New Rooms with a View – LEGO Friends, Aliya’s Room (41740), Leo’s Room (41754) and Nova’s Room (41755)

Back in the day when I was transitioning from being a LEGO Technic guy to conventional brick-built stuff, the Friends “room” sets were among the first I reviewed (here, here and here). They were fun little sets at a decent price point (with discounts, of course). There hadn’t been something similar in a while, but with the overhaul of the series it seems LEGO thought it was a good way to bring this idea back and introduce new rooms for some of the characters as a way of building the character lore. I don’t particularly care much for that, but appreciate a good set on a budget, so I got them to have a look how things now turned out several years later.

Price and Contents

To begin with, those sets are bigger, more complex packages than the original ones. This is immediately made clear by them containing two characters as minidolls and the layouts recognizably always featuring a 8 x 16 plate as the base. This is not only necessary to accommodate everything, but simply allows more freedom in design. Currently there are four of those sets of which I only got myself three for the time being – Aliya’s Room (41740), Leo’s Room (41754) and Nova’s Room (41755). The fourth one, Liann’s Room (41739), struck me as the least attractive in terms of originality of design, so I wasn’t in a rush to buy it, but I may still get it if there’s a good discount.

Speaking of which – bigger sets inevitably come at a higher price and in this case it has basically doubled from the original 10 Euro MSRP to 20 Euro. On paper that doesn’t sound too bad for sets with 179, 202, 203 and 209 pieces, respectively, but of course you have to consider a) the overall economics of the price-per-part ratio and b) that these are just vignettes, not actual buildings, vehicles or whatever. With that in mind you should definitely  be on the lookout for discounts. I got two of my packages for 13 Euro and another one for 15 Euro, but I’d wager that eventually the average price will settle around 12 Euro. possibly you could even get the sets for under 10 Euro during some special promotion, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Aliya’s Room (41740)

First in line is Aliya’s Room (41740), which she shares with Paisley. the way it’s presented both girls are into plant-based natural sciences such as botany, ecology or for that matter protecting the environment on a general level. This is of course driven home by the decorative greenery, but also by the windows in a natural “wood” color (Medium Nougat).

LEGO Friends, Aliya's Room (41740), Overview

The minifigures are extremely fashionable and very influenced by popular culture and fashion, which is one of the better aspects of the reboot of Friends. For the subject at hand it feels a bit out of place, though, as environmentally conscious girls no doubt would give some consideration to sustainable clothing that isn’t so much tied to trends. Maybe I’m thinking too much in stereotypes here and perhaps I’m too accustomed to seeing Mia in drab khakis, but somehow it doesn’t feel “realistic” – whatever that could imply.

LEGO Friends, Aliya's Room (41740), Figures

LEGO Friends, Aliya's Room (41740), ProjectorApparently the girls like to have their film night once in a while and thus we get a small separate projector assembly. It has a small twist in that they are watching stuff from their phone, which is slotted in as a printed Orange tile on top. Naturally, without having applied the sticker this little extra looks a bit bland, but somehow LEGO seem completely unwilling to give us a t least a bunch of standard elements with contemporary prints. It’s really kind of weird that they hang on to printed tiles they introduced over a decade ago, but can’t be bothered to bring out some flashy new stuff to go with the times.

LEGO Friends, Aliya's Room (41740), Front Right View

The white inserts in the door frame and panel should also have stickers, but thankfully even without those the room actually looks quite okay. That’s one of the things that really won me over with these little sets – they show a level of detail that would look good in actual Heartlake buildings and in a way those little vignettes almost surpass what is on offer there. Point in case: Those sets are very dense and very lively.

LEGO Friends, Aliya's Room (41740), Front Left View

The set feels very cosy and is put together well enough. Indeed this could be a slightly crammed kid’s room and things get even more crowded when your best friend is coming for a sleepover. Interestingly, there’s a few unique and rare parts, but they are mot necessarily obvious on first glance. Well, the Sand Blue 8 x 16 plate is and so are the Yellow 2 x 4 modified plates, but others are better hidden. That applies for instance to the matching Yellow slider bricks that haven’t been around in more than twenty years. Two other notable pieces have camouflaged themselves in the Dark Blue trim line at the top, one being a 1 x 5 plate and the other a round corner plate in that color.

LEGO Friends, Aliya's Room (41740), Top View

Leo’s Room (41754)

LEGO have been beating to death the fact that they want the new Friends sets to be more inclusive and representative and that also means they want to get away from making them too gender-specific/ gender-biased. Now I’m a weird old guy who has always liked this stuff for its crazy colors and have never let the series’ focus on teenage girls get in the way, but just as well I have been critical of it more than enough. Any effort to mitigate this onesidedness is therefore welcomed, but before you rejoice: No, we’re not there yet. Even the new Friends in 2023 is still 80 percent girl stuff.

LEGO Friends, Leo's Room (41754), Overview

Regardless, seeing a set that actually features two boys (and only boys) is a good start and of course as a gay guy I derive some twisted pleasure on whether they are just brothers or best buddies or whether there could be something more going on between Leo and Olly. 😉 Outside that of course the best part of the whole set even without deeper inspection is the fat grumpy cat. How effin’ brilliant is this? It’s one of the best ideas for a companion animal LEGO had in years!

LEGO Friends, Leo's Room (41754), Figures

LEGO Friends, Leo's Room (41754), CatThe little obese kitty gets its own toy station, but not really much else. It could have benefited from having a tray or cat castle as an extra. On the bright side we do get a little goal for the two boys to play soccer/ footy, including an Orange ball. this could have come in a different color like Dark Azure with white decorations perhaps to make it more distinct. The model already has an awful lot of Orange and Coral parts.

LEGO Friends, Leo's Room (41754), Goal

The room itself is again quite stuffed to the brim with a small computer area beside the bunk beds, some surfing/ diving equipment and surprisingly enough a small kitchen area, including a camera setup to record videos for social media. That cooking/ baking/ cake decorating part feels a bit odd, to say the least. It’s not that boys/ men don’t spend time in the kitchen (I love baking myself), but I doubt many would have a setup to that effect in their sleeping rooms…

LEGO Friends, Leo's Room (41754), Front Left View

A standout feature of this set is the extra balcony, which adds some visual interest. This in particular makes you wish that the sets could be stacked together as if they were part of a modular building.

LEGO Friends, Leo's Room (41754), Back View

Nova’s Room (41755)

The third set is a bit of an outlier with its very dark and “cold” color scheme. Mind you, it’s not unrealistic, just a bit unusual. It’s more reminiscent of one of those dedicated gaming rooms with dark walls and neon lighting you see on respective streaming platforms and YouTube. As a regular sleeping room it’s perhaps a bit depressing or crazy-making. That notwithstanding, the color scheme in itself is tasteful enough and consistent.

LEGO Friends, Nova's Room (41755), Overview

The most interesting feature of the minidolls for Zac and Nova  are the gamer-themed prints on the shirts. That is going to draw some attention, though due to the two using skin colors other than the standard Light Nougat it would not be easy to use the elements on other figures.

LEGO Friends, Nova's Room (41755), Figures

LEGO Friends, Nova's Room (41755), WorkbenchPlaying video games all day is of course not always a fulfilling activity and for health reasons you have to have some other interests as well, so we get a little workbench that hints at the two possibly being involved in skating or other activities. It’s never really spelled out what it is, but at least those tools would come in handy to fix the cart of the paraplegic dog.


LEGO Friends, Nova's Room (41755), Front Right View

The gaming station is a beefy computer rig, which would become even more clear with the stickers. Those include those colorful RGB fans and some other details. Again the non-existence of some decent prints is biting everyone in their behind and in this particular scenario a printed 2 x 6 tile to represent an ultra wide monitor could have been pretty awesome. And even a mundane 2 x 4 tile representing a Windows desktop would have been better than stickers. It’s all about options, you know.

LEGO Friends, Nova's Room (41755), Front Left View

LEGO Friends, Nova's Room (41755), ChairsThe seating is modeled after those gaming chairs, but in the end feels more like a captain’s chair ripped of a Star Trek ship bridge. It’s just a bit too bulky due to the limitations of building it with existing pieces. A side effect also is that it actually cannot be turned around without scratching the “table”. if you look closely you also see that this causes some sort of “hole” in the scene, i.e. an area where no real detail is placed. Adding some flowers on the right hand side of the table could have avoided that.

Part of the problem is also the retractable shelf and the hidden crevice behind it.this contributes to the empty feeling and while applying the stickers would improve things, it would have been preferable if there were a few built details, be it just a few colored 1 x 1 plates and tiles.

Concluding Thoughts

I really liked those sets. They nicely illustrate what’s possible in the Friends series if only you commit yourself and leave the designers some breathing room. Pretty much any of these separate rooms would look good in an actual building. At the same time that is of course the big frustration – actual building models never are this rich and you can see how corners are cut or the details are stretched out and distributed across multiple levels and rooms to fit the budget. It’s really a shame since if things were different, Friends could easily compete even with actual Modular Buildings (the specific design philosophy that sets the series apart notwithstanding). If you want to see what’s possible with LEGO pieces and a bit of love I would definitely recommend getting those packages just for that warm fuzzy feeling inside.

Another White Rabbit – LEGO Creator, LEGO Creator, White Rabbit (31133)

The LEGO Creator 3in1 product line has been pretty good those last two years, so I couldn’t wait for what they might have in store this year. While it would be extremely difficult to top the Majestic Tiger (31129), I was hoping that some similarly good stuff was coming. LEGO‘s stupid staggered product roll-outs just so they can write some fancy PR statements every month (while the stock is already sitting in the retailers’ store back areas) meant I head to wait for February and March for the packages to actually become available, but now finalyl here we go, starting with the White Rabbit (31133).

LEGO Creator, White Rabbit (31133), Box

Contents and Pricing

Officially the set comes with 258 pieces and is being sold for 20 Euro here in Germany. Arguably this is already a pretty good price to part ratio, but as you know me, I’m always looking for ways to save some money and hunt for discounts. This is easily possible since the set is widely available and apparently the vendors have enough breathing room to really go low. At the time of writing this, you can get the package for as little as 13 Euro and I got mine when it was around 15 Euro. This is more than fair, especially since you get quite a few large elements and once built the volume of stuff feels adequate.

