Mr. Green Plastic Thumb – LEGO Creator Orchid (10311) and Succulents (10309)

One of my weird obsessions as a 3D graphics artist always has been the exploration of how to create plants, landscapes and complex organic structures and in a way, this has carried over to my LEGO activities as well. However, there were and are severe limitations in what you can do in terms of availability of suitable elements and their colors, something which really only has improved notably in recent years. That and due to my artsy inclinations I always had some reservations about tacky decoration kitsch.

That’s why I took a dim view on last year’s Bonsai Tree (10281) and Flower Bouquet (10280). They both looked a bit rough around the edges, though I eventually bought the flower bouquet for parts when it was cheap. This year’s second iteration of the theme by ways of the Orchid (10311) and Succulents (10309) looked a bit more interesting and refined, so I decided early on to get them and exploit the opportunity to create a review for your pleasure. Will they hold up to expectations or are they just another parts pack for other projects? Let’s find out!

LEGO Creator, Orchid (10311), BoxLEGO Creator, Succulents (10309), Box

Contents and Pricing

Both sets have a suggested retail price of 50 Euro for 608 and 776 pieces respectively and while on paper this may sound like a good value, the real world metrics turn out quite differently. There are several factors that contribute to this.

For one, the final size and (perceived) volume of the finished models is notably different. The orchid is large and quite sizable while the orchids even when arranging all of them in a single layout look tiny. This is in part intentional due to what they are supposed to represent, but also a case of many small parts simply not providing the amount of bulk. At the same time, just having nine modules just doesn’t feel enough.

The other thing is that the orchid is widely available from a variety of vendors and retailers whereas the succulent set is not. As a result, you get discounts on one, but not the other and unfortunately my sentiment is that the situation is not ideal and kind of the opposite of what it should be – a cost-efficient small set for the equally diminutive succulents and cacti and a larger set for the orchid. In fact doing so might even have allowed for an even lusher, more decked out version of the orchid or perhaps an alternate color variant. In this case I wouldn’t even have minded paying a few bucks extra.

That said, I of course fully understand why LEGO decided to have things this way. Orchids simply have a much broader, more generic appeal to a lot of people and in line with their adult-centric strategy trying to rope in new customers it makes sense as whatever discounts are given is offset by the sheer number of items sold. Still, it would have been nice if things were more even and both sets would be available through regular channels where you could get them for around 35 Euro, the now established market price for these sets. Still, even then the succulents set would feel costly. The content in there is more like it should have cost that price to begin with and then it could drop to around 25 Euro after discounts.

The Orchid

It may sound pretentious, but I had this idea for an orchid for years myself. When I built the Scout Trooper & Speeder Bike (75532) and later disassembled it, I of course had the shoulder pad elements in my hand and dang, didn’t they look like flower petals? But you know how it is – I always wanted to buy some more of these pieces off Bricklink, but never committed myself and kept pushing the idea further and further into the future.

One of the reasons inevitably was that I never could quite figure out how to fixate the elements because this little beauty only came out much later and other elements that could hold those pins at the time also were not available or at least not available in colors that would be useful to this project. After all, even the Bright Pink 1 x 1 cones were only introduced a while ago. The same goes for various other elements that would be needed for leaves, stalks, roots and buds. So to cut my long story short: Things never gelled in a manner that would have satisfied me and I ultimately abandoned the project.

Alas, someone at LEGO must have had similar thoughts and only waited for the right time to do it, so here we are with the Orchid (10311) set.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the model actually matches the size of a smaller real world specimen of the Phalaenopsis (butterfly orchid) quite well. It even holds up next to my mom’s collection of these plants, but it is important to keep in mind that this is an idealized version, regardless. The actual plants tend to be less compact and often only have a single stem with blossoms as that apparently is how most people prefer it. You could re-create something similar by simply connecting the various sub-sections of the branches differently. In fact there are already a few examples on show on one of the first few pages of the instruction manual. Implementing these changes might require a bit of patience. Even if it’s all just Technic connectors, 2L axles and pins and technically simple to do it may take some time before you arrive at something that looks “nice”.

