I assembled this creation to imaginatively showcase the new plastic “skins” from LEGO Forma, a LEGO-produced crowdfunded product that I pledged several months ago. As soon as received and unwrapped my myriad “skin packs,” I knew that I’d want to find special ways to integrate their unique, vibrant elements in designs of my own!
The first Forma-based creation I built was this Bird of Paradise, which used the Splash Koi’s fins as its plumage. Read on to find out more about its design, as well as that of the rest of this diorama!
The Enormous Bird of Paradise
This bird was a fun, relatively quick assembly. Its concept was pretty much immediate when I began futzing around with the Forma skins— after all, the serrated edges of the koi fins very naturally led to making a bird, as they looked like feathers. The bright colors of these printed plastic elements informed the rest of my color scheme; while I could have made an even more colorful bird by designing its brick-built body in a different color, I found that by following the cues of the wings and tail, I ended up with a more cohesive-looking creature.
I quickly opted against using Forma’s default connectors to attach the wings. They looked out-of-place, being wholly white, and drew too much attention to themselves. Simple studs on top of 1L Technic pins was a much better integrated solution. I did face a bit of a challenge in figuring out the tessellation of the “feathers,” though. Since the koi only came with four lower fins, but I needed five pieces to give the bird a matching tail, I ended up using the original fish’s large dorsal fin as one wing tip. My task thereafter became masking the asymmetry of the outstretched wings.
However, I also (as you can see) photographed the bird with its wings closed. The three images above each represent one of a few slightly different constructions of the Enormous Bird of Paradise. The first and second images share wing designs, but their shoulders are slightly different. Meanwhile, the third image and first image keep the same shoulders, but obviously utilize different wing designs.
My favorite parts of the Enormous Bird of Paradise, aside from my use of the Forma skins, are the bird’s lower extremities. These use the tiny bar attachment of golden bucket handle elements as a joint between foot and leg, while the same brick simultaneously creates two more “toes” on each foot!
Why, you might be wondering, is this the “Enormous” Bird of Paradise? After I built this bird, I debated photographing it solo (or maybe in a cage, or on a tree branch) to suggest that it was a normally-sized jungle bird. However, when I put it next to a minifigure or two, I ultimately decided to weave my new animal into a different, minifigure-scale scene; that choice just felt more fantastic and interesting to me.
Naturally, my next step was creating the cast of characters that would encounter such a mythic creature…
…And here they are! Prompted by LEGO’s classic action theme, Adventurers, my first idea was to build a team of explorers who might be discovering the Enormous Bird of Paradise. However, once I built a variant of that franchise’s villain, Lord Sinister—complete with huge top hat—I realized I could represent roughly the same time period as the Adventurers (actually, a little earlier; 1910s versus 1930s), but simultaneously represent and satirize a problematic practice of early 20th-century western civilization: imperialism.
There’s a clear racial divide on display above. On the left, a trio of white, colonizing Englishmen. At right, a pair of their "civilized” Rhodesian (modern-day Zambian) servants. While the imperialists walk relatively unburdened through the jungle, their African entourage are laden with supplies and coerced into servility. In this scene, through these minifigures, I seek to present the imperialists’ hubris, greed, and callous disregard for nature’s and others’ liberty.
From left to right, these are our characters.
Baron Thaddeus Ipswitch, a callous capitalist. Baron Ipswitch, already born into great wealth, perpetually seeks to grow his enormous fortune. His hobbies include skirting workplace safety violations, underpaying workers, and monopolizing whenever possible. Baron Ipswitch believes the Enormous Bird of Paradise represents a tremendous financial opportunity for him, whether that be by its capture and exhibition, by the sale of its gigantic feathers, or by other, grislier practices.
Mr. Uriah Raymond, a savage hunter. Driven by glory and love of weapons, Mr. Raymond brags to everyone he meets that he will be the only man to ever kill the mythical Enormous Bird of Paradise. Although hired by the Baron for this expedition as a guide and tracker, and having been given instructions to capture rather than kill the bird, Mr. Raymond will not hesitate to seize his moment and have his way.
Mr. Horace Henry, a timorous naturalist. Mr. Henry has been an “armchair naturalist” for his whole career. He much prefers sitting at home in his study, poring over bones and fossils in peace and quiet, to venturing into the field. This is his first time in Rhodesia, his first time in the jungle, and he does not like it one bit. Mr. Henry is also a notable expounder of Social Darwinism.
Naweji “Jack” Gama, a misanthropic valet. Mr. Gama, nicknamed “Jack” by his first master (and against his wishes), has served Englishmen nearly his whole life. Although his employers value his intelligence, aptitude for arithmetic, and levelheadedness, Mr. Gama is appreciated by them most for his servility and talent for keeping “this African mess” out of their lives. Needless to say, Mr. Gama privately holds the British in great contempt.
Sonkwe “Sammy Boy” Onani, a disenfranchised menial. Mr. Onani has been recently conscripted into British service directly. The imperialists treat “Sammy Boy” like a pack horse, but he has no real avenues through which to raise a complaint, express himself, or ask for a raise. In about 50 years, Mr. Onani will become a proponent of Zambian independence.
Thanks for reading! If you have any other questions or thoughts about this model, feel free to leave them in the comments below.