Explorer-ing… Aviation – LEGO Explorer Magazine, February 2022

Due to the unfavorable timing of last year’s Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays has messed a bit with the publishing dates of some magazines and I don’t know whether these changes will be permanent, but at least for the LEGO Explorer magazine a fourteen day delay feels unusual.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2022, Cover

The February 2022 issue is all about aviation and as someone who was heavily into military aircraft scale modeling up to a certain point I definitely have something to say about the matter. As you likely would have expected, I find that there’s way too much content crammed onto way too few pages. For an issue that ultimately ends up showing helicopters and contemporary passenger and cargo jets going back to the first attempts with hot air balloons feels unnecessary. It could be its own issue as could pretty much any of the other sub-topics.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2022, Info Page

I know I’m boring people to tears with this, but again most of the content is based on archival materials from LEGO and stock image libraries, making for a very inconsistent experience. The comic is okay in that it is bright and colorful, but I don’t get much out of the story. It’s just trying too hard to be funny without real substance.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2022, Comic

The poster depicts a very random selection or airplanes and choppers with the only discernible commonality for some of them being that they are the largest types in their class. Not a stringent logic here, either, though and it feels very thrown together.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2022, Poster

There’s a crafting page explaining the two most common folding patterns for paper planes, something which our grandparents taught us in kindergarten. It would probably have been more useful if they had focused on a more advanced type and explained it a cross two pages. Those two basic variants are okay, but don’t have the best flight behavior. A more glider-friendly pattern might have made kids happier.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, February 2022, Crafting Page

The extra is one of those “dime a dozen” helicopters you find in commercial LEGO City polybags or small police and fire patrol sets. It’s a formula they have been using for ages with only minor variations and enhancements added every now and then as needed. One could probably do a line-up of them all and you would see this even more. For getting it free with a magazine it’s not that terrible, but not particularly exciting, either. And not too point out the obvious, but the absence of a minifigure really makes the empty cockpit stick out even more.

This is an okay issue, but quite removed from some of the better ones from last year. It’s very average and somehow feels like LEGO Explorer already has lost all its momentum and is caught in a repeat loop where everything feels the same after a few months. From what it looks like, the next issues isn’t going to be that great, either, so one can only hope there’s something more imaginative coming down the line this year… 

Axolotl Fun – LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180)

As I’ve said a number of times here on this blog I’m totally not into Minecraft – I know that it exists, I get what the appeal may be and I acknowledge that millions of people play it, but personally I never got hooked. That is pretty much the same in the LEGO world, though as I mentioned in my blurb on the recently launched LEGO Minecraft comic magazine, I’m always keeping an eye out for interesting parts from that range. That’s how I ended up buying The Guardian Battle (21180), after all, so let’s see what it offers.

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Box

Contents and Pricing

If you have been following these things more closely than I do and for much longer, then certainly the set will feel familiar to you. The building is sort of a spliced out segment from the original The Ocean Monument (21136) released in 2017, representing a gate or just some random ruin section, embedded in a bit of reef. Wiser minds more steeped in the lore will actually know what it is supposed to represent. The puffer fish on the other hand are an almost 1 : 1  recreation of the ones in the original set. The real difference is the minifigure, defined as a diver, and the little guys that come with it, so this could indeed be a scenario where the original temple long has been destroyed and only pieces of it are still there decades or centuries later.

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Contents Overview

The set itself retails for 22 Euro and having literally bought it three days after its January 1st release, I did not get any discounts. If you do your math and take into account the usual 20 to 30 percent discounts this will get after a while you’ll arrive at around 15 Euro. That’s okay for a 255 pieces set, but regardless you have to keep in mind that you are paying a for a few standard bricks and lots of small elements. On the other hand that’s certainly much more affordable than the 120 Euro ocean monument and even people who have this older set may consider getting this one to have some extra stuff.

Minifigures and Animals

The single most important reason why we are even here reviewing the set are the Axolotls. I just couldn’t help myself from thinking “Oh, how cute!” when I first saw a picture of them. As far as I understand, they have special magical or healing powers in the game, so it seems one would take care to not lose them or gather as many of them as you can. Two of them are supposed to be attached to the minifigure as if they are swarming around him and protecting him, but I found that construction clunky and way to heavy, so the diver tips over backwards.