There are three types of leaves on this model with the larger ones being constructed from large wedge pieces and the smaller ones being recolored helicopter windshields. It’s really as straightforward as it gets, but it comes of the cost of in particular the large elongated leave with the 10 x 3 wedges at the base not being very robust. They’re only connected to the top half with a few studs and that goes doubly for the pin hinge as well. Trying to move them and change the arrangement makes them come off easily. Not the end of the world, just a bit annoying. Also note how the leaves are stacked on top of each other like on the actual plant, which may also require some tugging and pulling so the placement looks organic.

The ends of the branches bring a little surprise in that the grass stem piece has been done in Dark Green for the first time ever, which is one of those weird things where people tend to think that this has been the case for forever, given how long this element has been around. It definitely makes for a welcome addition to any builder’s arsenal.

Looking at the blossom it pretty much becomes immediately clear why it might have been difficult to create it in LEGO in the past. First and most noticeable of course are the various pink elements for the core and lower lip, be that the Bionicle claw elements in Bright Pink, the Dark Pink “cross” gear and of course the Magenta frog. Once you actually have them available, everything seems quite simple and almost naturally falls into place. Having the central gear element allows to plug in all sorts of bar elements, including the integrally molded short stubs on the petals and this opens up all sorts of possibilities. Again, trying to not sound too pompous, but perhaps one might argue that if the gear had existed in this color I may have invested more energy in coming up with something orchid-like myself.

The smaller intermediary petals are a whole different story and while the result looks excellent and works, I don’t necessarily think that this is the best solution, though I would back this up with a disclaimer that coming up with something different would require quite some experimentation and might in fact be just as clunky. That ultimately is my point here: the thing seems overly involved and is reliant on – shall we say – a rather creative use of an element only recently introduced. I do get the logic in abstract engineering terms, but I firmly believe there could have been another way. The way it’s done does make for a very repetitive assembly and since the small fork was never really intended to be used in this fashion there is a lot of variability across the board. Some petals fit very tightly and make for a stable connections, others more loosely, making them wobble around. this state of affairs is somewhat unsatisfactory. At the very least there should be more spares of the fork so the user can pick the best ones for his build.

LEGO Creator, Orchid (10311), Detail Medium BlossomThe “halfway there” versions of the blossoms are a neat little touch and put the Demogorgon head from the Stranger Things the Upside Down (75810) companion set to good use in a different color and with an alternate print. In fact way back then I already quipped in a comment on some blog that the head would make for a wonderful flesh-eating plant. Sometimes things work in mysterious ways! A minor complaint here would be that the actual center could have an underprint in a darker color like Dark Tan or Yellowish Green to give it more depth and also give credence to the fact that in those stages the blossom doesn’t appear perfectly white yet.

LEGO Creator, Orchid (10311), Blossoms Cluster

These orchids are potted in a variety of substrates ranging from white pebbles to sandy soil to the “mulch” (shredded tree bark, sometimes also partially composted) LEGO went with for this set. It doesn’t really matter much to the plant as it extracts a good chunk of moisture from the air, so this is mostly a matter of personal preference and aesthetics. In this set it is also simply a way to cover up the underlying Technic construction with a few random bits. The Dark Brown “claw” slopes are a new addition to my collection since they’ve only recently been introduced, but the rest is just standard stuff.

LEGO Creator, Orchid (10311), Detail Mulch

The outer shell of the pot is assembled from a number of slopes and plates in Sand Blue, which by itself is already a nice and soothing color. This is further helped by those roof slopes having a textured, matte surface, giving the whole surface a classy silky sheen and making it look high value. A few other colors like plain old Tan would work just as well here if you’re looking for alternatives. For my taste there could be more aerial roots and perhaps in a different color as well. The two Olive Green ones used here look a bit too much as if they’re freshly grown and for an older specimen there would be many more, but looking in brownish or greyish colors.

The internal construction is pretty clever and elegantly bypasses some of the issues you would have by using four round plates with pin hole bricks attached and rotating them in pairs of two so they mutually cover the gaps of the other in order to allow attaching the liftarms, effectively doubling the number of available slots to which the ridges then are plugged on seamlessly.

