Forgotten History: CubeDude Exclusives – San Diego Comic-Con

A decade (and change) ago, when the LEGO Star Wars juggernaut was just coming up to full speed, a unique building fad caught someone’s eye at the LEGO office in Enfield, Connecticut and inspired two convention exclusives.

Created by LEGO fan and Pixar animator Angus MacLane, who had been exhibiting his LEGO models at a number of LEGO community events across the US during the late Noughties, the CubeDude (a term he has trademarked through the US Patent and Trademark Office and thereby settling the CubeDude/Cube Dude debate) concept was based on a layered 3 x 3 design that bore a resemblance to Miniland-scale used at LEGOLAND parks but conveyed a more cartoon-ish element.

According to a 2009 interview with Bricks-A-Billion, MacLane stumbled upon the concept almost by accident when, after seeing the GI Joe: Resolute animated TV series earlier that year, he decided to build Snakeyes.

Sadly, I have a variety of restrictions when it comes to Lego building. I don’t have a lot of room to build anything large. I don’t have a lot of free time to build so I wanted to find something to make that didn’t take very long to complete. I thought about making him in Mini-Land scale. I started building the head and realized that with the eye pieces a 3×3 scale would look much better than a 2×2 scale. I then thought that having him super-deformed would be much more appealing. After I finished Snake Eyes, well I needed a Storm Shadow so… and I just kept going.

The simplicity and addictiveness of building these models took the community by storm, and before long dozens of LEGO fans were replicating MacLane’s work. At a time when going viral, trending or becoming a meme was unheard of it was the power of Flikr, a free photo hosting service, that allowed MacLane to mass uploaded photographs of all of his cubic creations in September 2009.

“Just kept going” was an understatement because MacLane had unwittingly tapped into a stream of creativity that resulted in hundreds of different builds – mostly action and cult movie characters plus a smattering of comic book heroes – that created a major stir in the online LEGO community when Brothers Brick shared the news that MacLane, who had already made a name for himself with his first Wall•E build several years earlier (which later became 21303 Wall•E through the LEGO Ideas platform), had gone public with his signature builds.

And much like Natalie Portman and Rosario Dawson, who were both discovered by accident, MacLane’s work was serendipitously brought to the attention of the LEGO marketing team in late 2009. As luck would have it, they were looking to promote the upcoming Toy Story line of sets and wanted to come up with an original concept for a promotional set to debut the sets from the new Pixar movie to the toy industry at the International Toy Fair in New York (February 14th to 17th, 2010).

Maclane shared that he was approached by LEGO “because of the CubeDudes that I had posted on Flickr. LEGO wanted to do a Buzz Lightyear CubeDude and coincidentally I had already designed one.” He produced a digital model in LEGO Digital Designer (a freeware virtual building program produced by LEGO) and sent the file to them for approval. Despite some difficulty in reproducing his exact design, mainly due to piece availability, Maclane was very happy with the final model.

Photo Credit: Ace Kim (FBTB.net)

Once approved, LEGO produced the one-off CubeDude as a pre-built, numbered and one-off Buzz Lightyear gift to those attending the pre-show VIP Gala event (the same party that also saw the White Boba Fett Presentation Box being given out).

Luck would strike again for MacLane because LEGO, having received good feedback on the first official CubeDude, had enjoyed working with the Pixar animator and asked him back to help out with exclusives for their summer convention appearances. Being a huge Star Wars fan MacLane couldn’t refuse and, in an interview with StarWars.com, declared that “the opportunity was really a dream come true” and happily shared some of his spare time over the next six months helping LEGO come up with a number of suitable CubeDude models.

This, for the most part, went over the heads of most Star Wars fans who remained oblivious of the existence of marketing priorities, CubeDudes, Angus MacLane, and the Toy Fair exclusive – but that all changed when the July issue of Toyfair Magazine featured a blurb (that mistakenly labeled one CubeDude as Jango Fett) on the next SDCC exclusive.

More was revealed on July 19, 2010 when the official Star Wars website named all the characters correctly, shared that there would be a daily 450 unit allotment of the LEGO exclusive – and revealed that there would be more Star Wars CudeDude exclusives made available at the next Star Wars Celebration, being held in Orlando later that year.

Star Wars LEGO fans take heed — if you’re going to be at the San Diego Comic-Con International this week — or know someone who is — you’re going to want to get a line on a convention exclusive LEGO has got lined up for the show: Star Wars CubeDudes. “Angus MacLane, a huge LEGO fan, is the creative genius behind CubeDudes,” says LEGO Brand Relations Manager Julie Stern. “He created the look and the design for these.”

The set of five Clone Wars figures, including R2-D2, C-3PO, Yoda, Clone Captain Rex, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, will be offered as a box set to 450 fans per day at the convention. Purchases will be determined by a raffle at the booth.

