Horned Killer – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, July 2022

Outside it’s hot like on Tatooine, so it is oddly fitting that this month’s issue of the LEGO Star Wars magazine also sort of touches upon this iconic location, if only tangentially in a very “think around five corners” sense. After all Darth Maul only was there rather briefly. ­čśë

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, July 2022, Cover

The first comic once more brings up the question of whether Vader doesn’t have anything better to do all day than coming up with weird ideas and pestering his underlings. I mean, if I was the second most powerful person in The Empire I’d sure know a lot of better ways to spend my time than trying to build something as impossible as an AT-ST and TIE Fighter hybrid…

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, July 2022, Comic

The second comic inevitable loops back to Darth Maul and his adventures ever since they brought him back for The Mandalorian to get entangled in some encounters with the eponymous guy and his brethren. That and of course his presence is teased left and right in other recent Star Wars series just as well, at least from what I can gather.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, July 2022, Comic

I haven’t spotted anything noteworthy in the activities section as the few puzzles and quizzes are just very ordinary standard fare. the posters are okay. I elected to show the back side for its graphical clarity and it actually looks quite good in reality, even though the colors are too bright and technically “wrong”. The front poster could be just as good, had they made an effort to clean it up and do a pit of overpainting on top of the “crusty paint” Photoshop filter cascade. Since they haven’t, it’s a bit of a missed opportunity.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, July 2022, Poster

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, July 2022, ExtraThe “that evil guy” minifigure seems to be exactly the same as in the Duel on Mandalore (75310) set, one of those with barely any substantive parts to speak of and clearly designed to mostly sell the Darth Maul and Ahsoka Tano minifigures to collectors. Therefore this is a good opportunity to just get the red devil if you don’t want to shell out the full money. By LEGO standards the print quality is actually quite good this time, as, despite slightly darkening on the black background, the Red is bright enough. That is something that cannot be taken for granted, unfortunately. So you’re getting some pretty decent value this time around.

Overall this is an okay issue, but if you have no interest in the minifigure it will be of limited value. The rest of the content isn’t worth much and regrettably doesn’t even make for a good distraction while sizzling in the sun…

Shrunk Slave 1 – LEGO Star Wars, Boba Fett’s Starship (75312)

In this consumerist world we live in I’m usually not bending over backwards to catch special promotions on those “special” days made up by the industry trying to sell you stuff, but then again I enjoy getting a good discount as much as the next guy and not just because of my budget constraints. The very least one can do is keep an eye peeled and hope to make a good catch. I got sort of half-lucky with Boba Fett’s Starship (75312) on this year’s May the 4th event, so let’s see how things turned out.

LEGO Star Wars, Boba Fett's Starship (75312), Box

Pricing and Contents

I’ve had this set on my wishlist for a while, but regrettably it never entered a price range that I found acceptable. After all, I’m not a die-hard Star Wars fan who would pay anything and it really comes down to how much I like a certain vehicle from the show and how affordable it is.

The crux of course is that of course Boba Fett’s Spaceship or Slave 1 as it was known in the good old days (and I’ll keep calling it that because I honestly think it’s kinda stupid that they are trying to be overly correct here and avoiding the word slave entirely even if it doesn’t bear any relationship to current day politics) has always been a popular ship due to its unique and distinct appearance. Because it basically sold itself and everybody wanted it, anyway, retailers could ask for relatively high prices. That and of course the The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett series have boosted that demand even further. In fact this really thwarted my plans to purchase the 20th Anniversary Edition Slave 1 (75243) because it was equally coveted by fans the world all over and prices never dropped to a level I would consider sensible (me missing out on a few special promotions I just didn’t catch notwithstanding). Arguably a case of bad timing, even if just coincidental.

LEGO Star Wars, Boba Fett's Starship (75312), Overview

With all that in mind I was actually glad I was able to obtain this package for 35 Euro down from a recommended price of 50 Euro. As mentioned already I consider myself only half-lucky because there was a slightly better price that day at only 32 Euro. I was just going back and forth way too long and my inner struggle prevented me from clicking that button. Come back an hour later and the price was higher again already. You really can’t flinch with Amazon‘s fluctuating prices and them adapting to competitor’s pricing almost in realtime.

Was it worth it? The answer may not surprise you: While I’m okay with those 35 Euro, I still feel the set is seriously overpriced. The model turns out tiny and one really has a hard time believing it actually uses the 593 pieces as advertised. From the exterior it feels more like there are only 250 elements, with the real point once again being that many other parts used are 1 x 1 and 1 x 2 items hidden underneath what’s actually visible. Not just that, but also many of the bits constituting the surface and the underside structure are equally small. With only a few exceptions you barely build any volume and just don’t get this satisfaction of working on what should be a relatively bulky model and making notable progress with each building step.