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Minifigure and Animals

The little newts are a new mold, which can be attached onto a regular 1 x 2 plate from the underside. If they ever come out in more regular colors like Tan, they could make for nice decorative elements on buildings. LEGO have done that for some of the heads already to be used as lamp shades or stucco on facades of Modular Buildings (Police Station [10278] for instance), so I’m optimistic that this may happen one day. The heads are separately printed 1 x 1 plates and there’s a spare for each of them in the package.

The singular minifigure is a bit of a head-scratcher. Obviously there could and should have been two at least, even if they were the same, but I’m also concerned with how it looks. The Dark Bluish Grey and Olive Green just don’t pop enough on the Dark Orange body and at the same time the bright face looking through the round glass window stands out too much. It would likely have looked better with different colors. There’s also quality issues with the prints. No, for once not that they aren’t opaque enough but rather in a way the opposite. The paint here seems to have been a bit too pasty and the prints have notable ridges/ stamp marks. If I were collecting these figs, I’d likely request replacements.

The Temple

The temple fragments and reef parts are the simplest build you can imagine. It’s literally a case of “My 3-year-old could have come up with it!” with simple stacked bricks and plates with the only real bits of finesse being the vines/ plant stalks interwoven as extra supports. By that I don’t mean to imply it’s bad, just simple. It certainly could have been a bit more elaborate with perhaps some debris lying around or the reef parts being larger with more flowers and all that. The squid with only four very short “tentacles” perched on top of the archway is also odd, but not knowing better I have to accept that this is probably how it’s meant to be.

The Puffer Fish

The puffer fish are essentially simple cubes with a bunch of appendages and protrusions. The larger blue one is based on a 3 x 3 x 3 SNOT construction using the 1 x 2 clip plates as the basis. Regrettably LEGO did not recolor those clips in Dark Tan of Blue, as would have been desirable, so they stand out a bit despite their “neutral” grey. While the fish is pretty much a 1 : 1 re-creation of the one already used in the ocean monument, there is a small enhancement in that the tail uses the new 1 x 2 modified plates with a horizontal clip instead of the less directionally stable 1 x 1 version. More on that in the extra section on the notable pieces.

The smaller puffy is constructed around a 2 x 2 x 2 cube arrangement and for its spikes reverses the underlying principle with the hinge plates being on the body and the clips forming the appendages. Naturally, for any of it to look good you have to spend some time orienting the spikes on both models.

Piece Mania

For a set this small the selection of notable and new parts is amazing and of course this was part of the plan after having studied the digital PDF instructions. The orange clips aren’t new, but technically still sort of exclusive, as they have only been in the previous The Ocean Monument (21136) set and a Nexo Knights set. I’m sure MOC builders will appreciate their reappearance. The 1 x 2 plate with the horizontal clip is already appearing in many new sets released since last autumn and here you get two of them in Tan. Apparently at long last LEGO seem to have realized this gap in their parts portfolio since the 1 x 1 counterpart tends to slightly rotate on its single stud, even when butted against other plates around it. Having this available definitely should make some constructions more stable while at the same time reducing the number of elements needed. the fish tail is a good example for this, actually.

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Special Pieces

LEGO have long been extremely reluctant to produce certain items as transparent pieces. Their rationale always has been that it’s not good for models due to friction and tension working differently and thus those pieces being more prone to damage. That and of course things like cracks, fogging and gilding being even more apparent than on opaque parts. It seems they are finally coming around and easing up on this strict stance, so we now get the 2 x 2 jumper plate in Trans Dark Blue and a Trans Clear 1 x 2 vertical clip plate. the latter is part of that clunky block you are supposed to attach to the minifigure’s back to hold the Axolotls. Insignificant as it may seem, there is also now a Blue 1 x 1 round flower plate/ stud. So far they have been mostly produced in greens, yellows and pastel tones and I’ve forever wondered if we’re going to get a few more colors. This is a good start, but how about browns and Black for withered and charred flowers?

