Medium Azure Joy – Toy Shop Town House (31105)

At the beginning of my LEGO career only a few years ago I was deeply entrenched in Technic and didn’t care much for the traditional System based sets. Only when things took a turn for the worse and the Technic models began to get less interesting did I expand my horizon and it was at that time that with much regret I realized what I had missed out on.

In particular the buildings in the Creator 3in1 series (Bike Shop & Café [31026], Toy & Grocery Shop [31036], Corner Deli [31050] and Park Street Town House [31065]) piqued my interest and only through sheer luck was I able to pick up the last item during a clearance sale way back then. The others are still on my dream wishlist, but since prices have exploded for those sets, it will likely remain an an affordable pipe dream.

All that being the case, and finally getting near a point, I’m of course extremely happy that LEGO decided to pick up where they left off and include buildings again in the 3in1 series that had been missing so noticeably. Last year’s Pet Shop & Café (31097) perhaps wasn’t the greatest example, but the new Toy Shop Town House (31105) is pretty excellent.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Box

I’m not revealing any secrets by pointing out the brilliance of this little set, as it is actually quite apparent just by looking at the box art. It has exactly that lovely vibe that made the older sets so endearing and desirable. It’s oozing with charme, one could say. in addition to the main building the set comes with a little side build in the form of a kids’ rocket ride and two minifigures.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Overview

The figures are pretty much standard and represent a kid and a female toy store employee. Notice how I made a mess by not plugging in the kid’s legs tightly enough. The employee is interesting in that it uses the relatively rare yellow torso with the LEGO logo artwork on the back. Such figures are often only included in limited promotional sets, but even then not always, so if you ever wanted to build a genuine LEGO branded store as a model here’s your chance to get matching outfits for your mini people in a relatively straightforward and cost-efficient way that doesn’t involve buying overpriced collector’s items on Bricklink.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Minifigures, Front View LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Minifigures, Backside View

The rocket ride no doubt represents a reminiscence to the quite similar and only slightly larger Space Rocket Ride (40335) that was available as a Gift with Purchase (GWP) promotional item some time last year. Its rocking function even works thanks to a small crank mechanism. The only issue with it is that the model has no actual provision for nicely fixing it in place somewhere owing to the building being to small to permanently put it inside and at the same time the pavement not being fully extended. If you are thinking of integrating the building into your existing town you may have to create your own solution to that admittedly small problem.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Rocket Ride, Left View LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Rocket Ride, Right View

The main building itself just looks nice from pretty much every angle. this being a corner building with consistently butted-off side walls could indicate that the next building in this series might be one to go left and right of this to form an actual street layout.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Front Left View

Of particular note is of course the second floor due to its use of the Medium Azure color. This especially means that a few of the elements like for instance the 2×2 round brick become available in this color for the first time ever, which is always a bonus. It’s funny, though, that an element that basically existed since the dawn of LEGO time never was never produced in a specific color in 40 or so years.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Front Right View

In addition to the Medium Azure pieces the other interesting new entry in the parts department are the 3×3 windows in Tan. I still haven’t gotten around to starting my project with the Dark Purple versions from the Harry Potter Knight Bus set (75957), but it’s good to see that this wasn’t just a one-off and the part is proliferating across the portfolio in colors that will be more palatable to most users.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Back Right View

Other than that the build uses pretty much only standard parts as is typical for most Creator 3in1 sets. That being the case, the one thing I’m not happy with is the buildable bird. I know it’s tradition in the series, but in this case I really feel that for reasons of scale and overall cuteness this set would have benefited from the inclusion of a few of the small bird minifigure add-on. The model just screams to me that there should be a bunch of sparrows perched on the edges of the roof, before the main door and even on the balcony. doing the little birdy in a color like Medium Nougat or Dark Orange would then have provided even more incentive and made this super awesome.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Back Left View

While it’s not an actual Modular Building, of course the set borrows a bunch of building techniques and overall takes a similar approach. This is not only sensible in terms of building things step by step without having to worry too much about handling large chunks at once, but it also is the only way to be able to fully access the interior, especially on the ground floor.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Modules

Said bottom level features the eponymous toy shop from which the set derives its name and its stuffed wit ha few mini builds of assembled models and also comes with a number of printed tiles representing LEGO set packages. If it were up to me, they could have included even more of those to plaster the entire wall and give the impression of a seriously crammed, but cosy small toy shop like they still exist in many smaller cities.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Module, Ground Floor

The second floor contains a small bedroom and while it doesn’t introduce anything revolutionary, it benefits from the Medium Azure color and the small bay. One can almost see oneself snuggling up in the bed while looking out of the bay windows on a day with perhaps not such great weather.

