Mix of work and play

Dan Steininger and his son Chris, both Lego master builders, will construct the Millennium Falcon for next month's Star Wars Days at Legoland Malaysia Resort

Father-and-son duo Dan (right) and Chris Steininger are two of only eight master builders with the Lego Group.
Father-and-son duo Dan (right) and Chris Steininger are two of only eight master builders with the Lego Group.PHOTO: THE LEGO GROUP


There are only eight master builders with the Lego Group in the world. And two of them are father and son.

Mr Dan and Chris Steininger are responsible for designing and constructing models that travel around the world in the hope of spreading love for the colourful plastic bricks.

Stationed at the North American headquarters in the town of Enfield, Connecticut, in the United States, the duo will be at the Legoland Malaysia Resort in Johor from Saturday. For three days, they will build the iconic Star Wars spaceship, the Millennium Falcon.

Part of the theme park's Star Wars Days event next month, the model will be the biggest Lego Millennium Falcon. More than 200,000 bricks will be used and it will measure 4.8m long by 3.6m wide. Visitors will be invited to help lay a brick or two for the massive creation.

Together, Dan, 60, and Chris, 32, have just over 30 years of working experience with the Lego Group. It was Chris - the eldest of four children and married with two young kids himself - who introduced his father to Lego.

In a telephone interview from their office, Dan says: "Chris is my eldest child, so when he started getting Lego sets as gifts, I began playing with him and really started to appreciate what nice toys they were. I never got to play with Lego as a child."

He got hooked and left a lucrative job in sales 23 years ago to join Lego.

He started out as a model gluer trainee and became a master builder 11/2 years later. Now, he is the most senior master builder, or "really old" as Chris cheekily puts it.

His father working for Lego fuelled his passion as well. In his teens, he worked at the Lego Group during his spring and summer school breaks.

"It helped to build a good base of skills required to eventually become a master builder and gave me an edge over other builders," he says.

He joined the Lego Group about eight years ago. He has been a master builder for the last 51/2 years.

Father and son may not work together on builds all the time, but their offices are connected by a common building space.

Their chemistry is apparent. Throughout the interview, they poked fun at each other good- naturedly .

Says Dan: "We have a good time working together. It's a privilege to work with my son... who doesn't always listen to his father."

1 What does it take to be a Lego master builder?

Chris: You don't start out as a master builder. You start out as a model gluer trainee and work your way up.

Dan: Right now, the company is looking for people with a lot of 3D modelling experience. In the old days, we would build the models by hand, but nowadays, more is done digitally first.

2 Do you ever get sick of each other?

Chris (chuckles): Well, if you hang around someone too long, you will get annoyed at each other. But generally speaking, we get along very well. If we do get mad at each other, we don't hang on to the anger for long and move on.

Dan: There is no grudge match and ultimately, we enjoy each other's company.

3 Do you two hang out together much outside of work?

Chris: For sure. We even built a boat together recently and use it to go fishing.

Dan: It was a very fun project. Chris was definitely the captain, instructing me to clean this and do that.

4 You guys have declared yourselves as Star Wars fans, so what Star Wars-themed model would you like to build?

Dan: A giant Jabba the Hutt because he is a big, fat, slug-like alien that would be fun to build.

Chris: I would like to build a big AT-AT Walker (a four-legged all- terrain combat walker), but that would be a bit more of a challenge.

5 What's your favourite Lego theme?

Dan: Lego City, which is based on city life. There is something exciting about building a fire station or police car, and there are buildings too.

Chris: Lego Technic, as it is very technique-based and I have been playing with it since young. I come from a more technical background than my dad and Technic is really about that.

6 Being a Lego master builder sounds like a dream job to many. Is it?

Chris: It is. Who else can say that they get to paid to play for a living? We are Lego fans and to travel the world and meet others who love Lego is awesome. Hopefully, we inspire kids to follow their dreams and build awesome creations with Lego too.

Dan: It's also nice because we both love children, so it's fun to see their reactions to something you have made. Their parents are happy too to meet someone who is paid to play with Lego. They think this could be a possible career for their child as for some kids, this is all they want to do.

7 What has been your most memorable project, good or bad?

Dan: I've got two, one good and the other bad. For the former, it was building a replica of a children's hospital in Denver. We were at the hospital for a week and it was very emotional and the most rewarding work I have ever done.

The other project was building an American flag at the Smithsonian. We had put too many stars and built the flag incorrectly. That was very embarrassing and if you had a camera on me that time, my face was a bright red.

One of the museum's staff members noticed it and, thankfully, we got it fixed in an hour.

Chris: A couple of years ago, I was involved in Lego's largest model of a life-sized X-Wing from the Star Wars franchise. My dad and I flew to New York City to assemble the model in Times Square with our Czech colleagues overnight and it was pretty awesome.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

Dan: As someone who was fair, honest and fun.

Chris: I would want to be remembered as someone people would reach out to for advice and as a problem solver.

•For more information on Legoland Malaysia Resort's Lego Star Wars Days, go to www.legoland.com.my.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2016, with the headline 'Mix of work and play'. Print Edition | Subscribe