Looking back in…?

…Frustration? Anger? Bliss? All of them? End-of-Year summaries are a difficult thing and where LEGO is concerned, I sure have a bag of mixed feelings. So how was this year? Good? Bad? Terrible? Awesome? The answer is likely: “All of the above.”, so let me explain.

Personally I’m not that unhappy within the restrictions that I have to work within, anyway, meaning smaller, not too expensive sets. There indeed have been a number of good sets like my favorite Deep Sea Creatures (31088), a couple of excellent LEGO Friends sets that for once forewent the kitsch in favor of more palatable realism, a few surprising Star Wars models and even some of the The LEGO Movie 2 stuff was quite good. I also got a bit into Harry Potter and the new Hidden Side series also was surprisingly good.

On the other hand there has been a lot of frustratingly bad stuff in the same series I mentioned just as well. On top of that LEGO keep screwing around with Ideas by “improving” the sets in the opposite direction and over-optimizing them and this year has ruined Technic for me for good. Aside from the big and expensive showy models there is not much left there that would pique my interest. The smaller models are often just an embarrassment with their flimsy engineering. If that wasn’t enough, there’s that thing with a still barely functioning Control+/ PoweredUp system that gets stuffed into boxes with no rhyme or reason and makes models unnecessarily expensive for very limited return value.

On that note and on a more generic level I feel that the rift between relatively costly sets and the lower end is also growing. There’s definitely a dichotomy between pretty well-executed, large but expensive sets and many relatively lackluster packages in other price ranges. In addition it seems that LEGO are just trying too hard too see what they can get away with. There’s no way around it: Many sets feel unjustly overpriced and if it wasn’t for the magic powers of a free market regulating itself, i.e. discounts being available, this would be one heck of an expensive hobby/ special interest.

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem LEGO haven’t learned that lesson yet and as the first previews for 2020 indicate, we’re in for another round of sets where you wonder how they even arrived at some of the rather ridiculous prices. That in itself could be considered a statement and what bugs me about the whole matter that they just don’t seem to care. In fact a lot of this customer squeezing has a somewhat desperate undertone and one can’t help but feel that things aren’t as rosy as the company will have you believe. Now it’s of course pure speculation, but there are some signs that things didn’t go their way this year.

First, of course The LEGO Movie 2 was an epic fail. In Hollywood movie terms it was a bomb and didn’t break even, which in turn of course affected sales of the sets associated with the film. A second wave was only rolled out reluctantly in August and just before Christmas all the remaining sets were shoved out in a sale with crazy discounts. That and just at the same time Warner Bros. not extending their deal and the development shifting over to Universal. Cynically one could say that a tainted property was dumped at a different outlet in the hopes of producing tons of cheap movies.

Another big bummer also right in time for the end of the year is of course the acquisition of Bricklink. This also fits the pattern of a company perhaps not doing so great trying to control the market. No matter what, it’s just bad for the AFOL community at large and repercussions are already felt only a few weeks after the announcements with major changes to sales policies affecting what can be found on there.

All things considered this may not have been an outright terrible year, but some of what has happened just feels unsavory and a few things have been set in motion that just don’t feel right. So far it also doesn’t seem that we will be off to a good start in 2020 and that is just as much reason for concern. There will still be plenty to buy and to cover on this very blog and I’m more than certain that just like this year we will get some more announcements every now and then, but overall excitement on my end is limited for the time being…

Something good, something bad – Lady Liberty (40367) and Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847)

Today I’m going to roll two smaller sets into one review for practical reasons, both of which I bought somewhat spontaneously to sooth my nerves and pamper myself at the LEGO store in Leipzig when I was roaming the premises after an unpleasant doctor visit. That being the case and the sets therefore having been bought at full price no matter what I can at least spare you my usual ramblings on overall value vs. price.

Worst Set of the Year?

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Box

To get things out of the way, let’s start with what I basically consider the worst LEGO set of the year. Sadly, as a tie-in for The LEGO Movie 2 this should be at least some sort of fun, but  the Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847) is unfortunately so lackluster, you wonder why they ever bothered to bring it out.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Overview

I fully intended to buy this set for a number of reasons, but even though I didn’t expect it to be particularly elaborate or outstanding, I never would have thought it to be this underwhelming or even terrible. Point in case: It’s basically a parts and figure pack marketed as a full set where unfortunately nothing gels and the parts don’t make up for the lack of play or collector’s value.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Babies

First and foremost of course I like most likely 99% of people who buy this set had my eye on the baby figures. Oddly enough, though LEGO had the mold for quite a while now, it’s seriously underused and the figures only pop up once every blue moon in a handful of sets. As you would have guessed, this makes them highly coveted items that fetch good prices on Bricklink. The two little tykes represented in this set will do nothing to improve this situation, as this is the first time we actually get Bright Pink (baby pink) and Dark Cyan (teal) bodies and a lot of people will be desperately scavenge for matching heads sans “tattoos” to integrate the babies into their City landscapes or whatever. That said, the two kids certainly are appealing and would enliven many a scenery.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Good Morning Sparkle Babies! (70847), Island