The Succulents

The Succulents (10309) set clearly is LEGO‘s attempt to capitalize on the trend of simulating “micro gardening”, i.e. breeding small plants in a limited space and keeping them that way with meticulous trimming and managing their growth conditions. It’s apparently a hobby that is popular in many of the overcrowded big cities of the world where living space is at a premium and you can’t dedicate a lot of it to your greenery. As a “late to the party” set this one almost instantaneously struck me as the lesser of the two packages discussed here. It’s just a bit too obvious and not very original. Even so, they could have made this something special by employing fancy building techniques or using exclusive parts, but that didn’t pan out, either. That is to say: If you have seen competitors’ versions or MOCs you already know what’s coming next.

LEGO Creator, Succulents (10309), Overview

Before we proceed to the individual plants, a word on the pots/ trays: Regrettably LEGO did not bother to genuinely design a nice presentation arrangement of e.g. columns with different heights, so everything is flat. Since every module is identical, in theory you should be able to arrange them in whatever shape you want – in theory. That’s where things pretty much fall apart as effectively there’s only so many layouts you can create without the plants overlapping and pushing each other to the side. That alone should have been incentive for a stacked presentation where overhanging plants could simply occupy the higher levels without disturbing anything. What further compounds this issue is that even on a working layout you may have to leave large gaps and you cannot create a compact, uniform “block”. This defeats the idea of being able to freely place the modules.

The other thing that is very irksome is the uniformity of the modules and their ever same build. While this facilitates the assembly (you simply always repeat the first few steps), it makes for dull building. That and the many axle holes you end up with because there is no provision to substitute the modified bricks with solid ones. Would have throwing in an extra 40 or 50 1 x 2 bricks killed LEGO? It seems so unnecessarily petty and measly. And again, at the risk of beating this to death, having extra layers of bricks to vary the height of each box would have been very welcome.

Though most other plants are simply variations on the five gigazillion Echeveria types, the first one is an Aloe put together from various claw elements as you regularly find them on dragon models e.g. in Ninjago. At a fleeting glance it looks okay, but if you look closer the shortcomings become apparent. The spikes are really too short and don’t touch the bottom, their hollow undersides can look weird and – disappointing, but predictable – LEGO did once more not put in the effort to recolor all elements.

The first in the Echeveria department is a yellow one whose only special feature is the use of a new slightly curved ridge slope. Otherwise it hasn’t much to offer and if you’re serious about the matter, even the color is kind of wrong as this probably should be a mix of Bright Light Yellow, Regular Yellow and Yellowish Green to better reflect the pale yellow with a green tinge appearance of the original.

The Chicken & Hen Echeveria is a prime example why competing products beat this set flat hand. Most of the examples I’ve seen have more leaves to begin with and often a fourth or fifth row/ ring. They’re much more massive. Also, as the name implies, this species spreads easily and appears in clusters, so there could have been two or three side by side in a larger container.

The violet versions is certainly different stylistically, but does not spell Echeveria, either. It’s just not dense enough and looks too much like the blossom of a conventional flower. That in itself could be of course a sneaky way of using the elements here. Four of them plugged into the pink gear from the orchid (or the longer existing yellow version of that piece) combined with some decorations could make for an interesting fictitious flower.

Next on the list is a Sedum, a relative of the Echeverias but apparently it’s so young it only has grown one ring segment yet. It doesn’t really do the plant justice, at it grows very quickly and forms large clusters and it should really have at least one or two more levels. A few people got totally worked up about the classic Forestmen hats, so there’s that at least.

Back to Echeverias, we have the biggest one in this set, the red variant. The intense coloration is a sign of the plant’s age and exposure to strong sun light, so it’s not technically correct that the young leaves in the middle are already completely red. This is also detrimental in that they barely stand out. A different color certainly would have helped. On that note: One thing I completely miss is a blossoming stalk on one of the Echeverias. This is not uncommon and in particular on this Dark Red one a pale green stem with some yellow or orange blossoms would have provided a nice contrast and added interest.

