I’ve never paid much attention to the Disney Princess theme, but somehow this year a few things caught my eye that inevitably led to me buying a few sets. After the two mini sets for Moana and Aurora last time, here’s a look at the “storybook” line. Specifically we are going to check out Ariel’s Storybook (43176) and the Frozen Storybook (43175), but before we delve into the details, let’s have a generic glance at them from the outside.
Each book consists more or less of three large pieces plus a few additions. The front and back lid are held together by a spine piece to which they are connected using Technic pins with an axle holder head. Those come in either Pearl Silver or Perl Gold to match some of the other decorations. If you ever wanted them in this color, which I believe hasn’t been available since the Bionicle days, here’s your chance.
The spine is done in a different color, which in my opinion makes things a bit messy and less aesthetically pleasing as it could have been. I’m in particular miffed with the Lavender box for Frozen that uses Dark Azure when LEGO have three different lavender/ lilac/ purple colors in their portfolio. It didn’t have to be this way and the irony is that if you were to buy Mulan’s Storybook (43174) you could use it there to get a uniformly colored book. Go, figure!
As far as decorations go, you only get the main plaque on the front and the printed lock hinge tile. That could be okay, but ultimately I think this should be overflowing with some golden embossing or at the very least have some extra gold elements thrown in in order to decorate the few visible studs. The lack of same makes the outward appearance oddly barren and pales compared to similar products from other manufacturers that are overflowing with glittery stuff and bling.
Speaking of market competitors – this is of course LEGO‘s version of Polly Pocket and similar portable play sets based on microfigures. You’d have to be utterly foolish to not recognize the sameness. I don’t have any actual figures of the alternate product at hand, but I’d bet next to each other even the size and scale line up pretty well.
The figures themselves make an interesting point about themselves in that they are modeled in the minidoll style used in LEGO Friends and Elves, but somehow look a lot cuter. Funny how the same heads and hair pieces can give a totally different impression on another torso. Never having bought any of the older sets I also had my sights set on Sebastian and Fabius, which aside from generally wanting to check out these boxes provided additional incentive to buy Ariel’s Storybook (43176).
On the inside it becomes quickly apparent that these sets draw quite some inspiration from the LEGO Ideas Pop-Up Book (21315). The effectively usable height/ thickness of the book or width of the spine is in fact identical at four studs. This of course also means that the same limitations apply to what you can build, even more so given the overall smaller size. There is naturally no actual pop-up mechanism, which compensates somewhat for the lack of space.
The main parts are all built onto the spine. That is they are not plugged onto it directly but rather are constructed on separate 4 x 6 or 4 x 4 plates that in turn are attached to the spine. This kind of allows to take them out for playing, but it’s really only “kind of”. I found it difficult to pull out the plates without damaging whatever is built on them and it doesn’t take much to imagine that smaller kids would not have the necessary strength.
One of the plates stuck so hard I was only able to get a hold of it after removing the pieces on it and then using a brick separator. My theory here is that the spine part is so stiff and rigid, it doesn’t bend and wriggle even the tiniest bit and thus the plates can “suck” themselves to the surface like they were glued on.
The slide, an inverted canopy part, uses the same pearlescent effect also already discussed on Aurora’s carriage. I maintain that this is simply a coating used universally on different base colors to different effects no matter how much New Elementary and other sites may obsess about new color codes and LEGO assigning new part ID numbers to those items.
As you would imagine, with the center region being so decked out, the insides of the lids don’t leave much room to add more stuff or else it would collide and block with the pieces on the spine. There’s only a few extra leaves and my new favorite part, the 1 x 1 sundae swirl posing as clam shells in the front lid. The back one features even less and only has a generic 4 x 2 tile in the center and some round jumpers in the corners. However, it also has that large print of a section of beach.
This being meant to be taken along when your kids visit their friends or you are travelling, there is sufficient provision for securing your figures on the various jumper plates scattered throughout. as shown in the below image. I didn’t think it at first, but when you get into the nitty-gritty you realize how well thought out this is. There’s a place for everything and everyone and unless you handle it very roughly nothing will come loose and clonk around in the box.
There are a few minor issues with the coloring, though. Arguably there’s too much Coral to begin with and on the other hand where it would have made sense to use a consistent color, in particular on the large clam shell, it is messed up with Dark Pink and White pieces even if the parts in question definitely also exist in Coral as proven in other sets. This is usually explained away as a measure to provide contrast and distinction for kids following the instructions, but it always gets to me, feels unnecessary and looks iffy.
The second set of my test selection, the Frozen Storybook (43175) follows the same pattern and only changes a few things around as needed.
The figures are okay, but Olaf looks quite creepy this time with his oversized head. It already feels sort of wacky as a regular minifigure and here just plugged onto a printed minifigure head element it looks even more disproportionate. There’s also one critical omission, of course: a reindeer is missing. Sure, there’s the scale issue for a genuinely large Sven, but new for this year we got a Fawn in the Elsa and the Reindeer Carriage (41166) set, didn’t we? It shouldn’t have been to much trouble to throw in that or re-purpose it in a different color.
The main build here is castle Arendelle in simplified form. As you know I never use stickers, so the shields with the triangular windows and any other element with a pattern you see are actual prints. For me the other interesting parts are the golden candle elements used to construct the columns. So far this is the only set they come in and I’m sure they might be useful for something. The gate tower uses an old, old space wing element on a hinge. I found it occasionally a bit difficult to fold it down when closing the box. It doesn’t quite fit in the gap and sometimes get’s stuck at the edges of the adjacent jumper plates.
The large print is on the front lid this time and features a paved court yard. The bridge is built from two car mudguard elements to keep things simple.
The rear side of the facade doesn’t have much to offer. On the right side there’s a tiny piano, though. I just forgot to take a shot with it in an open position. With so little going on the back lid would have benefited fro ma large print on the inside as well instead of just the lonely carpet tile.
Again everything can be stowed away neatly for transport by placing it on the corresponding jumper plates. The sleigh would more appropriately fit into the archway, but having it hang from the wall isn’t that bad.
Overall these sets are quite nice for what they are intended and if you have a little girl at the right age that likes to carry around her favorite toys, this should make her happy. even to me the stripped down casings will still be of use for transporting minifigures and small builds inside them, securely tucked to the studs.
The only thing that doesn’t feel right is the price – as so often. For a handful of bricks and a few figures 20 Euro isn’t competitive if it’s indeed LEGO‘s intention to give Polly Pocket et al some heat. This may not be outrageous in the LEGO universe, but just look how much stuff you get in an average 15 Euro set from those other vendors! It’s only a good thing that thanks to the self-regulating powers of the free market you can get this for around 12 Euro on some occasions. This is much more palatable realtive to what you get in the package.