LEGO Minecraft, The Guardian Battle (21180), Double Plate Piece

The element that will no doubt cause the biggest sigh of relief by many is the 2/3rds or two plates tall 1 x 1 brick, depending how you want to see it. This is not an essential element by any stretch of the imagination, but a) other manufacturers have had it since forever and b) it solves one big annoyance, that being having to stack 1 x 1 plates to get uneven heights. This can be particularly frustrating on areas where they need to be aligned perfectly to give the illusion of a solid surface, so this new element should indeed facilitate such builds considerably. In this set it’s included in Olive Green, but it can already be found in some others in Medium Nougat and Dark Orange. It will be pretty standard in no time and should be available in a wide range of colors then.


Concluding Thoughts

This is a lovely little set and in a way I’m surprised myself how much I like it. There is soem decent value here and unlike many other Minecraft sets it has a certain elegance about it and doesn’t look too crude and blocky. The only real complaint would have be the skewed value. A second minifigure certainly would have provided a better balance as would have some extra bits and bobs on the reef. Overall one can’t complain, though.

Blue Castle – LEGO Disney, Mini Disney Castle (40478)

I’m totally not the type for amusement parks since I don’t particularly like being stuck in large crowds nor am I particularly into the attractions, but there can be no denying that it’s big business and their parks alone make Disney billions of dollars every year (well, under normal conditions, not the pandemic). While they weren’t the first, certainly they changed the landscape a lot when they moved on from simple funfairs and piers to more elaborate parks with hotels, fixed entertainment venues and all that. A staple of this has naturally been their iconic Disney Castle, presented here in miniature form by ways of LEGO set 40478.

LEGO Disney, Mini Disney Castle (40478), Box

Contents and Pricing

Of course LEGO have had the “big” Disney Castle (71040) in their portfolio for several years now and at this point it is not foreseeable how many more years they’ll keep it around, as it still seems to be selling reasonably well, not least at all as a souvenir at the Disney parks themselves. However, there’s one caveat: As a 4000+ pieces set it doesn’t come cheap and not everyone is able or willing to spend those 350 Euro on top of an already expensive trip. It therefore seemed inevitable that one day they might need to come up with something more affordable and lo and behold, this happened in October 2021 when this here smaller version came out.

This set comes with 567 pieces and is sold for 35 Euro. On paper that’s not a bad price, given the parts/ value ratio. However, as so often you have to consider that many of the elements are indeed only 1 x 1 and the model is really minuscule, as can be seen when comparing it to the minifigure. If it wasn’t for several exclusive parts, most of the build could easily be bashed together from most people’s stock, assuming they regularly buy LEGO sets to keep up with new pieces that come out regularly and actually allowed the castle to be built in this form.

That said, undeniably and unavoidably those exclusive parts increase the cost, especially when used just in one set and that softens my stance on the price somewhat. Still, all things considered I think I would prefer if this cost only 30 Euro. In my view this would also be helpful to generate more spontaneous purchases once this set is also listed in Disney brand stores or their parks’ gift shops. That’s not to say that the current price isn’t acceptable, it just feels slightly odd.

LEGO Disney, Mini Disney Castle (40478), Overview

Minifigure

LEGO Disney, Mini Disney Castle (40478), Minifigure The single minifigure in this set is a version of Mickey as an usher/ guide in a tuxedo. I’ll leave it to smarter minds like Jangbricks to discuss the finer points of how period-appropriate the shape of the head and eyes are in relation to the attire, but I definitely share the feeling that perhaps he looks a bit too modern for this set.Other than that I’m simply disappointed by the poor printing. Not only are the colors on the torso not opaque enough but also the black of the “shoes” is aligned rather poorly. For such a prestigious set that might be many people’s only LEGO set they’ll ever buy this is not a good look.

The Castle

The castle is built on a custom base assembled from multiple regular plates. It’s 18 x 22 studs, translating to roughly around 15 x 18 cm. this makes for a very compact model and overall it looks rather small-ish. On the other hand it’s of course pretty tall at around 27 cm.