Now for the ugly part. The rest of the set is pretty much a stinker. The sad, sad irony is that each component on its own would actually be useful, in particular the plant parts in new colors. It’s just that there aren’t enough of them to do anything serious with them and to boot, they have been slapped on to some piece of island that looks like it was a lowly intern’s morning task before lunch break. I’ts just *ugh*. I get what they were aiming for, but please, could we at least have gotten a real palm/ bush with three leaves or something like that? As it is, it’s nothing more than a frustrating glimpse into a happy, colorful dream world that could have been. Imagine how awesome it actually would look to see your babies stomping around on a larger meadow surrounded by those crazy colored plants!

On a whole this is an epic fail and nothing can justify buying the set other than really having the hots for the baby figures and being crazy enough to shell out the dosh. This really just strikes me as yet another misguided attempt to quickly cash in on the movie without making any effort whatsoever. Hell, even the Emmet and Lucy minifigures are the same boring ones found in pretty much every other set of this ilk.

Little green Cutie

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Box

On to more pleasant things, the bright spot on the horizon for me on this day was the Brickheadz Lady Liberty (40367). I was actually quite surprised to find it in the LEGO store, after all, given what I overheard last time. That and the fact that the set had long been out in other countries and sold out quickly. I had little hope to be able to catch it, but sometimes there is such a thing as lucky circumstance, I guess.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Front Left View

Over the years I have only bought a handful of Brickheadz overall and whenever I did, it usually boiled down to getting my hands on some of the special printed tiles or rare parts in unusual colors that these sets often contained. I’ve never been much of a collector and as a matter of fact the only such figure I kept around is Thanos, which somehow tickles my “Aww, he’s cute!” senses in all his Medium Lavender glory. He’s now going to get a permanent companion with this little green lady, as she’s cute, too, and I can’t find it in my heart to dismantle her for the parts.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Front Right View

There’s very little that I don’t like or that I think could be improved here. The model is cleverly done and even employs the “textile folds” technique using the cut-off wedge slopes also used on the larger Statue of Liberty (21042) in the Architecture series just as it borrows the same trick with the golden hair piece for the flames. Due to these details you end up with a reasonably complex build and a model with a well-structured surface that feels weighty and voluminous and not just like a tile-covered regular box like some other Brickheadz.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Back Right View

As for the things I would improve: First, the crown piece clearly could have benefited from including a disc/ dish piece to cover up the center like it’s done on the bigger version. In fact this could have looked even better here, as they could have used a 4 x 4 dish which is a little less steep in curvature/ less convex and would have blended in better. The other thing I would have done is made the figure taller. I know, they are all meant to be about the same height so they form a nice even line on the shelf, but this is one case where an exception could have been made. Adding e.g. two more rows of bricks at the bottom would have allowed for more details on the robes and looked more elegant. These are minor things, though, and a true collector might have different opinions on the matter.

LEGO Brickheadz, Lady Liberty (40367), Back Left View

In any case, this is one of the few Brickheadz that genuinely should appeal to everyone, be that occasional LEGO buyers, experienced builders looking for a satisfying diversion amidst other projects or the aforementioned collectors hunting down every set in this line of products. I certainly still have warm and fuzzy feelings as little Lady Liberty is looking at me from the shelf while I’m writing this article…

Coral Bliss – An Analysis of LEGO’s new 2019 Color

As a graphics artist, one of the slightly more frustrating aspects of dealing with LEGO is the relatively low number of available colors for parts and to boot, not all parts being available in every color even. This stops many of my ideas from ever taking shape physically and when it doesn’t, it still often feels like one should not need to spend so much time on thinking how to approximate some of that stuff when the result may still feel like a bad 16 color GIF dithered down from a great, colorful original photo. This basically means that I can never have enough colors and on some level even regret the great culling in the early 2000s having killed of so many useful ones, leaving noticeable gaps of genuinely missing or at least highly desirable colors. Which ones I think are missing is a discussion for another time, though.

Today let’s focus on the first tiny tippy-toe step to improve the situation by LEGO having introduced the new Coral color this year. In a funny and weird coincidence, Pantone, makers of the famous color system for print, declared their Living Coral (16-1546) Color of the Year after last year’s Ultra Violet (18-3838, in memory of the late musician Prince who died the year before). LEGO clearly were spot-on and had the right gut feeling at least once in a lifetime!

Why you may never have heard of it yet

Of course there’s a big caveat to the whole thing (for now at least): Unless you took an active interest in The LEGO Movie 2 and the sets around it or are generally inclined to the colorful sets for Friends et al, you may never even have heard of this new color much less seen it because thus far the only set that contains pieces in this shade is the Pop-Up Party Bus (70828). I of course was giddy about this ever since I heard about it and since the model is also exceedingly good and appealed to me as a whole with its design and overall nice look (review coming one of these days) I had to get it.

