and if I don’t have, I have to bricklink them.
You’ve done some pretty fascinating stuff. Sometimes it’s simple things like the Pamela Anderson Lego or Masters of the Universe characters as Lego men, other times it’s complex creations like the M.A.S.K. vehicles and their drivers or a whole host of the GI Joe world. Heck you made Boulder Hill! There are so many epic creations like Transformers of all sorts and sizes, Ninja Turtles and you’ve gone obscure with vehicles from Cannonball Run and even Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs! It seems like there is no end to your creativity. What causes you to make these creations? By that I mean, are you just sitting around one day and think to yourself “I want to make some guys from M.A.S.K” or do you have a checklist of sorts for things you’ve done and things you want to do?
Since I’m doing this a while now and there are so many different elements running through my hands everyday you get ideas while building on other stuff. Sometimes I sketch it up or write it on a to do or look into list. Sometimes it is only a few parts that decides the creations outcome. The parts give you guidelines and sometimes even a color decides what it wants to be. For example you pick your box of brown pieces when you want to build a tree. Then you see a rare brown part in the box which reminds you of the hood of a car and then you maybe start building a brown car. While building the brown car you figure out a connection you needed for a idea 4 weeks ago….. and so on. It’s always studying the material and invent new ideas with it.
What would you say is the one property that you’d like to tackle, but for whatever reason, haven’t?
I was up for a Ramrod from Saber Rider which I still want to do. Problem is the lack of dark blue parts which can be solved. Second is that he is going to be big and heavy and the legs need to come out. So weight vs. stability. That’s not tackled so far but it will be, I promise.
When I was a kid, I remember Legos being pretty basic. The little Lego men all seemed to generally be the same and the creation sets were still somewhat basic… However, today’s kids literally have hundreds of different kits and characters to choose from. As someone who’s no doubt seen a lot of that evolution, what do you think about the growth and where do you see Lego going from here?
It is no mystery that we live in a time where it is not enough anymore to keep it basic. Also toy ccompanies today need to fight against the media effects that comes from computer consoles and online games. Today you can have more fun in less time while not even have to be creative before doing that. You only have to press a button. Then time is more rare then ever these days. What kid has the time to build all day on a creation, when they can do plenty of other things? Still, LEGO is a very popular toy brand and has a high appeal to creativity and fun with play. Also you get IP’s like Star Wars or Indiana Jones, which is nice for kids because they don’t have to invent their world first. It is already there.
From here I guess LEGO is going into the future like every other company with a big responsibility to the product they are selling. With an even bigger responsibility if you not only see it as a toy, but as a medium to people who still want to be creative and express themselves in a form of art. The LEGO Adult Fan Community has grown very big and still is growing in the few years and it is only a question of time until LEGO will look more into this market. Which they are already stated doing, as you can see on some of the product lines.
Do you have a favorite piece? Wait, that’s not very clear. Do you have a favorite creation of your own?
My favorite piece/element is the one by one mini slope. And if I had to pick my favorite creation it would be always the latest I was building on. So it is my new Iron Man. But for sure I have other models I keep that I really like. My Ghostbusters Ecto-1 or the big Optimus Prime. At the end of the day I just love to have this stuff around me to take a look at it from time to time. Maybe like a painting or a piece of art.
Now, do you have a favorite piece? Like a specific brick style or something?
All curved sloped elements which gives you the freedom to create nice shapes.
Do you do commissions or sell any of your creations?
That’s a very delicious point here. Actually I would sell my creations. But people who want to buy them sometimes don’t know how much time and money is flowing into them sometimes. I’m more an artist than a mass producer. And people would have to pay for it. It is an expensive material and some parts are very rare and once built and sold, hard to get again. But yes, if you make some decent offers I’m all yours 😉
Where do you see yourself going with this hobby in the future? Art shows or just to continue for fun?
My hobby already became my job since I started working for LEGO two years ago. Since then, I also participated on art shows, LEGO-cons and I’m all around the web with my creations. For my future it would be nice to have some perspective. Some freedom within my art. Find a sponsor or some people you would like to buy my stuff. Move to another country. I always figured that live has it ways and it will show me the right 😉 Continue for fun? Always did and always will !
Anything you want to plug, like somewhere people can see more of your work or someplace to buy stuff?
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Your Lego work is really a great marriage of nostalgia, innovation and creativity.
I have to thank you for the chance to do this interview. It was a pleasure and I hope the people out there feel inspired. I will keep up the good work and wish you all good. Sky’s the limit!