LEGO Creator, White Rabbit (31133), Rabbit, Overview

All in One, One for All

Before delving into the individual models allow me to explain my approach to this particular set. In the past I have bought some of those cheaper Creator 3in1 sets a couple of times to a) not only make these articles more efficient but also because b) I genuinely liked them and I wanted to keep the models around for a while and c) they had parts that seemed be useful for later. In this case I couldn’t motivate myself to go down this route.

First there’s the issue of this package really not containing too many special parts. I’m certainly not the craziest LEGO buyer on this planet simply due to my financial restrictions, limited storage space and generally just not jumping at every theme, but even I now have reached a certain saturation in my parts collection where I just don’t need another hundred 1 x 4 plates in Tan or similar, not to speak of elements like the huge dome pieces that one just doesn’t need on too many builds. There are a few desirable pieces in there like the “pancake” slopes or the newer 4 x 1 slopes (not to be confused with their older, longer existing 3 x 1 counterparts), but if I ever needed more of them, I’d rather buy them selectively on Bricklink rather than clogging up my storage.

The second, and for me at least, bigger issue is plain and simply the color. The models would have looked way better in Light Bluish Grey without using any of their cute appeal and coincidentally doing so would have shifted the value of some elements into the “somewhat rare and desirable” category. As you can see from my crooked photos it might also have helped my with shooting them with better contrast, but then again I probably should have been smarter to begin with and dragged out a differently colored background.

All that being the case, I only got myself a single box and then ended up building one model, doing the images, disassembling and building the secondary and tertiary ones.

The Rabbit

The main attraction is of course the rabbit itself in its full glory and with Easter not being too far away it may be of particular interest either as a decorative item or a set to be gifted to your kids or someone else.

The build for this model is pretty straightforward and begins with the main body. It’s basically a conventional stack of plates and 2 x bricks, some of which are SNOT elements and to that base block rounded slopes and arches are attached to define the contour. The apparent downside to that, and it’s clearly recognizable in the images, is that it all looks very cookie cutter like and two dimensional. this has been criticized by other reviewers as well and you can see why. It seems that it should not have been too much trouble to add some more volume to the butt section and the legs. Those are built as separate units and then connected via the joints later.

This also goes for the head and ears. It’s all very modular in both the good and bad sense of the word. Building some parts integrally as a solid body would have allowed for some better curvature in some areas and I think it would not have harmed the overall experience. Most people will likely simply would use the cowered pose anyway and outside that the ability to articulate the creature differently is limited despite the joints. That’s mostly owing to the laws of physics as some components will always fall back into a stable position based on their weight and how they make contact with the floor for instance.

LEGO Creator, White Rabbit (31133), Rabbit, Front View

Using the clam shell pieces for the furry paws is an interesting solution, but I wish they had included some inverted curved slopes to shim over those open squares from the underside and in particular the front legs’ shins could also have benefited from at least a mundane 1 x 2 curved slope covering the studs. The tongue, BTW, is one of the few new elements and is the 1 x 1 rounded “hinge” plate in Dark Pink for the first time. From this angle and a few others the rabbit looks quite cute, though more in the “fictitious bunny” fairy tale sense. I’m sure there’s a specific breed that would come close to this, but generally the cheeks are perhaps a bit too hamster or Guinea Pig like.

Also included are a carrot of course and a flower, the latter mostly being a sneaky way to accommodate the yellow arches for the cockatoo.

The Cockatoo

The second model is a much simpler one and is a white cockatoo. The main trunk is constructed on the same principle as the rabbit, meaning it’s just a layered block of standard pieces to which everything else is eventually plugged on. This is done with the small turntables, which makes the whole assembly a bit wobbly. the wings do have stoppers, so they essentially fall into place just by virtue of gravity, but the head swivels around a bit too easily for my taste.

Another real shortcoming are the legs. The bird is basically dependent on using its tail as a support or else it will just topple over because the feet are not stable enough to balance out everything. It would be hard to put him in a stance as if he was traipsing around with his tail up, no matter how much you might want to.

Inevitably there are leftover pieces and in this case this is not so much their sheer number, but that it affects a good chunk of the parts that contribute to the volume of models. It’s not too bad, but illustrates that perhaps designing the rabbit around more smaller pieces might have been beneficial and allowed to use more elements on the alternate builds as well.

LEGO Creator, White Rabbit (31133), Cockatoo, Leftover Pieces

The Seal

The second alternative model is a baby seal. While it’s sort of cute, the proportions are also kinda wonky and wrong. The little tyke is presented in “lazy mode” with its body all flattened out as to represent the blubber following the pull of gravity, but that’s not very correct, either. Those seals are really pretty round and only adult seals have that wobbly feel, in particular males.

The build is similar to that of the cockatoo in terms of complexity, just the approach a bit different. This is more of a horizontal build compared to the vertical ones previously. The way some parts are attached is dubious, to say the least, with the big quarter dome pieces for the shoulders only hanging by two studs for instance.

LEGO Creator, White Rabbit (31133), Seal, FishAs a side gag the model also comes with some fish bones/ a fish, but that would not be adequate for an infant that’s still suckling on its mommy, either. Parts usage is similar to the bird overall, just with a few elements being swapped for others.


LEGO Creator, White Rabbit (31133), Seal, Leftover Pieces

Concluding Thoughts

At the end of the day this is certainly an acceptable Creator 3in1 offering, though as expected it will not get anywhere near the tiger from last year. The individual value will depend a lot of what your favorite animal is. Some will favor the cockatoo, others the seal. For me personally I’d stick with the rabbit. Not necessarily because it’s my favorite animal, but because it’s the most appealing model in strict LEGO terms.

That’s unfortunately also the crux with the package as a whole. Everything is a little too simplistic and not streamlined enough to really provide a satisfying experience. Even when you’re done with the rabbit you feel like you’ve missed something during the assembly process because of that flat cut-out shape thing. I also would reinforce my point about the color. Dang would this have looked cool in grey! This would also have exploded the value for custom builds if and when they had recolored some elements/ included rare elements like the large arches in Light Bluish Grey. People would have bought it as a parts pack for that alone!

With all that said, as an adult this feels more like a 5 or 6 out of 10 than an 8 or 9. There’s just too much room for improvement in the details. on the other hand kids will love it and the more than acceptable price puts everything into perspective, so there’s no reason to skip over it. Indeed it could be the perfect gift for Easter.

Headed the wrong Way – LEGO Disney, Moana’s Wayfinding Boat (43210)

It’s now a little over one year after the unceremonious demise of the LEGO Disney Princess magazine and just like Blue Ocean have run the publication into the ground, the whole series has taken an odd trajectory. It feels like it’s stuck in a loop and resigned to repeating the same themes over and over and several of the recent Disney animated movies having bombed hasn’t helped matters. So far it also doesn’t look like the company’s 100th anniversary will give us something spectacular, either, at least in the LEGO world. As a result, sets that actually interest me are rare and far in-between such as Moana’s Wayfinding Boat (43210) in this article.

LEGO Disney, Moana's Wayfinding Boat (43210), Box

Contents and Pricing

By now it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that those Disney sets are quite expensive and mostly overpriced. This one is no exception with only 321 pieces and a suggest retail price of 35 Euro. At first glance it doesn’t even sound that bad, but you have to keep in mind that there’s only two figures, a single animal, no extra side builds and of course the usual “It’s tons of 1 x 1s…” skewing the metrics unfavorably. At the same time things could be worse and they could ask 50 Euro for this, but that is little consolation. They’re really going in hard on this. Starting out so high inevitably limits the potential for discounts on the part of the resellers, and so more or less you have to be glad if you’re getting that typical 30 %, if at all. I bought my package for 25 Euro, but I’ve never seen it drop below 22 Euro even at some notoriously aggressive outlets.

LEGO Disney, Moana's Wayfinding Boat (43210), Overview

The Figures

The figures are not much to write home about except for the fact that they represent new designs and of course we’re getting not only Moana/ Vaiana herself, but also one of the other villagers called Sina. The more obvious thing is the glaring absence of any animals bar the baby dolphin depicted in the overview image. No Heihei or Pua in sight, much less any other creatures. Even the dolphin is super, super lame in that it doesn’t at least come in a new color or has a big parent dolphin, possibly also in a new color, coming along as well. And then of course there’s potential here to sneak in a seagull or other bird perched on the mast… There’s no way around it: In the figures and creature department this is a complete fail.

LEGO Disney, Moana's Wayfinding Boat (43210), Figures

The Model

The model is of course based on the catamarans that you can see in a few scenes of the movie like the vision about her ancestors. as you would expect from a play set aimed at children a lot of things have been simplified and to a degree also solidified/ bulked up with stronger elements to make them more robust such as the outrigger inevitably not being just a bunch of bundled up sticks but rather some massive bricks.

The model is not completely symmetrical, but except for some minor details related to the length of the two flotation bodies the build is hugely similar all the way. that accelerates the already very simple assembly process even further and in a manner of speaking you can do it nearly blindly. It’s very straightforward, which is good for kids not getting too frustrated. The only potential show stoppers are the two axles that need to be inserted vertically as safety pins to connect the floats to the deck bridge. They require quite a bit of force.

LEGO Disney, Moana's Wayfinding Boat (43210), DecorThere aren’t that many noteworthy details and even if I had used the stickers, which of course I never do, this wouldn’t have changed much. On the positive side the LEGO designers at least had the good sense to make an effort to build some decorations with various tiles, including a bunch of skin-toned quarter tiles in Light Nougat.

LEGO Disney, Moana's Wayfinding Boat (43210), BedsThe cabin/ bed area is equally sparse, though I wouldn’t have expected much else since in reality those boats really were kept simple and more a means of island hopping than travelling large distances in open waters. The “wood” look is achieved with the two Tan colors and various shades of Nougat with Orange, Coral and Red providing the colored accents. The model also likely benefited from LEGO having some elements in plain Nougat (no Light or Medium) left over from their production run for the UCS Luke Skywalkers Landspeeder (75341) from the Star Wars line. They complemented them further by actually producing the new flat arch element in this color and for the time being it’s even exclusive to this set.