LEGO, New 2019 Coral Color, Initial Parts Selection from the Pop-Up Party Bus (70828)

The set contains the parts depicted in the image above and LEGO need to once again be applauded by doing it right and including several of them quite in generous quantity, making this an overall great roll-out of the new color. In other words: Even if you had no intention of actually building the bus, just buying the set for some of these parts could be totally worth it if you want to use the Coral in your projects. that said, of course things will only get better from here on with several Friends sets already having been announced for the second half of 2019 that will feature even more new pieces in this color and in the long run you should expect bits and bobs to appear in other series as well.

What Coral is and what it is not

A first instinct for many users might be to call the new Coral color the long missed Day-Glo Orange of the LEGO world, but more or less it isn’t. Sure, there can be a case made to use it in this fashion and we surely will see some such stuff, but doing so will require to be cautious and measured about the whole thing rather than splashing it out with a spray can and arbitrarily use it everywhere. There are a few things to consider.

First, it isn’t a pure Orange. If the day-glo analogy were to be used, you’d have to call it a slightly faded variant of this color. On real use cases like rescue vehicles and helicopters this often happens when the areas where the color is applied haven’t been underpainted with a bright yellow or the yellow pigments of the color itself decompose faster than the other ones under exposure to sun light and weather. As a result, these areas turn more and more pinkish when the red components become more dominant. Things have gotten better and colors more chemically stable, but regardless, this fading process still happens relatively fast. In case of the LEGO color this means it would be more representative of an already slightly aged paint job, not a factory fresh one.

Another interpretation could be that this is an opaque version of the long-existing Trans Neon Orange Color, as it was widely used e.g. in Nexo Knights, but this isn’t an exact match, either. Naturally it would depend on which background the transparent plates etc. are set against, but even on a white base the orange looks much more intense and reddish. In fact it even has the same fluorescent behavior, meaning it (seemingly) emits more light than it logically should, but the spectrum is a different one. So for all intents and purposes it would be fair that Coral is somewhere in that ballpark, but never a hundred percent match. 

LEGO, New 2019 Coral Color, Perception against differently colored Backgrounds

To complicate matters further, such bright colors are typically extremely dependent on individual perception and the context in which they are used and presented. They can extremely stand out against some dark backgrounds to the point of literally causing so much stress on the eye, you get headaches when looking at them and your brain trying to bring everything in a range it can process, while on the other hand they can almost disappear against some lighter colors. To illustrate this I photographed the same element against differently colored backgrounds (colored art paper) and matched everything as best as possible with my limited equipment.

Finally, there is another thing to consider: Of course it’s plastic and as such its smooth surface tends to be affected strongly by the surroundings it reflects. Here this seems even more the case as the color appears to always have a slight hint of transparency, regardless. This means that environmental light will penetrate it to some degree, minor as it may be, and this will make the colors appear to shift around. Therefore the color will look paler in daylight with a blue sky and more orange-y under more warm, yellow artificial light and it can look pretty dull under white LED light because, naturally, those LEDs don’t necessarily emit the wavelengths the material would reflect and amplify in the fist place. So if you wonder why it looks a lot less spectacular in a show case than when you were assembling it, here’s your potential answer to that mystery.

When and how to use it

When I first thought of this article I wanted to make it grand and as a graphics artist I’m of course prone to nerd out on color theory and bombard people with too much information. Luckily I came to my senses and stopped myself from creating tons of charts and diagrams, so here’s what I hope will be a bit of a more practical guide based on what colors actually exist currently in LEGO‘s portfolio.

LEGO, New 2019 Coral Color, Comparison with other LEGO Colors

If you look at the first image, you can see that Coral seems to go together quite well with many colors, yet doesn’t slot into in any of the available color lines, either. This could be seen as both good and bad. It’s good in that the color is indeed universal and independent enough to look acceptable with many color combinations. It’s bad because just as much the color will always stand out even with its closest matching colors. The logical conclusions to draw from this are:

  • It should not be used as a standalone color.
  • when used with other colors it should primarily be used as a contrast color only and sparingly.
  • Said contrast should not be dominated by Coral, meaning whatever other color(s) you use should be used in a larger amount.
  • The more colors you use on a model, the more disturbing the bright color becomes, so use it only if you truly have something to express with it or the use case mandates it.

Now of course art grows from making exceptions to the rules and it’s perfectly imaginable that you may come up with a cool use that still looks perfectly acceptable, but keep in mind that Coral may dominate, take over and overwhelm your models quickly if you’re not careful. I would also totally expect LEGO to produce some crazy parts like bullcatchers for off-road vehicles or even large Technic panels in this color, but overall perhaps keeping it toned down and not going overboard with its usage would be a good strategy for keeping this color fresh and interesting in the long run.