The compactness can only be achieved by massively using a number of new parts that have been created in the last two, three years such as the 1 x 2 half cylinder brick. Otherwise the model would have had to be considerably larger since several of these cheat techniques wouldn’t have been available. In addition to employing these admittedly clever tricks the model also uses a ton of SNOT building with nearly every layer you add featuring a bracket or brick with studs on sides somewhere to change building direction and attach stuff sideways.

Some people have taken issue with the colors not being correct, but the simple truth here is that LEGO just doesn’t have any correct colors that would fit here other than the ones used. Depending which version of the castle from one of the various Disney parks you are trying to emulate, you can only get it wrong. This is down to what’s known as the “scale effect” in scale model building such as I did in my youth for military planes, meaning that colors need to be either darker/ more saturated or brighter/ lighter than on the originals to give the same visual impression. had they opted to e.g. make the roofs in a different shade of blue, Dark Blue would have looked way to black-ish. Conversely, even the already pale Bright Pink would look much too intense still. At this scale even Tan would like a bright limestone yellow. This list could go on and on, but you get the idea.

As you know me, I always have an eye on new elements in new colors and when it comes to that, this set offers some nice surprises. The most eye-popping one are the Trans Dark Blue elements with the iridescent effect. The effect coating at this point is nothing new, it having been used for waterfalls and ice effects in other sets already, but personally I was really surprised how well it works when set against this dark color. The other big “Wow!” moment are the 2 x 2 round plates in Pearl Gold. At long last LEGO have found it in their hearts to produce this critical element in this color! in fairness, though, of course they had this trend for a while. There’s several golden elements in Ninjago and Super Heroes sets that just didn’t exist in this colors two years ago. That consistently golden mech may not be too far away, after all…

The interior of the model is mostly reserved for structural stuff, but the designers have at least added some details at the central gate/ hallway. It’s barely discernible, but there’s some nano figures standing in for visitors and two printed tiles as paintings on the walls. Speaking of which: The only new printed element is the shield tile above the gate and there are no stickers, either.

LEGO Disney, Mini Disney Castle (40478), Front View


Concluding Thoughts

If it wasn’t for the price being slightly too high, I’d almost give this set a full ten out of ten. It really captures the shape and overall feel of these castles nicely and looks rather elaborate. Even if you don’t care for the Disney part, this is just something nice to put on your shelf of showcase.

However, there are certainly a few quality issues with the prints on the figure and the build itself is a bit tedious and repetitive with many identical or very similar sub-assemblies. This also requires a lot of attention during the construction and it’s not the most relaxing LEGO model you can find. For these reasons I would more likely give it an 8.5 out of 10.

A major plus is the potential this set offers in terms of exploiting both its construction and the new and unique part. With the Disney castles taking heavy inspiration from Neuschwanstein Castle and that one just being a wild mix of ideas and styles cobbled together from other European castles, the immediate direct link is there for you to exploit. Some of the stuff would certainly be useful for building your own MOCs, real or fictional.

Hothian Winter – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, January 2022

Wouldn’t you believe it? We actually had a bit of snow on Christmas this year! Really only a thin layer, but better than nothing. That makes it kind of fitting that the January 2022 issue of the LEGO Star Wars magazine takes us back to Hoth and its snow and ice covered regions.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2022, Cover

The first comic starts out on the opposite side of the temperature spectrum, though, taking us to the jungle planet of Quatal after Luke crashes there. Naturally, as he tries to escape and get off the planet, the usual running away from imperial pursuers and dangerous animals ensues. The blue monster seen in the image is a bit funny and really looks to me like the artist had a bit of fun  exploring what a mutated Stitch (from the Lilo & Stitch movies, of course) might look like. The similarities are really striking and I can’t un-see them.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2022, Comic

The second comic references the extra and is based around a group of Snowtroopers getting lost in the endless white void during the Battle of Hoth.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2022, Comic

The posters are a bit of a misfire, unfortunately. The one depicted here with Darth Vader is simply too dark and the overly bright type and light saber completely distract from Vader himself. This clearly would have needed some work to enhance the contrast and balance out the overall appearance. The second with Han Solo and Chewbacca in the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon suffers from being doctored, i.e. the cockpit frame being just a 2D background artwork created after the fact instead of being integrally rendered in 3D with the figures.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2022, Poster

