It’s been a while since I reviewed the first batch of the LEGO Disney “storybooks”. There have been several others released in the meantime, but except for Elsa and the Nokk Storybook Adventures (43189), which I primarily got for the little horse and the other “ice” elements I mostly disregarded the other offerings. Only recently when the sets for the Encanto movie were announced, my interest was rekindled and I got myself Antonio’s (43200) and Isabela’s (43201) Magical Door. Let’s see what they have to offer.
Important Disclaimer: Due to regional lockdowns and cinemas being closed I have not yet seen the movie and all my knowledge about the story is pieced together from trailers, clips and reviews. Some errors may be unavoidable.
Contents and Pricing
Like so many sets aimed at the youngest of LEGO fans the value proposition for these boxes is in the most abstract sense not really good. I always thought the initial MSRP of 15 Euro for the first few outings was a stretch, but this became even more questionable when they raised it to 20 Euro.
Even if one can acknowledge that large pieces like the outer shells may incur a higher manufacturing cost, the actual content is rather thin, after all. So from where I sit, this really feels like it should not be that expensive and the 12 Euro after discount I bought my first boxes for really feel like the “real” price these things should cost. Otherwise it feels like you as the customer are punished to pay the extra cost for fancy packaging similar to what I wrote in my criticism of the VIDIYO BeatBoxes.
That said, of course there were some specific reasons for getting those two sets as I’m going to explain in the next few paragraphs and with a little bit of luck I got my two “doors” for 15 Euro each. That makes it more bearable, but it’s not really a good price for a meager 99 or 114 pieces, respectively. At the same time I do not expect the prices to drop that much further as no doubt these sets are already expensive wholesale and the vendors have little room to grant massive discounts. If one day you see this going for 13 Euro you should count yourself extremely lucky.
General Observations and Commonalities
As you know me, I often have ancillary motives when buying sets with checking out new and recolored parts being a major factor. This is also the case here with a plethora of new elements. It also is nice that for once I can present these boxes in a relatively timely manner, given that they’ve only been released at the beginning of December.
The boxes themselves are another take on the updated version 2 introduced with one of the DOTS sets, the Secret Boxes (41925). Kind of a v 2.1, if you will, with the studs that were necessary for the DOTS product to work again having been removed. The layout of the remaining studs and ridges on the exterior is different as is the locking mechanism. The central 2 x 4 grid in the centers has been removed or, in a way, been offset to the side, serving now as the holder for the lock cover elements rather than holding a central decorative plaque as it was with the original version. However, as seen in the photo this redesign has one big advantage – it’s much easier to use almost full coverage prints on these shells because simply there’s no “hole” in the middle anymore.
This brings us to the thing that still most annoys me in pretty much any LEGO set – the extensive or even excessive use of stickers. On the bright side, these sets do work well enough without the stickers applied. Most of them are more or less optional, especially the myriad small ones inside the no. 4 sub-frame, many of which either are supposed to be applied to 2 x 2 tiles or just placed randomly on the insides of the boxes. Still, that doesn’t make things less annoying and in this case it is even really regrettable since some of the designs for the flower elements would be nice to have as genuine prints on tiles for decorating buildings or landscapes. Really a missed opportunity.
Antonio’s Magical Door (43200)
Apparently Antonio is the youngest of the Madrigal family and hasn’t quite made up his mind on what his magical powers are to be used for, so he’s shape-shifting around at whim to prank people and transforming into all sorts of animals to explore the wilderness and befriend other creatures.
This relation to the South American jungle is expressed in the artwork printed on the front as well, but regrettably it also builds some expectation that is not met once you take at the look at the actual content.
By that I mean that the wealth of animals depicted in the graphic is nowhere to be found. We get a jaguar cub, basically a re-branded tiger cub in a different color and with a different print, but that is pretty much where it stops being good. The supposed Capybara is just a reworked version of the mouse from the Cinderella carriage. What looked cute back then now only comes across as a lazy joke. Even compared to the tiny doll figures it looks undersized and at best would pass as a normal Guinea Pig, but the shape is still wrong. LEGO really should have invested into a custom mold or just left it out in favor of another animal.