LEGO, New 2019 Coral Color, Comparison with other LEGO Colors

In more practical terms there are a few combinations that to me personally are at least critical, so I likely would try and avoid them or only use them extremely sparingly. Others could be usable, but still be problematic. Here’s my take on some of that:

  • Any combination of Coral with colors that are actually closest to it will look pretty naff, those being the regular Yellow, Bright Light Orange/ Flame Yellowish Orange and Orange. Here this would only make sense if you have a third, much darker color also that can visually distract or act as a separator. Of course there’s already yellow rescue vehicles with day-glo striping, so there’s that…
  • Red could be problematic if the area with Coral gets too large. Yes, that thing with “overwhelming” and two already strong colors battling it out.
  • Light Pink (leftmost bottom stack, bottom brick) in conjunction with Coral might not work that well, as both colors basically cancel each other out. For instance a single 2 x 1 plate of Coral amidst a sea of Light Pink ones will almost disappear and in reverse it’s the same. Mixing them randomly or in patterns about 50/ 50 gives a cool effect, though, as it will visually blend into a different kind of pink.
  • The Bright Light Yellow/ Cool Yellow could suffer from similar issues as the previous points and in addition also falls into that “yellow emergency vehicle” category, so some caution must be exercised to get it right, especially on your small City vehicles and similar.
  • Out of the “earthy” tones (top row, fourth stack from left), only Dark Tan/ Sand Yellow would IMO look reasonably okay. The Medium Dark Flesh/ Medium Nougat and the Tan color do not have enough contrast and could look quite iffy. More to the point, the bright Coral will make models with these colors look dirty and that is usually not something you want.

As I said further above, these are just things I would think once or twice about and my list should not stop you from trying what works for you. it may just require a bit of effort and experimentation to get a good balance of colors in such scenarios. Most other combinations should be unproblematic and fall into place almost naturally under the conditions I laid out. Some of that is already visible in the party bus set itself – Coral looks just gorgeous next to Dark Turquoise, Magenta and White. I can’t wait to see what other stuff is in store when the new friends sets come out and what one could potentially do with the Coral parts they will contain.

Harmless Kitten – Ultrakatty & Warrior Lucy! (70827)

I’ve still only seen bits and pieces of The LEGO Movie 2. I’m simply too lazy to go to the cinema “for that kind of movie” and always wait for them to come out on DVD/ Blu-Ray or run on TV. Since it tanked at the box office and will likely even accrue losses for Warner, I guess it’s a moot point, anyway. My few bucks wouldn’t have saved them.

It’s a good bet that now we’re not going to see some tie-in sets that may have been planned and obviously the early releases from the beginning of the year didn’t do much to get people interested, either. Incidentally this quite fittingly also matches my “I just don’t care much” stance in the matter – I kinda like some sets that were designed for the movie while a good chunk of the rest just doesn’t interest me because they too apparently play on nostalgia and are trying to milk the subject as it were. There’s also that fine line in-between where you think “Cool idea, but…” and Ultrakatty & Warrior Lucy (70827) fits into that narrow corridor.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Ultrakatty & Warrior Lucy! (70827), Box

Initially I was quite reluctant to even get the set until I came to the realization that it actually contained some unique parts that somehow might be useful for one of the projects I have rattling around in my head, those in particular being some of the spiky parts being available in Red and Reddish Brown for the first time. Even better yet there are quite a few of them, so buying this set possibly means a little less spending on Bricklink for those parts if and when the time comes to build the model I envision. Funny how things sometimes coalesce by sheer coincidence.

Anyway, after that decision was made, it was time to wait for prices to come down and on a lazy weekend this set could be had for 17 Euro, so I jumped the chance. Not to sound like the eternal cheap skate, but to me this price feels right. Would I ever have paid the official price of 30 Euro? Very likely not. Point in case: There may be around 350 parts overall, but most of them are simply too small to warrant a price higher than 20 Euro for the whole set in my opinion. If it wasn’t for the exclusivity of some pieces the set could be rebuilt with standard parts from other sets quite easily at low cost.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Ultrakatty & Warrior Lucy! (70827), Overview

For the price I mentioned as my preferred choice you get some okay content. At the very least it feels like there’s enough bang for the buck. The assembled Ultrakatty is weighty enough and the rest of the set feels like there are sensible additions. Again, though, a lot of the real value is in the details and therefore the more expensively you buy this set, the less favorable this may turn out since the parts are sometimes rather specific. You’d hate to think you paid too much just to get that printed “Don’t Stop” shield on Lucy, if you get my meaning.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Ultrakatty & Warrior Lucy! (70827), Invader, FrontThe Duplo “invaders” are one of the funnier ideas in the whole film and re-creating them using regular LEGO bricks is equally cool. In fact I think it would have been fun to have a whole set just with these little critters in the various forms and colors they appear in and at the same time include some of the Plantimals (those other weird creatures with the leaves and pink elephant trunks for legs) as sort of an “adversary battle pack”. or whatever you want to call it.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Ultrakatty & Warrior Lucy! (70827), Invader, BackThat would also have allowed some more consistent world-building in the truest sense of the word and perhaps been a little less frustrating to people like me. With the necessary colored parts being scattered across multiple sets, some quite expensive and others that I’d never buy, anyway, it’s a bit difficult to scrape the components together as obviously they wouldn’t be cheap on the second-hand market, either.