The extra has been causing a bit of a stir and gotten a few people very tizzy due to it being being a female Snowtrooper/ Snowtrooperess minifigure. Not only is the latter an interesting tidbit, with all previous such characters having had the male generic “angry clone” face (or unprinted black heads), but also the fact that this lady otherwise could only be found in the huge UCS AT-AT (75313) only released in November. Considering that this big model has a full 40 seats and only a few of them are covered with minifigures, clearly there is a market to buy more – a lot more. People lucky enough to be able to afford this certainly should make it a point to buy this magazine once at least.

The value of this issue for adults hugely depends on how much you are after the minifigure, but on the bright side at least the comics are pretty decent and can give a bit of enjoyment. the rest isn’t really worth mentioning with a lot of bad Photoshop work hurting my eyes and the activities and puzzles being bland. I would predict, however, that the minifigure alone will be attractive to anyone owning an AT-AT model, big or small, and thus sell stacks and stacks of this issue…

New Block on the Block – LEGO Minecraft Magazine, January 2022

Minecraft is an odd thing of a game. Some love it to death while others like me couldn’t be bothered. In  the LEGO universe it has its own weird place, given how many compare the game to the actual building with bricks. I think that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but there can be no denying that there is a certain charm in seeing parts of that virtual world turned into sets. since that seems to be reasonably successful, too, it really isn’t much of a surprise that we’re getting a matching comic magazine, too. So let’s see what the first issue offers.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, January 2022, Cover

There was some “through the grapevine” info leaked on this being in the pipeline last October and I really couldn’t wait to check it out. In particular I was wondering how the comics would turn out, as generally this does not lend itself particularly well to that format in my opinion. It’s one of those cases where the limited design options any block-based world may offer kinda will get in the way. Interestingly, my mind having been conditioned by video games in the 1990s I could see a lot of it working as an isometric perspective thing and so far the comics seem to confirm that. At least to me it looks nice when it’s drawn like those little scenes e.g. in role playing games, where the camera is hovering above and viewing the goings-ons at a certain angle from a bit of distance, but once they get too close things start feeling strange. I guess we’ll have to wait how it evolves stylistically.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, January 2022, Comic

The story very much is in line with what you’ve come to expect from these magazines – pig runs away, everyone panics, hijinx ensue, pig is saved from peril, everyone is happy. Not really many surprises here, but at least there’s hope we might see something more imaginative one day.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, January 2022, Comic

The poster is acceptable, though I still always find myself going *umppphhhh* over plastering everything with fat type. It feels superfluous and ruins the mood. the back side shows a “No Creepers!” sign, but to me that is a lot less attractive than the front one.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, January 2022, Poster

The extra is quite comprehensive with two minifigures and the pig. You get Steve and a zombie version of him, which really is a good start, generic as the figures may be in the Minecraft universe.

LEGO Magazine, Minecraft, January 2022, Extra

It’s of course too early to tell where this is headed, but I’m definitely going to keep an eye on this. Even if you have no specific relation to Minecraft, this series has some interesting pieces, quite a few of which have useful prints and that alone could be a reason to pick up the mag every once in a while.

Bad Hair Day – LEGO Friends Magazine, January 2022

Have been a bit lazy around the end-of-year holidays, so apologies for the rather belated review of the latest LEGO Friends magazine issue, technically representing the first 2022 edition, of course.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, January 2022, Cover

The beauty of the Friends magazines is that there’s not much to write and I’m done quickly because they usually re rather *meh*, anyway, and this one makes it even easier by literally being the laziest of lazy efforts. The hair styling theme ties into the comic as part of the preparations for a party, but that’s pretty much it. Otherwise the comic and the ugly characters remain an acquired taste at best. Interestingly, though, there are bits in there that show that the artists could draw better stuff if only someone let them.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, January 2022, Comic

There’s a few puzzles, inevitably, and a bunch of activity pages such as this coloring spread, some “connect the dots” stuff and one where you are supposed to scribble in hair styles on top of Emma‘s and Andrea‘s heads.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, January 2022, Coloring Page