LEGO Disney, Moana's Wayfinding Boat (43210), Compartment

The same applies to the 1 x 8 tiles in Light Nougat. A few other elements are on the more elusive side like the Lime 1 x 4 plate modified with two studs or the various coral parts, but most of those are in several Friends sets as well, so it’s only a question of time until they proliferate and will be available more widespread. 

LEGO Disney, Moana's Wayfinding Boat (43210), Sail Structure

A big stinker is the really ugly construction of the mast for the sail with the colors being all over the place. Yes, LEGO has color coding for the various axle lengths, but it’s not that the Yellow and Light Bluish Grey ones with the odd-numbered lengths aren’t available in both colors and conversely the Red and Black ones for the even-numbered lengths couldn’t be unified. That also goes for the various connectors. They all could just be a single color. You could even take this to the extreme and argue that this whole structure could be a single color. Would you really notice the differences between a 6L Black axle and a 5L Yellow axle if the proportions of the sail were adjusted accordingly to disguise and compensate the odd proportions? You can’t even explain this away with kid-friendliness…

Concluding Thoughts

If you can get it for a good price this is an acceptable set for your Moana-loving kid, but you must be aware that it is pretty barebones. Unless you have the other sets to go with it to enhance the play fantasy you may be in for a lot of complaints. The non-inclusion of some decent animals and an extra piece of land or mooring/ landing bridge are baffling omissions and diminish the value of the set unnecessarily. For adults it doesn’t really have much on offer if you don’t count scraping together the few special/ unique parts, so you can skip over it without missing out on something.

Dining out – LEGO Friends, Heartlake Downtown Diner (41728)

Friends has been a staple of my LEGO career and so it always has been a big part of this blog as well. With the series celebrating its 10th anniversary I only have covered part of its journey, but that’s still quite a bit. One thing I learned pretty quickly was that there are always a few standard subjects across release cycles. Not necessarily with every one of them, but somehow there’s always some sort of restaurant, a hair dresser or beauty salon, a fashion store and so on. Sometimes it even leads to this situation where multiple variations on the theme are on the market because the models get refreshed in alternating patterns and the old versions are still on the market while the new one comes out. This is kind of the situation now. While sales of the Heartlake City Organic Café (41444) are tapering off after two years, the new Heartlake Downtown Diner (41728) comes in. Let’s have a look at it.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake Downtown Diner (41728), Box

Price and Contents

The set officially costs 30 Euro for 346 pieces, which is pretty much line with the previous offering. If you wanted to be very particular about it you could even a whole song and dance about those 25 pieces more than the other model, but let’s not forget that most of them will be small 1 x 1 elements and similar. In standard fashion of course there’s the matter of discounts to make things worthwhile and you can count on some good ones for this package. I bought mine for 21 Euro, but just the other day I saw it being sold for 17 Euro. That’s about 44 % off! So you see, there’s not much excuse to not at least consider getting it. 

LEGO Friends, Heartlake Downtown Diner (41728), Overview


LEGO Friends, Heartlake Downtown Diner (41728), FiguresThis being the anniversary of the series, LEGO decided to give it an overhaul and aside from the package design looking a bit more modern this especially means the introduction of a large roster of new characters. This is being sold with all flowery marketing language to mean better diversity, representation, inclusion of different ethnicities, special needs people and all walks of life, but at the end of the day the simple truth likely is that the complaints about lack of variation were becoming too loud and the formula a bit stale with Mia, Emma, Andrea, Olivia etc. being in every set. I definitely felt that. Whether an onslaught of new characters whose names you might not even rember is the solution to the problem remains to be seen, though. In this package you get Charli, who stands out with his Light Aqua hair and is the chef, Aliya, the dark-skinned waitress and Liann, the skater girl, as her customer. that’s sufficient to play out a few scenarios and also in relation to the size of the set, but of course this would benefit if you dug out some other figures to make everything a bit more busy.

The Diner

LEGO Friends, Heartlake Downtown Diner (41728), Seating AreaThe building itself comes in pieces, which mostly means it comes with a separate guest seating area. Apparently the models is neither wide nor deep enough to fit it internally. That is unless you were to re-design the interior. It’s okay, but apparently it would have been nice if this segment was somehow connected to the main building. The obvious answer would have been some sort of L shape like the old Emma’s Art Café (41336) or similar. Given how the whole thing is build it shouldn’t have been difficult to add that 90 degree corner and extend the window front and roof.

The design is of course based on those old American diners from the 1950s and 1960s which were often converted from trailers or small kiosks built in the same style. Lots of rounded shapes and curved elements. The model captures this spirit nicely, without being too specific. the big sticking point for most people will of course be the color scheme. It really hinges a lot on how much you like Dark Turquoise and Coral. The good thing about it is that the sideways arches and the curved slopes are new in their respective colors, expanding the options for your own builds. That also goes for the Bright Light Yellow 6 x 6 door frame, which is at this point exclusive to this set. Most other elements are either already existing color variants or can be found in other sets. Some of them are more desirable than others, apparently, but overall the selection of parts isn’t that bad. There definitely have been less useful Friends sets when it comes to the yield of reusable parts.

Given the small size of the building, the interior is sparse as you would expect. It basically only contains the kitchen and two coin machines – a jukebox and an arcade gaming station. The latter has been a matter of debate in some other reviews in terms of kid-friendliness and all that. personally I find these discussions a bit far fetched, given that most kids will play games on their smartphones or have a console at home, anyway. You have to go with the times!

As so often the case with these types of models in the Friends series the most annoying part is the assembly. The two floor plates are only connected with the tiles for a long time and likewise, the whole window front remains very wobbly until the moment it is actually fixated with the plates for the roof. Once those and the transversal bar are in place, though, the model is quite robust. Another issue, though a minor one, are the curved slopes for the various ramps. LEGO have been using this in a few sets since last year and while it is serviceable to create the illusion of accessibility e.g. for wheelchairs, they do come off pretty easily.

Concluding Thoughts

The set doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but is a solid design and could be a good basis for integrating a small diner/ kiosk into an existing city. You would of course need to extend it somehow by making it deeper or wider, be it just to accommodate the seating in a believable way. The price point is reasonable enough and to me it’s also more credible than the Heartlake City Organic Café (41444). I’d definitely give it a whirl if the colors don’t turn you off right away.

Under the Sea – LEGO Avatar, Ilu Discovery (75575) and Skimwing Adventure (75576)

I was really looking forward to Avatar – The Way of Water, but admittedly I haven’t managed to actually see it in cinemas. Things have been a bit too chaotic in the last few weeks for a multitude of reasons ranging from health issues to family stuff and it really killed my mood. So all my knowledge is still merely based on the trailers and the film snippets you can find on various sites. I feel that is enough to judge the subjects of this article, the Ilu Discovery (75575) and Skimwing Adventure (75576) sets, but of course I won’t make any claims to the accuracy of my observations and interpretations.

LEGO Avatar, Ilu Discovery (75575), BoxLEGO Avatar, Skimwing Adventure (75576), Box

Pricing and Contents

As products based on licensed IP the sets inevitably are more expensive and thus the real question only becomes by how much and whether that is justified. To make a long story short the answer is “No!” for both sets, only to a varying degree. The Ilu Discovery (75575) comes in at a measly 179 pieces at 25 Euro suggested retail price which is a crooked price to begin with. This is only mitigated by retailers offering a discount, which brings it down to around 17 Euro, which is what I got my package for, but when you think about it, it is still 10 Cent a piece, making this anything but a steal. The Skimwing Adventure (75576) fares even worse. 259 pieces for 35 Euro is really nothing to write home about and the typical thirty percent discounts don’t change that. 25 Euro is still quite a bit for so little content in return, no matter how you spin it.

LEGO Avatar, Ilu Discovery (75575), OverviewLEGO Avatar, Skimwing Adventure (75576), Overview

Ilu discovery (75575)

This set is literally the smallest set in the Avatar range, not just for this second wave but also overall. that applies to the piece count as well as the size of the model. The creature is in a very true sense some sort of “sea pony” used by the kids of the Metkayina tribe to move around faster underwater.

LEGO Avatar, Ilu Discovery (75575), FiguresThose children are represented by minifigures depicting Tsireya and Tuk, her Na’vi friend. Them being kids also means that they come with the medium length movable legs introduced for the Harry Potter series three years ago and the non-movable even shorter “toddler” ones as opposed to the extra long versions used on the adults. The prints are again of excellent quality, though at this point the loin cloths and various trinkets made from natural materials feel a bit repetitive. But what can you do? They’re all running around pretty naked on Pandora

Similar to the previous sets these ones come with smaller landscape side builds, in this case meaning all sorts of reef and sea floor stuff. The only distinct feature is that its extremely colorful, but at the end of the day it looks more like LEGO were just recycling random leftovers than having a genuine plan. There isn’t much in the way of actual structure and the rationale seems to be that as long as it looks flamboyant enough people won’t make too much of the absence of some real details. Unlike with the mountain pieces in the first wave there is also no provision to connect these little bits from different sets, further diminishing the usefulness. The point here really is that there should be some sort of large reef in one of those packages and then all the action happening around it.

The Ilu creature itself looks a bit like a cross between a dragon and a dinosaur and clearly took some inspiration from a Plesiosaurus. The model is rather small and the build is very minimalistic with the body being only slightly wider than two studs. The problem with that is of course that it also looks very blocky and rigid, in particular in the neck area. Ultimately it boils down to the fact that this model would have benefited from being at a larger scale, but of course I do get that they wanted to match the size of the minifigures. After all, it’s a film tie-in meant to re-play the scenes from the movie.

The beast itself is just fine, but doesn’t really offer much of a challenge in building nor any special revelations. For me the most interesting thing are the wedge pieces for the fins now also being available in Sand Blue and of course there’s a new custom mold for the head. Just too bad that the print quality is once more terrible and the yellow looks very faded. This is in stark contrast to the wings and some of the yellow elements. The wings are in their own way also problematic. While they look okay from the top, once you see the underside the massive Technic axles and connectors ruin everything. This issue will also come up for the second set.

Skimwing Adventure (75576)

The Skimwing is a larger creature used as sort of an attack/ infantry transport vessel similar to a horse by the adults in the movie. It’s name already hints at the fact that it more or less glides over the water instead of fully swimming in it. This is similar to those Foiling boards that have become the latest fashion in the last few years or if you want to go back further of course boats and ships, in particular ferries, that are built as hydrofoils for speed.

