Last week, I was lucky enough to join several other Recognised LEGO Fan Media (RLFMs) to participate in a Roundtable Interview with LEGO VP of Design Matthew Ashton and Graphic Designer Diego Sancho, who both worked on the recently announced LEGO Queer Eye Fab 5 Loft set.
Here’s a summary of some of the more interesting findings from the interview with Matthew Ashton and Diego Sancho, featuring their responses throughout the roundtable.
The LEGO Queer Eye set has a release date of 1 October 2021, and will be available from LEGO.com or your local LEGO Store, and will be priced at US$99.99/AU$169.99.
There are more LEGO sets championing Diversity & Inclusion in the pipeline
This is something that is of really high focus within the organization.
As you can imagine, we want to make sure that we’re representing as many people as we can, making people feel that they’re involved and invited to be part of the brand and part of the products, and everything we create is really, really important to us.
So yes, there are other things in the pipeline, I can’t talk about exactly what they are.
The LEGO Queer Eye set was meant to be released BEFORE Everyone is Awesome
The fact that these two happened in the same year was planned to a certain extent.
Throughout the process, timelines have changed- Queer Eye was actually in development before Everyone is Awesome, but because of production issues on the show and Covid, we actually decided to switch them around the other way and launch Everyone isAawesome first and then follow up with this one.
We also wanted to make sure that this one is launching closer to when the new season of Queer Eye which has not been announced yet.
The set design was based on a mixture of seasons
We based the set on the Atlanta television set from Season One and Two. When we initially got together, Season Six was going into production and we were like “Do we do the new season?”
With COVID going on , that became quite complicated, so we had some discussions on how we should portray that property in general.
The Atlanta loft was the first time that the guys ever came together and made the show, we felt that that was iconic in itself.
Then, a few of the guys were like, lease don’t dress us the way that we looked in season one, so we have some of the better outfits from later down the line. Their clothing choices are scattered throughout the different seasons.
We could have portrayed many of the different heroes that the people have the makeovers in the show, and we ultimately landed on Kathi because it’s such a special relationship that she’s had with Jonathan, shaping his life and making a difference with him when he was growing up and the things that he was struggling with.
Then of course, we added in Bruley, the dog who unfortunately is no longer with us but has been such a fan favourite that we wanted to include him as well.
Karamo’s bomber jacket was Diego Sancho’s favourite to design
Diego: The one I had the most fun doing is Karamo’s jackets because I love the ones in real life and I want them all for myself.
The other interesting piece was Jonathan’s skirt because I think it’s the first skirt in that way that we’ve done.
Tan’s French Tuck almost made it into the set as an outfit
Diego: We tried the (French) tuck, but decided to go for the suit because it was the better fitting for for Tan.
Matthew: With the French Tuck, he just looked a little bit casual because and he looked a bit more dapper in his suit.
Diego and I literally skimmed through every season of the show and be like this outfit versus this one. It was also really important for us to make sure that each of the guys had a kind of distinctive colour palette as well, so when you line them all up, they went home wearing black or something like that.
We wanted to make sure that they all stood out and their personality shone through as much with clothing as well.
Tan France’s hairpiece was moulded exclusively for him
Tan got some special treatment, in the sense that he had a brand new wig moulded for him. So we were like that that made him special compared to the other characters.
We also wanted to make the rest of the guys feel special, so we gave them different outfits.
This element was created for Tan before it appeared in Everyone Is Awesome, but then when we switch the launch dates around, I was asked if we should take the wig out of Everyone is Awesome set, but I was like no, no no, it’s staying in there, even if it’s just like an Easter egg and people could maybe figure out its Tan’s hair and hint to what was coming.
The Fab 5 were really happy with their minifigures
Matthew: They were all very happy and there was no feedback that was like, “Why did you put me in this outfit” or “why did you make my face look like this or anything”.
Diego was really respectful of all of them and we tried to pick up on any few little quirks that they do, like Anthony has got a tendency to sort of curl his lip while he’s talking and smiling.
It was super important, not only to reflect what they look like, but also who they are as people as well.
Bobby Berk was a really engaged collaborator through the design process as he’s a massive LEGO fan and knew the set really well
Matthew: I think especially with Bobby being a designer by trade as well, and he has like he’s a huge LEGO fan anyway and actually returned to LEGO through COVID.
I think this is really special for him and I think if we tried to make this set without involving, he probably would have been very upset anyway.