Ultrakatty is of course Unikitty in rage mode and all bulked up. The basic similarities are there by ways of the recognizable facial style and how the head is built, but it pretty much ends there. The rest is of the model is more akin to the tried and tested skeleton builds used on mechs and dinosaurs, which is another reason for my initial reluctance. I just don’t need another ton of those joints in my life. Buying too many sets of this type can easily clog up your storage boxes with those parts if you don’t use them that much…

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Ultrakatty & Warrior Lucy! (70827), Ultrakatty, Side View

As presented in the set, Ultrakatty is a trimmed down version from how she actually appears in the film. There’s a designer video on YouTube explaining the rationale behind the reduction as a necessity for keeping things playable (and the set in a specific price range, too, most likely) but to me this seems like a lame, somewhat nonsensical excuse. You can spin this however you want, but this is not a traditional play set. The model is reasonably poseable, yes, and you could likely do your own brick film with it, but it’s nowhere stable enough to be constantly changed around.

Some parts will always come off like for instance the spikes on the back of the legs. Therefore I would strictly consider this a showcase set that you may arrange in a little vignette e.g. next to your Apocalypseburg model if you are lucky enough to be able to afford that big boy. In light of that assessment of course they could have kept the original fully spiky version intact and sold it in its full glory. In a way this reminds me of the situation with the green Ninjago dragon, where the commercial set ended up being quite different from the actual movie creation, yet wasn’t much better off in terms of overall playability.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Ultrakatty & Warrior Lucy! (70827), Ultrakatty, Front View

One of the most talked-about features of this set is the new 5 x 1 x 2 brick used for the face. The main motivation behind this is pretty clearly to get the face printed on a single contiguous surface as per LEGO‘s self-imposed rule of not printing across multiple bricks, at least not in that manner. It shows that they can introduce new, sometimes much-needed new parts if only they want to and they solve a specific problem, yet they are most of the time simply too reluctant, hesitant or cautious about it. That’s at the same time perfectly understandable (it’s a cost factor, after all, you know), but also kind of sad when you think of how some sets still require awkward workarounds just because some parts don’t exist.

In this case we can only hope that this isn’t a one-off thing and the mold for this brick will be used in other sets as well plus we also eventually get the 5 x 1 and 5 x 2 plates to go with it. Five unit long plates are even more necessary than the brick, as this covers a ton of scenarios where you currently have to piece things together with 3 x 1 and 2 x 1 plates. It would simplify things a lot. At the same time, though, I don’t think we need more than that, meaning seven or nine unit long plates like for example COBI has them would be a bit redundant.

The prints on the face are nicely executed with sharp detail, good opacity and perfect saturation. Personally I wouldn’t have needed swappable faces and the “more than slightly aggravated” one I used in my images would have sufficed. If at all, a face printed on a differently colored brick might have been more interesting like the sickly green one from the Unikitty Collectible Minifigures series along with matching green horns. Overall it’s okay, though. you have to stop somewhere and not every crazy idea can be put in one set.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Ultrakatty & Warrior Lucy! (70827), Ultrakatty, Top View

The construction of the body is pretty straightforward and captures the bulked up aggressive pose nicely with the broad shoulders and the extremely tapered aft. It’s basically all built around a single 8 x 2 brick to keep it slim with most of the protruding parts simply being plugged onto the sides. This also furthers my point about this not being an ideal play set because the slopes are still easy to break off accidentally.

All four legs are built almost identically with the upper section being shaped as strong, thick thighs using some bricks and a brown wedge piece. In contrast to that the lower extremities appear almost fragile with their ratcheted hinges, but as I said, poseability is still good. As usual it will just take some time to balance out the individual positions so she doesn’t topple over.

The shin parts use some curved slopes with a flame print which is barely noticeable. The print quality isn’t that great, the slopes are narrow and so the flames blend in to a degree they could have been left out completely without much of a negative impact. It seems more than a bit weird, especially directly compared to the superb prints on the face. They probably shouldn’t have bothered. I’m not even sure if I would ever use those slopes on a car with flame stickers. That’s how poor they are.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Ultrakatty & Warrior Lucy! (70827), Ultrakatty, Aft View

Overall this set turned out okay despite my original reservations. Just don’t assume it is in any way a play set. It can look quite impressive when posed and viewed from the right angle as a presentation model. Then fiddling with the spikes and orienting them correctly can pay off. However, if you mess with it too much and too often, it can look weird and re-attaching elements that fell off while you were handling it will become frustrating after a while.

