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Keetongu alt build: Relive the glory days of Bionicle Titans

A few months ago the internet got its first look at a new LEGO set in the form of 71794: Lloyd and Arin’s Ninja Team Mechs. LEGO has done an endless number of mechs, especially in the Ninjago line, but the design of this set reminded many of the venerable Bionicle theme.

Keetongu is a much-beloved character from Bionicle and its set, 8755, is a favourite from the Titans line of Bionicle sets. Titans, by the way, are a fan name for larger Bionicle sets. Of Keetongu’s recognisable features is the cyclopean single eye and large hat-like cowl. The main mech in the new Ninjago set also features a single, central eye and a large hat.

Continuing the similarities between the two sets is the use of colour. The specific type of orange in the original Keetongu set was the first time that LEGO had used this colour. Decades later LEGO fans still call this colour “Keet-orange” in reference to the set and the new Ninjago one uses quite a few Keet-orange pieces in its construction.

While this could all be a coincidence, we do have confirmation from Niek van Slagmaat, the Senior Concept Designer for LEGO Ninjago. Slagmaat, who goes by “@Toothdominoes” on Twitter, replied to this direct question.

At this point, you may expect me to simply say “if you like Keetongu and Bionicle in question, go and buy this set”. While I am going to recommend that, it isn’t exactly for the reason you may think.

Instead of just a passing reference to Keetongu, what if we rebuilt the character with the intention to mimic the original set? And what if we only used the pieces in set 71794: Lloyd and Arin’s Ninja Team Mechs?

Well, you may have guessed it, but that’s exactly what I did. Over the last few years, I have been infatuated with the site Rebrickable which is a fan-made LEGO platform. Rebrickable does a lot but one of its best features is that of alt builds. Alt builds are new creations made using the pieces in one LEGO set. The creativity of the community is unmatched and you will constantly be surprised by what they can do.

Here’s an animatronic bust of Star Wars’ Darth Maul using only the pieces from a crane. Here’s Tracer’s Pulse Pistol made in 1:1 scale out of the Bastion Overwatch set. Here’s a moving Gundam made out of an Airbus H175 Rescue Helicopter.

Outside of completely transformative builds, there are more lateral recreations too. Take this version of the Batmobile from The Batman (2022). It was received poorly by the LEGO community as a whole for its build which didn’t really look like the Batmobile that Robert Pattinson’s Batman drove. Rebrickable users have taken the pieces from this set and this set alone to remake Batmobiles from all eras with the 1989, Snyderverse, Arkham Asylum and Arkham Knight versions all made already, on top of much more.

Inspired by all of this I present to you my rebuild of Keetongu, made using only the pieces from 71794: Lloyd and Arin’s Ninja Team Mechs.

I thankfully have the original Keetongu set for comparison and, while I was constrained by the pieces and couldn’t replicate everything perfectly, I think it’s a great attempt at capturing the spirit of the character. Think of this as an alternate skin in a game, and not a 1:1 replica.

Outside of simply capturing the overall look of Keetongu, I am particularly proud of the wide range of articulation on offer in my version. There is movement at the head, shoulders, elbows, hips, ankles and yes mech fans, there are knees too.

I even managed to make a spinning shield array, much like the original set. This was a real challenge given the lack of Technic pieces in the set, but simply spin the axle on the right arm and the shields will move around. Alternating directions will make the effect even better, which is again similar to the function of the original.

The only feature of the original I wasn’t able to replicate was the Rhotuka spinner. I did build in a homage to this, with a disc piece featured prominently Keetongu’s chest. You can also lower the large torso covering (made with a dragon head piece) to fully reveal the disc, much like the launching spinner function on the old set.

There are countless other details and specific problems I encountered in this build but instead of writing about them, you can simply have the experience yourself. This is because I have created instructions that are completely free. Find them in the PDF below or on Rebrickable.

After finishing Keetongu I was left with quite a few leftover pieces. While a good alt build usually tries to incorporate the most amount of pieces from the original set, I was satisfied with the size and shaping of my Keetongu, but wanted a use for those extras.

71794: Lloyd and Arin’s Ninja Team Mechs feature, rather prominently, four large Technic panel pieces in a dark orange / burnt brown colour. With such large, specialised pieces, there was simply no way to use them on Keetongu, so I considered some other Bionicle sets that could be remade.

This was an extra difficult task as I was not only constrained by the pieces in set 71794, but now I would only have whatever pieces were left over after making Keetongu.

To me, the Technic panels could look like wings and with that in mind, I landed on Gukko, a Rahi that is supposed to be a large flying creature modelled after a hummingbird. LEGO set 8594: Jaller & Gukko already showed off what a Gukko would look like in LEGO so I had a springboard to go off of, and the wings in that set were even in the same dark orange colour as the Technic panels.

Even better is the presence of Jaller in the original set. We don’t have a Jaller in modern LEGO, we do have Takua from the Bionicle Gift with Purchase set 40581. This gives us a generic body build for Matorans which I considered while making Gukko. The original Gukko set could have two of the original Matoran builds ride on its back, and my version allows this too. There are exposed studs on the front and back of the Gukko’s top portion which can connect to the feet of Matoran, allowing them to ride the bird.

Unfortunately, I had to again abandon play features seen in the original, but there is articulation at the head and wings here. There is also an optional stand/handle on the underside, which makes display or play easier.

Once again instructions are free and available in the embed below and on Rebrickable.

Finally, with still quite a few pieces left over, we get to the last and least of the builds using the pieces from the Ninjago donor set. 8594: Jaller & Gukko came with a Kolhii Stick for Jaller. I decided that the Matoran who would ride the Gukko needed one of these too, so I got to work.

My Kolhii Stick is black instead of the normal silver, but I think that was a necessity of the pieces left over after two builds from one set. The black also matches the plain black Kanoka Disk that Takua has in the GWP set.

The Kolhii Stick is the most abstract of the three builds and isn’t entirely legal, but I think it’s a good enough representation and a fine use of leftover pieces.

For the third time, the instructions can be found for free below and on Rebrickable.

Want more free instructions? Check out my Optimus Prime redesign, Tumbler alt build and another Bionicle project, this time the Boxor.

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