And fans of the unique CubeDudes look will have more to look forward to at Celebration V, which celebrates 30 years of The Empire Strikes Back. “There will be a second set of CubeDudes available at Star Wars Celebration V,” hints Stern. “We’ll be offering a sneak peek of those in the coming weeks!”

Stay tuned to StarWars.com for updates on LEGO’s Celebration V exclusive as well as a discussion with CubeDudes designer Angus MacLane!

With the third season of Clone Wars animated TV series due to air in a few months, LEGO was pushing its new Summer wave collection of sets from The Empire Strikes Back (timed for the 30th anniversary of the movie) and a combination of space ships and ground vehicles from Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith that tied in with the new range of Clone Wars sets, so it made sense for LEGO to capitalize on the popularity of the show and the pop-cultural aspect of the key characters when they selected Obi-Wan Kenobi in clone trooper armor, Captain Rex with a pair of DC-17 hand blasters, a lightsaber-wielding Yoda and the ever-present R2-D2 and C-3PO.

Initially, it was mistakenly believed that a different CubeDude would be made available on each day of the convention until someone realized that the five character builds couldn’t be evenly distributed over the four day event – a point later clarified by MacLane himself via his Facebook page.

The exclusive set was only made available through a lottery system, whereby attendees entered a daily draw to win the opportunity to purchase one of the CubeDude sets for $74.99, with 450 being sold (for a total of 1800) between July 22nd and 25th, 2010. Such was the hype that within 30 minutes of the San Diego Convention Center’s doors opening, “a line of people formed completely around the 40′ x 60′ LEGO booth for the chance to participate in a raffle to purchase a limited LEGO exclusive” reported Creatacor, the event services organizer who produced the LEGO booth.

One of the booth’s key draws – aside from the lifesize, brick-built R2-D2 and C-3PO, the first public appearance of the Summer wave of Star Wars sets, the chance to win a framed gold and silver Boba Fett minifigure, the building tables, new Hero Factory and Toy Story 3 themes, and the retail store – were the five exclusive CubeDude models that were on display in a glass cabinet.

Nowadays the presence of LEGO at the big comic, pop culture and Star Wars conventions is taken for granted – the popularity of their display stand and the exclusives they release are so integral to attendees’ experience that LEGO even managed to produce and release both of their Summer exclusives (77904 Nebulon-B Frigate and 75294 Bespin Duel) despite the cancellation of San Diego Comic-Con and Star Wars Celebration Anaheim due to the COVID-19 pandemic – so it might come as a surprise that San Diego Comic-Con 2010 was only the Danish company’s fourth appearance at the event.

While today’s convention exclusives come boxed in the same kind of packaging that LEGO puts out on toy store shelves, a decade ago they were still learning the ropes and lack the polish that today’s exclusives have achieved. Packaged in a thin cardstock box was a single instruction booklet (laser-printed on glossy paper and hand stapled) along with five mismatched, resealable bags containing a title sheet and the 416 necessary parts to build the CudeDudes.

MacLane, who was in attendance to sign boxes and answer questions from fans and press for a few hours on the 23rd (Friday) and 24th (Saturday), admitted that – despite a long lead – LEGO had been short on time when the instructions were designed and the parts for the CubdeDude sets had been collected together. This goes some way to explain why their announcement came only days before the event opened, why some CudeDude sets had a sixth bag that contained supplemental pieces for Captain Rex (presumably because they had been missed out during the original pick) and why the instructions were unlike those previously created by LEGO.

The feedback from the LEGO Star Wars collecting community at the time indicated that the $75 price tag was prohibitive and while they appealed to LEGO fans, the CubeDude concept was a little too radical for most Star Wars collectors and despite the initial excitement about these exclusives, allegedly there were numerous full boxes left over at the end – it’s unknown whether they were unclaimed by lottery winners or the lottery was undersubscribed – and LEGO sold them off to all comers before their booth closed.

Nowadays this San Diego Comic-Con exclusive is only available on secondary market sites like Bricklink and eBay, where sealed sets sell for between $200 and $400, while unnumbered samples can go for over $800.

Data source: Brick Economy (March 2021)

Keep an eye out for the second part of our forgotten history series, covering the Star Wars Celebration exclusives, as well as our upcoming reviews of both sets.

Entertainment Earth

2 Comments

    • Hey Brian – thanks for your comment!

      That ysalamiri is crazy cool. There certainly was a flood of creativity when Angus posted his first 100 on Flikr backin September 2009.

      Now I’ve finished collecting the parts for the ten exclusive Star Wars CubeDudes, my next project will be Jamie and Adam (https://www.flickr.com/photos/27826007@N05/4052711565) from MythBusters. I know they always said “don’t try this at home” but I’m willing to risk my eyebrows!

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