(Australian Associated Press)
Ryan McNaught was in his mid-30s when he sheepishly asked his mum if she had kept the Lego bricks he’d loved as a child.
“Yes,” she’d responded, like it wasn’t even a question. Don’t all good mothers keep their children’s toys for decades?
It was 2008 and McNaught had just returned from a trip to the United States, where he’d seen some epic Lego constructions in a shopfront window.
They’d left him in awe and with a burning desire to have a go himself.
Soon enough, the Melbourne father’s Lego collection had been dragged from the dark corner of a shed and he was labouring away on this and that, just as he’d done as a boy.
Since then McNaught’s constructions have grown in their sophistication and size, and he’s now one of just 14 people in the world deemed a Lego grand master.
As the only certified Lego professional in the southern hemisphere, he loves the fact that the toy company contracts him to build the kind of shopfront displays that reignited his love for the little plastic bricks.
And when he’s not working for Lego, he’s playing with it anyway.
McNaught is about to put his Lego genius on display at the Brisbane premiere of a touring exhibition of models of the world’s great wonders.
He and his team of six assistant builders have spent the past year working on more than 50 mega-Lego sculptures, using a whopping two million bricks in the process.
One need look no further than the curves of Michelangelo’s statue of David, or the organic lines of King Kong atop the Empire State Building for proof of their mind-boggling skills.
McNaught and his team have even managed to perfectly capture the cylindrical profile of the Leaning Tower of Pisa from the straight-edged rectangular bricks.
“We’ve been very busy. This whole exhibition is about 5000 man hours, which is a very long time,” McNaught tells AAP.
A reverent tone enters his voice when he describes the challenge of building Japan’s famed Himeji Castle with its intricate and complex tiered rooflines.
“It’s got some crazy angles on it. It was really, really difficult and I worked on that for the best part of six or seven weeks,” he says.
But he’s reluctant to call it his favourite.
“Oh, that’s a hard one. It’s like trying to pick your favourite child,” McNaught laughs.
He chuckles too about the street-cred his job as a Lego whiz has bought him in the playground when he collects his twin boys from primary school.
“Whenever I do school pick-ups, it’s like ‘Hey, Mr Lego!'” he says.
“And I have been dragged to show and tell quite a number of times.”
* The Wonders of the World exhibition opens on Wednesday at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, and runs until December 14, before heading to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.