The Burro Tail (Donkey Tail) is perhaps the most original plant in this whole set due to using the eggs in Yellowish Green. The scale and density are not realistic, but it still looks pretty cool.

LEGO Creator, Succulents (10309), Ball CactusThe small ball cactus is one of those “My kid could have done it!” models that are so simple it literally doesn’t contribute much to the overall value



LEGO Creator, Succulents (10309), Moon CactusThe moon cactus, a strawberry cactus grafted on another, more robust species like an Euphorbia is perhaps the most “LEGO like” model in the whole set, meaning that it actually has some bulk and does not just rely on a few shapes creating the illusion of something being there.


In summary, the models in this set are serviceable, but also somewhat tedious and frustrating. My biggest peeve is that they never feel “real”. By that I don’t mean “realistic” but rather that I felt like a fraud and cheat already when putting them together because I knew it was all utter illusion painting with very little substance. It’s also clear that LEGO opted for the bare minimum in this package and while I’m sure the designers have many more pretty awesome prototype models in their vault, none of them appear to have made it into the final release.

Concluding Thoughts

The final verdict is a matter of two completely opposite judgments. The Orchid (10311) is a nice little set and illustrates what you can do with LEGO elements when you choose your subject thoughtfully. It’s about right in size and proportions and from a distance really almost looks like a natural plant. Combined with the fact that overall it feels like you’re getting a good volume of stuff and it is available in broad retail where you can expect some discounts, it’s really worth a consideration.

The same cannot be said for the Succulents (10309) whose illusion quickly falls apart except when you really, really are far away or e.g. a window frame obstructs the view and hides the “ugly” parts. In addition the value to price proposition is disastrous once you consider that half of the pieces go toward building the little black boxes and auxiliary stuff that does not necessarily contribute to the appearance. Worse yet, since it’s exclusive to LEGO and some premium partners at this point you end up paying way too much for some flimsy, tiny plants that don’t even look particularly realistic.

This problem is further compounded by another fact of life: LEGO is late to the “plants & flowers” game and there are literally tons of alternatives from some Chinese manufacturers based on licensed or ripped of MOCs or their own creations. I will not say that you should support bad business practices, but not only are some of them much more dense and offer more parts and details, but ultimately it’s also worth considering whether you are ready to let an expensive 50 Euro set catch dust on your window sill or a 15 Euro one. Even if LEGO tried to evade exactly this scenario by introducing a few unique ways of creating plants it’s just not worth the price of admission.

So in summary I would definitely recommend the orchid in a heartbeat, but I would caution against the succulents. Maybe it gets better if and when it comes into free distribution via regular retail channels, but for the time being it pretty much only makes sense as a complementary set if you already have exhausted other options or if you want the specialized parts.

More Magic – LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202)

I certainly don’t go out of my way to be a completist when it comes to buying every set in a specific LEGO theme or sub-series of that theme nor do I have the money for it, anyway, but occasionally I do try to “catch them all”, as they say in Pokémon. With the Disney Encanto sets that is easy enough, as there effectively only are three – the “door” sets I showed you last week and now this little gem, The Madrigal House (43202).

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Box

Contents and Pricing

The set retails for 50 Euro, and yes since this review is still pretty close to the release to its initial release on December 1st, I paid way too much, meaning full price. During pre-Christmas season one has to keep one’s expectations low, anyway, as due to demand and limited availability discounts aren’t as massive as other times of the year. That and you inevitably always pay a premium on those licensed sets to begin with. Once this craziness is over you should expect this set to be available for around 35 Euro pretty steadily with occasional dips to 30 Euro or even lower.

