Monday, March 24, 2014

Aquazone - My Art Direction debut on a LEGO project

Back in the early 90ies I had already worked as an assistant and illustrator on different LEGO lines but finally it was time for me to have my debut as Art Director. 
Shortly after in late 1993 Advance was briefed on a completely new LEGO play theme for 1995 and I was extremely lucky because I got to create the full package. 
The line was called Aquazone. This was a dream come true. I got to work with one of my deepest passions; Diving and the underwater world. I chose the environment and here I used one of the most fascinating rock formations in the natural environment, namely the basalt columns. These structures are created when the basalt cools down and shrinks after coming up from a volcano and breaks into hexagonal columns. 
The drawing you see on the left is done with AD-markers on paper:) This was before the age of computers so everything was done analog. 
The basalt columns reappear in the cave in "Invasion from Below" the 2014 Hero Factory mini movie. The structure is simply too good to only use once:)

 I designed the different logos and the bright yellow graphics and finally got to direct my first LEGO commercial. We filmed for a week in London and used one of the biggest motion control rigs in Europe. I think it was called the Cyclops (you don’t want to get in the way of that monster). We filled the studio with smoke and light beams and simulated water the best way possible. It was the best AD start anyone could have asked for.


  1. Aquazone was one of my absolute favorite themes in my childhood. I had a pretty formidable collection, all things considered. In hindsight, I have mixed feelings for it. On one hand, like a lot of 90s themes it had a lot of large and specialized pieces. On the other hand, many of those pieces like the various octagonal columns/pontoons still strike me as extremely useful. I'm kind of surprised that I don't see more nostalgia for it in the online LEGO community.

    One of my Aquanauts sets included this blue baseplate. It was a neat concept, but you couldn't build on it, and it's not nearly as pretty as your staggered, flat-topped basalt columns! Although it does at least share its texture with the points of the crystals from that theme.

    Were you also involved in the three later Aquazone series (Aquaraiders, Hydronauts, and Stingrays)? I enjoyed Aquaraiders and Stingrays as well. Hydronauts not so much... felt a little bit too much like Aquanauts with less impressive designs, from my perspective.

    I have a pillowcase from back then (Aquazone on one side, Launch Command on the other) that I still use on occasion. I also had the poster that this drawing became!

    Overall, I think later and more story-driven themes owe a lot to Aquazone. Aquazone was one of the LEGO Group's first real "invented worlds" — settings and concepts that weren't already cemented in the public consciousness. Space had shades of that, but sci-fi stories set in outer space were already well-known and are to this day. Aquazone, in contrast, had a unique sort of mythology to it. It was never totally clear just where this vast underwater world was (Earth? Another planet? An alternate Earth from another universe?), but it was still something I had never seen or heard of: futuristic divers battling for crystals that they depended on for their oxygen.

    I really appreciate all the work you went to to make this theme so magical!

  2. Thanks for a great comment. Aquazone was definitely the first theme outside space where a new environment and storyline was applied. I remember that after working on different space lines, I was thrilled to be able to take the alien space world and place it in a underwater context. I guess the 0 gravity feel you get underwater is the closest you can get to space “on earth” and the feeling of being in an alien environment with strange creatures is just a few meters under the surface. Love it!!!

  3. I really liked Aquazone as a child, and I still have a somewhat roughed poster based on that drawing! Looking at other old concepts, some of the Aquazone sets seem to have similar designs to those of the unused Sea-Tron theme's vehicles-
    Was Sea-Tron taken into consideration while creating the theme or these similarities are only coincidental?