LEGO Avatar, Skimwing Adventure (75576), FiguresThe minifigures represent Jake Sully and Tonowary, one of the Metkayina warriors. There’s not much more to say here that hasn’t been said in regards to the other figures. They’re executed well enough, but don’t offer much in the way of special features. It probably would not have been a bad idea to create at least some new weapons molds to make them more collectible.

The landscape pieces are even more barren than those on the Ilu. However, they offer at least some interesting pieces. the 1 x 1 cone in Yellowish Green is a never before seen color for this element and the Dark Purple horns are also nice. Aside from serving as the stand for the big fish itself, the small extra island can be used to create the illusion of one of the characters floating. That is also featured in the Ilu set, by the way.

The Skimwing is an intriguing design featuring aspects of a Northern Pike/ Eel, Sturgeon, Crocodile and a Marlin mixed with a Flying Fish. That would offer lots of potential, but similar to the Ilu it falls a bit flat due to the limitations of LEGO in general and adhering to minifigure scale. The only consolation is that in the movie the creature appears to be in “stiff mode” most of the time, so its somewhat rigid appearance and limited articulation is not that far off. I just wish there wouldn’t be those ugly large gaps between the segments.

The wings are a bit of a disappointment, not only because of the once again very visible Technic underpinnings, but also the way they are executed. You see, on the real creature they can fold up like zig-zag blinds and conform to the body plus they appear very opaque and more in a Dark Red tone. That makes me think that this would have been better emulated with those starched cloth pieces you sometimes find for skirts in Friends sets or as sails and capes in Ninjago and Star Wars. In fact this could have been stable enough to completely eliminate the supporting structure and make this look more elegant.

LEGO Avatar, Skimwing Adventure (75576), Underside

The second major disappointment are the prints on the head. By now we’ve all gotten used to opacity of bright colors on dark backgrounds not being great, but the way it’s here is simply unacceptable. It’s not even close to looking reasonably like the Tan color on the jaw next to it. Moreover, the colored area has scratches, likely because it was not handled properly while the paint was still fresh. And finally to top it off, the replacement I ordered from LEGO shows the same issues. This is a big “No, no, no!” and they deserve to be called out for it.

The only other thing of note is the Sand Blue propeller blade used on the tail. After it had been available only in Dark Bluish Grey for a decade, it seems now one of the designers has discovered more creative uses for it and after the Red one in the Aston Martin themed Speed Champions set (76910) and the White ones in some Friends sets we’re now getting this version.

Concluding Thoughts

Both the models are okay for what they represent, but the massive flaws and shortcomings cannot be overlooked. The most annoying of them is how crude the structural parts on the wings look on those small creatures and the overall very rigid-looking design. What was tolerable for the Toruk and the Ikrans really becomes a problem at this much smaller size. The proportions are just completely out of wack and the thick axles and connectors make the supports look like heavy wale bones. One really wishes LEGO hat at least found it in their hearts to make them transparent or come up with another solution entirely, possibly based on some new elements.

On top of that there are of course the massive quality issues with some of the prints. It’s simply incomprehensible how the company claiming to be the market leader in these kinds of toys doesn’t get a handle on the problem when even some cheap knock-off brands do it better. There is in fact a sense of deep irony here as for once they managed to print the blue minifigures decently, but can’t manage to do the same on the animals despite the base color being somewhat similar. Go, figure!

Outside that the sets really only appeal to Avatar fans or people with a love for slightly more exotic stuff and crazy colors. There’s not much to gain here. The builds are straightforward and in their simplicity a bit boring while the overall appearance of the creatures and the surroundings feels lacking. The reef parts are the bare minimum and nothing really comes to life. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if those beasts would be circling a larger reef? Wouldn’t it make sense to have them appear in groups/ swarms like in the movie?

With all that in mind I cannot seriously recommend either of these packages. The Ilu Discovery (75575) could still be a little snack if you’re looking for something different every now and then since it’s affordable enough, but things already get fishy (no pun intended) for the Skimwing. It’s simply too expensive and for the money you can get better Creator 3in1 sets or something else.

Not just Garbage – LEGO City, Recycling Truck (60386)

LEGO City certainly isn’t my go-to series and I rarely ever buy stuff from that theme, but occasionally there are little gems hidden in it. A lot of times it comes down to desirable animals or “rare” parts, but every now and then it’s also just that the models are done nicely and have an overall appeal. That just happened with one of this year’s new releases, the Recycling Truck (60386), so it’s time to have a look at it.

LEGO City, Recycling Truck (60386), Box

Pricing and Contents

The set officially retails for 35 Euro, which is more than slightly ridiculous, given that it only consists of 261 pieces. This once more illustrates that LEGO have completely lost their marbles and just don’t seem to care. The problem here isn’t even that I mind slightly above average prices when they’re justified, but apparently I think here they aren’t. Even the overview shot already tells you that the actual truck is relatively small and that aside from the garbage collection stand there isn’t much else in the box. The volume of stuff you get isn’t that great. So for the umpteenth time it’s up to the sellers to rectify this and give you a discount. Since I didn’t want to wait another two months for prices to drop I snatched up my package for 25 Euro and that’s okay, but overall this feels more like a 20 Euro offering. If you’re not in a hurry your patience can pay off. You may be able to get it cheap during e.g. a pre-Easter sale.

LEGO City, Recycling Truck (60386), Overview

The Minifigures

The minifigures aren’t much to write home about with two “generic worker figures” and an equally generic other person. The best part therefore is the little white kitten. I already have it in Dark Bluish Grey and Dark Orange and it’s always nice to add one more to the collection.

The Garbage Collector

The set comes with a small garbage collecting/ sorting station as you could find it in your neighborhood. It’s built one one of those 8 x 16 “road” plates that are also regularly used in 4+ sets. Here it comes in Bright Green. To me it feels a bit unnecessary, as a normal plate would have served the same purpose just as well without compromising stability. Inside the stand you’ll find three trash cans. Dark Bluish Grey is always useful and can be used widely and the Green version is the one that predominantly has been used in abundance in the last few years, but the one in Dark Azure is a new color.

You could further enhance your play fantasy with the Coral, Neon Yellow and Lime Green versions used in Friends sets and in fact a simple way to obtain all three of them would be to buy “that other garbage truck”, their version of the Recycling Truck (41712). As you can see there’s even a few bits and bobs to throw into the cans, but I honestly don’t get why LEGO don’t just throw in at least another fifty pieces of that kind. It’s another of those points where they are cheapening out. You may want to find a few more 1 x 1 elements and such to really give your kids a pile of pieces to play with.

The Truck

The truck’s appeal is rooted in that it looks very “neutral” and universally usable. For reasons that nobody understands, LEGO often lock themselves in very American looking designs despite doing good business and having their headquarters here, but this time they managed to evade that trap and give us a vehicle that could drive around pretty much anywhere in the world. Of course the colors would vary. It also overall feels very contemporary and not like some old truck that hasn’t been around in decades.

Now nice as that all is, there’s one huge problem with this: The truck is too small. In a case of “Honey, I shrunk the Kids!” this is a good one third too small to accommodate actual minifigure scale. They cheated it on the package photo, but if you really put a minifigure near to the car it becomes very, very obvious. The funny thing is that the truck could still pass as a garbage collection vehicle even then, but you’d have to shorten the container/ deck to bring the proportions more in line with a small van or utility vehicle.

As the photos show, pretty much all the functions of a real garbage truck are there including lifting the dumpsters into the back chute, opening the intake frame as well as swiveling it up to empty out the container on the garbage dump or the waste incineration plant.

Tilting up the loading deck also reveals another problem, though a lesser one. Unfortunately LEGO decided to make this all too “kids-friendly”, which in their world apparently means omitting extra parts to secure things into place. The two yellow brackets are a prime example of this sort of poor design as it’s way too easy to loosen them by just holding the model on the two large grey “boxes” on the sides, which are just 2 x 8 bricks. Likewise, the hinges holding the container are not fastened with extra slopes or similar, so that part comes off easily just as well just by grabbing the model at the top and not the chassis. Both problems could easily have been avoided with a few extra parts and/ or a different construction.

LEGO City, Recycling Truck (60386), Tilted Deck

At the same time, oddly enough, one has to give the designers credit for a very smart solution. The side panels mimicking the round shape of the stirring drum can easily be pushed out sideways by reaching into the compartment with your fingers via the rear hatch since they’re only fixated on two studs in the front on the yellow SNOT bricks. This will be very useful to avoid tears when your kids unwittingly stuffed their favorite toy in there and can’t get it out because it’s jammed (without disassembling the truck more, that is). as they say, it’s all about the little things.

LEGO City, Recycling Truck (60386), Side Panel

LEGO City, Recycling Truck (60386), CockpitOf course the cockpit can’t be opened as well, but only a single minifigure will fit in there and due to the scale issue it will look rather odd.

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Concluding Thoughts

The set offers good play value, but is ultimately let down by the scale being too small and the lack of robustness in several areas. On its own and with careful handling that may not come into play too much and your kids won’t mind, but still… The sad thing really is that all of that could have been easily avoided with a bunch of additional elements to e.g. raise the height of the cabin and container as well to strengthen some connections and then maybe even the crazy price might have been justifiable.

As it is this is a somewhat mixed bag. It’s definitely leaning on the “good” side, but nowhere near perfect. Too much consideration needs to be given to things like how cautiously children have to handle the model. the “wrong” scale also sort of disqualifies it from being displayed in your LEGO city without it looking odd.

Only in the Blue Night – LEGO Ideas, Vincent van Gogh – The Starry Night (21333)

Though I rarely give them credit for it, LEGO are occasionally on a lucky streak and among a sea of mediocre or terrible Star Wars, Super Heroes and Friends sets there are little gems. The recent The Mighty Bowser (71411) was one of them and now we have Vincent van Gogh – The Starry Night (21333). That in itself is extra remarkable as the LEGO Ideas series is also in a bit of a slump with way too many not so great sets like the ones based on TV series, films and games or the recent tabletop kicker game, which really was not well received by anyone.