Aside from the main building the set does not contain much else except the figures, which for me is a good thing. I really do not like LEGO wasting too much of the parts allocation on weird side builds and much prefer that every brick and plate goes into a more decked out main build. Others may have a different opinion on that, of course. That being the case I’m not too upset about having paid full price. Shaving off those 10 or 15 Euro would have been nice, but at least everything goes into a single model that feels decently “weighty” in terms of what you get. If it wasn’t for so many 1 x 1 pieces gobbling up a good part of the budget it could have offered even more value and been bigger.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Overview

Figures and Stickers

There are only three figures in this set with Abuela, the grandmother, and Mirabel being presented in minidoll format and Antonio as the youngest and smallest child appropriately being a micro doll. It might have been nice had there been two characters more, as my impression from the movie snippets I’ve seen is that this house is just bustling with activity. In particular one of the other male characters might have been interesting. and yes, undeniably I can only reinforce my point about the Capybara having deserved its own new mold instead of being a hamster in disguise.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Figures

The figure line-up also already illustrates one of the reasons why this set attracted me – a slew of elements in new colors and some exclusive prints. This is not least illustrated by the matriarch’s timepiece, Mirabel‘s accordion built from a Bright Green corrugated brick and some printed 1 x 2 tiles and then there’s the small 2 x 2 brick-sized container in Dark Turquoise for the first time as well.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Stickers

There’s a sizable sticker sheet and while none of the pieces are essential, it would have been nice to see at least one ore two of the more reusable patterns as an actual print like the gift packaging for the small box (no. 10) for instance.

The House

Naturally, the main attraction is the house itself and its over-the-top colorfulness certainly plays a big part. The structure of the building is not an exact replica of the movie version. Technically it can’t be, anyway, as the house due to its magical properties keeps changing and shifting around. So rather than trying the impossible, this tries to capture the overall feel and spirit more than specific details

The house is relatively compact, which is both a positive and negative. It’s a bit on the bad side as it doesn’t come anywhere close to representing the impressive size of the building in the film. The good thing about it is that the proportions are nice and unlike for many larger models where eight studs of depth would appear too shallow, here it just feels right. Could and should everything have been larger? I definitely think so, but overall this just feels right.

Delving into the details, there’s tons of interesting things to discover. The most apparent of these are the various roof elements, for which the 1 x 1 curved slope is introduced in Dark Red for good effect. This no doubt will become popular for all sorts of people building houses. A small annoyance is that most of the roof segments are attached with hinges, but not all of them have actual stops. this means that it’s easy to accidentally put them at a different angle and you often have to correct this for a consistent nice look.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Detail Door

One of the many new elements making a first appearance in the LEGO world is the new 3 x 3 quarter round tile, used to good effect as the arch on the door frame. It can also be found in the rainbow on the turn-able chimney in the images further up. The door, on the other hand, is one of the few real gripes I have with this set. It’s not the arch in fact, but rather the pillars. They are stacked up from three 1 x 1 x 1 bricks each, but have no further anchorage on the wall, which makes them very wiggly and flimsy. It’s simply not safe for kids to play. This is even more frustrating as there would have been ways to integrate extra brackets or build the frame entirely with studs-on-sides techniques directly on the wall with only minor changes.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Detail Escape HatchNot knowing the actual movie, the functionality of the escape hatch and the associated tilt-able bed on the inside eludes me, but I’m pretty sure it has some important role to play or else they wouldn’t have bothered with re-creating it.




The house follows a modular approach and thus each level can be separated and is built individually. The downside to that is that each of the blocks is in itself not the most stable until you actually cap it of with a layer of tiles. As you well know, this is one of my biggest frustrations with many Friends sets as well. If I had one free wish, I’d really ask LEGO to come up with a better solution to this dilemma. in the end, everything works, though and if you’re careful it is manageable to handle the modules without breaking them apart again.

The ground floor has some fake tiling with 2 x 2 jumper plates, providing ample space to place your figure in the kitchen area it’s supposed to represent. Otherwise there’s nothing all too fancy here. It really just is pretty much standard fare that only gets elevated by the unusual color choices.

This is pretty much continued on the first floor, only that it isn’t tiled over. I found the new watering can to be a nice addition (you will encounter it also in many Friends and City sets next year) and the couch has two of the new 1 x 2 inverted arch bricks only recently introduced on the Fender Stratocaster (21329) and giant Titanic (10294) in Reddish Brown.

LEGO Disney, The Madrigal House (43202), Top Floor

The top floor/ tower is the smallest of the individual sections. Personally I’m very thrilled about the welcome resurfacing of Yellowish Green elements. After demise of the Elves series LEGO have barely ever used this color except for some small 1 x 1 elements or things like the eyes and teeth in the Hidden Side sets. Granted, it’s a very bright color that draws all the attention to itself, but I find it a shame that it’s not used more often.

