This year isn’t necessarily a good year for LEGO fans in that due to the ongoing Corona virus crisis a lot of sets are in short supply and thus you either have a hard time to get them at all or at least getting them with an ounce of discount. At least I regularly feel quite stressed out from hunting for low prices, which in my situation is an inevitable thing. That’s why actually being able to purchase the LEGO Friends Panda Jungle Tree House (41422) was a bit of a pain in the rear parts.
Contents and Pricing
Next to the Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421) this is the second cheapest set of this year’s jungle-themed series. At 30 Euro it isn’t that terribly costly, but of course it’s always good to save a buck or two and so I got it for 23 Euro. I’m willing to concede that buying it for full price isn’t beyond the realm of possibility without feeling bad, though. The reason for this naturally has to be that the contents of the package are adequate, meaning you need to feel like you got your money’s worth. this is definitely the case here.
Aside from the main attraction, the three Panda babies, you are getting two minidoll figures, some small side builds and the main build, which is some sort of office built on top of a tree stump with a sizable piece of “land” around it. Simply put, there’s enough volume/ bulk to the set to not feel like you got a bad deal.
Figures and Animals
The Mia and Olivia minidolls are unique to this set. That is if you do not have the funds or do not want the two “big” sets, the Jungle Rescue Base (41424) and the Alpaca Mountain Jungle Rescue (41432), where one in each of them is also used, respectively. The prints and designs are okay, but even so this doesn’t change the fact that the minidolls still look all to same-y to me and overall this is getting a bit stale and boring. I think they really need to throw in more alternative characters and at the very least change the hairstyles every now and then.
The pandas are of course cute and on top of their dual-molded black and white bodies have some fine print details. You get two standard versions with green eyes that in my mind are girls and a third one with blue eyes and bushy eyebrows that has soiled himself while being fed, which I imagine could be a rambunctious boy. The specks and splotches are likely supposed to represent some sort of porridge or similar.
Unfortunately those Tan colorations aren’t as visible as one would conclude from the photo. They are much fainter in real life and depending on the lighting are barely noticeable or look like actual dirt stains. I feel that a different color would have made them stand out more and a different shaping like for instance a contiguous drip/ drool pattern would have looked better.
On that note, it would have been nice if there was at least a third eye color like Dark Orange to make each Panda distinctly its own. Ideally there also would have been a walking version, but I guess expecting them to produce another mold would be too much.
The small Stuff
The side builds are not that extraordinary or unusual, in the Friends world at least. You get yet another version of a hand-pulled cart, a seesaw and a small scale for weighing the Pandas. Really nothing you haven’t seen before with the only “highlight” being the inclusion of an extra separate bamboo stalk.
The main Build
The main build/ building is the tree or more specifically the decapitated remnants thereof with the office built on top of it. A first glance also immediately shows what bothers me the most in this set: the Dark Pink slide and ladder. No, this has nothing to do with wrong expectations for realism – after all, I’ve bought enough Friends sets in my life already to know that weird colors are part of the game – but here it really feels out of place and forced for no good reason.
I suppose the actual point indeed is that these elements could have been in the traditional yellow and the model therefore had been all the better for it. Of course I’m not denying that in an ideal world at least the ladder would be Reddish Brown, Medium Nougat or Black like in so many other sets, but hey, one can’t have everything. Still, I maintain that the pink color is perhaps not ideal, no matter how you spin it.
One good thing that contributes to this model feeling “rich” is that it’s pretty decked out with greenery and in addition has a lot of smaller details in the right places, providing an overall nice balance. It doesn’t feel too overstuffed and cluttered, but also not too barren. Even more importantly everything remains quite accessible despite those details, including the fact that those bits and pieces are reasonably fixated to not fall off if your hand gets near them. This is a feat not often achieved in a good chunk of Friends sets, so props to that.
The office area is built on a semi-open deck and in its reduced, yet slightly chaotic layout is likely pretty close to how it could exist in the real world as an improvised daytime surveillance shelter on a platform somewhere up in the trees. It doesn’t really offer much beyond that.
The backside of the model allows access to the hollow tree underneath the office and even has a bed-like area, which is unfortunately a bit uninspired and only presented with flat tiles. That being the case, I’d almost prefer they had designed this area as a utility shed/ storage and thrown in some stuff to put in there. In fact having a wheelbarrow would have made perfect sense for cleaning up the Panda poop in addition to the shovel and broom and I’m sure you could have fitted in some other little gimmicks as well.
Another interesting little detail is the bathtub/ trough. They even went through the trouble of not only adding a bunch of pearlescent 1 x 1 tiles for the “water” and a smoke puff for the foam, but also threw in a Yellow 1 x 1 tile for the washing sponge.
A small thing that kinda bugs me, and you can call me silly and obsessive for it, are the bamboo stalks. Don’t misunderstand – they are fine as they are – but still could have been done better, at least in my opinion.
What I’m specifically aiming at are the actual growth segments inbetween the knots, represented here with Sand Green cones. in my thinking this would have made a perfect use case for the new candle elements introduced a while ago. Naturally, with bamboo just being oversized grass, the optics would have benefited immensely from a more slender appearance.
The actual point, however, to me is that this technique would have allowed for more stalks and also potentially building some very long ones as well. This wouldn’t have been as limiting as only allowing two cones height for stability reasons (The stalks are not reinforced with bars inside!). And of course going entirely crazy you could even have represented different growths/ ages by varying the colors from Lime Green to Dark Green and anything inbetween. I really think LEGO need to do this one day. The idea is just too cool to me!
After my long and trying journey to even get the set, I’m quite satisfied having bought it. Within the limits of the weirdness that is LEGO Friends this isn’t all that bad and if I were serious about integrating this into a greater jungle scenario/ play world, it would be a good basis and not too difficult to swap out the more colorful parts or just leave them out for a more realistic look. Of course it’s also true that with just a few more pieces and a few changes here and there this could have been positively awesome.
Overall I’m not complaining, though. The build process was reasonably enjoyable, I got a few useful parts and the theme as a whole is not bad, as much as I may have wished for a continuation of the oceanic rescue series from last year. Now I only need to figure out how to get my hands on the other sets from the series without ruining my finances…