Which brings us to a point. A major, major omission is the total absence of a Toucan, which is almost a cardinal sin, given that Antonio turns himself into one on several occasions from what I gather. It becomes even more disappointing once you figure in that exactly such an animal has just been revealed to be an extra in the upcoming Collectible Minifigures series 22. See?! That basically means they could have included it at little or no extra cost here, as the mold was already in the process of being made. They would only have had to give it a different print to not ruin it for the minifigure collectors! This very much extends to the other creatures as well. LEGO has molds for small snakes as well as large Anaconda-like ones (the Harry Potter Nagini recently also included in City set 60301) and of course there’s always the ages-old parrot.
The micro dolls of Antonio and Mirabel are nice and quite appealing with detailed and colorful prints. They also add some diversity to the otherwise mostly white Disney Princess figures in this size we got so far and there bodies could probably also be useful for customizing some Friends children of that size.
The buildable parts, while limited in number, certainly don’t fail to impress with how many unique ones actually are in the set, including several recolors making a premiere showing here. Some of the most notable are the 2 x 2 round tile with a stud (jumper) in Bright Green at last and of course the Magenta leaf elements. There’s also a decent helping of Dark Turquoise elements for those who haven’t bought any of the recent Ninjago sets (the Temple of the Endless Sea (71755) for instance) that heavily rely on this color.
Due to the limitations of the format of course there’s not that much volume of stuff, with most of it restricted to the central spine and barely anything sticking out left and right to not block the outer shells from closing. However, recognizably the designers made an effort to make things as complex and detailed as they possibly could within the constraints and they deserve some accolade for this even if you can never have enough trees and plants in a jungle scenario. That said, this could naturally be a point in itself: Perhaps a different type of set would have worked better to capture this particular story beat of the film.
Isabela’s magical Door (43201)
Isabel is “the flower lady” in the movie and man, does it show! LEGO went all in and made this set as bright and pink as they possibly could. This makes any decision on buying this set a very, very individual one, to put it mildly. Many outside the small kids demographic will likely be put off a bit and even some parents might be deterred by this all too girly-ish color scheme.
The artwork on the cover is just as nice as Antonio‘s, but unlike that one it does not oversell what’s inside the box and does not promise anything it can’t keep (in a way).
As already mentioned, this set is very colorful or even flamboyant, with in particular the Coral and Dark Pink elements sticking out, interspersed with some Bright Pink, Medium Lavender and Bright Light Yellow. On that note: The butterflies are a new mold and if I do say so it’s about time we are getting some again. Except for the ones that came in the Friends hair accessories sets we haven’t had some in ages and it’s simply a nice way to enliven your scenes. I for one hope that we’ll get them in many more colors soon.
The micro dolls are Isabela, Luisa and again Mirabel herself, accompanied only by a pigeon and no other animals. Again there are some nice prints and the body pieces in particular would undoubtedly be useful for creating custom combinations with other heads.
Compared to Antonio’s set this one is more simple and straightforward, only representing a normal part of the house with a small kitchen section, a sleeping room and a make-up corner. They’re okay, but feel a bit generic like those mini builds you regularly find in the Friends and Disney Princess magazines. Seen it once, seen it all. It could have all a bit more elaborate or at least used some new techniques (and pieces).
A funny observation for this box is that despite it being flower-themed, there is actually not a single genuine flower plate in this set. It’s all handled with the leaf elements. That being the case I would have had no objections if this one also had a few Magenta ones, some in White or even other colors and not just Coral. Similar to how Isabela creates entire flowerbeds with the wave of her arm in the movie, this should be exploding with differently colored and densely packed “blossoms” in different shades.
Despite my criticisms, I thoroughly like both sets. They are joyful little creations packed with some interesting content. How useful that is to you is of course a very subjective matter. Not everyone has a use for these unusual colors or enjoys them like I do. None of this will matter if you are buying these for your kid(s). As far as that is concerned, these two boxes are a safe bet and offer decent value. There’s enough there to play and the builds are solid while looking nice.
The big bummer is inevitably the price and, a few days before Christmas, availability. These may be hard to come by even if you are willing to pray full price. If that is not of any concern to you, you can always wait a few weeks or months. By then you might also actually have had a chance to watch the movie on Disney+ or Blu-Ray if you did not have an opportunity to catch it in cinemas like me…