Concluding Thoughts

This is a wonderful little set that puts many others to shame. It’s bright and cheerful and offers an interesting variety. There are some weaknesses in the construction, but those can be mostly overlooked in favor of how much fun this model is. Knowing the movie might be useful to contextualize some of the details, though then again knowing too much of the story might have resulted in a more critical view. Either way, I simply like it and can only recommend this set.

Everything is magic? – LEGO Disney, Antonio’s and Isabela’s Magical Door (43200/ 43201)

It’s been a while since I reviewed the first batch of the LEGO Disney “storybooks”. There have been several others released in the meantime, but except for Elsa and the Nokk Storybook Adventures (43189), which I primarily got for the little horse and the other “ice” elements I mostly disregarded the other offerings. Only recently when the sets for the Encanto movie were announced, my interest was rekindled and I got myself Antonio’s (43200) and Isabela’s (43201) Magical Door. Let’s see what they have to offer.

Important Disclaimer: Due to regional lockdowns and cinemas being closed I have not yet seen the movie and all my knowledge about the story is pieced together from trailers, clips and reviews. Some errors may be unavoidable.

Contents and Pricing

Like so many sets aimed at the youngest of LEGO fans the value proposition for these boxes is in the most abstract sense not really good. I always thought the initial MSRP of 15 Euro for the first few outings was a stretch, but this became even more questionable when they raised it to 20 Euro.

Even if one can acknowledge that large pieces like the outer shells may incur a higher manufacturing cost, the actual content is rather thin, after all. So from where I sit, this really feels like it should not be that expensive and the 12 Euro after discount I bought my first boxes for really feel like the “real” price these things should cost. Otherwise it feels like you as the customer are punished to pay the extra cost for fancy packaging similar to what I wrote in my criticism of the VIDIYO BeatBoxes.

That said, of course there were some specific reasons for getting those two sets as I’m going to explain in the next few paragraphs and with a little bit of luck I got my two “doors” for 15 Euro each. That makes it more bearable, but it’s not really a good price for a meager 99 or 114 pieces, respectively. At the same time I do not expect the prices to drop that much further as no doubt these sets are already expensive wholesale and the vendors have little room to grant massive discounts. If one day you see this going for 13 Euro you should count yourself extremely lucky.

General Observations and Commonalities

As you know me, I often have ancillary motives when buying sets with checking out new and recolored parts being a major factor. This is also the case here with a plethora of new elements. It also is nice that for once I can present these boxes in a relatively timely manner, given that they’ve only been released at the beginning of December.

LEGO Disney, Isabela's and Antonio's Magical Door (43200/ 43201), Exteriors

The boxes themselves are another take on the updated version 2 introduced with one of the DOTS sets, the Secret Boxes (41925). Kind of a v 2.1, if you will, with the studs that were necessary for the DOTS product to work again having been removed. The layout of the remaining studs and ridges on the exterior is different as is the locking mechanism. The central 2 x 4 grid in the centers has been removed or, in a way, been offset to the side, serving now as the holder for the lock cover elements rather than holding a central decorative plaque as it was with the original version. However, as seen in the photo this redesign has one big advantage – it’s much easier to use almost full coverage prints on these shells because simply there’s no “hole” in the middle anymore.

LEGO Disney, Isabela's and Antonio's Magical Door (43200/ 43201), Stickers

This brings us to the thing that still most annoys me in pretty much any LEGO set – the extensive or even excessive use of stickers. On the bright side, these sets do work well enough without the stickers applied. Most of them are more or less optional, especially the myriad small ones inside the no. 4 sub-frame, many of which either are supposed to be applied to 2 x 2 tiles or just placed randomly on the insides of the boxes. Still, that doesn’t make things less annoying and in this case it is even really regrettable since some of the designs for the flower elements would be nice to have as genuine prints on tiles for decorating buildings or landscapes. Really a missed opportunity.