LEGO Creator, Toy Shop Town House (31105), Module, Second Floor

All things considered, this is an almost perfect set. There are a few minor structural issues that can be annoying during the build (that old thing of some walls being flimsy until you shim them over with plates at the top for instance), but it never gets in the way of your enjoyment. Many people seem to feel similarly and there’s already lots of larger builds based on two or more instances of this set. I’m eventually planning to do the same and might build something matching the size of a genuine Modular Building.

On that note of course we have to talk price. While I have no objections over the original 50 Euro retail price given the merits and quality of the set, by sheer volume it still doesn’t feel justified. After all, the building is still pretty tiny. Therefore to me the average 40 to 35 Euro street price feels a lot more realistic, even more so if you plan on buying more than one of these boxes. You can’t defeat the arithmetic and in a bad scenario this would then be more expensive than a genuine Modular Building while still having less pieces. It definitely won’t hurt to keep an eye out for sales and promotions…

Easter Double – Brickheadz Sheep (40380) and Bear (40379)

Despite the hard times out there, Easter is of course not far away and like every year since the inception of Brickheadz there’s a seasonal one to go with this event. Last years Chick (40350) was kind of so-so as was the Bunny (40271) in 2018, but this year the Sheep (40380) is really taking the cake.

LEGO Brickheadz, Sheep (40380), Box

Incidentally this special event themed set is also the 100th in the whole series, so this better be good, should it not? I have a soft spot for everything that is cutesy, anyway, and this one sure delivers.

LEGO Brickheadz, Sheep (40380), Front Left View

Of particular note is of course the face which gives a nice impression of the typical sheep/ lamb snout with the nostrils. initially I wasn’t sure whether the grey was actually a good idea, but the more I thought about it, the more it became clear that making it Bright Light Pink would have been even more odd. So I guess it works out, after all.

LEGO Brickheadz, Sheep (40380), Front Right View

The sheepskin is given texture by alternating 1×1 tiles with matching plates. Actually attaching them is of course its own story. It can become a bit tedious and you have to pay attention. Thank goodness this isn’t a large model where you’d have to do it thousands of times instead of just hundred or so! There’s also a few of the relatively new 1×1 bricks with the curved top thrown in for good measure and of course there had to be a rockabilly curl giving the little guy some character.

LEGO Brickheadz, Sheep (40380), Back Side View

While the sheep itself is nice, the surroundings are a bit lackluster and only rehash the same accessories known from the previous sets – a tulip-like flower and the “eggs” build from 2×2 round elements. That’s where the set really missed its opportunity for total awesomeness and a chance to outshine other Brickheadz for a while.

Point in case: As the 100th set in the series and with the narrative being that the sheep dirtied itself while painting eggs (as hinted at by the orange “paint splats” here and there) this would have the perfect occasion to give us a printed egg of in some form to support that storyline. Even partially printing one of the dome pieces with just a few dots to indicate that something went wrong and the coloring had to stop would have been nice.

While there, this could even have been expanded by creating a “puddle” of paint using those 1×1 quarter/ pizza corner tiles and to go fully crazy this could have been done in two or three nice-looking colors and gone along with 1×1 round bricks in matching colors for the paint cans. so much potential there!

LEGO Brickheadz, Bear (40379), Box

When I bought the sheep I saw that they still had the Valentine‘s Bear (40379) at our local LEGO store in Leipzig, so after a week of pondering whether to buy it or not and a lucky coincidence of being on the road again with a doctor’s visit and thus getting an opportunity to stop by, I took the plunge and ultimately bought the set, again for its pure cuteness.

