I still haven’t seen Raya and the Last Dragon, but with its release on DVD/ Blu-Ray and digital download last week chances of that are increasing, now that it’s no longer chained to Disney +. In the meantime I won’t let this stop me from buying some of the sets, regardless, and so I ended up with Boun’s Boat (43185) as I hinted at in the comments of my first article on the movie tie-ins.
Contents and Pricing
It may be a tiring refrain, but yes, of course on the face of it these Disney sets are way, way overpriced even when compared to other already expensive LEGO stuff. In this particular case this means that you would have to pay 50 Euro full price for a measly 247 pieces. True, there are many recognizably big ones, but at the same time there are just as many small 1 x 1 elements. So whichever way you try to bend the math, it just doesn’t add up and there’s no acceptable median value here. 23 Cent a piece would indeed not be much for a large shell piece, but it’s a hell of a lot for a 1 x 1 cheese slope. Say what you will, the price sucks.
Things only get slightly better with discounts, as retailers/ reseller naturally are limited by what they have to pay as wholesale price. The cheapest I’ve seen this set go for is 33 Euro and I got mine for 35 Euro, so that is pretty much what you can expect, barring some crazy flash sale or clearance. The financial metric otherwise only improve ever so slightly, but are still not great. That said, at least you get some decently sized builds out of it, so the perceived bulk/ volume is okay within the described limitations.
Figures and Animals
One of the reasons I even remotely considered this set are the apes. I knew that even if you could buy them separately somewhere like on Bricklink, it would likely be just as expensive as buying the whole set. You know, due to the price and other factors those sets get only parted-out in limited numbers and their contents therefore don’t proliferate widely, meaning you could only ever buy them from a bunch of dealers. Combine that with the fact that coveted items like animals are either not at all available at LEGO‘s official Bricks & Pieces service or sell out quickly, chances of ever getting these critters using other routes diminish considerably. That may be one of the strongest arguments pro buying this set, crazy as it sounds.
Anyway, the three ape characters called Ongi are named Uka, Pan and Dyan and very obviously stand in for the stereotypical comedy trio (in same order): the small, smart one, the lazy fat one who’s a willing adjutant to the wannabe boss and ultimately said boss who isn’t half as smart as he thinks. Due to my lack of knowledge of the movie I have no idea how they figure into the story, but I’m sure they somewhat predictably play some role in procuring one of the artifacts, be that as competitors or aides to Sisu and Raya. They could just as well also merely be set dressing on one of the temples or the floating market.
On that note, if you want a bigger crowd of apes (as is usually their way), you can at least get Uka also in the Raya and the Ongi’s Heart Lands Adventure (30558) polybag. So having a temple ruin swarming with apes like you find them in many Asian countries is certainly a possibility.
The “human” protagonists are a bit boring, as Sisu‘s human form forced into the limitations of a minidoll really doesn’t convey the slight wackiness of her character. At least that can already be easily verified by watching the trailer and promotional snippets. LEGO also didn’t really go out of their way here with making a really frizzled hair piece or hinting at the wild mix of lavender, pink and purple with some airbrush work like on Sweet Mayhem‘s shimmering hair piece from The LEGO Movie 2. Boun is okay and certainly will also make a welcome addition to Heartlake City, given how few male characters there are in LEGO Friends, let alone ones with colored skin. The short pants in Bright Light Orange would also be of interest for customizing other minidolls such as Andrea or Joanna as it appears that this color hasn’t been done before.
One of the things that shall forever elude my comprehension (a.k.a. my understanding of common sense) is the extensive use of stickers in a set aimed primarily at nine-year-olds, especially such large ones. I’m not saying that it is impossible for girls and boys at that age to apply them perfectly, it’s just dang hard if they don’t get any assistance from parents and older siblings. The thing that upsets me the most is that even the various small flags aren’t printed. Similarly, the pillars/ supports for the roof might have looked great with the weave texture already printed on, ideally even on the concave insides for optical consistency. As usual I haven’t applied any of these buggers, but it would have been a major annoyance to do so.
