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Yes, placing every single one of those small white and tan tiles was absolutely worth it.
I’ve never animated with a LEGO Architecture set before, much less such a massive one, so when Bricks in Motion asked me to take a look at 21056 Taj Mahal and make a brickfilm with it, I took this as a challenge. Granted, animating this set itself would be difficult, as it is a static location that, by design, doesn’t move. It did not take long, fortunately, to realize that a film located at the famous monument was the most logical option.
Before I could animate, I spent a few hours building the set – all 2,022 pieces. It’s an enjoyable build with a variety of great pieces that could, if a brickfilmer wanted, be repurposed for other animations. There’s plenty of white ingot pieces that provide the base with unique texture, tons of ski poles for minifig use, candlestick pieces for ominous plastic rituals …
When the build is finished, the result is impressive – a good display piece for a home or office. The domes, columns, archways, and the tile floor stand out most distinctly, demonstrating some creative piece usage and attention to detail. It’s been pointed out by some that the columns are not exactly to scale with the rest of the model, but at least the distinct shapes make the model easily identifiable. Granted, if you forget the name, there’s a conveniently-placed 1x8 tile in front that should help.
Really, the only obstacle to using this set as a convincing backdrop for a brickfilm is the black border, which works perfectly for a display but can make it difficult to convince the audience that the set is a part of the film’s world. I resolved this issue by building my set over the border and around the actual structure, adding a pool and trees to mimic the actual monument. Since most of this was blocked by the balcony with my characters, intricate detailing was not really necessary.
(Pay no attention to the repurposed white ingots I stole from the back of the set to make the pool, don’t worry about it.)
The minifigure-scale characters presented another challenge as the set is a different scale altogether. I rectified this by placing the Taj Mahal far away enough from the minifigures to give the illusion of a far-off location, so its relatively small size would simply look like a far-away building. Microscale backdrops are not a new concept to brickfilming, but for the sake of giving a good technique the credit due, this Taj Mahal gets the job done quite nicely.
Considering that the Taj Mahal is a famous mausoleum and historical monument, it made sense to create an adventure-style film around this backdrop – and since I had just watched the Indiana Jones movies recently while rebuilding the old minifigures, a parody felt logical. I have a sort of nostalgia for these old sets, but while I had character interactions and a few visual gags all ready to go, the focus needed to remain on the Taj Mahal itself. Thus, I made sure the plot could keep returning to the monument in the dialogue and in several of the shots of the set itself. There were some ideas to add some easter eggs based on the old LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures game (anyone remember those parcel hunts?) but they felt out-of-place. The Taj Mahal was the star, and for the first time in his cinematic lifetime, Indy had to take second place.
The bottom-line question for these sorts of reviews is pretty straightforward: would I recommend this set? For a brickfilmer who wants a great-looking Taj Mahal set in their Taj-Mahal-centric film – absolutely! More generally, however, the price tag is a bit steep for most brickfilmers seeking a background prop, so I be more inclined to recommend this set to Architecture fans or those who have visited and admire the Taj Mahal’s architecture. The parts selection is quite vast, so if for some reason you need to borrow some of those glorious white ingots for another film, the option is available.
I’d dare argue that my assessment of 21056 Taj Mahal is par for the course with most Architecture sets – their usage is limited in terms of creating brickfilms, but when used well to really sell the audience on a specific location, they do have merit.
Now, a part of me does wish I had the time to turn Indy and Belloq’s standoff in a more interesting direction, but while that idea may never see the light of day, at least you can enjoy this nonsensical concept shot of my set …
This set was generously provided by the LEGO Ambassador Network for review. LEGO Architecture 21056 Taj Mahal is available now.
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