That being said, I can’t help but feel that this is a 30 Euro model, after all, even if you perhaps had to throw on a 5 Euro premium because it’s licensed Star Wars. The original 50 Euro are simply beyond any reason and LEGO just exploit the fans’ hunger for these products. If worse came to worse I’d really not have bothered and simply foregone buying it at all. It’s just not worth it.

The Minifigures

With the vessel being more or less exclusively inhabited by a single occupant it’s only natural that there wouldn’t be too many minifigures bar the occasional person hitching a ride when an opportunity presents itself. That is of course not counting the poor people travelling as frozen Carbonite blocks below decks. Not having seen the series due to not having a Disney+ subscription I have no idea if and when Boba Fett and Din Djarin (The Mandalorian) cross paths, I only know that it happens eventually.

The Mando figure is just the standard version with the cape you find in several other sets. Boba was an exclusive new version for this set when it came out last year but has since made a second appearance in Boba Fett’s Throne Room (75326). It’s considerably different from older versions not just because it uses a black torso as the base, but being ignorant of the actual story I can’t tell you much about the specific whys and hows. That said, both figures are overall pretty nice with lavish prints and certainly have some collector value as well.

The Model

The actual model is based on the simpler design of the Slave 1 from the ill-fated and ill-conceived Betrayal at Cloud City (75222) in the now deceased Master Builder Series. Back then I found the whole concept of a play-oriented yet expensive set in the vein of a dumbed-down and simplified UCS series more than a bit perplexing (or more to the point just another of those LEGO brain farts where you wonder what they were smoking when approving this), but the way this vehicle was built struck me as efficient and desirable as a separate affordable set. Of course things often take a while and I’d almost given up hope of ever seeing this come to fruition, but alas here we are. even better, they really took the time to refine and enhance the concept, including using a few newer and different parts. That way they also made sure that the one in the Cloud City retains its exclusivity and people who bought this expensive mess aren’t too upset.

An iconic shape such as this is of course immediately recognizable in any form and that is pretty much the case here as well. However, and this seems to be a general rule with this ship, the smaller the scale the less compact it looks. Where the original version in the movies was pretty smooth and the various surfaces blended, the smaller models tend to look more separated, not just because of the limitations of brick-built designs. This is also apparent here with the “handle” (upper hull) feeling plugged on to the bottom rather than transitioning elegantly. In particular the front section and the housings for the wing mechanisms feel a bit too small and not voluminous enough. It’s not the end of the world, but worth mentioning.

The tail/ aft boom overall appears just a bit too short and could have benefited from being extended one or two rows of studs. It’s not that the proportions aren’t correct or LEGO somehow got it wrong, it’s more a visual thing where the “scale effect” makes it look a bit too stubby. This is also owing to the overall small size that makes it look more like a toy than the imposing ship it otherwise is. Let’s not forget, that it just has around 24 studs overall length, not even fully covering a 32 x 32 base plate.

There are a handful of functional details like the cargo ramp under which you could actually place the “Carbonite” block as represented by a 1 x 2 x 6 brick and of course you can open the cockpit to place Boba inside, but neither does offer much details beyond that. The wings use a similar approach as their counterparts on the larger variants of this spacecraft, meaning they’re built from a bunch of balanced out round corner plates and wedge plates attached to a Technic axle so they swivel automatically and stay horizontal in every position. To represent the slightly rusty mechanism LEGO even produced this piece in Dark Orange exclusively for this set.

The singular side build in this set is a little push tractor/ servicing vehicle with a ladder and it also doubles as a stand to present the model in a upright position. I was hugely skeptical about this solution, mostly because the tractor is very lightweight but much to my surprise this works quite decently. Of course you still should not try to intentionally tip over the model, but it’s more than serviceable for presentation on the shelf and easy to handle for kids as well. It does not use any pins or such and rather just some simple slide-in trickery so you basically can’t do anything wrong. Also note the ÔÇ×CarboniteÔÇť block – without stickers, of course.

The upright position looks a bit odd, mostly because it exposes the hollowness of the interior unfavorably. In this position also even the slightest misalignment of the guns, which are rather flimsily constructed from black light saber hilts and some other pieces, immediately becomes noticeable. You should be careful with them, anyway, as they use a less than ideal way of being attached. Instead of a proper axle or bar they’re plugged onto this “hook” style plate‘s bar element. While it kind of works it’s one of those things that I would try to avoid and look for other solutions.

The undersides have some nice texture and even some pieces to emulate thruster outlets, but once you look at it, you also see the most annoying problem of this whole set: The various small plates and how everything is pieced together. This isn’t so much of an issue once it’s finished, but it really tries your patience during assembly. There’s basically only a single layer of plates and the bricks for the shaping are almost immediately on top, however often in such a fashion that they often only connect by two or even single studs. I found this a massive source of frustration that only gets better once you have finished the red socket.