LEGO Brickheadz, Bear (40379), Front Left View

The first interesting thing to note is that the designer chose to represent the bear in the sitting position as seen on a lot of teddy bears/ care bears, making it even more adorable. The build on the other hand is pretty basic and this set doesn’t feature any specific printed elements, either. One could say that it is as pure Brickheadz as it may get on some level.

LEGO Brickheadz, Bear (40379), Front Right View

The one thing that this has going for it are the many pieces in Medium Nougat. If you need this type of stuff for a project, this would be a good parts source, mainly for the fact that neither the 4×2 curved double slope nor the 4×2 plates are used in such large numbers in any other set currently. depending on the situation, a single set could have you covered.

LEGO Brickheadz, Bear (40379), Back Right View

the details are nothing earth shattering, but I like those little inventive builds from 1×1 elements like the bee. Here’s another nice idea not quite unlike that other one in the polybag set from last year. The honey pot uses a Dark Brown inverted dome piece, so it’s useful for generic “neutral” flower pots as well, should you decide to remove the side extensions for space reasons like I did and use the parts elsewhere.

My only small criticism would be the Dark Pink 1×1 heart tiles. It feels like LEGO are still sitting on large stockpiles of this element that they produced for Friends and The LEGO Movie 2 sets and throws them in wherever they can to deplete the surplus. Actual red hearts like the larger one on the stick would have been preferable or at least something in Bright Light Pink.

LEGO Brickheadz, Bear (40379), Back Left View

Overall I’m pretty satisfied with both sets. Of course one could always do more in terms of adding more details, but for 10 Euro a pop I’m not expecting something overly complex. Yes, the sheep could have been a bit more round-ish and fluffy and the bear looks a bit too smooth, but on the whole both models capture the essence of what they are supposed to represent and that is what counts.

All boxed in! – Frozen Storybook (43175) and Ariel’s Storybook (43176)

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.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176) and Frozen Storybook (43175), Comparison

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.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Front Right Side View

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!

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Front Left Side View

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.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Box

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.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Overview

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).

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Figures

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.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Front Left View

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.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Top Down View

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.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Front Lid Inside

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.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Back Lid Inside

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.

LEGO Disney, Ariel's Storybook (43176), Transport Configuration with Figures in Place

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.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Box

The second set of my test selection, the Frozen Storybook (43175) follows the same pattern and only changes a few things around as needed.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Overview

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.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Figures

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.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Front Left View

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.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Front Lid Inside

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.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Rear Left View

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.

LEGO Disney, Frozen Storybook (43175), Transport Configuration with Figures in Place

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.

Magenta Hair, Anyone? – Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391)

Some sets have an amazing longevity and are around for years, so it becomes hard to imagine that there was ever a time when they didn’t exist. Such was the case with the old Heartlake Hair Salon (41093) from 2015 that in fact was available until earlier last year after having been EOL‘d in late 2018. Someone at LEGO must have missed it a lot and here we are with a new Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391) pretty much only one year later, effectively.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Box

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: While the details are different enough, the similarities between the old and the new set jump in your face right away. To say that somebody drew a bit of inspiration would certainly be an understatement. The most noticeable change is the reduced base area no longer using a large 16 x 16 studs plate and instead being adapted to the contours of the building using round plates. Likewise, there is of course only a single rounded window here instead of two.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Overview

The extras included in the set include a couple of wigs/ hair pieces, some accessories and the necessary tools and utilities for the coiffure, but regrettably no longer include the old “hairdresser utensils” sub-set. I’m all for things like building things like the hair dryer from pieces instead of relying on large compact single-mold pieces, but in light of the fact that there are no alternatives to some of the other elements like the hand-held mirror or even the star “broach” this diminishes the set somewhat. They should have included these bits, regardless.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Accessories

The main building is as simple and straightforward to build as you might want to imagine. Just a bunch of panels and a few elongated bricks plugged side by side like a child might build it if it had the parts. Funny enough, the building instructions again make this more complicated than it needs to be because somehow instead of focusing on stability first it asks you to build this layer by layer from left to right, with a bit of jumping over the place to occasionally place a single element elsewhere. Who even comes up with such nonsense?

