Yoda Claus using the Force to decorate the Christmas tree. Ahsoka Tano and Aayla Secura roasting marshmallows on Jabba’s sail barge. Darth Vader building a snowman in the Ewok village. These vignettes are from the minds of talented Star Wars fans that marvelously brought their ideas to life in LEGO® brick form.
Last December, Star Wars: Force for Change, FIRST, and the LEGO Group announced the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Contest in celebration of the release of the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special on Disney+. All fans that entered were given one mission: create LEGO Star Wars builds with a holiday theme. There were submissions from fans around the world and needless to say, they were impressive, most impressive. Winners were chosen by an all-star panel of judges including Star Wars actor Kelly Marie Tran, LEGO Star Wars design director Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, and FIRST LEGO League alumni Sanjay and Arvind Seshan; StarWars.com is honored to announce the winners, and to tell their stories. Ewok drum roll, please…
GRAND PRIZE WINNER: Steve Leuer
For engineering teacher Steve Leuer, working with his son Jack on this project was the most enjoyable part of the experience. The build itself took 20 hours, but over the course of two weeks, it was a constant collaboration between father and son. The two would brainstorm over breakfast, pitching ideas back and forth. Their initial plan was to create a scene with BB-8, Yoda, and a Christmas tree. “Once we had that done, our brains just started running wild with other ideas and pieces we could add,” Steve says. “Jack would spend any extra time between his distance learning classes to come up with ideas, find pieces, and work on parts of our scene.”
Soon, a fireplace was added, stockings were created, and a Resistance Bomber tensegrity table was built. “As we were building, we kept trying to come up with something that would really set our design apart and bring a little bit of a wow factor…partly because of the competition, but also because we were having so much fun seeing what we could create.” Not only is a floating table a unique visual effect, it also fit perfectly with their theme of Yoda Claus using the Force on Christmas Eve. After much trial and error (and a few moments where Steve wanted to scrap the idea), Jack kept at it and ultimately created the final design that worked for their scene. It all came down to the shape of the table, which was inspired by a movie night at home. Steve says that “we had just re-watched The Rise of Skywalker so the Rebel bomber was fresh in his mind. Lucky for us, because that was all the inspiration he needed.”
Some might say that Jack’s perseverance is the perfect example of Master Yoda’s lesson of, “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” It’s a philosophy that has resonated with so many fans, and for Steve, it’s one he has tried to instill in his engineering and STEM students. “In my mind, [Yoda’s] teaching is all about doing your best; giving your best effort, no matter what. Don’t take the easy way out, don’t get lazy and put in a lesser effort, don’t miss an opportunity to be successful. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. This is the mindset I want my students to have.”
RUNNER UP: Lindsay Virgilio
The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Contest also brought another family together to build their winning creation. Lindsay Virgilio, her older brother Zach, her younger brother Calvin, and Calvin’s friend Garret Colley all teamed up to create a holiday celebration in the Ewok village. The inspiration for their scene came from Zach, who decided this contest was the perfect time to break out his old Ewok village LEGO set. “The original build of the Ewok village is set when the heroes first encounter the tree-dwellers, but the image that sprang to my mind was the celebration at the very end of Return of the Jedi and I wanted to capture that feeling of celebration while theming the build around Earth holidays,” Zach says.
Over the course of several days, Zach, Calvin, and Garret built the base set while brainstorming ideas for how to bring a spirit of celebration to the final build. The building process took about a week, at which point Zach’s sister Lindsay became involved to help coordinate the design and edit some of the details. Once the build was finalized and photographed, Lindsay added some visual effects to the photos (like a snowy background) to bring the Yub Nub celebration to life.
Being an artist, Lindsay always had a keen eye for visuals. And as a Star Wars fan, she learned early on how to embrace the bright side of the Force. One Halloween, when she and her brother Zach were kids, they asked their mom to make them Jedi robes. For their fabrics, Zach chose a screen-accurate brown textile and Lindsay chose a rainbow-colored spandex material. Her reasoning for the unique choice was simple: “Jedi stand for good and they must be their best selves to stand against darkness in a wide galaxy…if I’m out meditating, healing with Force energy, and protecting citizens of the universe, then plain old white isn’t good enough for me. Have you ever seen a bad guy wearing glittering neon rainbow robes? Nope, me neither.”
RUNNER UP: Erik Etz
When sisters Annabelle and Eleanor Etz created their build, they incorporated visuals that exuded an element of fun. Inspired by the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, they wanted to bring all their favorite characters of the galaxy together for a big Life Day celebration. “My sister and I have always loved Ahsoka Tano and Aayla Secura, so we had them roasting marshmallows on the sail barge. My favorite creature is a porg, so we added some porgs playing with the AT-ST, including a Jedi Padawan porg!” says Annabelle.
Transforming Tatooine into a winter wonderland took about 3 weeks, with the sisters constantly brainstorming and adding decorations and details to some of their favorite LEGO Star Wars sets. Once every last LEGO light bulb was hung, they set up the entire Tatooine scene by their Christmas tree. Like the minifigures in their build, Annabelle and Eleanor had a blast working together. The contest was also a chance for them to fuse two of their favorite fandoms together. “Eleanor and I love LEGO and Star Wars so much, and we were really excited to be able to combine them in a fun way.” And there was one more member of the team: Annabelle and Eleanor’s dad, Erik, who thankfully submitted their entry into the contest, sharing these clever customizations with the world.
RUNNER UP: Brian Steinberg
The word “fun” may not come to mind when you think of a threatening-looking AT-AT, but give it a holiday makeover and you’ve got one jolly-looking vehicle. When college student Brian Steinberg first approached his contest design, he had Kashyyyk on his mind. “My initial idea was that I would build Chewbacca’s home from the original Star Wars Holiday Special all decorated for Life Day,” Brian says. A LEGO Lumpawaroo would have been delightful to see, but Brian quickly realized that the Wookiees’ home was too challenging to build and also creatively restraining.
Rather than recreating something that already existed in the galaxy, Brian went another way with his design. Looking at the plan he mapped out for the original build, he realized that he could still use one of his original ideas. “I included a little decoration of a sandcrawler being pulled by an AT-AT walker and decided that a holiday-inspired Tatooine build would be a unique and exciting direction to take a Life Day celebration!”
With a Tusken Raider in Santa’s seat and a sandcrawler decked out with garland and lights, it somehow feels canon that these characters would love celebrating Life Day. In Brian’s mind, “it made so much sense to me that since the Jawas are always scavenging or stealing parts, one day a year they would get into the holiday spirit and decide to give back for a change!”
Brian has fond memories of building LEGO Star Wars sets over the years. Some builds brought his family together, like when he received a Jedi Starfighter set as a child. “I remember this being one of my first ever LEGO Star Wars sets, and Anakin was my favorite character. However, instead of building the set all by myself I just played with the minifigure while I waited for my older brother and dad to build his starfighter for me.”
In the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, characters from all over the galaxy come together to celebrate Life Day. In our galaxy, we may not celebrate the holidays with roasted tip-yip and blue milk, but it turns out that holiday LEGO building can be a great way to bring friends and family together. Congratulations to the winners, and thank you for helping to commemorate Life Day, LEGO style!
Dylan Drew was also named runner up for his fantastic holiday-themed Star Destroyer!
See the LEGO Stars Wars Holiday Contest winning entries and more on This Week! In Star Wars!
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