One final thing: The set is apparently (also) aimed at children and to that effect it has a handle based on an L-shaped Technic liftarm so the model can be swooshed around and held easily without risking breaking anything off when grabbing it elsewhere. The caveat here is that the handle tends to get stuck in the recess on occasion and is difficult to push out even when tipping on the opposite end as intended. You may want to have an eye on that and show your children how to do it right or else they may constantly bug you about it. If you are not interested in this functionality you could just leave it out and shim over the hole, but this would require some major changes (using larger/ different plates to close the gaps) early on in the construction process.


Concluding Thoughts

The model isn’t bad by any means and in an odd way quite appealing. It hits the right balance between looking realistic enough, but also being playable. Still, the out-of-this-world pricing is really what puts me off. LEGO seem bent on deterring a certain part of their customers while raking in the big bucks from the other half of the Star Wars fan crowd with UCS sets and all that and that is on some level sad. Sets like this one clearly prove that the designers have the will and abilities to produce more than acceptable models, it just always seems they’re being sidelined by overriding managerial decisions in favor of squeezing out every last penny from customers.

This dichotomy also makes it hard to really recommend this set from the bottom of my heart. As already written, if there wouldn’t have been a good price I’d just passed on this. You can bet that due to the popularity there will be another Slave 1 in the not too distant future and it might even be an updated re-issue of the UCS version from 2015 or at least something more in line with the 20th anniversary version which will be more attractive to serious collectors and adults. You can save your money for the day when they come out. Completists on the other hand will no doubt want to add this to their line-up no matter what and it should also work well for children.

For me as so often it likely will end up being a short journey where soon enough I’ll dismantle the model and scalp the parts, of which it has quite a few unique ones and that’s just fine. At the same time I can think of other ways to spend those 35 Euro and unfortunate as it is, this set also has not done anything to change my mind about LEGO Star Wars being one big scam, so this will likely be my only such review for quite a while again until the next good opportunity may arise come Amazon‘s Prime Day in November

Mandalorian AT-AT – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, April 2022

In light of how all over the place some of the LEGO magazines are lately, I appreciate it even more when a reasonably good issue comes out and it seems the LEGO Star Wars mag for April 2022 manages to pull that off.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, April 2022, Cover

The primary comic is based on Boba Fett and presumably somehow ties in with the The Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian series, which as usual I don’t know too much about, seeing as I don’t have Disney+ and my information is limited to content snippets and reviews one can find on the internet at large. Anyway, both series heavily rely on revived story arcs, locations and characters from the original Star Wars movies, which also opens up many opportunities to make the comics more interesting with more exotic aliens and unusual vehicles. This is on display here with the lizard-like evil-doer and some Jawas making an appearance.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, April 2022, Comic

The second comic treads more familiar territory with some AT-AT mayhem during the Battle of Hoth. Interspersed between those two bookends are of course a bunch of riddles, puzzles and other activities, but nothing to write home about.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, April 2022, Comic

The posters are quite satisfying this time around and in fact I chose to display the reverse one with Ahsoka here because it’s even better than the one with Darth Maul. I like the friendly and clear color combination and this wouldn’t look bad in most kids’ rooms even if they don’t have one of those dark corners where the other mostly black posters make their mark.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, April 2022, Poster

The extra is an AT-AT mini build. It’s been a while since we had one of those and while personally I wouldn’t have needed yet another version, I don’t mind, either. For understandable reasons the construction is quite similar, but still differing in certain details. Back then they had to bash together the lower sections of the legs from two rounded 1 x 1 hinge plates, but now this has been optimized to use the new solid 1 x 1 piece with opposing bars that was introduced late last year for the Volkswagen T2 Camper Van (10279). This obviously simplifies the build and enhances robustness. My only regret is that they used the Dark Bluish Grey version they had in stock and did not manufacture a new batch in Light Bluish Grey. In addition to this the model comes with some other elements like the 1 x 1 x 2 bracket also introduced in 2021 or the 1 x 2 x 2 SNOT brick, but in the rarer Black color.┬á They are available in droves in Light Bluish Grey from the many Brickheadz┬áproduced over the years, but surprisingly LEGO have only been doing them in some other colors rather recently.