Personally I also regret that the large window is done using a transparent panel, not the new actual 6 x 6 window with frame introduced last year on the Lighthouse Rescue Centre (41380). This would have clearly amped up the value and made it worthwile to perhaps even buy this set a second and third time just to scalp the part. Alas, t’wasn’t meant to be. 😉

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Front View

Interestingly enough in comparison to the older set the exterior looks pretty lively, despite the trimmed down plates allowing for fewer options. Of particular note to a parts-obsessed guy like me are once more the new Lime Green leaves elements also found in the Moana set I reviewed recently and the single Dark Pink 1 x 2 plate with round edges holding the barber pole.

The life saver ring/ toilet seat element used for the eyes of the scissors is also included in Medium Azure for the first time ever and could make it worth buying this inexpensive set if you plan on e.g. creating a nice bathroom in your custom building with a consistent Caribbean blue color theme.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Front Right View

The interior feels very uncluttered despite the limited space, which perhaps is one of the biggest improvements over the old set. It goes to show that within only a few years and new/ different pieces becoming available it can indeed help to improve things and not just be a means to reduce the overall parts count (while keeping the same price) for LEGO.

This becomes most apparent with the seating where this time they went for the “heavy old leather armchair” look. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but feels very 1960s American and/ or (male) barber shop. It’s definitely not as common here in Europe, or Germany specifically. This is also one thing I would definitely have changed. Not so much the shape and construction, but the color.

In my opinion the whole set is drowning in way too much Magenta and Dark Pink and thus looks a bit dreary. Ideally I would of course have preferred something like Dark Orange or Medium Dark Nougat for that genuine leather look, but in fact I’m inclined to think that this screams for Bright Light Orange to lighten the mood.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Back Right View

On the subject of screaming I once more could also yell at someone at LEGO for not including more prints beyond the standard greenback piece, the dime and the cash register. This is ridiculous, given that there’s a dozen variations of different newspaper tiles at least and clearly in the digital age it also wouldn’t hurt if they came up with a bunch of standard newscast or info screen designs for 2 x 4 tiles used as LCD screens. This just is too obvious.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Hair Salon (41391), Back Left View

Overall I think this is a nice little set and with a few modifications or building a larger version from multiple sets it might even not look half as bad as an annex to a building in your city. It’s very typical Friends, though, and thus the coloring may not be everyone’s kettle of fish. I also don’t see where the original 20 Euro price is coming from. It’s definitely not worth that. the good news is that this can be bought for around 13 Euro in many places, which makes much more sense.

Portal to Nowhere – Hidden Side Portal (70427)

I have been a bit too distracted with other things, so I haven’t been able to keep my regular posting schedule. Therefore this little review of the LEGO Hidden Side Portal (70427) set arrives a bit later than usual and breaks the “at least one post every ten days” cycle I’m trying to maintain, but maybe things will get a bit better again.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Box

As you know I’m actually a fan of the Hidden Side series, but immediately was skeptical and somewhat disappointed when these sets of the first wave for 2020 were announced. that view hasn’t changed much now that I actually have some of them. So lets delve into the details and see what wen’t wrong.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Overview

The contents of the package are okay for the 12.59 Euro I got this set during a sale, but I doubt I would have picked it up for the full 20 Euro MSRP. Overall it feels very light and just by looking at it you feel that there neither will be much to enjoy while building nor much play value after that. that is mostly owed to the fact that despite four minifigures being in the pack and some extra spiders and a bad are thrown in for good measure, none of it really feels integrated in the sense that there is no recognizable underlying scenario.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Figures

The figures feel a bit out of place, to be honest, because the intense colors of the ghosts don’t go well with the overall black and blue “scary moonlight” theme otherwise found in the set. At least that’s what I’m assuming the Medium Azure and Black pieces along with the “other side” blue-ish Jack figure are supposed to represent. Of course I’m referring to the ghosts.