There are two small side builds in this set. The first of them is a golden canoe/ paddle boat and there’s really not much to say about it, given that it uses the well-known singular solid mold that has existed for a good while. I’m pretty sure it looks completely different in the movie, though, so perhaps this is really a bit lazy.
The other model is a bit of wooden pier that from the looks of it is also inhabited/ controlled by the Ongi and presumably also plays a role in some heist/ chase scene in the movie or something like that. Again, I’m totally clueless as to what hijinx ensue and just spitballing. This little build looks okay, but overall feels rather amateurish in the sense that it’s lacking any finesse and feels like your kid could have come up with it by him-/herself. It’s the most basic vertical stacking. Hence stability isn’t that great, especially with the two base plates which are literally held together by a single 2 x 4 tile. That’s just not good building style.
A small positive surprise in all this are the two barrels, which are in Reddish Brown as opposed to the more widely available Dark Brown. Nothing revolutionary, but considering that there was a seven year lull where they weren’t in any new sets and you had to get them from second hand markets like Bricklink it’s still nice to see them pop up again, be it just for the convenience of obtaining them “incidentally” when buying a set.
The boat is just a weird contraption with my biggest regret here being that very apparently it manages to capture the style of these Asian river boats very well, but does not make much of an effort to go all the way in with more details and different construction methods. It realyl relies way too much on those large single pieces for my taste, be that the boat hull, the supports or the roof. All of these could have benefited from being built up or at least bolstered by some smaller parts. This would have allowed for an even better representation of some surface curves and also helped stability.
I’m really quite miffed about the protrusions on the side to widen/ thicken the hull being only attached to a 1 x 4 SNOT brick. You can easily break them off. Similar things could be said for some of the visible gaps under the roof and a few other areas. Some of that could have been avoided with a more granular building style using smaller elements. Nothing spectacular in fact, just a few bits here and there that act as fills where there is too much open space.
At the same time there is a weird dichotomy here in that someone invested quite a bit of effort into “branding” the boat as a shrimp/ crayfish fishing boat. The large prawn on the top is simple, but efficient as are the details on the side using the yellow croissant and feathers. It’s amazing that they even spent their budget on having the parts manufactured in those colors exclusively for this set. Arguably of course that’s also the reason why the rest is lacking in places because the budget ran out. See what happened there? That may also explain the “color vomit” elsewhere, i.e. using parts in other colors that would have required to also be produced in the new, matching color variants such as the hinges to which the large blades are attached. there’s always a trade-off.
In terms of play features there’s not much going on in this set. In fact I was puzzled when I realized that this set doesn’t even have the usual inverted dish knobs/ plates to make it glide more smoothly over surfaces and to stabilize connections from the underside. You can still use it this way of course, just with a little less robustness and a greater risk of the loops from carpets getting tangled on sharp edges. There’s a small cargo hold/ hiding place in the ship’s hull, and no, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. Those bright reddish-orange-y squares are indeed the ends of some Coral 1 x 6 tiles used inside. See my “color vomit” comment.
This set is pretty clearly one of two different mindsets clashing with one another. There’s a tangible schism between a reasonably large and solid play set versus a more detailed replica of the actual in-movie item to put on display. Unfortunately the set does not fully succeed at either and so we once more get a somewhat tepid, half-baked result where you somehow can’t help but wonder what might have been.
Having prints instead of stickers for several items alone would have gone a long way to improving the situation and would have served both sides. Building on that, some more fine details, consistent color use and substituting a few large solid parts for more refined buildable sub-assemblies could have taken it to a whole new level on the presentation side without sacrificing too much playability. It’s really regrettable that we ended up with such a mish-mash that can’t decide what it wants to be.
Overall this is not the most terrible model I’ve come across in my time, but it’s just not particularly good, either. I would only reluctantly recommend it and the usual disclaimers and caveats apply: Only get it if your kid insists or you get some specific other value out of it and when you do, get it the cheapest way possible. It’s definitely not worth 50 Euro and the exclusive Bright Light Orange items and the Ongi figures can’t justify that, either.