Now here’s the thing with this one: I’m not a fan of LEGO ART, either, and as you know I also have strong opinions on DOTS and stuff like the Botanical Collection. This has nothing to do with that I dislike doing creative painterly stuff with LEGO, it’s more that I despise the way it’s positioned as decoration and for my taste there’s not necessarily a recognizable effort to do the arts justice. That’s why this one appealed even more to me: You can see that thought has gone into how to represent all the brush strokes and details without merely dissolving them into what equates a low resolution pixel raster.

I wanted this set from the day it was announced, being that I’ve always been a fan of modern impressionism and van Gogh in particular. I have fond memories of visiting the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and it’s simply amazing seeing some of those paintings in reality with their thick layers of paint and sculpted brush strokes. So let’s see what the model holds for us.

LEGO Ideas, Vincent van Gogh - The Starry Night (21333), Box

Pricing and Contents

This is one of the bigger LEGO Ideas sets at 2316 pieces and this inevitably affects the price. Its MSRP is 170 Euro and as so often I don’t agree on that. You do get a lot of pieces and yes, the finished product has a certain weight, but at the end of the day this is once more a case of many, many small elements constituting the bulk of the pieces and those not really falling under the 10 Cent per piece rule. Since we can never really have nice things without LEGO giving us the middle finger, of course things are further complicated by this package only being available from them directly and a handful of select retailers. Luckily, one of them regularly runs special sales and so I got my chance to pick this up a few days before Christmas for 125 Euro. And wouldn’t you know it – that same seller just this week had another “start of the new year” sale where it could be had for 115 Euro. So it’s not impossible to get a good price, but you have to be patient and wait for the opportunity to strike.

LEGO Ideas, Vincent van Gogh - The Starry Night (21333)


The only minifigure in the set is the master himself, Vincent. They went a bit crazy with the hair by making it a bright orange when the reality likely is that he was just a normal ginger with a Dark Orange tint. At least it makes the figure stand out. The printed tile feels admittedly a bit lame, not least due to the studs. I would have preferred a nice 6 x 6 tile or even bigger, possibly with a MoMa logo on it.

LEGO Ideas, Vincent van Gogh - The Starry Night (21333), Figure

The presentation is also rather uninspired and just looks ugly. Vincent should be standing on a small hill looking down in the valley and I think they could have somehow come up with a solution to that effect and included a few more pieces.

The Painting

One thing you must be aware of right from the outset that actually building this painting is not much fun most of the time. The actual level of pain vs. happiness will depend on which parts you are currently working on, naturally, but even then you may find yourself only stacking 1 x 1, 1 x 2 and 2 x 2 elements. Things can get really tedious really quickly. Since these days I have trouble concentrating for long durations, anyway, I spread my assembly process across multiple afternoons/ evenings and that’s perhaps a methodology you should employ as well. Thankfully this is helped by many of the sub-sections being just modules that are built individually before being combined.

The process starts out with the part that is going to protrude the most, the tree at the right of the image, or more specifically not the tree itself, but the landscape behind it. This and the background are also pretty much the only area that you build conventionally upright with curved slopes and all that, whereas the other segments massively use sideways building techniques and other trickery. Most of it is just preparation for the later addition of the tree behind which a good part of this section will be hidden, so it isn’t the most complex and most detailed section, anyway.

The second major step is the lower left area of the painting and this is perhaps the most annoying phase of the whole venture. It’s layers upon layers of round plates, 1 x 1 studs and quarter tiles. This takes forever and somehow you always think you’re finished only to discover that the next page of the instructions has yet more for you to do. In the end it’s worth it, but it seriously drags on.

By contrast building the background is a walk in the park as you kind of mindlessly just stack 1 x 4 plates, only interrupted by having to insert a few brackets and smaller plates every now and then. At the same time it’s a bit of a drain on the brain, as you need to pay a lot of attention to not mix up colors while your thoughts are drifting over this repetitive work. The bags are the ones with the number 5 and you have two of them filled to the brim with Blue plates alone and then there’s still the other ones.

I made a little oopsie and somewhere wrongly used a Dark Blue plate too many where it should have been a regular Blue one, but it didn’t stand out negatively and I didn’t want to spend my time backtracking where I went wrong, so I left it in there. If this happens more than in one spot and the irregularities in the flow of the pattern become too noticeable you possibly can’t avoid having to fix at least some of the mistakes.

With the basic painting done you then have to build the frame onto which later to plug the “canvas” similar to how it works with real paintings. Interestingly enough many of van Gogh‘s paintings were never properly framed when they first were created because he didn’t have the money for it or didn’t want them to be framed, so the design of the frames is pretty much arbitrary and more a decision of the curators and owners of the art pieces. The black frame apparently came about as a result of the image being cleaned up and undergoing restoration work after it had been displayed in some ugly golden frames for decades.

This is of course beneficial for re-creating it in LEGO and the designers have done a good job. The frame is very sturdy and easy to build and similar to the background you don’t need to stress your brain too much. It is built mostly from large elements such as a ton of 2 x 8 and 1 x 16 bricks and of course all the slopes. The edges are capped off with the rounded 1 x 4 slopes and matching corner elements as they were introduced last year e.g. in the LEGO Architecture Singapore (21057) set or the DOTS message boards (41951 and 41952). There is  provision to put the picture on the wall with a hanger, but I feel that this is better presented standing on a shelf or in a showcase where you can look at it from slightly above and still see all the details you built.

LEGO Ideas, Vincent van Gogh - The Starry Night (21333), Back

This is also the point where I would have to come up with a serious complaint. The “canvas” is affixed into the frame using these T-style brackets and while there are enough of them and everything is stable once you actually manage to press them on hard enough, doing exactly that is a bit of an exercise, especially if you’re free-handing things and don’t work on a flat table. There’s also no real locking of everything, so it’s easy enough to push out the insert. I almost managed to ruin my day in such a situation and could barely manage to catch the painting so it didn’t drop to the floor. That is to say that once you’re at this stage this becomes a matter of handling the model with two hands like a tablet to prevent disaster.

With the frame in place you’re getting closer to the finish line and the cloud swirls are added. This is where the limitations of working with 90 degree angles really show as everything still looks a bit blocky despite the designer’s best efforts to disguise everything with slopes and stair step approximations. This is one of those things where alternate brick manufacturers that have direction inverters and other elements would have an advantage. Here again I made a minor mistake using a Light Aqua plate somewhere instead of a Bright Light Blue one, so I had to resort to my own stock to account for the wrongly used plate.

The final steps are just plugging on the various discs for the stars and moon an d then finishing up the trees so they can be slid into the place you constructed at the very beginning. The group of cypresses is another minor weak spot owing to the way it’s built. To keep things slender it’s only a bunch of alternating slopes with a few thing plates and as a result some areas only overlap by one or two studs. As you would imagine that makes it easy to accidentally break them off.

LEGO Ideas, Vincent van Gogh - The Starry Night (21333), SparesAfter all your toiling you’re left with a bunch of intentional spares in addition to the usual small extra bits. These are from the background step and you should basically have two 1 x 4 plates of every color used there along with a few 1 x 2. Since I made some errors this doesn’t work out as it should have, apparently. That in fact made me wish they had thrown in two spare elements of each color, including the ones I made a mess with.

Concluding Thoughts

The result is rewarding, but the road is a long and rocky one for this set. That’s why no doubt it also isn’t for everyone. It’s not just that you have to have some interest in the artistic side of things, but also a lot of patience. This doesn’t offer any instant gratification especially due to the complex and long-winded assembly process. After this even I think I will not go near a similar project for a while and focus on stuff that’s more fun. That said this is still a gorgeous set. Too bad the price is a bit off-kilter and will deter some people from buying it. In the 100 Euro range this could have been a real smash hit.

Bowser and his Gang – LEGO Super Mario, The Mighty Bowser (71411) and Big Bad Island (71412)

I’m old enough to have lived through the video game era in the early 1990s and so I still have fond memories of many of the games we played on our Mega Drive/ Genesis or Super Nintento (or Super Nintendo Entertainment System, SNES, as it was called officially), which of course included the Super Mario World game that came bundled with the console, but also Mario Kart, Yoshi’s Island and a few others. As you can imagine, I was quite excited when LEGO announced sets around that subject, but like so many I was just as disappointed when they only announced a bunch of buildable characters and their weird game with those electronic Mario, Luigi and now Princess Peach characters. that didn’t stop me from buying some of this stuff, but it was never really worth turning it into an article.

Thankfully it seems someone at LEGO came to their senses earlier this year and wanted to give fans what they really wanted: Nice “sculptures” (or at least large enough buildable figures) that could be put in your showcase just to enjoy looking at them all day while getting carried away with memories of the good old times. I can’t tell you how happy I really was when The Mighty Bowser (71411) was announced and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. as usual, of course, it took a moment to actually make it happen, but now I finally can present it here.

LEGO Super Mario, The Mighty Bowser (71411) and Big Bad Island (71412), Overview

Pricing and Contents

The Mighty Bowser (71411) comes in a mighty box containing 2807 pieces. Many of them are apparently relatively large and compact ones, so the package has quite a bit of weight. Is that worth a suggested price of 270 Euro? Despite this being a reasonably good price in the LEGO world considering the volume of stuff you get (He’s  a really big guy, after all!), I still tend to disagree with this. To me this feels more like 200 Euro would have been a better value proposition.

This would have made this set more relevant for kids in particular who may just want a Bowser on their shelf next to their other Super Mario paraphernalia. The other reason is that in the end of invisible structural assemblies made from standard pieces and I always feel that they are seriously overcharging people for those 2 x 4, 2 x 6 and so on plates and a few Technic beams. I know that things don’t work this way, but I certainly don’t believe that a blue pin is worth 10 Cent.

Lucky for everyone this set is broadly available through all regular retail channels, which means you can definitely get some discount somewhere. I bought mine during Black Week in November off Amazon. They were throwing it out for 172 Euro (and currently it sits at this price again because they’re matching another competitor’s price). I threw in a 20 Euro voucher I just had gotten the other day, so it effectively only cost me 152 Euro. That’s more than acceptable and more in line with what I think is acceptable.