Most importantly, see to it that you get it cheap. This is one of those sets where being a Scrooge can really amp up your satisfaction. Again, I’m not saying that it would be super expensive to begin with, but the many small parts will almost automatically make you feel that you shouldn’t be paying too much for them in the first place. The better the price-per-piece ratio, the happier you’ll be.

Heart of Hearts – Friends Heart Boxes (41354 to 41359)

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Emmet's Piece Offering (30340), Front2019 appears to be the “Year of the Heart” for LEGO with those little buggers popping up everywhere in different styles, shapes and sizes, ranging from the tiny new 1×1 heart-shaped tile elements in sets like the Chinese Dragon Dance (80102) and of course several ones for The LEGO Movie 2 as well. The latter takes this even further with the buildable kind of heart in Emmet’s Piece Offering (30340) depicted here and of course the cutesy little heart character also appearing in the movie.

Of course the Friends sets are not left out and my, have they gone out of their way. For now there’s seven different types of hearts to choose from. Two different ones are contained in the Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359) and then there’s the Mia’s/ Andrea’s/ Olivia’s/ Stephanie’s/ Emma’s Heart Box (41354 to 41358) sets. In the interest of efficiency and due to the similarity I have consolidated all the products into one article, but let’s begin with the “big” stuff presented by the Friendship Pack.

LEGO Friends, Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359), Box

This set is meant to be a play set in the sense that it contains a plethora of little gimmicks and doodads to dress up the two included mini dolls in a variety of outfits ranging from astronaut to firefighter and police officer to magician/ witch and pirate as well as any combination and derivation inbetween. Who’s to say there couldn’t be pirates with bullet-proof golden helmets? To that end it contains a number of minifigure hats plus a bunch of very minor minifigure accessories and buildable elements. None of this stuff is new nor is any of it made specifically made just for this set. It has all been gleaned from LEGO‘s back catalog of existing pieces and some of it may even be surplus stock from producing other sets.

LEGO Friends, Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359), Gimmicks

Therefore outside of actually using these items in the context of the set for playing with it, the individual value of these extras will hugely depend on how useful they may be to customize your other minifigures. For me it was okay, as I neither have a pirate hat nor a golden helmet in my collection and as a recent custom build proved, there could always be a need for some fancying up a model with some minifigures even if like me you don’t collect them proactively, so I’m sure going to keep this stuff around, be it just as a prop for setting the mood in a pirate tavern or whatever should I ever decide to create something along those lines.

LEGO Friends, Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359), Overview

In contrast to what you may think, the actual highlight of this set is the smaller heart for the simple reason that it’s based on a new custom-shaped plate. at the same time, though, only one of those little hearts being included to me looks like a severe laps in logic. If the intention was to provide a small pocket box to pack up your doll and some accessories when going on the road, wouldn’t it have made perfect sense to actually include two – one for every figure? Imagine the fuss when two little girls battle over who gets to take the small container along…!

LEGO Friends, Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359), Overview


To me it just doesn’t make sense and allowing for a second such thing in a different color to be built should not have been that much of a stretch. It would only have increased the price a tiny bit and, which is my point, could have helped to roll out the new plates in larger quantities. You may think it’s not that important and I’m just obsessing, but in my head I already have a pretty clear picture how useful this new part could be as a creative corner piece and such when used in combination with other plates. For now it seems we’re limited to just buying more copies of this set and wait until this shape has made its way in other sets and sufficient quantities become available on Bricklink and elsewhere.

LEGO Friends, Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359), Overview

The large version is pieced together from existing elements based on eight units width, meaning a square plate, some half round plates and a two studs wide strip to extend the “ears” a bit. If you’re into that sort of thing, you could come up with it yourself. It’s really pretty obvious and doesn’t require any major engineering skills, experience or magic. That is, of course, up to the point where you need those damned tiles, round bricks (Macaroni) and also the straight bricks for the side walls. It would have been possible to build something like this, but not necessarily easily and in a consistent color scheme. Some parts were just not out there in larger numbers, others downright didn’t exist in a given color yet. At the very least the set solves this conundrum and makes things easy on you by providing all the pieces.

LEGO Friends, Heart Box Friendship Pack (41359), Lids Undersides

Simple and obvious as the whole thing may be, there is always major drawback to using round pieces: You simply stack them and they don’t share any interlocking with neighboring bricks. LEGO have yet to come up with some form of plate or special adapter brick to get a firm connection that takes care of these concerns. These heart sets would have provided a perfect test case for creating plates with extended tabs or adding a stud and anti-stud system to the butt ends of the Macaronis. Maybe we will see it one day. In this particular case it’s not a major issue du to the boxes only being two bricks high, but regardless it’s still within the realm of possibility that inadvertently the curved parts may break off. Your little girl could find a bunch of separate pieces in her pocket with all the contents having spilled out as well, so beware!

