Building Worlds: An Interview with Felix Mezei

During my visit to Brickenburg’s Ethnologia Galactica I got a chance to met and chat with Felix Mezei, a passionate, and very straightforward, builder who specializes in recreating historical buildings in LEGO. From time to time, however, he builds huge displays and, as luck would have it, his latest one was Ninjago (Movie) themed! We talked about his work at length and he agreed to do an interview for BrickSamurai. Our very first!

The diorama itself is quite huge, and, as expected, full of Ninjago goodies. Not only that, a part of the display is actually the world’s tallest train spiral, of which you can watch this trippy 360 video. Make sure you watch until the end so you get a good look of the city itself. But don’t let me spoil too much – let’s give the author a chance to speak as well.

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? Where are you from? How did you get into LEGO?
I’m 43 years old, born and living in Baia Mare, Transylvania. I’m an engineer, with a career of 18 years in sales. In 2012, I decided to finish my career and not to work anymore as a sales director nor be employed in Romania, and to leave the country. I received an offer to work in an embassy abroad (but the offer fell through) and ended up waiting for 2 years. During this period I was thinking what to do because I had all the free time in the world so I started to buy and build official LEGO sets.

What type of LEGO hobbyist would you classify yourself as?
I am an amateur collector (I open all the sets I buy). I like mainly Technic, Architecture and City sets. I like to replicate real buildings with LEGO parts.

Can you tell us a bit more about your works as a diorama builder? How did you get into the “business” of building dioramas?
One of my friends has a toy store, he started to sell LEGO in 2010 and in his shop window (3.5 X 1.2 m) he asked me if I want to create a castle with some parts that he had bought, together with some sets from his and my collection. I started in October 2014 and now I’m at my 8th.

My friend was shocked to see how big the castle I first created for him was and he never believed that I will accept and know how to fill his window space with one continuous diorama.

Usually, he asks me to create a new diorama with a theme (sometimes impossible ones like Nexo-Friends), in accordance with LEGO’s main focus theme at that time. Dioramas, being in a shop, have to use unmodified official LEGO sets, so parents can see and buy from the shelves. The window is in the most important sidewalk of my town so all my dioramas have 2 faces, something interesting for people who enter in the shop, but also for those who just like to look from outside.

We know that your latest work is Ninjago themed. For how long was the project in planning?
LEGO launched The Ninjago Movie in cinemas together with the sets, and my friend, the owner of the shop, insisted to replicate what people can see in the movie. I never made a plan, I just decided what official sets I will use. I only made an approximation of the position of the railway and roads and then built around this initial layout. I wouldn’t call it a plan thought, mostly because usually it is modified during the 3 months of creation.

How long did it take to set up?
I started building in September and on 30 November 2017 the build was finished. I work on all my dioramas for 2-3 months at home and then I “install” them in the shop window in a single night. In the following 2-3 days I add some details like plants, flowers, but nothing important. For an example you can search ‘Felix Mezei Timelapse’ on YouTube. (AN: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHQDKNOTLTc)

What was your main source of inspiration for this diorama?
I went 1 time to see the Movie, then I saw some articles in The Blocks Magazine and I tried to make my own Ninjago City 70620. The store is not allowed to sell this set because, in Romania, all exclusive sets are sold only in LEGO Certified Stores.

Can you tell us some interesting facts about the various builds you’ve incorporated into the diorama?
Just like I saw in the Movie I incorporated big “skyscrapers”, an old fishing docks and market, a jungle, a castle on a mountain and a suspended railway instead of the suspended highway. As for the official sets, the ship, the dragon and robots were used. Unfortunately, most of the Ninjago Movie villains sets were launched in January 2018, 2 months after my work was finished.

The buildings you build are quite large. How do you decide the scale?
I didn’t decided on a scale because I didn’t make a detailed plan. We just ordered a large quantity of part and the scale of the skyscrapers was decided by the amount of parts of which we had enough to make identical floors. In this case, the limit almost was the shop’s ceiling. In the end we didn’t use all the parts that we bought, because we didn’t had enough room. It was the first time when I shared the available space so I miscalculated. We helped a client of the store to create a train spiral, occupying a third of the space, which ended up breaking the world record in height.

Piggybacking on the previous question, how do you transport such enormous creations?
I intended to put furniture and minifigures inside each floor but in the end – I was bored. Luckily, this way, all the buildings were built as 1 floor modules. I used the backseat and the trunk of my car to transport it from my house. How I will do it on a longer trip, I will see the first time I am invited to an exhibition in Serbia.

Do you have any advice for aspiring diorama builders?
I’m not in the position to give advice, but I can say that I like to have packed works with a lot of details that are hard to discover with a single glance. I don’t like big empty streets and the same official Advanced Modulars Buildings and empty fields (green baseplates). Because most AFOLs are not young, I must say let’s be more inspired by our own childhood culture and do more themes that are not so actual today, like Western, Medieval, Greek and Roman Empire, Egypt, Maya…

Is there a project you’re currently working on? What are your plans for this year?
No LEGO plans for this year, but I keep buying parts and minifigures for a distant future Western big diorama.

Ninjago Diorama by Felix Mezei

Ninjago Diorama by Felix Mezei

Ninjago Diorama by Felix Mezei - rooftops

Ninjago Diorama by Felix Mezei – Rooftops

Ninjago Diorama by Felix Mezei - docks detail

Ninjago Diorama by Felix Mezei – docks

Ninjago Diorama by Felix Mezei - scale

Ninjago Diorama by Felix Mezei – sense of scale

That concludes our interview. I’m hopeful that you’ve enjoyed our short voyage into the brain of Felix. To me, his work is truly inspiring so I urge you to visit his website and see his other works.

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