LEGO Super Mario, The Mighty Bowser (71411), Box

The smaller offering with Bowser‘s buddies is a different story. I had bought a few of those expansion sets in the past to get my hands on as many Yoshis, Koopas, Goombas and so on for my collection as well as a few other bits and pieces, so I wasn’t under any illusion how this would turn out. The typical formula for these packages seems to be one third to fifty percent of buildable figures, small houses and a few other things and the rest is just a whole lot of these platform pieces and some elongated plates to connect the individual sections. That is within the intention of actually building playable courses reasonable, but makes for a terribly bad value.

For the majority of sets this can be offset by the discounts because they’re available via regular retail channels, but unfortunately not for this one. The Big Bad Island (71412) is only available at LEGO stores or in their online shop, so there’s zero wiggle room on the price. If you want those 354 pieces, you better pony up those 45 Euro. It’s not that I wouldn’t be willing to pay this much, but the package really has very little content once you remove the platforms from the equation. It could definitely have done with a second large Goomba at least and perhaps an oversize Yoshi might have been nice as well.

Point in case: I got this set so Bowser would not be that alone and have some of his underlings keep him company and in my head this is what this set really should have been – an add-on figure pack that better matches the scale and proportions of the giant turtle and would look nice on the shelf next to him. In a way this therefore feels like a missed opportunity. I’m certain people would have swarmed to it.

LEGO Super Mario, Big Bad Island (71412), Box

The Mighty Bowser

Bowser is rather unique in its own right already and in addition he also represents an equally unique type of model. This type of complex and detailed “sculpture” is something that LEGO hasn’t done in ages. For me personally it was also a new experience, never having built something of that sort previously and of course quite generally I do not build this type of large set that often. That’s why the build also took me a while. I do not build every day, anyway, and those 22 bags in the package represented a lot of steps and sub-assemblies. I ultimately spread this out over several evening across five weeks or so. I’m not a fast builder to begin with, but I really had motivational problems with some of the sub-sections, knowing that I’d often repeat the same set of steps, if with swapped orientation where applicable. I really procrastinated a lot on this one!

LEGO Super Mario, The Mighty Bowser (71411), Overview

The “Castle”

The pedestal depicts a piece of Bowser‘s castle, obviously. Funny enough said building has never been rendered consistently anywhere throughout the various games, so there’s no coherent design and layout. Only bits and pieces are ever visible and are re-arranged, shuffled around and adapted as needed. This would have given the designers lots of leeway and licence to let their creativity run wild, but somehow they opted for the smallest common denominator. It’s not necessarily the bare minimum, but not very inspired, either.

LEGO Super Mario, The Mighty Bowser (71411), Pedestal, Front View

My biggest peeve is the lack of height. The thickness of the whole thing is only two bricks and that is already including the tiles on top. It just looks weird when you position Bowser on it. The proportions just feel whacked-out and you never quite believe that this is how he would present himself to intimidate his opponents. It also does not communicate the fact that his castle is built from large, roughly hewn rocks. Therefore I seriously think this should have been at least five bricks tall with some irregular edges and perhaps a stair step at the front.

LEGO Super Mario, The Mighty Bowser (71411), Pedestal, Top View

This theme continues with the actual rock pattern. It’s created only from flat tiles with no variations in height or some sort of curvature. If you look closely, you can also see that the left and right halves are merely the same shapes rotated by 180 degrees. A bit too unimaginative for my taste. This is yet again something where an alternative, better design presents itself and you don’t need to think hard about it. Instead of grey mortar the gaps should be made from Trans Orange bricks or similar and in fact it should be taken one step further by having been built with “invisible” channels where one could simply thread through a cheap battery-powered LED light chain or strip to illuminate the whole thing. Imagine how awesome Bowser could look with a fiery shine from below!

LEGO Super Mario, The Mighty Bowser (71411), Pedestal, Hidden CompartmentUnderneath the red carpet there’s a small hidden compartment with an action code if you use the electronic play figures for the series. This is of course slightly ridiculous for an expensive display model. You may do it a handful of times just to check how things go, but then not really bother anymore. You could replace the tile with a regular one and use the bar code elsewhere if you so desire.

LEGO Super Mario, The Mighty Bowser (71411), Pedestal, SpireLeft and right on the platform you have some spires with flames/ torches and those also would benefit from having some LED lighting, naturally. They’re kind of okay, but not really much to write home about. Even the large flame element looks a bit out of place as the for instance this version of the same element would have “popped” more. The spires also contain the only printed element in this set aside from Bowser‘s eyes – his insignia. The small towers are constructed sufficiently stable, there are a few things that annoy me about them. The most important issue, and it really gets a bit on my nerves, is the weak fixation. Again pretending that this was a play set, the LEGO designers opted for a “soft” connection where the whole thing is merely held by two jumper plates and a bit of tension from the plates underneath so as to facilitate easy removal, but of course this has negative consequences. The damn towers come off way too easily, which can be a real pain when transporting the pedestal or moving it around. The slightest inclination or inertia can make them topple over and when they do, the flames come off, which is another of those nuisances.

All things considered, the pedestal/ presentation platform feels like an afterthought, not an integral part of the set. The point here is that technically it is not necessary to support the figure since they’re never actually connected in any form, so there would have been plenty of room to be creative to your hearts content. A wall with a large door, some battlements (even as ruins) or of course a huge throne (either from cushy red velvet or just the opposite plain rock) would have massively enhanced the scenery. Along with making this thicker and all those other things it would have had given this an actual reason to exist.

The way it is now, it feels a bit superfluous. The downside is of course that all my proposed enhancements would definitely have ramped up the parts count quite a bit, but I wouldn’t have minded paying another 50 Euro or so for a big bucket of Light/ Dark Bluish Grey and Trans Orange bricks to make my ideas a reality.

The Boss himself

The meat of the set is of course the turtle-shelled king himself, Bowser the mighty. My personal memory of him is a different one than how he is presented here, though. I’ll always remember him as a relatively small lump of pixels, i.e. a sprite in Super Mario World where he was barely twice the size of Mario. This was of course a technical limitation, but it really seems to me that over the years Nintendo have gone a bit batty on this and he has gotten bigger and bigger to the point of covering an entire planet. In my opinion this hasn’t always been a good idea as it doesn’t make him more threatening and in a way it also kills the clumsy charme and cuteness I remember him for. Since there are so many incarnations of him in different styles it’s also difficult to rate the exactness and realism. It’s probably best to see this model as an amalgam of all his best renditions.

Bowser always has had a very compact and stubby appearance with short legs and also short arms (those have elongated with every new iteration, too) and this certainly has been captured nicely here with his slightly forward leaning posture as if he’s really struggling with his heavy shell. You can really imagine him making short, heavy steps rather than sprinting to move around.

The model is not a rigid block and has been built from several sub-assemblies that can in part even be moved. However, in practice this is rather limited since not all joints can be moved on all axes. It would for instance be difficult to coordinate the arms in such a way that they could hold something believably. If you feel so inclined you could perhaps some coins in one of Bowser‘s hands, but that’s pretty much it. Putting in a scepter or magic staff would be difficult and would require to construct the hands in a different way.

LEGO Super Mario, The Mighty Bowser (71411), TriggerSimilar to the hidden compartments on the pedestal the main figure has a “play” feature for shooting a “fireball” (arrow) from its mouth and this is done with a somewhat convoluted mechanism. The external triggers are positioned next to the shoulders so as to fire when the arms are raised into a certain position, but this doesn’t really work that well just like the overall thing. This isn’t a fundamental flaw with the construction, it’s just built at the verge of what’s possible with bricks. I didn’t feel like digging too deep and fixing my setup, but I think it mostly boils down to the head being too heavy and the slightest hitch in the transmission throwing things for a loop. If it’s important to you, you may of course want to spend some time optimizing it for smooth operation.

LEGO Super Mario, The Mighty Bowser (71411), Foot

The feet are an interesting piece of engineering. I was initially skeptical, since they dangle loosely on some of those extra large Technic ball joint pieces, but it works quite well. Once you put down the big guy the legs bump against the rest of the body which will stiffen them up as if they were fixed. LEGO Super Mario, The Mighty Bowser (71411), TailThe center of gravity is so well-balanced that nothing else is required and the figure stands firmly planted without any risk of falling over. This also means that the tail is not an actual support/ stopper, even if it may look this way. It’s just designed to be perfectly level with the soles of the feet.

The shell is constructed from the frame consisting of the white tubes and three strips representing the actual segments, which by themselves are are held at the correct angles using a clever mix of hinges, and axle connectors. This is then simply plugged onto the underlying Technic frames you build in an earlier step. The spikes are a new mold specifically created for this set and no doubt will reappear in the future as all manner of rocket tips and similar. The designers even gave this parabolic shape a specific name, but for the life of it I couldn’t find the article where I read it.

LEGO Super Mario, The Mighty Bowser (71411), Shell

Important people have big brains, so Bowser‘s head is huge compared to the rest of his body. This is an advantage because everything can be built from regular elements instead requiring any dedicated special molds like they might be necessary at smaller scales. It’s also beneficial that of course we’re talking about a fictional character that started out as a simple 2D sprite in a game and they opted to go for this simplified, slightly abstract style. This allows to use relatively large, solid pieces e.g. for the hair where otherwise they would have had to employ tons of smaller parts or cheat things with prints and stickers.

Big Bad Island

As powerful as Bowser himself is, he’s of course nothing without his minions that do his bidding and over the years his army of goons has evolved and changed quite a bit. His closest relatives, the Koopas have always been a stable of this and so have the Goombas. They’ve been there ever since the first games were conceived and over the years this has been complemented with mutated piranhas, killer penguins, spiky fuzzballs, guys on hovering clouds dropping stuff from above, all manner of mutated plants and so on.

As mentioned earlier I already had bought a bunch of these Expansion Sets containing some of the aforementioned characters, but inevitably there’s an issue with scale. While Bowser always has been bigger than his servants, the ratio has never really been twenty times as big. This may happen when he goes into berserk mode and blows himself up with a magic spell, but most of the time he should be about three to five times as large as a Koopa or for that matter Mario. I was already thinking of trying to design a few medium scale characters myself and this set came to the rescue, if at considerable extra cost.