LEGO Friends, Heart Boxes (41354 to 41358 ), Packages

Moving on to the smaller sets, the heart boxes named after the girls are marketed as a separate line of sets. To me this feels like they are trying a bit too hard to milk the theme for maximum revenue, though. The reasons for this should become clear a bit further down, but first let’s have a look at a size comparison.

LEGO Friends, Heart Boxes (41354 to 41359), Size Comparison

As you can see, the size is pretty much halfway there between the large box from the Friendship Pack and the small one from the same set. This already reveals one potential limitation: The amount of content you can cram into such a box and indeed this is a concern. I haven’t bothered to take shots of them, but each set comes with the umpteenth iteration of the girl who lends its name to any given set. This then would already occupy half the space in the box. The remaining space would – in theory at least – be filled up with the simple pedestal/ stand made from two clear sloped brick and a white 2 x 4 plate, barely leaving any room for something else. And there you have it: The inclusion of the useless mini dolls defeats the whole idea of using those little hearts as storage or gift boxes. Therefore I think disposing of the figures in whatever is your favorite cruel and funny method would be perfectly acceptable. Just make sure your kids don’t see it…

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Heart Box (41357), Package Front LEGO Friends, Olivia's Heart Box (41357), Package Back

Make no mistake: Despite their inflated packages, these sets are basically just poly bags with a slightly larger number of parts. Arguably the cardboard carry bag or whatever you wanna call it could have been done away with, but of course it looks better on store shelves. Ultimately it’s okay, though, even if you are environmentally conscious, as multiple packs can be stacked quite efficiently in an alternating pattern. Not as much unused space only filled with air is being transported around as first impressions may suggest. In fact it looks bulkier on the photos than in real life.

LEGO Friends, Heart Boxes (41354 to 41358), Colors LEGO Friends, Heart Boxes (41354 to 41358), Stacked

There are five distinct sets of which I got only four. For the time being I passed on the Lime Green version for Mia since it did not include any other new colors for the plates and I wanted to avoid having a pile of redundant Dark Purple already found in the Emma set as well as Dark Azure tiles for the upper edge as they exist in the Olivia version. I’m reasonably certain that I will get it one of these days just for the fun of it, though. Incidentally, LEGO could have made this decision easier by offering a five pack/ bundle deal with a bit of discount from the outset.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Heart Box (41357), Lid Topside LEGO Friends, Olivia's Heart Box (41357), Lid Underside

Again the building techniques used in the sets are as plain on your nose as you can think and you could have worked them out yourself if you had the pieces. The same limitations as on the big heart box apply – due to some elements not overlapping and merely being stacked, the risk of breakage is not to be underestimated, especially with the lid off, which stabilizes things considerably. Overall those sets won’t win any prizes for outstanding engineering, anyway. With only two rows of bricks in all of them, it’s simply impossible to get enough robustness in there, try as you might. You would have to redesign this from the ground up. Regardless of these issues, the least they could have done is make the big heart in the Friendship Pack three or four rows of bricks high to increase storage volume.

LEGO Friends, Andrea's Heart Box (41354), Flowers

The one thing that makes those sets at least a bit valuable for me is of course the fact that they are an excellent source for colored parts. As I mentioned earlier in my article, many pieces are for the first time even available in these flamboyant and crazy colors and trivial as it may seem, a Bright Pink 1 x 1 quarter round tile can sometimes be exactly what you need, not to speak of the many 1 x 2, 1x 4, 1 x 6 and 2 x 4 tiles. We even get the 1 x 1 round flower tile in Light Aqua in the Andrea set! In addition, every bit of writing you see on the boxes are specially printed tiles, so that’s fine, too. It just renders those tiles slightly less useful later on in your custom builds. Still, you could always pop them onto other sets like e.g. Olivia’s Cupcake Café (41366) as signage, so it’s not all a waste.

Within the very narrow corridor of what you can expect, those sets work okay-ish, but are not worth writing home about, either. Unfortunately it really seems LEGO are always falling for the same old mistakes and screw up a simple idea that could work otherwise. A girl just wanting a nice box for her trinkets isn’t going to care much about those ugly mini dolls and as an adult you feel it’s only an excuse to inflate the price. A more straightforward approach with selling the plain buildable items for what they are might have been better.

That being the case, if at all, you should see to it to get these sets as cheap as you can, since you basically always will be buying unnecessary useless fluff along with the buildable elements while the actual assembly is so simplistic, it will leave the true LEGO aficionado unsatisfied. Strangely, those sets are caught between a rock and a hard place and won’t satisfy either side fully. The are not LEGO sets in the traditional sense, but by that same token will also struggle to attract audiences that are used to simpler ways of getting plastic containers for their toys, the latter of which also being more stable when made in a single piece straight out of the injection molding machine. Too bad…

BFF Gang – Unikitty’s Sweetest Friends Ever! (70822)

By now you probably won’t need to read my take on the Unikitty’s Sweetest Friends Ever (70822) set since everybody and their mom already have reviewed it, but I’m giving it to you, anyway. 😉

