Let's Light up the Dragon Dance!
We love this model.
It's the perfect blend of an eye catching LEGO display piece and a clever automata.
It needed to be lit up and this one was a huge challenge as it's so dynamic with every section moving and the base being filled with the mechanism!
After a lot of work, here's what we came up with:
This was very much a case of trial and error in the end - planning only goes so far!
No matter what we do with the Dragon, we knew the inside needs at least some illumination.
Each side has 6 lovely pearl-gold decorated railings fitted as windows. Sadly the front one has solid bricks right behind it, so there's not much we can do there.
The other windows have the main drive shaft right behind them, so getting wires in there could easily lead to tangling and breaks.
Instead we opted to use Large Warm White bit lights - these give a lot of light in a small package. And we stuck them to the floor to ensure they don't get tangled.
Four of them fit neatly under the tiles:
And the last we just need any old 2x1 to hold in place:
After a few attempts we went for using Yellow bit lights. They're not common in Light My Bricks models but in certain places they're just perfect. They're significantly more yellow than a Warm White light, and come with a 15cm lead which is well suited to smaller models.
To light up the whole dragon we used a single Yellow Bit Light between each section of the body, one in the tail, and one in the head.
The Big Decision
No matter what we do with the lights, there's a huge choice.
1) Each light wire runs down into the base to get power
2) All the Dragon lights are linked together and then just a single wire runs down to the base.
In the end we had to go for option 2.
We display our sets in cabinets, so there's no concern about people seeing the back. That gives us a certain amount of freedom, so we hid a 12 port expansion board stuck to the middle body section with sticky pads.
Here's the awful secret at the back of our Dragon Dance:
Yes really. It's not that bad to be honest!
Here's a close up view:
From the front you really can't tell.
The head was pretty simple - just a single Yellow Bit Light at the back of the mouth.
It's not even held in place as you would expect - we removed the lower jar, ran the Bit Light plug in front to back through the plate with a technic hole, and then reattached the jaw. The Bit Light is held neatly in place.
Each body section is the same - the Yellow Bit Light is trapped under a trans-clear 1x1 round stud in the middle of the cross piece.
For each section, the wire is run upwards and towards the middle of the dragon where the 12 port board will go.
The tail finishes the job, with another Yellow Bit Light at the back, held in place with a simple trans-clear 2x1 plate. The 'face' of the Bit Light should face downward to ensure the most light escapes down and not through the red plastic.
As you can see we tucked the wire under one of the red 2x2 bricks to hide it before it goes into the body. Just always leave a little slack on the wires in a model like this, to allow the body parts to be moved. If the wires are too tight you'll have a tough time adjusting the model without damaging them.
Of course we couldn't forget this detail! When we first lit up the Dragon it looked good, but the front was still quite dark.
After a few attempts at mounting some lights for the mascot leading the Dragon we settled on a single 30cm Pink Bit Light at the base of the pole, facing up. It's a simple but effective technique.
As you can see here, the Bit Light is just trapped under the round 2x2 tile and fitted like that you have flexibility to point it how you like - the wire is stiff enough to hold in place.
There's no perfect way to hide the wire but running it out at the back and under the surrounding wall works well.
With the bricks back in place it's barely noticeable. You might think about running it down through the round 4x4 plate, but that would tangle in the technic axle when it rotates.
Now you'll have a big mess with 9 Bit Light wires dangling from the dragon.
I find the best option is to group them together and twist them between your fingers to make bundles or 2 or 3 wires. Then each bundle can be wrapped together with the next.
The wires should run under the 'skin' plates but keep as high as possible - going above and below each body section - to avoid drooping wires.
It's a lot easier than it sounds, just keep in mind that you want the wires to all lead towards the middle of the dragon where that 12 port board will go.
Once done, plug all the Bit Lights in, then tuck all the excess wires out of the way. I use needle-nose pliers and long tweezers to poke wires out of sight and wrap them around boards where needed
All the wires at the base can also be tangled together into neat bundles and/or stuck to the back of the base using sticky tape or sticky pads.
For this project we used:
- 5 x Large Bit Lights (30cm Warm White)
- 1 x Bit Light (30cm Pink)
- 9 x Bit Light (15cm Yellow)
- 1 x 12 port Expansion Board (Dragon body)
- 1 x 8 port Expansion Board (Base)
- 1 x 15cm Connecting Cable
- 1 x Power Supply (AA Battery pack pictured)
Lego parts used were just the 7 x 1x1 Clear Trans Studs in the Dragon body, plus 2 x 2x1 Clear Trans Plates. One of those plates could be any colour as it's just used internally to hold a wire.
The End Result
This model was never going to be perfect - because we had a compromise either way. Hide the cables or ruin the mechanism. We wanted the mechanism to work and allowed a few wires to show.
And here's the proof the mechanism still works!
This is one of our favourite LEGO sets and it is truly unique. We enjoyed the challenge of adding lights and think we found a good balance between keeping the mechanism working and the need to hide wires.
We hope you enjoyed this guide and would love to see what you can come up with!