Now the thing is that I fully understand that that’s they way they are rendered/ colored when you use the actual Hidden Side AR app and are chasing the “Gloom”. However, this is a good example of where something that might be acceptable and even necessary inside the virtual world doesn’t translate that well to the real world. That’s even more so the case once you consider that these ghost figures would be kind of redundant next to their virtual counterparts.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Front View

The main build is the portal itself, representing a (almost dead) tree with some sort of crypt or entry gate beneath. The construction is overall okay, but kept to a minimum. For the tree itself it’s mostly dictated by the two rock panels used for the base with only a limited number of extra parts on top whose primary purpose is to hold the arched elements used for the branches and the leaves pieces. Somewhere in there are also a black skeleton torso and the Bright Light Green parts for the face as well as a small tiltable platform to “dump” the spiders and bat on whoever dares to enter the passage.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Front Left View

On each side there are the “claws” of the possessed tree/ monster. On the left side there’s a pretty standard street lamp and on the right one the inevitable dial where you select the color of the “Gloom” while using the app. Unlike in some other sets, the monster mode is not a transforming feature. The sides are attached rigidly with static angled plates and not with hinges and the face is right there from the start. It can’t be covered up or tilted inwards to hide it. In my opinion that lessens the overall appearance and also minimizes the play options. Being able to swivel the claws towards the center as if they were blocking the entry and preventing anyone from getting in (or out again) would certainly not have been difficult to do.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Front Right View

The biggest disappointment for me is the back side in that it is just more of the same and the “portal” moniker isn’t in any way carried through. While I’m not one to expect anything miraculous, at the very least they could have changed up the coloring a bit. Ideally, of course, this would feature some sort of vortex like this one used in the Elves sets, corny and overused as this trope might be, and then some…

Ultimately, I guess this reveals the elementary issue with this set: It’s way too small and limited to really make something of this portal idea and connect two different worlds. It would have needed two stylistically different sides and in addition it would have had to be larger to cleverly disguise the back when viewed straight on from the front and vice versa. This also would have required to add more depth and volume, which is one of those other things.

It’s getting a bit annoying that many of the Hidden Side models are just shallow facades arranged in a triptych, as apparently that’s one of the requirements and/ or limitations of the tie-in app, so it can keep everything aligned when rendering the virtual content on top of the real world camera.

LEGO Hidden Side, Portal (70427), Back View

On the whole this isn’t really a good set. It’s pretty dull and boring and if it wasn’t for the leaves elements in Medium Azure being a new thing, I would likely have foregone buying it entirely. It just doesn’t offer anything that would stand out and for me personally even the parts are of limited value.

A little more attention to detail and a larger build could have easily fixed this easily. After all, the mere name of “Portal” implies that this could and should be important in the overall Hidden Side story, and that should be reflected in the model. There’s no rational reason for it to even be this small. If it were better, I wouldn’t have minded this being a 30 or 40 Euro set to begin with…

Today I’m a Princess! – Moana’s Boat (43170) and Aurora’s Royal Carriage (43173)

We all have our favorite animated Disney movies and while my most beloved ones have little to do with today’s modern takes on the subject nor in some way the more kitschy older ones I still enjoy even those for what they are when they run on TV or I can snatch them up on a cheap DVD/ Blu-Ray. That being the case I was, odd as it may sound, pleasantly surprised to see that there would be new Moana sets as well as a few others lined up for this year. Let’s begin with Moana’s Boat (43170)

LEGO Disney, Moana's Boat (43170), Box

I have a funny relation to this movie. I loved the original trailer way back then (the one with the flashbacks also used in the film where she’s a toddler), but to this day never got around to actually sit through the movie from beginning to end. I know bits and bobs and some larger sections even, but not the whole story. That’s perhaps one of the reasons why I never had much interest in the original, way larger sets. It’s not that I feel I missed out on something special, but I always wanted the little pig named Pua in my collection. The new release makes this easy enough, with this being a 10 Euro set, often sold for 7 Euro.

LEGO Disney, Moana's Boat (43170), Overview

Given the pricing of course one shouldn’t expect anything miraculous to be included. The buildable components are very simple and just enough to allow to re-play some scenes from the movie, but far from being super-realistic or proportionally accurate. naturally there’s Pua the pig which I was so keen on and then a Moana figure as well. Here in Germany she’s called Vaiana, by the way, due to some other pre-existing registered trademark having foiled Disney‘s marketing plans.