Antonio’s Magical Door (43200)

Apparently Antonio is the youngest of the Madrigal family and hasn’t quite made up his mind on what his magical powers are to be used for, so he’s shape-shifting around at whim to prank people and transforming into all sorts of animals to explore the wilderness and befriend other creatures.

LEGO Disney, Antonio's Magical Door (43200), Box

This relation to the South American jungle is expressed in the artwork printed on the front as well, but regrettably it also builds some expectation that is not met once you take at the look at the actual content.

LEGO Disney, Antonio's Magical Door (43200), Exterior

By that I mean that the wealth of animals depicted in the graphic is nowhere to be found. We get a jaguar cub, basically a re-branded tiger cub in a different color and with a different print, but that is pretty much where it stops being good. The supposed Capybara is just a reworked version of the mouse from the Cinderella carriage. What looked cute back then now only comes across as a lazy joke. Even compared to the tiny doll figures it looks undersized and at best would pass as a normal Guinea Pig, but the shape is still wrong. LEGO really should have invested into a custom mold or just left it out in favor of another animal.

LEGO Disney, Antonio's Magical Door (43200), Overview

Which brings us to a point. A major, major omission is the total absence of a Toucan, which is almost a cardinal sin, given that Antonio turns himself into one on several occasions from what I gather. It becomes even more disappointing once you figure in that exactly such an animal has just been revealed to be an extra in the upcoming Collectible Minifigures series 22. See?! That basically means they could have included it at little or no extra cost here, as the mold was already in the process of being made. They would only have had to give it a different print to not ruin it for the minifigure collectors! This very much extends to the other creatures as well. LEGO has molds for small snakes as well as large Anaconda-like ones (the Harry Potter Nagini recently also included in City set 60301) and of course there’s always the ages-old parrot.

LEGO Disney, Antonio's Magical Door (43200), Figures

The micro dolls of Antonio and Mirabel are nice and quite appealing with detailed and colorful prints. They also add some diversity to the otherwise mostly white Disney Princess figures in this size we got so far and there bodies could probably also be useful for customizing some Friends children of that size.

The buildable parts, while limited in number, certainly don’t fail to impress with how many unique ones actually are in the set, including several recolors making a premiere showing here. Some of the most notable are the 2 x 2 round tile with a stud (jumper) in Bright Green at last and of course the Magenta leaf elements. There’s also a decent helping of Dark Turquoise elements for those who haven’t bought any of the recent Ninjago sets (the Temple of the Endless Sea (71755) for instance) that heavily rely on this color.

Due to the limitations of the format of course there’s not that much volume of stuff, with most of it restricted to the central spine and barely anything sticking out left and right to not block the outer shells from closing. However, recognizably the designers made an effort to make things as complex and detailed as they possibly could within the constraints and they deserve some accolade for this even if you can never have enough trees and plants in a jungle scenario. That said, this could naturally be a point in itself: Perhaps a different type of set would have worked better to capture this particular story beat of the film.

Isabela’s magical Door (43201)

Isabel is “the flower lady” in the movie and man, does it show! LEGO went all in and made this set as bright and pink as they possibly could. This makes any decision on buying this set a very, very individual one, to put it mildly. Many outside the small kids demographic will likely be put off a bit and even some parents might be deterred by this all too girly-ish color scheme.

LEGO Disney, Isabela's Magical Door (43201), Box

The artwork on the cover is just as nice as Antonio‘s, but unlike that one it does not oversell what’s inside the box and does not promise anything it can’t keep (in a way).

LEGO Disney, Isabela's Magical Door (43201), Exterior

As already mentioned, this set is very colorful or even flamboyant,  with in particular the Coral and Dark Pink elements sticking out, interspersed with some Bright Pink, Medium Lavender and Bright Light Yellow. On that note: The butterflies are a new mold and if I do say so it’s about time we are getting some again. Except for the ones that came in the Friends hair accessories sets we haven’t had some in ages and it’s simply a nice way to enliven your scenes. I for one hope that we’ll get them in many more colors soon.