The poster’s are okay-ish with the front one being a montage of sorts of existing character one-shots and the back showing a hairdressers threesome. In fact I probably should have picked that one for display here.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, January 2022, Poster

The extra is just the umpteenth collection of the well-known make-up and hair styling utensils we’ve seen so many times, but on the bright side there’s at least golden pistol/ nozzle/ bar elements for the arm rests on the chair. The Magenta hair piece is also nice, as it otherwise can only be found in the Magical Funfair Roller Coaster (41685) set. If you’re into customizing minifigures/ minidolls, respectively, this could be the one decisive factor to get this magazine.

LEGO Magazine, Friends, January 2022, Extra

To say this issue is disappointing would be an understatement even by the low standards we’ve come to expect from the Friends magazines, so I definitely would not urge you to buy it except for the reasons I mentioned regarding the buildable parts. In the tenth year of the Friends series existing, at least the mag could use a major overhaul…

More Magic – LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202)

I certainly don’t go out of my way to be a completist when it comes to buying every set in a specific LEGO theme or sub-series of that theme nor do I have the money for it, anyway, but occasionally I do try to “catch them all”, as they say in Pokémon. With the Disney Encanto sets that is easy enough, as there effectively only are three – the “door” sets I showed you last week and now this little gem, The Madrigal House (43202).

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Box

Contents and Pricing

The set retails for 50 Euro, and yes since this review is still pretty close to the release to its initial release on December 1st, I paid way too much, meaning full price. During pre-Christmas season one has to keep one’s expectations low, anyway, as due to demand and limited availability discounts aren’t as massive as other times of the year. That and you inevitably always pay a premium on those licensed sets to begin with. Once this craziness is over you should expect this set to be available for around 35 Euro pretty steadily with occasional dips to 30 Euro or even lower.

Aside from the main building the set does not contain much else except the figures, which for me is a good thing. I really do not like LEGO wasting too much of the parts allocation on weird side builds and much prefer that every brick and plate goes into a more decked out main build. Others may have a different opinion on that, of course. That being the case I’m not too upset about having paid full price. Shaving off those 10 or 15 Euro would have been nice, but at least everything goes into a single model that feels decently “weighty” in terms of what you get. If it wasn’t for so many 1 x 1 pieces gobbling up a good part of the budget it could have offered even more value and been bigger.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Overview

Figures and Stickers

There are only three figures in this set with Abuela, the grandmother, and Mirabel being presented in minidoll format and Antonio as the youngest and smallest child appropriately being a micro doll. It might have been nice had there been two characters more, as my impression from the movie snippets I’ve seen is that this house is just bustling with activity. In particular one of the other male characters might have been interesting. and yes, undeniably I can only reinforce my point about the Capybara having deserved its own new mold instead of being a hamster in disguise.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Figures

The figure line-up also already illustrates one of the reasons why this set attracted me – a slew of elements in new colors and some exclusive prints. This is not least illustrated by the matriarch’s timepiece, Mirabel‘s accordion built from a Bright Green corrugated brick and some printed 1 x 2 tiles and then there’s the small 2 x 2 brick-sized container in Dark Turquoise for the first time as well.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Stickers

There’s a sizable sticker sheet and while none of the pieces are essential, it would have been nice to see at least one ore two of the more reusable patterns as an actual print like the gift packaging for the small box (no. 10) for instance.

The House

Naturally, the main attraction is the house itself and its over-the-top colorfulness certainly plays a big part. The structure of the building is not an exact replica of the movie version. Technically it can’t be, anyway, as the house due to its magical properties keeps changing and shifting around. So rather than trying the impossible, this tries to capture the overall feel and spirit more than specific details

The house is relatively compact, which is both a positive and negative. It’s a bit on the bad side as it doesn’t come anywhere close to representing the impressive size of the building in the film. The good thing about it is that the proportions are nice and unlike for many larger models where eight studs of depth would appear too shallow, here it just feels right. Could and should everything have been larger? I definitely think so, but overall this just feels right.