As you might have guessed from my long-winded nerding out about the parts I’m quite happy with this edition and the interesting comic and nice posters certainly help to lift your mood, too. There’s little to complain here and one wished they’d manage to give us such good content every month…

Orange Predator – LEGO Creator 3in1, Majestic Tiger (31129)

It’s the Year of the Tiger according to the Chinese lunar calendar and LEGO are certainly going in on the theme. Not only are there the usual Chinese New Year sets (Lunar New Year Traditions [80108] and Lunar New Year Ice Festival [80109]), with the latter featuring a person in a tiger costume and the accompanying Gift with Purchase (GWP) also having been a buildable tiger, but there’s also a bunch of the striped predator cats or their relatives appearing in other sets. It could be totally coincidental, of course, but I sure noticed. The Majestic Tiger (31129) on the other hand is likely far from being a victim of pure chance timing and easily takes the crown of the whole bunch and quite deservedly so in my opinion, so lets explore the reasons why this is such a great set.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Box

Contents and Pricing

Unlike last year’s Crocodile (31121), which never got a broad release and therefore is still very hard to come by, this set is readily available from a huge number of outlets. They even managed to have it ready from day one, which in these weird times with all those supply chain delays and interruptions counts for something. I waited my time for prices to drop to what I consider sensible levels, though, and with that we immediately get to the biggest gripe I have with this set: its price.

On paper, 50 Euro for a 755 pieces set doesn’t at all sound that bad and in particular for the tiger this may be perfectly acceptable for many people. However, those metrics skew terribly towards the negative side with the Red Panda and the Koi due to their limited parts usage, as you shall see further down in this article. Another thing to consider here is the fact that we’re talking about a Creator 3in1 set (also) aimed at children and other demographics, not just collectors. At 50 Euro you’re getting dangerously close to some of the more affordable LEGO Ideas sets and those have more pieces and frequently additional exclusive minifigures. Finally, and this doesn’t really need to be spelled out as it’s apparent in the photos, there’s a ton of small 1 x 1 and 1 x 2 parts that should not cause that much of a price hike. Yes, there’s several large elements, too, but those are pretty bog standard and not exclusively produced for this set, so they should not have such a huge impact on cost, either.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Overview

With all that said, this is pretty much a 35 Euro set and that is what you can purchase it for after discounts. That’s okay, but ultimately it’s unsatisfying that the retailers always have to pick up the tab and fix the mess that LEGO make with their overpriced MSRPs. In a way it might even hurt LEGO themselves. I’m losing this term very loosely here, as obviously they made just another billion in revenue, but wouldn’t it be even better if we all could just buy three of those sets for a lower price instead of having to perhaps settle on just getting one? I understand that this is how works for the super expensive collectors’ sets, but for this bread & butter stuff it just seems weird that you would limit your sales potential by driving up prices. You know, that math thing. If you sell three boxes and make five bucks on each of them you still have made more than just selling a single one and making a tenner.

The Tiger

Tigers are fascinating and beautiful creatures and I could watch them for hours. When I visit one of my buddies two or three times a year I always try to talk him into a visit of their small local zoo and seeing the tiger is one of my highlights. The zoo serves as a retirement home for older tigers and the cage is built as such that you can literally stand 1.5 m away from the big cat at a specific spot and if you’re lucky, the tiger will lay down and take a nap. I could stand there for hours just watching the breathing and movement of the ever on alert ears. It’s really amazing just as it is terrifying how even those elderly tigers explode and go a bit coo-coo if only they catch a whiff of fresh meat or another of their kind…

Anyway, on to the set. It makes no statement of which particular sub-species of tiger it tries to portray, but the tropical bird suggests that it could be a Sumatra Tiger, the smallest one. then again it could just as well be an Indian/ Bengal Tiger or a Siberian/ Amur Tiger. Who’s to know? At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter beyond perhaps considerations for the color of the fur. depending on the season and their habitat those can vary quite a bit from relatively dark browns to almost white pale sand color and anything inbetween, naturally. For a LEGO model the most appropriate main color would be Dark Orange, but I actually understand why they didn’t go for that. The “scale effect” would have made it look too dark. Those cats also have transitional areas with a beautiful deep and saturated curry yellow, a color which unfortunately doesn’t exist in LEGO‘s portfolio.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Overview

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Sidebuild The sidebuild for this main model is a super tiny waterfall which really only counts as the smallest rivulet drizzling through a bunch of rocks. there’s a suggestion of some very short bamboo stalks plus there are some dried up branches hidden behind the rock. The bird is hard to classify, but it could easily be one of those many finch species you can find or a parrot-like one. the funny thing here is that they didn’t even have to include it, since almost all of the extra pieces aren’t even used in any of the alternate builds. Typically they would only include these little gimmicks as a sneaky way of providing a few alternate parts. Not complaining about some extra bits, it just feels unnecessary.

The tiger itself is just gorgeous and nicely illustrates what you can do with LEGO pieces today and some clever building techniques. There’s a lot of places with unexpected directional changes and stuff being built upside down, only to be attached in rather original ways using hinges, clips and ball joints. This in particular applies to the abdomen/ chest consisting essentially of a conventional stack of plates and slopes, then fixed at an angle to get this bulging out at the bottom. However, there’s one big disadvantage to all this: Many times the build process just drags on.