As part of the run-up for the upcoming The LEGO Movie 2 there are already quite a few sets and a ton more are previewed or at least teased, so there will be plenty to choose from for everybody. A few of the sets are great, some of them look okay, for others I don’t particularly care. Since I only got into LEGO a few years ago, I consider myself rather immune to nostalgia, a factor they are playing heavily on with these movies. Funny enough this is easily reflected even with these small sets – I’m not saying that Benny’s Space Quad (70841) is bad, but it does not the least bit resonate emotionally with me like with those many other people that owned the figures in their childhood. That’s why instead I went for this one right away.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Unikitty's Sweetest Friends Ever! (70822), Box

Before delving into the details, let me just say that I love this set like crazy. As you know I tend to be very critical about LEGO‘s missteps and I’m not easily satisfied, but on my internal ratings scale this set would score a near perfect level with something like 9.5 out of 10. It’s full of amazing details and good ideas plus it’s a cornucopia of new (to me, anyway) and useful parts with many of them being exclusively printed parts for this set. What more could you ask?

Well, of course a better price! That’s pretty much my only grievance with this set as it feels like you get way to little value for 10 Euros. By all means this clearly feels more like a 7 Euros set even if you account for the printed and new parts. That little bit of extra cost can’t justify the price for 76 mostly small pieces. Considering that long-term of course those parts will also be used elsewhere, making up for the initial investment, even less so. In any case, it’s a minor complaint on my part. It just would have been nice.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Unikitty's Sweetest Friends Ever! (70822), Overview

The first figure in the set is Unikitty herself. Unfortunately it’s a character that, while crucial to the films themselves, doesn’t really do much on its own. I never even remotely considered getting one of the collectible figures or one of the few sets and it appears at least here in Germany most people feel the same. It’s not a subject anyone takes particularly seriously and aside from a few completist collectors, probably most people only used the collectible blind bags to pad out their shopping cart in order to be entitled for freebies in LEGO stores or get one to pacify their kids.

I’ll defer to smarter people for the specifics, but as far as I have researched the matter, aside from the once again different face prints the only real difference is the color of the tail and horn, which is Bright Light Blue instead of Dark Azure. Otherwise it’s really just basic Unikitty as featured in those sets from last year already.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Unikitty's Sweetest Friends Ever! (70822), Unikitty

The ice cone, a character who in light of nobody (outside the production team and test screening audiences) actually having seen the movie must remain unnamed is easily the highlight of the set. Not only does it contain almost all remaining printed parts, but it also prominently uses the new large dome part and the unique new arms with pins (see further down). In its simplicity even a three-year-old can plug it together and it still looks great with only its few parts.

Those pieces also make it highly desirable to have more than one instance of them, with the figure providing a template to decorate your own ice cream stand/ parlour in your City or Friends environment. Even I’m tempted to buy at least one more set just because of that. It just looks so darn cool!

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Unikitty's Sweetest Friends Ever! (70822), Ice Cone

The chocolate bar with the bitten-off corner is another of those little models that make you gasp with amazement. It nicely illustrates what LEGO could/ can do with already existing parts if only they were a bit more forward-thinking and progressive with producing those parts in more colors. For all intents and purposes, this is a model that could have existed ten years ago when the gold bar/ ingot part was new and people would have loved it just as much, I’m sure. If you get my meaning: We could have entire confectionary sets already, if only this part had come out sooner in Reddish Brown (or Dark Brown, or Tan, or Bright Pink…).

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Unikitty's Sweetest Friends Ever! (70822), Chocolate

To bring things together thematically, they included a serving tray on wheels, which is an okay side build, but doesn’t really do much for me. The scale doesn’t match, anyway, so personally I would have preferred another figure. Ultimately it becomes a case of “Why did they even bother?” and loops back to my argument about the price. On the bright side, though, they at least built it with the new rounded-off 2 x 1 plates and you get five of them just in this set, so it could be argued that this gives you some nice value, being that those plates are still relatively rare.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Unikitty's Sweetest Friends Ever! (70822), Tray on Wheels

As pointed out earlier, for me this was a “first encounter” situation with many of the newer parts, so to some extend I’m a happy camper just for that, too. In fact, upon researching the matter I was surprised that the arm already exists since 2017 but has never been used except in some Nexo Knights sets. Bummer! It seems odd to me that LEGO would not produce and use it more often, given that it could be used to e.g. attach bars and other details.

LEGO The LEGO Movie 2, Unikitty's Sweetest Friends Ever! (70822), Parts

Overall I’m pretty happy with this set and it just triggers the right buttons with me. Naturally you may feel differently about it, but I’m of the opinion that we’d be a lot better off if every LEGO set offered at least a tiny fraction of the fun, love and joy this set has been imbued with. Way to go! You should definitely consider this set, be it just for the pleasure of figures smiling at you from the kitchen shelf while you do the dishwashing…