Delving into the details, there’s tons of interesting things to discover. The most apparent of these are the various roof elements, for which the 1 x 1 curved slope is introduced in Dark Red for good effect. This no doubt will become popular for all sorts of people building houses. A small annoyance is that most of the roof segments are attached with hinges, but not all of them have actual stops. this means that it’s easy to accidentally put them at a different angle and you often have to correct this for a consistent nice look.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Detail Door

One of the many new elements making a first appearance in the LEGO world is the new 3 x 3 quarter round tile, used to good effect as the arch on the door frame. It can also be found in the rainbow on the turn-able chimney in the images further up. The door, on the other hand, is one of the few real gripes I have with this set. It’s not the arch in fact, but rather the pillars. They are stacked up from three 1 x 1 x 1 bricks each, but have no further anchorage on the wall, which makes them very wiggly and flimsy. It’s simply not safe for kids to play. This is even more frustrating as there would have been ways to integrate extra brackets or build the frame entirely with studs-on-sides techniques directly on the wall with only minor changes.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Detail Escape HatchNot knowing the actual movie, the functionality of the escape hatch and the associated tilt-able bed on the inside eludes me, but I’m pretty sure it has some important role to play or else they wouldn’t have bothered with re-creating it.

 

 

 

The house follows a modular approach and thus each level can be separated and is built individually. The downside to that is that each of the blocks is in itself not the most stable until you actually cap it of with a layer of tiles. As you well know, this is one of my biggest frustrations with many Friends sets as well. If I had one free wish, I’d really ask LEGO to come up with a better solution to this dilemma. in the end, everything works, though and if you’re careful it is manageable to handle the modules without breaking them apart again.

The ground floor has some fake tiling with 2 x 2 jumper plates, providing ample space to place your figure in the kitchen area it’s supposed to represent. Otherwise there’s nothing all too fancy here. It really just is pretty much standard fare that only gets elevated by the unusual color choices.

This is pretty much continued on the first floor, only that it isn’t tiled over. I found the new watering can to be a nice addition (you will encounter it also in many Friends and City sets next year) and the couch has two of the new 1 x 2 inverted arch bricks only recently introduced on the Fender Stratocaster (21329) and giant Titanic (10294) in Reddish Brown.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Top Floor

The top floor/ tower is the smallest of the individual sections. Personally I’m very thrilled about the welcome resurfacing of Yellowish Green elements. After demise of the Elves series LEGO have barely ever used this color except for some small 1 x 1 elements or things like the eyes and teeth in the Hidden Side sets. Granted, it’s a very bright color that draws all the attention to itself, but I find it a shame that it’s not used more often.


Concluding Thoughts

This is a wonderful little set that puts many others to shame. It’s bright and cheerful and offers an interesting variety. There are some weaknesses in the construction, but those can be mostly overlooked in favor of how much fun this model is. Knowing the movie might be useful to contextualize some of the details, though then again knowing too much of the story might have resulted in a more critical view. Either way, I simply like it and can only recommend this set.

Deep Blue Tree? – LEGO Jurassic World Magazine, January 2022

Been a little on the slow side lately due to some pre-Christmas madness and health problems, so here at last is my somewhat belated review of the latest LEGO Jurassic World magazine, which technically is for January 2022.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, January 2022, Cover

The comics have become so repetitive you wouldn’t be wrong to bet money on yet another chase story, this time featuring the Dilophosauraus, Baryonyx and Carnotaurus. There’s really not much to say about the matter otherwise. It’s all so formulaic. At least this particular comic is much more colorful and dynamic than the last few times, though I feel that the rigid rectangular panels don’t necessarily support it making an impact.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, January 2022, Comic

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, January 2022, Comic

The poster fits into the established pattern of the previous ones and adds one more entry to the gallery of species available in LEGO form. The alternate one on the backside also does not look too shabby, depicting one of the scenes from the comic, but nicely 3D rendered. This goes to show that if only they want, Blue Ocean can manage to crank out some decent stuff. Most of the time they’re just too lazy to invest the effort, it seems.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, January 2022, Poster

The extra is a rather unspectacular piece of jungle with yet another Blue in the wrong green version. It’s okay for a bit of play fun on the side, but if it wasn’t for the inclusion of the leaf elements it would look rather sparse.