It took me much longer to finish the model than I had anticipated due to a ton of 1 x 1 elements that needed to be placed and aligned carefully and similar finicky stuff consuming my time. The result is rewarding, after all, just don’t underestimate how long it may take to get there. This in particular applies to the legs and┬á stripe pattern on the flanks. Interestingly, it uses some of the techniques using the new curved slope and inverted slopes I was exploring back then with Raya and Sisu Dragon┬á(43184). The top is capped off with printed 1 x 2 x 2/3rd slopes. This works quite well and even having dedicated printed pieces in a Creator 3in1 set is something that doesn’t happen that often.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Left View

As you can see from the images, the tiger can be posed in a multitude of ways – within certain limitations. You can’t really get him to lay down or do that typical back bend when cats stretch, but you can make him stand and walk with the head allowing to be turned in the right direction as well. This should be sufficient to find an interesting stance for it on the shelf.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Top View

A minor complaint I have is how skinny the orange biggie is. This is not really a problem, as in nature they can go for weeks without food and get very thin from the starvation, I just would have preferred if he looked a bit more rounded. Easier said than done, though, as at this scale it would be difficult with a three studs wide back. You’d need a lot of extra elements to compensate the extra thickness and different offsets.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Underside View

The belly area is structured as well with teeth elements hinting at clumped up fur areas and some inverted slopes providing a bit of additional shaping.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Detail Head The head uses a lot of illusion painting as it actually has quite a few noticeable gaps and open areas. In the end it just works, however. I’d personally perhaps try to close the parts around the ears and in the process also create a slightly smoother transition to the back.

 

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Detail Paw The paws are identical for each of the legs and use the semi-circular 1 x 1 tiles to good effect. The underside is constructed from uncovered brackets, which gives this effect that a real paw would have – slightly elevated by the padded zones with the fur not always touching the ground for this floaty feel and subtle soft walking they are known for.

 

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Tiger, Detail Anus A somewhat contentious item and subject of some ridicule on the Internet is the inclusion of an actual anus. It’s not that far fetched, as naturally cats have poop hole just like any other animal, but including the extra Dark Pink flower element indeed feels like someone┬á went out of their way to make it visible when otherwise there would have just been a pin hole from the ratcheted hinge element holding the legs.

 

The Red Panda

The second model you can build from this set is a Red Panda. Biologically of course these creatures bear no relation to the big Pandas, but are just as cute. This makes it even more disappointing that this is actually the weakest of the three options. But let’s adhere to established procedures and do this in the right order.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Red Panda, Overview

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Red Panda, SidebuildThe sidebuild is some kind of flower/ blossom, obviously. I’m saying “some” because I actually haven’t really figured out what exactly it is supposed to represent from a simple cherry or almond blossom to a specific orchid this could be anything. It’s fine that they tried to maximize parts usage, but ultimately it feels forced and once more rather superfluous, given that it doesn’t look very realistic and offers no additional value.

 

The Red Panda itself is a lot smaller than the tiger by comparison. This becomes immediately apparent just by the absence of any of the large hinge/ ball joint pieces. instead it uses the smaller ball joints all the way, which isn’t really that advantageous here. Despite being not as big and overall rather light, the joints can barely hold the weight. This in particular affects the feet, which tend to bend upward under the pressure caused by the weight. I had to correct them a few times just for the photos. This isn’t helped by the legs being stiff as a brick and having no knee joints. Poseability is seriously limited here. Trust me, if there had been a way I’d certainly have tried for some more dynamic arrangements.

The legs are also identical, which is a recurring theme on this little guy – everything is way too symmetrical. Not only are the legs the same, but the main trunk also has a front-back mirror symmetry. This already bothered me massively during the build process, as due to their long, dense fur these creatures look pretty bulked up instead of the skinny thing you are building here. Point in case: Where the real animal goes thicker and wider, the model actually tapers and gets narrower to accommodate the convergence zones of the various joints.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Red Panda, Front ViewThe best part about this is the face, which is adorable. That’s probably also one of the reasons why they picked this creature as the go-to for the Turning Red movie which coincidentally just started streaming on Disney+ on this very day as I’m writing this. I can easily see why they would have opted for this.

