Update: Samuel Haymaker’s project has successfully hit the 10k votes necessary to earn it official consideration from Lego.
Who would have thought a long-since-finished 1980s sitcom about four older ladies sharing a house could have the makings of the next breakout smash Lego set?
40-year-old devoted Golden Girls fan Samuel Hatmaker, for one. Painstakingly recreating the comedy show’s Miami setting, along with building mini-figs of beloved characters Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia, the New York-based toy developer Hatmaker submitted his concept to Lego’s Ideas platform, where fans can vote on fan-made creations with a view to Lego taking notice.
Expecting nothing to come of it, the enthusiastic response was the most surprising thing since the episode in which the girls accidentally book a weekend away at a nudist camp.
“This project has just gone crazy,” he tells Power of the Brick. “Today alone, it’s gotten more than 5,000 new supporters. The story got picked up by Time and the Huffington Post. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before. It’s wonderful.”
Hatmaker got his first Lego set when he was three-years-old. Since then, his interest has waxed and waned depending on his age and his level of disposable income — but it’s never gone away.
Then, a few years ago, he decided on a whim to sort his buckets of Lego into new boxes, according to size and color. “I had these huge card catalog drawers in my apartment filled with Lego,” he says. “It made playing with them so much easier.”
Unlike the sets he had built as a kid, Hatmaker now had a level of adult sophistication to help him — not hurt by the fact that he plays with toys for a living. “I could engineer better buildings and render things in three-dimensions in a way I never could previously,” he says.
Outside of work, he started building Lego sets on his own, until he was encouraged to put one online. It was a proposed set for the cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender, a show with a cult following. “I was pleased with it, but for some reason it just didn’t gain traction,” he says. “Over the period of one year it probably got about 200 votes in total. I thought it would get more, but nobody ever noticed it for some reason.”
The same couldn’t be said for Hatmaker’s next project.
Always a fan of The Golden Girls, he began working on the project during the long winter evenings. “I’d play around with it for half an hour here, 45 minutes there,” he says. “Some weekends I’d stay in and work on the set because who wants to go out in the winter, right?”
In total, he says the set took around 50 hours of building and rebuilding to get perfect — with plenty of photo references, of course.
“Lego has just become such an enormously popular brand over the last two years,” Hatmaker says. “And The Golden Girls is, you know, well, it’s The Golden Girls! It’s one of the funniest shows in history. It still plays in the United States on three different channels every single day. It’s timeless.”
Eventually a friend insisted that — despite his reservations — he had to submit this idea to Lego, too. He uploaded his photos to the Lego Idea site, where fans had the chance to vote on them. If he was able to snag 10,000 votes over 352 days (a harder feat than it seems), the set could become an official one produced by the toy making giant.
Not every set makes it past the review stage, however — even when 10,000 votes are secured. A Shaun of the Dead concept was shot down in 2012 because of the age-inappropriate subject matter. The Golden Girls is far from a blood-splattered zombie apocalypse, but it’s certainly not the first thing you’d associate with the interests of young Lego buyers, either.
“I realize this is a long-shot,” Hatmaker says. “I mean, it’s a show about four old ladies; it’s not exactly the Ghostbusters car which came out a year ago. But I think it appeals to a timeless demographic which goes way beyond the people who might normally buy a Lego set.” He points to other (on paper) unlikely successes, like 2014’s all-female scientist set, which sold out almost immediately upon release.
What would Hatmaker feel if his set did get picked up? He’d ask Lego for a job, for one thing.
“If this ever becomes a 10,000 vote set, and Lego reviews it and says ‘yes’ I may get the chance to speak with them and drop them my résumé,” he says, with boyish enthusiasm. “Working for Lego has been my dream since I was a little kid. If that could possibly happen I would move to [Lego’s home-country of] Denmark in a New York heartbeat.”
Last but not least, having more than demonstrated his Golden Girls fan credentials, does he have a favorite character in the show?
“That’s impossible,” he laughs. “You take any one of them out and it’s not the same show. You need all four of them to make it balance as well as it does. If you have just one missing piece, it’s no longer the thing we know and love.”
Sounds a whole lot like a Lego set when you phrase it like that.