All things considered, this is a bit of a letdown and by no means would I tell you to rush to your local newsstand to get it. It is okay for what it is, but does offer zero innovation and surprises nor any valuable parts/ minifigures.

Everything is magic? – LEGO Disney, Antonio’s and Isabela’s Magical Door (43200/ 43201)

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.

LEGO Disney, Isabela's and Antonio's Magical Door (43200/ 43201), Exteriors

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.

LEGO Disney, Isabela's and Antonio's Magical Door (43200/ 43201), Stickers

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.

LEGO Disney, Antonio's Magical Door (43200), Box

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.

LEGO Disney, Antonio's Magical Door (43200), Exterior

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.

LEGO Disney, Antonio's Magical Door (43200), Overview

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.

LEGO Disney, Antonio's Magical Door (43200), Figures

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.

LEGO Disney, Isabela's Magical Door (43201), Box

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).

LEGO Disney, Isabela's Magical Door (43201), Exterior

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.

LEGO Disney, Isabela's Magical Door (43201), Overview

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.

LEGO Disney, Isabela's Magical Door (43201), Figures

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.


Concluding Thoughts

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…

Safari Time! – LEGO City Magazine, January 2022

At long last the latest issue of the LEGO City magazine has come out. It was supposed to arrive last week already and in last month’s edition they announced it even one more week before that, but I guess someone at Blue Ocean realized how muddled up their schedule is or there were genuine technical issues with production or distribution.

LEGO Magazine, City, January 2022, Cover

This mag is all about the current African safari theme and thus the comic rather shamelessly promotes the sets and has tons of references to the animals and vehicles in there. While I find this sort of over-marketing still questionable, at least the topic lends itself to interesting visuals and story lines. The comic therefore is pretty palatable  and offers quite a bit of variety.

LEGO Magazine, City, January 2022, Comic

Scattered inbetween are the usual puzzles and quizzes, but I found them rather annoying as there are some on almost every second page. I had to go out of my way to even find two “clean” double-spread pages to show here. that’s even more regrettable since the graphical fluff on these riddle pages usually far outweighs the actual content and the space could have been used more efficiently.

LEGO Magazine, City, January 2022, Comic

The posters are quite okay and would easily fit into your child’s room and blend in if it is already jungle-themed. The CG renderings still appear a bit dull, though, but that’s of course easy for me to say.

LEGO Magazine, City, January 2022, Poster

Now for the big reveal: I really had the hots for this issue because it would include one of the lion cubs from the current series of sets. Unfortunately those sets are kind of a waste in that they target the youngest of children and are very crude. I really think LEGO are squandering the opportunity here by having thrown in those nice animals into rather lo-fi sets. Since I have no interest in ending up with those superfluous road plates they use for the grass and rivers, I’ll likely have to try and get the lions, elephants and so on off Bricklink instead of buying the full packages.

Anyway, in light of this mess I’m all the more pleased to kind of get one of those animals “for free” this way, even if its just a lion baby. And what a cutie he/ she is! 🙂 The minifigure of the photographer is also quite nice, being one of the few (outside Ninjago, that is) with a head band. The scene depicted with the cub hiding under the leaf can be seen in the comic, though it’s unrealistic. Most of the time a lion’s litter would just hide flat on the ground behind grass or rocks, not in actual forests.

Funny how this also would kind of fit with the safari lodge I reviewed earlier this year. Now imagine that set actually having some dry grass bushes and the lions getting comfortable underneath the tree… And of course the coincidences don’t stop there with last week’s buildable lion from that other magazine. The universe works in mysterious ways indeed!

Overall this is a pretty good issue of the LEGO City magazine and once more wish we’d get more of them to this high standard. I’m pretty sure your kids will thoroughly enjoy it, as cute animals appeal to everyone. It’s also a cost-effective way to get the little predator cat and a good minifigure, as the combined price of both would set you back more than those 4 Euro for the magazine. I would definitely recommend this!