Seemingly appearing out of nowhere at the height of the 2010 convention season when LEGO released a set of CubeDude – Clone Wars Edition exclusives at San Diego Comic-Con, attendees were taken by surprise by their originality and anime-like cuteness. After their debut launch at the world’s biggest pop culture convention, LEGO went on to capitalize on the popularity of these cubic curiosities with a set of bounty hunters at Celebration V at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando to help mark the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back.
Though the mainstream Star Wars fanbase had little idea what the CubeDude craze was about, the LEGO community was only too aware because their members had been exposed to – and emulating – the work of Angus MacLane for nearly a year.
The story began in late 2009 when full-time Pixar animator and all-time LEGO fan MacLane went public with his CubeDude concept. MacLane had already made a name for himself with his Wall•E build several years earlier (which became 21303 Wall•E through the LEGO Ideas platform) but it was when he started displaying his earliest CudeDude builds inspired by GI Joe: Resolute animated TV at LEGO conventions – and later uploaded a hundred and one CubeDude images (the result of four months dedicated building) to his Flikr account that September.
It didn’t take long before his work spread across the blogosphere thanks to Brothers Brick who pushed the CubeDude fad from the start. This focus brought MacLane’s work to the attention of the marketing execs at LEGO who happened to be looking for the next big thing and approached him to create a promotional exclusive for their VIP Gala event at the North American International Toy Fair in the coming February. Recognizing the opportunity, MacLane agreed and designed a one-off Buzz Lightyear for LEGO who gave a total of 150 away to mark the reveal of the Toy Story 3 line of sets.
Success followed success when LEGO gave MacLane the chance to create more of his signature models, resulting in five exclusive Clone Wars characters (which were sold via a lottery system for $74.99 each), with the promise more to come at Star Wars Celebration in August.
MacLane took time to talk to StarWars.com editor Pete Vilmur during one of his SDCC visits, and explained where his inspiration came from and further revealed his creative process:
I think the design influence comes from a wide variety of places. Obviously my CubeDude work is also heavily influenced by the Japanese Anime “Super-Deformed” style as well as the modern vinyl toy movement. Finally I would also have to say that LEGO minifigs and LEGO Miniland scale figures are also a big influence.
When I first started figuring out the CubeDude formula, I did a bunch of sketches to try and figure out what the rules of the format would be. After I settled on the “rules” of the format, I just started building. I tend to only make ‘Dudes based on properties that I like or at the very least think are funny.
Though the origin story of the CubeDude design aesthetic began with GI Joe, MacLane soon branched out to other IPs beginning with Robocop. In an interview with Bricks-A-Billion, MacLane said “Robocop is probably my favorite character. His design just ended up working out so well. In making him I arrived at the convention of using a white 1×1 round stud as teeth and gums. Although a lot of the CubeDudes use this design it is somehow the funniest to me on Robocop.” Pleased with Robocop’s visor, MacLane began working on the first of his Star Wars CubeDude models – Boba Fett – and the rest is CubeDude history.
Following the positive reception the five exclusive Clone Wars CubeDude models received at SDCC, StarWars.com revealed the exclusive set that LEGO would produce for Celebration V – which had been teased in the press release that had announced the San Diego Comic-Con models – being held between August 12th and 15th in Orlando.
With the thirtieth anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back being the man focus of the fifth official Star Wars convention, it didn’t come as a surprise that LEGO – who had marked the birthday of the third Star Wars movie with six new sets during the year – would have MacLane reprise his collection of bounty hunters as a convention exclusive and as luck would have it (as revealed on The Star Wars Show on June 9th 2016) MacLane’s favorite Star Wars movie is The Empire Strikes Back
The final version of the CubeDude – Bounty Hunter Edition would include Boba Fett, IG-88, Bossk, Dengar, and 4-LOM but would have a few tweaks. Aside from the lack of Zuckuss (the Gand that was accidentally labeled as 4-LOM when Kenner released the character’s 3-3/4″ action figure in 1981), who was dropped so that the Celebration V exclusive would have the same model count and price tag as the Clone Wars Edition, there are a few subtle differences between MacLane’s own collection and the final versions.
“The biggest changes in settling on the design was the availability of pieces” explained MacLane, who used LEGO Digital Designer (a freeware virtual building program produced by LEGO) to produce virtual models for the LEGO marketing team in Enfield, Connecticut to review.
With the LEGO footprint in the West Concourse’s main exhibitor hall split between two locations (the building tables and mural areas at the eastern side the main booth and retail area across the hall at the west end), fans had good could get their steps in – and thanks to the lottery system that LEGO opted for, no-one had to stand in a line and miss out on their Celebration V experience. Priced at $74.99, 500 were sold daily at the LEGO retail booth – (cleverly decorated with a facade to make it look like the entrance to the Hoth Wampa Cave (8089) set over the four-day event..
Just like those sold at SDCC, the CubeDude – Bounty Hunter Edition exclusives came packaged in a thin cardstock box. Inside was a single instruction booklet (laser-printed on glossy black paper and hand stapled) and five resealable bags containing a title sheet and the necessary parts to build the five CudeDudes. Differing from the SDCC exclusives was the piece count because, at 496, the Celebration set an extra 80 elements in its inventory, for the same price.
Just like San Diego Comic-Con, MacLane made a special appearance to sign sets and chat with fellow Star Wars fans about how his signature building style came to be, as well as give advice on how to create more CubeDude characters, and generally entertain the line of convention-goers who wanted to meet him while he was at his table next to the retail store at the main LEGO booth.
Given the nature of the crowds of people who attended Celebration V and the focus of the event’s exclusive CubeDude set, the exclusive sold extremely well and few collectors balked at the price tag. These days this Celebration V exclusive is only available on secondary market sites like Bricklink and eBay, where sealed sets sell for between $250 and $350, while unnumbered samples can go for over $600, with the higher production numbers helping to keep the price slightly lower than the Clone Wars Edition – CubeDude version.
Check out our Forgotten History: CubeDude Exclusives (Part One) feature on the Clone Wars Edition – CubeDude set from San Diego Comic-Con, and keep an eye out for our upcoming reviews of both exclusives, coming soon.
Fervent documentarian, effusive AFOL and founding partner, Jeremy manages the daily news content and set reviews.
Having enjoyed playing with LEGO from his earliest years, Jeremy started collecting LEGO Star Wars in 1999 when the theme was first released. He has shared his thoughts and opinions on LEGO via a number of websites – including starwars.com, rebelscum.com and brickset.com – contributed to the LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary series and served the LEGO Ambassador Network as a Recognised LEGO Fan Media representative.