Mike Rayahwk LEGO Playthemes
Legends of Chima 2013-2014 Trading Cards
LEGO Legends of Chima™ 2013-2014 Trading Cards
Legends of Chima™ and associated images and characters Copyright LEGO ©2012-2015
Following our adventures with the Knights Kingdom trading cards in 2004 and 2005, LEGO assembled a stable of freelance illustrators for cooking up several years of Ninjago cards. I missed out on that process - I was away working on LEGO Universe - but I came back to take over illustration of the big new upcoming Legends of Chima line that was replacing Ninjago in 2014. I inherited the Ninjago illustrators for this project, although not always on a predictable schedule, since I was sharing them with several other LEGO themes at unpredictable intervals over the course of the year.

Given that I couldn't be completely sure when I would or wouldn't have any given freelancer support, and since the illustrations would have to be brought to a near-final state before the character and product designs they were based on could be finalized, the first task was to develop a flexible art pipeline that could handle months of interminable last-minute changes, swapping different artists and designs in and out without warning.

In the end, once we'd gotten the Chima team together and hashed out the character and story beats we wanted to highlight, card-by-card, it was my job to make the basic card layout sketches and secure approvals for all 160 cards, and then put together briefings to pass out to the freelance team as each batch of layouts received approval. I and whichever freelance artists were available completed two draft illustrations per person per week, which I would then set aside until the character and model designs were finalized. Once I got the go-ahead from the product designers, I then did the 160 finish passes myself over several sleepless weeks, bringing them all into alignment with the final designs and with each other.

The freelance illustrators brought in to work on these cards, at various times over the course of 2012-2013, were Jake Masbruch, Andreas Rocha, Jonas Springborg, and later on, Craig Sellars and Stuart Reeves.
The Chima Illustration Pipeline
The Chima Illustration Pipeline

I don't have the spreadsheets anymore for which artists worked on which parts of each image, but my best guess is that 20-25% of these were mine from start to finish. Most of the rest involved a single other artist, especially in these early cards. Later on, once we were more comfortable with the pipeline, I started passing images between the artists more often for elements that played to their particular strengths.
Lennox and Worriz's Speedor Joust
Most of the Speedor sets were just a single Speedor vehicle and Chima character minifigure, but with each release there were a few double packs. I always tried to give each double pack one pair of trading cards whose illustrations lined up with each other for a single panoramic double image. For Lennox and Worriz, it was the cards for their respective Speedors: "Defendor VI" and "Huntor."

If you only knew the amount of wrangling that went into securing legal approvals for 160 completely made-up card names that would never be used again, ever, in either the story or products.
Besides creating double-card illustrations within packs, I tried to create links between characters in separate packs you might catch if you happened to buy both of them. In the background of Leonidas's portrait card, you can see Razar sneaking into the Chi chamber that Leonidas is supposed to be guarding. Meanwhile, in the background of Razar's card, you can just see Leonidas standing guard outside, oblivious to Razar's gleeful theft.

We didn't have clear guidelines for whether to depict the holes on the backs of the minifigures' legs, so I tried to avoid showing characters from that angle as much as possible. Equila's Speedor card ("Shreekor") and Eglor's Speedor Upgrade card ("Aerozor") are the only two where the backs of the legs can be seen, as far as I know.
When we painted the cards for Winzar, the spiky rocks known as the Fangs were snowy and icy. Later, the story was changed so that they were warm and tropical to match the rest of Chima, although prone to sinkholes and earthquakes. Too late for Winzar; his cards had him Speedoring around in an unexplained wintry environment that didn't exist in the final version of Chima.

A couple product lines later, Chima was attacked by Sir Fangar and his ice zombie animals, so the Winzar cards just ended up looking like they were ahead of their time.
In Chima's second big story arc, the heroes head out to the deadly jungles of the Outlands where they fight a bunch of mutant plants and seek out an army of spiders, scorpions, and bats.

This is also where the heroes meet Chima's own Racer X character, Shadowind.
In Chima's final arc, the floating island of Mount Cavora catches on fire, and ice age animal zombies from Chima's past return to life to invade.

This series added two new card types to the trading card game: Chi Shrines and Obstacles.
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