LEGO Disney, Isabela's Magical Door (43201), Overview

The micro dolls are Isabela, Luisa and again Mirabel herself, accompanied only by a pigeon and no other animals. Again there are some nice prints and the body pieces in particular would undoubtedly be useful for creating custom combinations with other heads.

LEGO Disney, Isabela's Magical Door (43201), Figures

Compared to Antonio’s set this one is more simple and straightforward, only representing a normal part of the house with a small kitchen section, a sleeping room and a make-up corner. They’re okay, but feel a bit generic like those mini builds you regularly find in the Friends and Disney Princess magazines. Seen it once, seen it all. It could have all a bit more elaborate or at least used some new techniques (and pieces).

A funny observation for this box is that despite it being flower-themed, there is actually not a single genuine flower plate in this set. It’s all handled with the leaf elements. That being the case I would have had no objections if this one also had a few Magenta ones, some in White or even other colors and not just Coral. Similar to how Isabela creates entire flowerbeds with the wave of her arm in the movie, this should be exploding with differently colored and densely packed “blossoms” in different shades.

Concluding Thoughts

Despite my criticisms, I thoroughly like both sets. They are joyful little creations packed with some interesting content. How useful that is to you is of course a very subjective matter. Not everyone has a use for these unusual colors or enjoys them like I do. None of this will matter if you are buying these for your kid(s). As far as that is concerned, these two boxes are a safe bet and offer decent value. There’s enough there to play and the builds are solid while looking nice.

The big bummer is inevitably the price and, a few days before Christmas, availability. These may be hard to come by even if you are willing to pray full price. If that is not of any concern to you, you can always wait a few weeks or months. By then you might also actually have had a chance to watch the movie on Disney+ or Blu-Ray if you did not have an opportunity to catch it in cinemas like me…

Explorer-ing Insects – LEGO Explorer Magazine, January 2021

So far the LEGO Explorer magazine always delivered the goods and overall has enriched the world of magazines and the January 2021 edition seems to continue this trend. Not exactly seasonally fitting for us here in Germany this time it’s about insects, something which you would more expect during the summer months or in spring.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, January 2021, Cover

The immediate positive takeaway of this issue is that it prioritizes actual info on the real thing rather than just plastering the pages with references to LEGO builds. At the same time perhaps not much of a surprise, though. They never really had a genuine insect-centric series and aside from a bunch of mini-builds and a few spider-like creatures in Creator 3in1 sets there’s not that much to draw on. I also remember a bunch of minifigures with different types of wings like the one with the bee costume in DC Super Heroes. Perhaps they could have had a page on that at least?

Otherwise there are several pages such as the one below dedicated to different insect species, including one on roaches even. Of course they could do entire books on this, given that there a millions of different types of insects on this little planet of ours. It’s by no means even coming close to being comprehensive, but a sufficient primer nonetheless.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, January 2021, Info Page

The poster is designed in a similar vein, though admittedly it shows that this was cobbled together from different sources. No budget to make it to a natural museum’s butterfly collection or a botanical garden, eh?! Seems unnecessarily cheap to me. That would also have opened up the possibility of using the back cover better. Instead of the photo background (a flower meadow) they could have used it to print some cut-out butterflies for a mobile or something like that on the slightly stronger paper stock. A missed opportunity somehow.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, January 2021, Poster

The buildable extra this month is a pretty large fire ant that makes use of differently sized round elements to represent the individual segments of the body. It looks a bit all over the place color wise, as of course LEGO do not go out of their way to produce extra parts for these little bags on the magazines, but at least there’s some nice Dark Red pieces. The Black and Trans Red dishes should be all too familiar to any Star Wars or Ninjago fan. The legs are made up from minifigure droid arms and are of the right kind with the hand not turned, so they are extremely useful for building extended hinges or railings. You also get seven of them (six plus one spare), so it would be a notable contribution to your parts stock.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, January 2021, Extra  LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, January 2021, Extra

This is a pretty nice issue more in line with what I imagine LEGO Explorer should be, meaning a focus on really teaching the kids something instead of being an advertorial for LEGO sets. I only wish they’d have the ambition to really make it polished and not rely on pre-existing stock content so much. It simply shows.