 

 

Now for Creator 3in1 sets the way in which the pieces are (also) used on the secondary and tertiary models matters a lot and has a huge impact on buying decisions and unfortunately the Red Panda fares terribly here. There’s just so many leftover parts that are not being used anywhere, including many chunky ones like the joints/ hinges used for the tiger plus a considerable pile of the usual mass of smaller parts. That makes the economics pretty bad.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Red Panda, Leftover Pieces

The Koi

The third model the package allows you to create is a Koi. This is, however, the “fancy” version as you often can see it in paintings rather than a realistic carp. This mostly pertains to the more rounded front portion, which somehow seems to be a desirable result of breeding so it looks more like those Asian goldfish. That aesthetics debate aside the fish just is another nicely done model.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Koi, Overview

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Koi, SidebuildSimilar to the Red Panda there’s another flower build here, this time more recognizably meant or be a water lily or lotus. It’s okay, but somehow one wonders why LEGO just didn’t commit and included a bunch of these wedge slopes in Dark Pink to make it even more clear. Otherwise it’s just as extraneous as the other sidebuilds and I gladly could have gone without it.

 

 

The build employs similar techniques and follows the same pattern as the tiger in that you build it up from multiple segments that are snapped together with the small ball joints. this allows for an efficient construction process without ever having to handle an unwieldy large solid block. The overall shaping is nice if you disregard that the belly is completely flat for a moment. If you were to perch it on a stand you might need to add some volume there as well with a few plates and inverted slopes.

The Koi is apparently meant to represent one of the tricolor variants, but if you have the pieces just downloading the instructions would allow you to build other versions as well. The beauty of the model is that it does not use any super advanced building techniques nor any rare or exotic parts and everything can be substituted easily. In fact many pieces could even be replaced on this already finished model without too much trouble.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Koi, Front ViewOne area that deserves a bit of attention is the head. By that I mean the two large round plates and the bits attached to them. They are affixed to 1 x 2 x 2 SNOT brick clamped between hinges and on their back they’re supposed to butt against two 1 x 1 x 1 bricks with a stud on the side to stay at an angle. This arrangement has some clearance and can wiggle around, which is something I’m not friends with.

 

Therefore I “enhanced” my version by adding some of the spare U-shaped tiles with the curved end pointing forward, so the hinges are always spread rather widely. However, and this is an important warning, this is an “illegal” technique by LEGO standards as the resulting angle is just ever so slightly too large and the round plates can only be mounted under tension and with slight gaps, putting stress on the elements. That should explain why it wasn’t designed that way out of the box. For me this is at best a limited concern since I already know that it won’t be long when I have to disassemble the model due to lack of space for keeping it around, but you should be aware of this and not use my hack or at least consider removing the tiles again after a while to avoid long-term damage.

There are slightly less leftover elements on this one, but the piles are still pretty massive. It’s on some level only a swap where pieces used in the Red Panda are not needed anymore, but some others take their place. This again doesn’t speak in favor of the set solely on the merits how efficiently the parts are used, but on the bright side if you really e.g. buy a second set for these models you’ll always get a good amount of universally usable extras for your own custom builds.

LEGO Creator, Majestic Tiger (31129), Koi, Leftover Pieces


Concluding Thoughts

As you may have noticed already I really enjoyed this set and in my not so humble view thsi could easily be a contender for Model of the Year, other, even more impressive stuff coming out notwithstanding. It’s really amazing how much detail they were able to get out of this and in a “mundane” Creator 3in1 set at that. Am I exaggerating? Perhaps, but this is truly sublime.

Not everything is roses, though and once more we need to discuss why LEGO just can’t put in enough pieces in the box to build the two alternate models at the same time. Given how the parts usage overlaps it really is very frustrating that you potentially have to buy a third package only to end up with heaps and heaps of spare parts. The irony here is, that the answer is basically in front of our eyes – re-allocate the parts from the sidebuilds to this and you could almost do it.

In such a case I might not have been as pickish about the price or even paid 5 Euro extra. That’s also why I would subtract points and give this set a 8.5 or 9 out of 10 rather than a full perfect score. Had LEGO put a more thought into this aspect I wouldn’t have much to complain aside from the minor criticisms I pointed out. Even if you don’t like any of the actual creatures, this set is great fun building and it’s also somewhat educational, showing how great results can be achieved with conventional techniques applied smartly.

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…

Ironman: Green – LEGO Super Heroes, Captain Carter & The Hydra Stomper (76201)

The weird times we live in have some odd consequences for my LEGO consumption as well. When you go to the same shop week after week and the stock on the shelves just won’t change much simply because they are hopelessly backlogged on orders due to such short supply, you really begin to ponder picking up sets you otherwise might not have considered. The Captain Carter & The Hydra Stomper (76201) is such a set, even though at heart I’m still far from a Marvel fan.

LEGO Super Heroes, Captain Carter & The Hydra Stomper (76201), Box

Pricing and Contents

The purchase of this set came about as a dare challenge to my brother, who likes to poke fun at my LEGO obsession. I won’t go into the details of this weird dynamic, but suffice it to say that he sprang the money for it and that afternoon I was a happy boy when we left the drugstore with the package that had been lying there all those weeks already.

