Building a career brick by brick: Alumnus joins LEGO as a master builder
Above: Anthony Maddaloni, BA’10, builds a hockey figure for an event at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester where the Florham Campus alumnus serves as the master model builder. (Photos courtesy of Anthony Maddaloni)
By Dan Landau
Anthony Maddaloni, BA’10 (Flor), isn’t an astronaut, superhero or a cowboy, but kids still dream of having his job: master model builder at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester in Yonkers, N.Y.
“I come up with designs and build creations for the events at LEGOLAND. I also maintain and update the MINILAND, which is a large LEGO creation of New York City and West Chester County landmarks,” says Maddaloni. “Mainly, I am just building with LEGO and teaching kids how to build.”
It’s a dream job for many and Maddaloni is loving it. “It’s fun to work with the kids and see a bit of myself and how I got started with LEGO in them.”
Above: Maddaloni works on the MINILAND exhibit at LEGOLAND. A feature of every LEGOLAND, this one has several New York City and West Chester County landmarks in it.
Maddaloni started working at LEGOLAND in the fall of 2016, emerging successfully from a fiercely competitive interview and audition process that included time building challenges. “We were given a theme and 30 minutes to think of an idea and build it,” he says. The challenges consisted of winter/holidays, landmarks and mythical creatures. Maddaloni built a cubist snowman — “I went with a cubist design, because I didn’t have time to make perfect spheres with the bricks,” he says — the Lincoln Memorial, and a hippogriff (part eagle, part horse).
He credits landing the coveted job, in part, to his background in film production and film studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University. The Tarrytown, N.Y., resident studied filmmaking and studio arts at the Florham Campus and then went on to found his own special effects and props company, Practically Alive.
“I liked the combination of majoring in film and minoring in studio arts at the same time. The art work helped my filmmaking and my filmmaking helped my art. It definitely influenced me to get where I am now,” he says.
Above: LEGO statues that Maddaloni built as prizes for a superhero-themed event.
“Building with LEGO isn’t much different than building props,” continues Maddaloni. “When I’m making special effects, I come up with a concept beforehand and try to visualize the obstacles I’ll encounter creating it. I would sculpt the prop in clay and then cast and mold my pieces. LEGO is a different medium and there are fewer steps, which is nice, but my way of conceptualizing creations and then building with actual materials is the same.”
At LEGOLAND his creation process starts on screen: “I’ll be given a theme or some guidelines for what’s needed and then I get to design it myself. I’ll draw my idea digitally on a tablet and kind of make my own instructions on how to build the creation in Photoshop. Then I get to build it.”
Above: Maddaloni’s workshop at LEGOLAND. While Maddaloni has access to an essentially limitless supply of bricks at work, he estimates that he has tens of thousands of bricks of his own at home.
Like most aficionados, Maddaloni’s LEGO experience started in childhood. He grew up building with LEGO and it was from those first building experiences that he also fell in love with filmmaking.
“I had pirate and knight LEGO sets and I would make stories with them. When my family got our first camcorder, I made stop-motion movies with my LEGO. From there, my obsessions with LEGO and film grew,” he says.
Maddaloni is obsessed enough with LEGO that after designing and building all day at LEGOLAND, he goes home and keeps on designing and building. Currently, he’s building a four-foot square zombie apocalypse model at home. “I like to incorporate homages in my work and in the zombie creation, I have references to movies and horror video games I like,” he says.
Above: Maddaloni’s zombie apocalypse creation in progress. “I think this might be the biggest thing I’ve made for fun,” he says.
“I’m always excited to be working on something. That’s the key — never stop creating, whether it is with LEGO or any other art medium. If you are truly passionate about something, you should always be making things, even if it’s just for yourself,” says Maddaloni.
Members of the FDU community may visit Maddaloni and experience all that LEGOLAND has to offer at the next “Adult Fans of LEGO” night, on April 6.
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