LEGO Super Mario, Big Bad Island (71412), Overview

Unfortunately there’s really only two figures in here that match that criteria – a Goomba and a Koopa – whereas the remaining other two fit the scale of the regular series. The concept of course is in actuality the other way around in the games. It’s not necessarily that the enemies are too large, but rather that Mario is too small because he got shrunk by some spell cast by Iggy or has entered such a zone.

LEGO Super Mario, Big Bad Island (71412), Figures

LEGO Super Mario, Big Bad Island (71412), IggyIggy is the wacko wizard cousin of Bowser‘s and this has always worn this on his sleeve with his crazy eyes and the big mouth with the crooked teeth. Aside from these specifics he’s really just another Koopa, though the model uses a slightly different construction than some other ones in the series.

LEGO Super Mario, Big Bad Island (71412), Goomba, small

I have at least five or six of these small Goombas and they all follow the same build pattern. The only difference are the tiles with the face prints and that is the mean part about it. Most of them only appear in one specific set and you will have to collect them all or buy those tiles for a relatively high price on Bricklink and other such sites.

LEGO Super Mario, Big Bad Island (71412), Goomba, bigThe same can be said for the large version, but of course that’s expected. Thankfully someone at LEGO had the wits to use the newer perfectly smooth 6 x 6 tile instead of the older version with the injection point at the center. There’s another unprinted one at the back. The only thing missing is a larger version of the foot/ shoes element, but I guess that would have been too expensive. At the same time the set introduces two new elements in Dark Orange, the 2 x 3 curved slope and the 1 x 2 rounded “filler” brick, so there’s at least that.

The Koopa Trooper is one of only three sets that make use of the large turtle shell base and ironically enough in the other sets this is used as the basis for Bowser‘s armor, which should give you an idea about the scale. there’s not much else to it, as it’s literally just another SNOT block with most elements being plugged on sideways in different places. That’s also why it falls a bit short of making more use of rounded pieces.

Concluding Thoughts

For what it’s worth, The Mighty Bowser (71411) is what I would consider a near perfect set despite its quirks and a few inevitable shortcomings. I for instance could have totally gone without the Technic underpinnings and movable parts for posing, but luckily they don’t get in the way and don’t ruin the overall appearance because they’re well hidden. No blue pins to cause you an upset, if you get my meaning. In the end you have to admire the smart construction techniques, even though at times they also cause frustration and slowed down the build. Combined with other factors like me rarely building such large models and taking days off not doing any LEGO inbetween this caused a bit of drag. I don’t hold that against the designers, it’s just a combination of circumstances on my end. Generally, though, you should be prepared that this isn’t a quick and simple build for a short afternoon.

Another nice thing is that this set is a treasure trove of new and recolored pieces and even better yet, many of those come in considerable quantities. I’ve spared myself the trouble of putting them all in a long and boring list, but if you ever decide to dismantle and disassemble the model, you’ll have heaps of those “pancake” pieces in different colors, a similar pile of tubes, the spikes from the back and so on. This also makes the package a worthwhile subject for Bricklink dealers to rip it apart and sell of pieces individually at reasonable prices.

With that in mind and all that I said earlier I would highly recommend Bowser. It’s just too good a chance to pass up, given that it’s in broad distribution and there’s always a way to get a decent price somewhere. Whether you just enjoy building complex models, want to scalp the parts or really want to put him on display next to your game consoles there’s some fun to be had. You’d have to be living under a rock to never have heard of the Mario games or it’s completely not your genre to ignore this.

The Big Bad Island (71412) on the other hand is not an essential item, with the only reason to get it being the special printed items to build the large versions of Koopa and Goomba. Due to the set’s exclusivity those tiles would be hard to find on the secondary markets and will be expensive for the rest of eternity. Currently there isn’t even a single vendor offering them on Bricklink. Buying the whole package will no doubt cause you grinding teeth, but would be a more reliable method to obtain those parts.

Ugly Black Plane – LEGO Super Heroes, Shuri’s Sunbird (76211)

Last week was a bit of a mess. I had two days of Internet outage because some construction worker shredded a optic fiber cable and had to make do with my rather limited mobile access and then I head some struggles with my health issues. That’s why I only now got around to actually writing my review for the LEGO Shuri’s Sunbird (76211) set.

LEGO Super Heroes, Shuri's Sunbird (76211), Box

Pricing and Contents

As you might have guessed, I don’t particularly care for the Black Panther – Wakanda Forever movie and haven’t seen it yet. It’s nothing I would go to the cinema for and I’ll wait for it to run on TV some day. It also kind of came and went without making much of an impact here in Germany. It’s almost already faded from people’s consciousness again and while it was profitable in the grand scheme of things, it probably wasn’t the hit Disney had hoped it would be. Viewer numbers dropped pretty sharply after the first week. Anyway, I’m not going to bore you with my ponderings and should probably re-open my old blog to do film reviews.

Regardless of my limited interest in these types of flicks, I often get hooked by some of the story concepts and design work and that basically is what happened here. The idea of a black jet just appealed to me and as someone who rarely buys those Star Wars sets with the Imperial shuttles or TIE Fighters containing lots of Black pieces the prospect of adding some notable ones of those to my collection also had some value to me. Of course I didn’t want to overstretch my budget, so I had to wait a bit as the original price of 50 Euro really seems a bit much. It’s not necessarily bad because there are smaller sets for that same price and they don’t even contain as many minifigures, but you have to keep it reasonable.

I picked up my package for 37 Euro and currently prices have gone as low as 34 Euro. That’s still not the best price ratio when you consider that there are only 355 pieces, but at least some of them are quite large, which offsets the cost a bit. There are also some unique parts and within the whole Super Heroes series the price is still okay, which also balances out the equation.

LEGO Super Heroes, Shuri's Sunbird (76211), Overview


With any big movie the character based minifigures are inevitably a big part of the appeal. the ones you get in this set are (from right to left) Nakia, Ironheart, Shuri and Attuma. The latter apparently is part of the opposing faction and bad guys, Namor‘s army, and it’s easily my favorite one. This has a lot to do with the head piece, which is modeled in part after a hammerhead shark’s skull and it so happens that sharks are some of my favorite animals. The others are okay, but feel a bit generic in the sense that these embroidery like fine patterns of the super hero suits become a bit too common. That’s not LEGO‘s fault, but rather that of the film’s production designers, yet it still feels all to samey. You could put minifigs from different movies in a line and without knowing the finer points you could mistake Nakia‘s body as that of one of the Eternals.

LEGO Super Heroes, Shuri's Sunbird (76211), Minifigures

The Plane that never was

One thing we need to get out of the way is how the model does not at all look like what can be seen in the movie. I haven’t seen the whole film, but what can be determined from trailers and freely available snippets on the web this is a major miss. The actual jet is a small light interceptor type plane that accommodates a single person whereas the model makes it look like a stubby small bomber/ ground attack aircraft. Clearly the proportions are completely out of whack and don’t match minifigure scale. Of course this can be explained away with the designers working off concept art that may not have reflected changes later during the actual production of the movie just like it can simply be blamed on the scale.

In the latter case it would probably have made more sense to go even bigger and omit minifigures entirely to not even give people ideas. In the other case this plane would/ should have been part of a different set and used different building techniques. See where the problem is? This set is neither fish nor flesh, as they say, and therefore comes across as an inane attempt at a cash grab in the sense of “We have to have something ready.” just to be part of the game. That’s typical corporate thinking for you and sadly one of the reasons why many people get a bit tired of LEGO hanging their own success too much on licensed IPs.

The Model

Since it is nowhere near representative of the genuine article, we have to view the model in isolation from the movie and how it holds up on its own merits strictly as a LEGO creation. As such it is just fine and in its blocky appearance rather reminiscent of some Nexo Knights designs of aerial vehicles. It just lacks the glowy orange and green elements those sets had. The standout feature are of course the two big round “fan” hubs, which are actually “magically” powered hover units. In the film this allows for some interesting visuals as they swivel around with every steering motion. On the model they feel out of place, though, and get in the way of grabbing the model in that area.

The wings are not actual aerodynamic wings, but rather just another kind of engine emitters for forward propulsion. In the film they smoothly transition to the vessel’s main body by ways of some elastic skin/ nanotec coating and that includes when they change their angle. This is of course impossible to represent sufficiently with LEGO, so you’re basically stuck with the default position as the only reasonably “good” one. In the end it might have been better to construct the whole thing with rigid, plate-based connections and just leave it at that. The movable wings really don’t add much otherwise.

The model doesn’t offer too many details with the jet engine being basic and the cockpit rather void. This is another of those things where a more realistic representation of the movie original would have allowed for more finesse. It’s actually an elongated cockpit where the pilot has an backward inclined, almost laying position and there would have been plenty of space to add little bits and bobs to this long cockpit with a curved (!) canopy. so even that part is not correct.

There are a few special pieces in this set, which is of course something that always gets my attention. Most obviously are the rings based on the new element introduced one and a half years ago for the Porsche 911 (10295) in White. They’re exclusive to this set in Black for the time being. That also applies to the roller door slats in Trans Satin Purple and of course the cockpit piece is unique as well. A hidden gem are the two angled wedges/ dumpster tray walls in Black. This long-existing element has seen a resurgence in the Monkie Kid series recently and with only a few of such “studs on slope” elements even existing in LEGO‘s parts catalog, it’s always good to have those options.

As you can see the model is quite compact even if you slick back the wings and you can fold it up to an even smaller package. This facilitates storage or just stowing it away in a box after play.

Concluding Thoughts

Ultimately this set is kind of a fail. It does not bear the slightest resemblance to the vehicle in the film and as it stands once more one can only wonder who signed off on this in Disney‘s licensing department. On the other hand, and that’s one of those bittersweet irony things, it would have made for a nice Nexo Knights or Ninjago hover jet on its own with the necessary modifications, namely a different color scheme and some bling-bling. Otherwise it does not deliver on what it promises to be. It’s still okay as a generic play set, but then naturally we’d have to open up an endless discussion about the price being too high and how the minifigures figure into the overall value.

With all that in mind I would only recommend this to people who have a special connection to the film and want to own all the paraphernalia associated with it or if you are a minifigure collector who has a desire for a complete line-up. I’m not in either of those camps, but at least I got something out of with the exclusive parts and I still think the hammerhead shark head piece is genius. That’s about it, though, as the rest feels like a minimum effort on LEGO‘s part that doesn’t live up to expectations.