It’s been really, really great working alongside him because he’s been able to sort of pull all the reference material for us to sort of see aspects of the loft that we wouldn’t have necessarily knew existed from watching the show.
LEGO plans to integrate diversity, inclusion into other sets and themes
Matthew: Wherever we can, and we’ve got a lot of plans with our product lines aimed at kids sort of helping to highlight and teach lessons about empathy and understanding that everybody’s different and actually being different can be a really, really good thing, and messages about yourself.
There is a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that will ultimately come out when the products are launched that we are putting more emphasis on that.
Yes, there are some definite actions that we are going to be taking and yes, this is going to be our focus, will always be our focus and more so moving forward.
How did the development of Queer Eye begin?
We approached them. Of course, we do have collaborations with Netflix that we’ve done like Stranger Things in the past, so we do have sort of ongoing opportunities where we can talk to them about the different properties that we want to do.
This one was very much it’s more a sort of messaging and purpose product that we wanted to create with this.
We identified that our brand and their brand have so many values in common about caring, learning and teaching people to see the good in each other.
It’s also really, really a fun show as well and in relation to other reality show there can be a tendency in other reality shows to time trying to tell people down or humiliate them. Whereas this is a show that’s all about building people up, making people see everything that they’ve got within them and just making them themselves be able to live their best lives and be the best versions of themselves with a little bit of help from from these guys. S
So we’ve just teamed up together and and brought this to life through a process that hasn’t been particularly easy because of the COVID situation, but we got there in the end.
Who were the key people involved in making the Queer Eye set happen?
I do need to highlight that this project is much more of a group effort than Everyone is Awesome. Diego in particular, has been a real champion behind the scenes with LGBTQI and Diversity & Inclusions initiatives within The LEGO Group.
So we knew from the get go that Diego had to be part of this project. Not only is he super talented, but he’s also super passionate about these things.
So yes, I am a little bit of the face of this, but this has been a much bigger team effort as well. And we’ve also had Ruth, who did the elements, and of course, all of the people that deal with the licensing side of things.
Matthew Ashton is a massive fan of Queer Eye
I am a huge fan of the show. I’m not going to hide that. And also because the show has actually had a really positive impact on how I want to portray myself and what I want to do in the world and things as well, that it’s actually highlighted to me that I could be doing more stuff to sort of champion messages like this. So this show is actually one of the reasons why everyone is awesome set came around in the first place, so I think that all ties in really nicely. So yes, I’m super excited to have been able to build this, that it’s it’s also a big team effort. And yeah.
Matthew Ashton actually got to meet Jonathan Van Ness in person, before the collaboration was finalised, and also dressed up as Jonathan Van Ness for Halloween that year.
That wasa bit of a crazy story, but me and my friend, Steven Bailey, who was a contestant on Bake Off in the UK and Jonathan is a huge fan of Bake Off. Me and Stephen had got tickets to go and see Jonathan Van Ness’ concert.
On the day we were going for that tour, I’d actually been shopping for my Jonathan wig in the run up to Halloween.
We were late to the performance because we got stuck in traffic and everything, so I turned up late because I’m actually trying to dress up as you!
That was the first time we met, but I knew at that point there was discussions around this (set) and because he knew Steve and I got to meet him through that.
I had nothing to do with this collaboration, but I did sort of drop him a hint that I may potentially be working with him and the guys in the future, but that was before anything was sort of signed.
Graphic Designer Diego Sancho hid a few personal Easter Eggs in the set – orange juice and his mum’s apartment layout
Diego: I may also have like a personal Easter egg in there – the apartment blueprint, which is actually my mum’s apartment because I love her and she’s my pillar. So I wanted to make a tribute to her.
Matthew: Another little one is the orange juice in the fridge in Spanish as well.
There was a fair bit of convincing that needed to be done internally to get the collaboration off the ground
Matthew: There was a certain amount of convincing – there wasn’t any objection to it. I think people within the organization needed to feel this is the right thing to do and the right sort of property that we want to do because not everyone’s aware of the content of the show and what it stands for and everything.
That was kind of a bit of an educational piece that I had to do. This is the meaning behind the show. The fact that it’s about celebrating the best in everybody and it ties in to the messaging on Everyone Is Awesome that everybody’s got the potential to be the best version of themselves.
Thanks for reading – hope you enjoyed this summary of the LEGO Roundtable with Matthew Ashton and Diego Sancho.
To see more of the LEGO Queer Eye set – check out my review of 10291 Queer Eye!