This set is semi-exclusive here in Germany, meaning you can only get it from LEGO directly and a few select retail partners. That makes any discussion of price moot on some level and with 30 Euro for 343 pieces it’s really not that much different than what you’re used to with most regular sets. We got lucky that week we bought it and only paid 25 Euro, which certainly helped to commit to this even if i didn’t have it on my radar before.

LEGO Super Heroes, Captain Carter & The Hydra Stomper (76201), Overview

I’m sure that with more widespread distribution we’d see even better discounts. While the price-to-value ratio overall feels okay and on paper the usual metrics of price per piece and such add up, at the end of the day my impression is that 25 Euro is closer to what the set really should cost to begin with. The mech ultimately turns out pretty small and it doesn’t feel like there is enough volume to justify a higher price.

The Minifigures

No doubt the minifigures will be attractive to Marvel collectors and they appear all to be exclusive to this set and judging from Bricklink, their price can only go up from an already high base price. If you want all three, simply buying the whole set might be more cost effective. Since I still couldn’t get myself to sign up for at least a month or two to Disney+ to watch all the stuff, I’m still completely ignorant of the actual story threads. Based on the figure designs there seem to be a few things reversed, but not in a completely bonkers way. I’ll leave the details to the geeks that have actual knowledge of the comics and series.

LEGO Super Heroes, Captain Carter & The Hydra Stomper (76201), Minifigures

The details are well-executed with some fine prints and in particular Steve Rogers in his regular army uniform before his Captain America days will be highly desirable. Red Skull has been done a number of times, but apparently this is the first time he also has prints on his feet. It’s also interesting that the Tesseract has been represented with a transparent Minecraft figure head. Some people have taken issue with this particular version of Captain Carter only being in this set and not the recent Collectible Minifigure series, but that’s life, I guess (and LEGO‘s usual sneaky tactics of scattering stuff across multiple sets so you have to buy them).

The Mech

The mech follows the mold established by the many smaller Ironman Hulkbuster models we got over the years. Now that blanket statement doesn’t do you much good since I haven’t reviewed any of them , but if you ever owned one of those, you pretty much know where this is going. The individual sub-assemblies are based on standardized building methods you have seen a million times, and to get this out of the way, overall poseability therefore is limited. The main trunk for instance is a solid piece with no turntable separating the hips and the upper abdomen/ thorax, so he can only ever stare forward.

LEGO Super Heroes, Captain Carter & The Hydra Stomper (76201), Front Left View

The arms are more moveable on a theoretical level at least, but the massive armor plates easily get in the way. The shoulders are okay, but the elbows never allow to stretch the arms out fully. The legs have rigid knees, so they are always at an angle. This is not the end of the world, but has a noticeable impact on the model’s posture as it always leans forward ever so slightly. This basically can’t be changed as otherwise the mech loses balance and tips over backward. It’s not that its jet backpack would be particularly heavy or any of that, but more the combination of all the appendages somehow interacting unfavorably.

LEGO Super Heroes, Captain Carter & The Hydra Stomper (76201), Aft Left View

One thing that bothered me a bit from the outset was the color scheme. Initially I was under the impression that the model would come with Bright Green elements instead of the regular Green. Once I got to grips with that reality, I still wished it had at least a few such pieces and at the same time also a few other ones in Dark Tan or Olive Green. Since this is based on some sort of alternative timeline in which the bad guys from Hydra somehow have managed to assemble this Hulkbuster knock-off back in the 1940s, my theory would have to be that during wartime materials were in short supply and they had to scrape it together from different sources.

LEGO Super Heroes, Captain Carter & The Hydra Stomper (76201), Aft Right View

This doesn’t mean everything has to look like it was sourced from the scrapyard, but some color variations would certainly have enlivened the model and broken up the uniform green. It would also have helped to disguise the weak print on the face mask. It’s seriously lacking in opacity and neither the white areas nor the green looks correct. This is even more regrettable as somehow it would have been cool if the eyes would also be a Glow-in-the-Dark element. As it is, only a 1 x 2 plate hidden behind a Trans Light Blue tile on the chest plate is actually glowing. This kind of works, but only if you really have exposed it to a strong light source like a flashlight. Just letting it stand there in regular daylight will barely register.

LEGO Super Heroes, Captain Carter & The Hydra Stomper (76201), Front Right View

The cockpit does not have any extra details and can hold a minifigure in standing position. that’s where Steve Rogers‘ printed on belts and buckles come into play to make him appear strapped in. That’s okay, but I definitely would have preferred some more detailing. Sadly, though, even that would not raise the play value by much as the whole model is simply stiff like a stick and does not offer many ways to set up play scenarios

LEGO Super Heroes, Captain Carter & The Hydra Stomper (76201), Cockpit Interior

All that being the case, the one benefit of this mech being rigid like a frozen fish is that it is also quite robust. It’s easy enough to rip off the lower arms when moving them because they are only attached with ratcheted hinges, but the rest is quite massive and will not break at the first fall.