LEGO Disney, Moana's Boat (43170), Island The small island has been reduced to the bare minimum, but to me is still enticing. Not only does it contain the triple leaves element in Lime Green as a new color for this year but also the “poop” swirl 1 x 1 round plate introduced with the Dog Sitter Collectible Minifigure last year, but this time in white. If you know my obsession with LEGO Friends and baking you know that this will make a perfect piece for Sundae swirls or any other similar cake decoration while here in this set of course it stands in as a shell housing.

 

LEGO Disney, Moana's Boat (43170), Canoe, Front Left ViewThe boat/ canoe is an equally simplistic build, but is sufficient for the smallness of the overall set. I could be critical of the construction, but for the most part it will be just fine for kids. My only serious concern is the lack of an extra axle/ beam to support the auxiliary float, as indeed it’s only connected via the arched slopes. Similar to the island however there is a lot of value here if you are hunting for specific parts.LEGO Disney, Moana's Boat (43170), Canoe, Front Right View 

 

First, there’s the two inverted curved slopes in Reddish Brown for the first time ever. Yes, one would think that such a mundane part had been done in this color a long time ago, but while I don’t always trust Bricklink 100 percent (they do get information wrong at times despite peer reviews), it seems true. Similarly, the bar used for the mast, an almost 30 year old mold, is premiering in a brown color in this set as well. And finally, there’s the new 2 x 2 x 1 container only introduced in 2019 (under the lid with the flower).

I almost struggle for words to describe how awesome it actually is that they crammed in so many “new” pieces into such a small and affordable set. Buying a second or third of these sets doesn’t seem like the worst idea, especially if the price drops even lower during some special promotion.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Royal Carriage (43173), Box

Moving on to Aurora’s Royal Carriage (43173) I can barely contain my excitement, either. Initially the only reason I so wanted this set is the owl. Yes, it may seemed stupid, but when i first saw pictures of this little critter and its dumb-founded look I laughed my bum off in the real LMFAO sense. Even now when I look at it I can’t help but grin and giggle. It pushes all my buttons.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Royal Carriage (43173), Overview

The little side build with the table feels a bit superfluous and doesn’t do much for me. it doesn’t even have a genuine candle and the least they could have done to make this more interesting is to include the new “dripping icing” 2 x 2 plate found in the just released baking-themed LEGO Friends sets. A real wedding cake would have been even better. Other than that the set is again overflowing with pieces in previously non-existent color variants. Those include the bracket used for the seat, the modified plate with a single clip, the slope and there’s also the three to two jumper plate and the stairstep bracket, both of which however were already introduced in these colors for The LEGO Movie 2 last year.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Royal Carriage (43173), Left View

There could be some debate on the modified tiles with the wall panel, though. New Elementary has a whole article on the subject, but I honestly think they are over-interpreting this and make things way too complicated. Point in case: The only reason why they all get different numbers is because LEGO counts them as special/ custom-produced one-off parts tied to specific sets or series. Other than that it’s presumably always the same coating that just looks different depending onto which base color it is applied. That’s in fact perhaps the most sensible theory to begin with. While nothing speaks against it, I don’t consider it likely that LEGO would try out a ton of different coatings. That would make things way to convoluted for mass production.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Royal Carriage (43173), Aft Right View

All things considered, I really like these two little sets. They offer great value for little money and just feel useful to me. I even almost like the minidolls. The ones used in Friends have definitely improved in terms of showing different prints and colors, but these two models show how further modifying them with different types of skirts and perhaps a different hair piece can further enhance them.

The models themselves are also robust enough to actually be played with by children. I accidentally dropped the storage box where I keep those things in during the photo shoot and aside from a few pieces that you would expect to come off such as the palm leave on Moana‘s island or some of the golden swirlies on the carriage nothing broke. It should be safe even for three-year-olds. If your kids are into any of the movies, you should definitely consider buying those sets.

