WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - Every kid, at one time, had their hands in a pile of LEGO bricks. But just because you get older doesn't mean you have to stop building.
For an elite group of master model builders, the childhood love of LEGO has turned into a grown-up way to pay the bills.
"I always kept a little box of LEGO with me at all times," said Luke Phillips, looking back to his childhood years. "Anywhere I went, LEGO was sold everywhere."
Years later, you could definitely say master model builder Luke Phillips is living the dream.
"The cool thing is, whatever I like, I get to make it out of LEGO," said Phillips.
Phillips became a master model builder five years ago. LEGOLAND Florida hired him in 2011 when the park opened. He's on the team that designs and builds what you see throughout the park, from holiday displays to the cityscapes of Miniland.
"Every minilander, every building, every car, everything is all hand-built," Phillips said.
He showed FOX 13 the Painted Ladies of California in the display of San Francisco.
"We had a team of I believe about 20 different builders working separately on different houses," Phillips said.
Smaller homes can take a couple of weeks to complete. Skyscrapers can take months.
Miniland is representative of three years of ideas, construction and creativity. It includes more than 35 million LEGO pieces. Because of the harsh Florida sun, it is constantly being repaired and refurbished.
So what does it take to be a master?
First and foremost, you need a true love of LEGO.
"There's no Master Model Builder degree so you can't just go to school for it," Phillips said.
We asked the same question over at the Merlin Magic Making hub in Lake Wales, where dozens of workers design and build displays for LEGO facilities around the world.
"A lot of parents ask me, 'My kid wants to do this when they grow up. What advice can you give them?'" said Master Model Designer Jason Miller.
His response: "STEM."
That's an education in science, technology, engineering, and math. Also crucial is a passion for history, social studies, and accuracy.
"I get really research-heavy so when I go to do something," Phillips said, "I've got to research everything I can about it to find out if I'm doing it right."
"People are immediately going to recognize and know what is or isn't authentic," Miller said.
But does it pay to play with LEGO? Job postings tout a "competitive salary and benefits package," not to mention free entry to all Merlin attractions, but the best perks are priceless.
"One of the best perks about the job is definitely saying, 'Yeah, I build LEGO models for a living,'" said Master Model Builder AJ Deguzman.
How do you get in? Some rise through the ranks.
"I actually joined the park as construction for the team," Phillips said.
"I worked for the LEGO company as a store display designer," Miller said.
Others audition, hoping to master three building challenges at Brick Factor competitions worldwide.
From veterans to artists to sound engineers, just about any resume can translate to Master Model Builder.
"You can come from any background, walk of life, as long as you have a passion for what you're doing, you'll find a way," Miller said.
And just like LEGOs, a lot of small pieces come together to create something big.
"Working together with other people to make really cool art," Phillips said, "by the end of the day, you see you have a finished model or just really good progress and that's really satisfying."
If you'd like to learn at the hands of the masters, LEGOLAND Florida Resort offers Master Model Builder sessions, available with hotel stays. You can also get a tour of the model shop during a VIP Experience Tour.