In honor of the show’s quarter century of fandom, Warner Bros. Television commissioned a life-size recreation of the iconic coffee shop made entirely out of LEGOs.
Spanning 700 square feet, the set replica is made of nearly 1 million LEGO bricks, and took Sawaya four months to build.
“Basically, I started by watching a lot of Friends,” Sawaya tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I had been a fan for years, but I started streaming again to get a sense of how much is actually in Central Perk. We knew the 25th anniversary was going to be big, and I think there’s so much detail in that shop that the audience never even saw.”
He continues: “We wanted to do this faithfully, so we spent a lot of time working on a lot of little elements. We wanted to make sure it was all there.”
The project was based on a (much smaller) LEGO set that Warner Bros. recently released. But they wanted to take it a step further. For months, Sawaya used his expertise to recreate the set, which includes everything from a full bar with bar stools to the iconic orange couch where so many of Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, Monica, Ross and Rachel’s conversations took place.
“We combined the world’s most popular toy with one of the world’s most popular TV shows,” Sawaya says. “We not only thought, ‘Let’s bring them together and make something that no one has ever seen before,’ but we also said, ‘Let’s make it interactive so that people can actually sit on the orange couch made out of LEGOs, or stand at the bar, or pick up a LEGO coffee cup.'”
Of course, some parts of the idea were much harder to execute than they imagined. Not only did they want to get every detail correct, they also wanted to make sure the set was functional for people to visit and step into.
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“That orange couch was one of the toughest things to build because it’s so iconic, everyone knows it,” Sawaya says. “You just want to get it right, but it’s so many bricks and at some point, it’s mind numbing.”
However, eventually, Sawaya and his team nailed it.
“It really got us worn down at times but we are so happy with how it all came together,” he says. “We’re really excited for people to see the entire set.”
The set will be revealed during the AT&T 5G Friends Experience at the New York-New York Hotel in Las Vegas on Friday, October 19. Once set up, the installation will be up for a Guinness World Record for “The Largest LEGO Replica of a TV Show Set.”
“One of the best episodes of Friends took place in Las Vegas, so it makes sense that this is where we would display this project,” Sawaya says. “It’s very fun that we get that opportunity to do it. I think it’s also a great location where we’ll be right near the strip. Folks might not even know that this is happening and they’ll be able to come in and experience it immediately.”
While you probably shouldn’t expect to see Ross and Rachel tying the knot at a chapel with Sharpie all over their faces, you can experience a few more Friends-themed events in Sin City. Alongside the LEGO set reveal, the day will also include a takeover of the famous fountains of the Bellagio hotel (which will be put on a water show set to the theme song “I’ll Be There For You”), an escape room dedicated to Phoebe’s Yellow Cab, and a 3-D experience where fans can record a version of themselves doing Chandler’s happy dance called the “7th Friend Experience.”
“I think it’s exciting because Friends’ 25th anniversary has been celebrated all year long, but here’s an opportunity to see different aspects of it,” Sawaya says. “I think it’s just a great opportunity for everyone to really celebrate Friends in a way that has never been done before.”
Of course, the artist is hoping the day will be full of smiles and sentimentality for fans of the hit sitcom, which has been viewed 50 billion times since it premiered in 1994.
“As an artist, my role is to inspire folks. I want to inspire them to enjoy and be creative and explore a little more and maybe even pick up a LEGO brick or two. Nostalgia is key in what I do,” he says. “Everyone has snapped a LEGO brick together. Everyone has seen Friends or experienced it at some point in their lives, so it made sense that those things would come together in a nostalgic way.”