Six O’Clock Shadow – LEGO Avatar, Toruk Makto & Tree of Souls (75574)

Birthdays are always nice and being gifted a bunch of Amazon vouchers is even better, so the stars aligned and I was able to afford myself the LEGO Avatar Toruk Makto & Tree of Souls (75574) package despite it being way over my usual budget. As I explained in my previous article on the subject the movie is a bit of a guilty pleasure and as I also already mentioned there I simply like the colorful nature of the whole thing. So I couldn’t resist temptation and committed to it – not just for this review, but because I really wanted to have it.

LEGO Avatar, Toruk Makto & Tree of Souls (75574), Box

Pricing and Contents

As the biggest set of the first Avatar wave of course this doesn’t come cheap and as usual LEGO are trying to milk the cow by adding a premium because it’s based on licensed IP. The original asking price for this is 150 Euro, which is way too much for 1212 pieces if you apply the conventional metric of 10 Cent per piece. Luckily you don’t have to let them get away with it as those sets are only mildly popular (people seem to want the unique minifigures and a few other things, but not necessarily the actual sets as a whole) and you can get decent discounts even from smaller retailers. I got mine for 111 Euro and currently with the Black Week/ Black Friday promos I’ve seen it drop below 100 Euro. This is reasonable, but nor perfect.

Realistically I feel this is more around the 80 Euro mark, with the point being that despite getting quite a bit of volume on the individual models, a lot of it has to do with the lofty nature of those builds. Yes, the tree is quite large (and so is the Toruk), but that’s mostly down to using some very large/ long elements enclosing/ circumscribing lots of open space. My “kitchen table photo studio” was almost to small to accommodate everything and I had to touch up a few spaces at the edges where I ran out of grey background, but individually each model feels pretty lightweight and like you’re not holding much in your hand. It’s really more that you have to be careful not to break off some dangle-y thing than the models being weighty.

LEGO Avatar, Toruk Makto & Tree of Souls (75574), Overview

Minifigures & Direhorse

As already mentioned, the minifigures for the Avatar series seem to be reasonably popular among collectors, a lot of which no doubt has to do with their unique appearance due to the blue skin and tall legs. With only for of them this package feels a bit understaffed not only because of the bigness of the set but also more generally based on what the set is supposed to represent. It could have done well with another three to five “generic Na’vi warrior” figures to deck out the scene. The characters in this line-up are Jake Sully again in a different warpaint, of course there’s also Neytiri and the two others are Tsu-Tey, the former’s ex-lover and Moat, the female chieftain of the tribe. The prints are distinct from those of the other sets and well-executed, which no doubt contributes why they are so coveted.

LEGO Avatar, Toruk Makto & Tree of Souls (75574), Minifigures

The animals of Pandora so far are seriously underrepresented aside from the big flying beasts and the Thanator, so it’s good to see that be expanded upon as well. I’m not saying that I’m a fan of the Direhorses, though. That whole Ant Eater like appearance and behavior with them licking honeydew from flowers just feels odd and of course the six legs just feel awkward and unnecessary. It has also always bugged me that conveniently these creatures have USB cables to connect with the Na’vi‘s minds. All of that is a bit hard to explain away and rationalize no matter how willing you are to suspend disbelief for the movie. The horse as such is just fine, but has zero posing options. It also looks a bit too uniformly colored for my taste and should have some more organic patterns, especially in the “mane” and the rear section as they can be seen in the film.

The Landscape Pieces

The landscapes of Pandora are their own character in the movie so it’s only appropriate that the corresponding LEGO sets also at least make some effort to render at least parts of it in brick-built form. I already mentioned the pros and cons of how well the translation into this miniature format works for me in my other review and this is no different here. While the landscapes are certainly colorful and other-worldly, they have very little to do with how this stuff is depicted in the movie. The building techniques are very restricted without any recognizable effort to actually re-create plants from the film and the color choices are not anywhere close to how most of this looks and feels. It’s all rather arbitrary and gives the impression of “As long as it looks different enough, it’s good enough.”.

This is still tolerable for the smaller pieces, but for me the wheels come of the cart on the big one. This is supposed to be the entry “gate” to the glade where the Tree of Souls resides and even if you’re only superficially familiar with the movie you will immediately recognize that it looks nothing like it does there. Many of the rock formations on Pandora clearly have the appearance of lava frozen along the magnetic field lines (due to the floating mountains and the Unobtanium) , which makes them look like actual arches. None of this is present here and one can’t help but feel that the designers didn’t even try. Yes, it would not have been easy, but there are enough curved/ arched elements in LEGO‘s portfolio to at least hint at this on some form.

On the bright side this large assembly is quite stable and thus easy to handle. You can literally just grab it in the middle and carry it around like a suitcase on its handle. This robustness is of course needed in order to perch the huge Toruk Makto on the short axle on the “floating” mountain piece.

LEGO Avatar, Toruk Makto & Tree of Souls (75574), Landscape, Large, With Toruk

Tree of Souls

The Tree of Souls is mostly a simple affair. It’s very obviously based on a Weeping Willow constructed from a bunch of arches, slopes and Technic connectors with the base being pieced together from different rounded and cropped corner plates. It’s really not too advanced or fancy and if you inspect the images closely you can see the simplicity of the build and the overall symmetry. It’s just disguised by the dangling boughs/ twigs and the cyan-green vines on the ground that represent the “magic” moss/ lichen used to transfer souls into a new body or revive someone.

Sadly it could have looked even better if LEGO had placed more emphasis on a consistent coloring. Especially the black parts on the tree trunk draw too much attention and overall there’s just a few too many different colors used with the real irony once more being that of course a lot of them were/ are available in Reddish Brown or could have been manufactured in this color. This is again this weird dichotomy with LEGO where somehow they seemingly cannot be bothered to consider these points even if sets like these would be more relevant to adult collectors that want things to look coherent than children who play with it.

The construction of the tree overall is rather tedious and after I was done with it, I didn’t feel like I wanted to finish the set that evening. It really helps to spread out the build process across multiple sittings on different days or else you get a bit aggravated. In particular the repetitive nature of plugging together the transparent antenna pieces is not very enjoyable and i even forgot some on the inner three petals. If you don’t know it, you won’t see it, though. Unfortunately it is nigh on impossible to make everything hang down perfectly straight. My gut feeling tells me that this would require treating the leave elements and the whip/ leash pieces with a hot air fan to relax them or bend them into place.

Toruk Makto

The Toruk Makto, which translates to The Last Shadow (because it’s the last thing you see before you die) is the evil big bad of the movie in terms of the animals. Unlike his scrawny distant cousins, the Banshees/ Ikrans, he’s a lot harder to catch and does not as easily bow to your will. That’s why anyone managing to do so is highly revered among the Na’vi. That of course is the only reason they are even willing to listen to him (or his remotely piloted Na’vi avatar clone, more precisely) after the big disaster of the Home Tree being destroyed by Quaritch and his goons.

The model of the indomitable creature is quite ginormous, not least of all due to the enormous wingspan. However, also the body has more “flesh” and is much more voluminous compared to the wiry Ikrans. This helps a lot to make it actually threatening and also presentable. It has real legs and the wingtips can be folded backwards. underneath it all is still an awful lot of Technic axles and connectors, though, which isn’t my favorite. It always reminds me that LEGO perhaps should have developed a Ribs & Spars system not just for this, but also for their Ninjago dragons and similar. You know, something that looks more like natural bones or bent swords, not ugly fat tubes.

There’s inevitably a dedicated new head piece and with the ones coming up in the second wave this shows that they invested quite a bit of design effort and money for the molds into this. The feet with the huge claws are quite a bit of building and feel massive. Interestingly enough, while absolutely not accurate to the film, this still feels natural. It only turns the logic of thee creature on its head a bit. Whereas in reality it would mostly use the claws to balance on rocks and trees or hang on walls, here it makes the Toruk look more like it would walk around on the ground as well similar to a dinosaur. Indeed a rare case of where the limitations of brick building still resulted in an accidental positive outcome.

While all this certainly sounds a lot more positive than the Ikrans, I’m still not convinced this is the best way to go about this. Somehow I can’t shake the feeling that if they had gone the full mile and created molds for the body and legs I would have liked it more and even perched the creature on my shelf. Sorry for the language, but this seems a bit half-assed and even more so given the price.

Pieces from another Planet

As you well know one of my considerations for buying a set is the potential harvest of pieces I can add to my own stock, in particular new ones and interesting recolored items, and in this regard the set offers quite a bit. The most visible new elements are inevitably the ones on the Tree of Souls such as the Trans Dark Pink antennas, the Lavender leashes/ vines and the Light Aqua clips and tail/ Bionicle spine pieces. Underneath it also has one of the newer 8 x 8 round plates in Reddish Brown. I also babbled on about the new column piece in my last article and it appears here in Trans Clear, which will be super useful for building nice presentation stands. Of course there’s also the new whip/ connector cable pieces in Black and Bright Light Blue. The Toruk has a few hidden surprises. One of them is the inverted rounded plate for the first time in Red plus there’s a completely new double-curved 4 x 6 slope piece.

Concluding Thoughts

Compared to the two smaller Avatar sets I reviewed earlier this has been a much more satisfying experience overall. You’re actually getting a bit of volume of stuff and everything looks reasonably nice. The only thorn in my side is the price or else I’d give this a full recommendation. At 80 Euro or thereabouts this would be some nice fodder for multiple evenings during the winter, but at double the price this doesn’t really work out. It’s simply too costly for what it offers and in particular people who have no relation to the movies nor a love for weirdly colored parts won’t get much out of it.

That said, I still believe these sets would work better if LEGO had just made them as nice display sets for adults instead pretending they would be play sets for kids, most of which likely never even won’t get to see the movies due to their age rating. The models are a bit too fragile for serious play and the functions too limited to really make it worthwhile. The thought of a five year old running around with the monstrous Toruk is equally odd, though it would probably be funny. so for what it’s worth, LEGO missed the mark on both these fronts. Again, this is for fans of the movie, but won’t hold much appeal for the uninitiated while at the same time being unsuitable for kids.