As you well know from past articles, I’m anything but a Harry Potter buff nor am I particularly attracted to the respective LEGO sets around the theme. However, every now and then a set comes along that piques my interest and last year’s Buildable Hedwig (75979) certainly was a fascinating offering. i at least enjoyed it ojn several levels and thus it was almost inevitable that I would also get Fawkes, Dumbledore’s Phoenix (76394)
Hedwig in Red?
One thing we need to get out of the way right out of the gate is the all too striking similarity between the two birds. Yes, for all intents and purposes this Phoenix is on some level a rehash of the owl. Major sub-assemblies like the wings are nearly identical in terms of building techniques and layout of the decorations, just in a different color. This even extends to the innards. I had several dèja-vus even just vaguely remembering how I put things together last year and seeing the techniques repeated here.
This is not necessarily a bad thing – Why change something that just works? – and helps building to speed along more quickly, but limits the originality. It really comes down to around fifty percent of the model being identical. So if you are looking for variety in your LEGO diet this is not going to be the most fascinating build, especially if you have built Hedwig rather recently.
Contents and Pricing
Being so akin to the white bird, this red one matches the other properties of that set as well, more or less. The previous model had 630 pieces, this one has 597 and both retail for 40 Euro officially. One major disadvantage with this offering is that it is only available from LEGO directly and a few select retailers. This makes it harder to find in the first place and of course inevitably scarce whereas at the height of its release you could find Hedwig for decent discounts. Only now that the latter has been EOL‘d (end of life) and suppliers run out of stock prices have risen again.
I got lucky in one of the many promotions in recent time (I believe before or after Singles Day, if I remember correctly) and got at least 20 percent off, bringing the cost down to 32 Euro. If it wasn’t for that, I might simply have skipped over this set entirely, though. I wanted it, but not that desperately, if you get my drift. After all, it’s still a lot of mostly small pieces and only a handful of extras adding some more value.
Minifigure and Bird
As per the last time, this set also only comes with one minifigure and a matching bird. Where once there were Hedwig and Harry, now we have Fawkes and Dumbledore. There’s not really a shortage of the old man with the white beard as he has appeared in many sets, but somehow they still find new variations for him and this figure featuring another print of his ornate gowns is exclusive to this set. His companion bird has been featured only in the Collectible Minifigures series so far, so it’s nice to have one this way. The print quality of the Yellow areas is terrible, though, as you can see. This to me is only tolerable because Orange looks just as good and I don’t care much, but if you really want to collect this you may want to request a replacement from LEGO customer service.
With this set sharing so many commonalities with Hedwig, of course the model suffers from a few shortcomings and incidentally I find that the overall pose is one of them. As already mentioned I get why they stuck with their guns and just re-used what worked before, but in my opinion it’s not the best option to capture the overall feel and appearance of Fawkes. This is mostly owing to the fact that in the movies he sits upright almost all the time, which makes him look much more imposing. That’s why once more this is a situation where I would have preferred a static, yet more detailed “sculpture” rather than a functional model.
The wings are not only technically the same as on the owl, but also pretty much identical in terms of how the color patterns have been created. However, in my view this doesn’t work as well here since the Red just overpowers everything, ultimately leaving very little discernible texture. I feel that it should be more varied and for instance include much more Yellow/ Gold accents. That would have to be one more criticism as clearly in the movies the Phoenix doesn’t look nearly as doused in Red as here. The colors are much more muted and more of the yellow plumage exposed.
The back and tail use a somewhat different methodology compared to Hedwig to make everything look less voluminous and much sharper and aggressive. That’s okay, but I’m wondering whether they ever considered using these large Ninjago sword blades. this might have looked even better, as judging from available imagery the tail is very dense, but the feathers themselves are more like worn down pheasant feathers. There’s certainly room here for experimentation if one decides to change/ improve this area and lucky enough the blades are available in the necessary colors.
The stand follows the same formula and is basically a repeat of the one found on the owl, with slight modifications of course. The most notable are the golden round pieces, an element only introduced earlier this year for the big Porsche 911 (10295) in White. At its core the build is pretty much the same, though, only that a few cornered pieces have been replaced with rounded ones and the coverings of the underlying suprastructure are different. Again more “I’ve done this before!” dejà-vus.
Unlike the owl this bird also has reasonably anatomically correct legs protruding from the rear of the body where the pelvis would be. If you care to remember, on Hedwig those were more or less just stubby mouse arms coming out of the upper chest. This necessitated the introduction of a perch for the bird to sit on, but effectively it looks like it’s only a heartbeat away from taking off. Important note: Spend some time aligning the feet properly! The horns used for their claws don’t fit that tightly and will turn into odd positions easily, ruining the illusion.
While I’m not massively disappointed, I’m also not that terribly excited about this model due to its factory line approach of recycling so many things from its progenitor, understandable as it may be. It’s okay for what it is, but I have this nagging feeling that it’s simply the wrong format for this particular creature. maybe it would have been served better in a bigger set with more pieces around the 70 to 80 Euro mark. Naturally this won’t deter real fans and given how hard this is to come by LEGO will have no problem selling this, but if there are ever other such birds maybe they should come up with a different design.