Color of the (K)Night – The Knight Bus (75957)

Don’t you love it when just hearing about a specific set gives you crazy ideas? Sure enough that’s the case for The Knight Bus (75957) from the LEGO Harry Potter series. Well, for me at least, anyway. So what could it be?

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Box

Contrary to what my recent frequent excursions in Harry Potter territory may suggest, I still don’t care much for the series and its lore as much. I just happen to like some of the models. That’s why The Knight Bus couldn’t be further from my mind, but then LEGO actually made it valuable by including the new 3 x 3 windows and in Dark Purple, no less. Seeing as I’m also quite into LEGO Friends and already had a bunch of of windows in different sizes and flamboyant colors, the more I thought about it the more it made sense that this might make for an interesting use in a building one of these days.

After that it merely became a matter of math and waiting for a good price. There’s 34 of those windows in the set and while I might never need all of them, I quickly figured out that buying this set as a whole would not be more expensive then ordering a bunch of the pieces individually from Bricklink and I’d get a few more parts on top. Of course this is entirely subjective and depends on how you might potentially re-use those items plus the price. For 26 Euro this was pretty much a no-brainer for me, but at the original MSRP of 40 Euro I’d think twice about it.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Overview

With the bulk of the contents being dedicated to the bus itself and of that a major fraction constituting the windows, there’s little else going on in the set. There’s inevitably yet another Harry figure, of course the conductor and the driver, an elderly chap. The latter to me is perhaps the most valuable, as its generic nature makes it perfect for using it in a Modular Building or City scenario as well. Interestingly enough that could also apply to the overall construction, as cunningly this is a 6 wide model that would fit on standard LEGO roads.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Front Left View

On the other hand the narrowness is perhaps also one of my main criticisms. I looked up pictures of the real thing and man, is it bulky and bullish even. Compared to that the model looks very lanky and excessively tall. That is to say the proportions are not captured that perfectly from that standpoint. Trimming off one level would still make for a dainty little double-decker bus in a small town in the 1950s or so, though.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Aft Left View

Aside from the novelty of the 3 x 3 window elements the construction is rather straightforward and does not provide any challenges nor shows off any cool advanced techniques. It literally is just like you and your kids would build it – a row of bricks as the basis and then a row of windows on top, secured with a bunch of other elements like strip-shaped plates.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Front Right View

I’m not particularly friends with the way the topmost front windows have been constructed This is one of the few places in the set where for once I think that using the more conventional existing wind shield elements would have done just fine, ideally of course with the frames already printed on. It seems odd that they were so fussy here with a hinge-based construction when likely nobody really would have complained about the simpler and still better-looking method.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Front View

A little bit of finesse has however still been added with the large opening side wall. This provides generous access to the interior. Not that it’s that essential. Unfortunately due to the scale chosen the play value remains very limited. The “rolling palace” feel found in the movie is barely present and even if the model were bigger, you wouldn’t really be able to enliven it that much with only three minifigures.

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Right Side Open

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Right Side Open

Interestingly, a lot of emphasis has been put on modularity and openness, which to me seems a bit silly and unnecessary, given the limitations. I could have done without a removable bed in favor of a more detailed internal space. Even the reverse could be argued – the bus being kind of a camper van to just stow things away and then you pull out one piece of furniture or utilities like from a bottomless chest to decorate your scene. It feels neither here nor there and is overall unsatisfying.

 

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Top View with Roof removed

LEGO Harry Potter, The Knight Bus (75957), Upper Level separated

All things considered, this is an okay model, but if it wasn’t for my super-secret plan regarding the use of the windows in a future project, I would have completely ignored it. The funny thing is that LEGO could bring out a two-level variant of this in another color and it would probably sell reasonably well, but as its stands, the Dark Purple otherwise is difficult to get accustomed and will limit the attractiveness for certain crowds.

I’d also guess that for Harry Potter fans this is equally not on top of many people’s lists as it doesn’t offer much play value nor a load of figures. That and of course again its color may just look odd on a shelf or in a showcase. In the end it’s an acquired taste in many ways and once the gags from the movie are stripped away there’s not much remaining other than a barren bus that could mean nothing to you if you haven’t seen the film…