Concluding Thoughts

While I bought this (or my brother, to be exact) more or less just as a way to fill a gap when there were no other sets I wanted available at decent prices, this is still pretty decent, come to think of it. Compared to other Marvel sets the price isn’t inflated exorbitantly and while the model as a whole feels a bit small-ish, by that weird LEGO logic we have become accustomed to the value isn’t bad. Once you throw the very distinctly unique minifigures into the mix this gets even better. Splitting the investment with a friend who collects them should make this very viable.

On its own merits as in “a mech being a mech” this is not the best option, though. There’s still a ton of Ninjago mechs out there that offer much more complexity, are way larger and much better poseable plus they come with even more figures and better play value. This Hulkbuster wannabe really only works with the Marvel context in mind or if you are looking for a retro-themed, steampunk-ish model that fits into an alternate WW II scenario.

Water Snake? – LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184)

I always try to resist the temptation of squandering my money on these Disney sets, but alas, here we go again with another review of one of them, this time for the Raya and the Last Dragon movie. The specific set in question is the smallest one from the line-up, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184).

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Box

Important Note: Since I don’t have a Disney+ subscription I haven’t seen the full movie yet and all my info is based on the trailers, clips, reviews and synopses of the film. Hence I may not get a few details right or mix them up. So please be forgiving and feel free to add any corrections via the comments.

Contents and Pricing

As usual, the set is technically too pricey. I’ve said it before and I make no bones about it here, either. With only 216 pieces, a regular 30 Euro price simply doesn’t make that much of an impression. The only consolation here is that the set uses a lot of large elements, resulting in the finished model(s) having some noticeable size and volume. At least on that level you could therefore get a certain satisfaction out of it and feel like things are acceptable. Of course I still didn’t pay the full price and relied on the usual discounts, regardless. At around 22 Euro things are simply more tenable. there’s likely some more room toward the 20 Euro mark, but I would not expect things to go much lower other than on clearance next year or so.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Overview

Figure

There’s only one figure in this set, a minidoll of Raya herself. While that’s okay in terms of the story, it feels a bit too sparse, contributing to the not so great price-to-content ratio. The specific point here is, that in a set dedicated to Sisu I would have expected that at least they would also include her in her human disguise. That appears to be one of the funnier moments in the movie and it would have made for a wonderful over-the-top colorful figure. It’s really regrettable that this opportunity was missed.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Minidoll

The Raya figure is done well enough, but ultimately nothing special. If it weren’t for the Jade sword and the printed tile with the map showing Sisu in her “sleeping” form as a river, there really wouldn’t be anything special here. Another miss is the new wicker hat. Don’t get me wrong – I love the design – it’s just too bad it’s integrally molded with the hair, thus preventing it from being used elsewhere. It would have nicely complemented the versions known from Ninjago. Maybe we will get a separate variant one day?

The Waterfall

The first model is a small section of the waterfall and the hidden shrine/ cave behind where Sisu and Raya first meet, if I’m correct. This is pretty much a no-frills affair using the most basic techniques you could imagine. As such it is serviceable, but not much more than that. An unwanted side effect of the oversimplification is that the model is actually kind of difficult to build. With the tall bricks and golden pillars you just don’t have too many stable connection points when adding the arches on the top and it’s easy to push them away when using too much force.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Waterfall, Front View

I also would have hoped they’d at least try and include a bit of the rock/ cave somewhere to make the model look a bit more interesting. The area behind the water curtain appears very bland and empty and at least a narrow plate to extend the surface “inwards” would have been a nice touch. On that note, the transparent piece for the water sometimes gets stuck a bit, again owing to the basic construction not being able to ensure consistent tolerances and not being stiff enough to avoid those tiny variations in gap widths and angles.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Waterfall, Back View

The Temple Entrance

The second model is a section of the temple, more specifically one of its entrances. This is again built with many large pieces and simplified considerably to the point of not even making an effort at e.g. covering up the angled plates. It’s really just purely functional, though with limited success. I found the connection far too unreliable as the large panels with the small arched windows used on the sides simply don’t exert enough clutch power. It’s really easy to break off the plates at the bottom. It really wouldn’t have hurt if this had been shimmed over with additional plates or at least there were some extra curved slopes to clamp in the V-shaped elements.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Temple, Front Right View

As usual I did not use the stickers, so the walls look plain white an uninteresting. If I did things might look a bit more interesting. I still can’t wrap my head around this, though. On one hand LEGO seem to go out of their way to dumb down the building process for young kids while at the same time they expect those same children to accurately place large decals. Just doesn’t make any sense.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Temple, Front Left View

The back side, or more accurately the inner courtyard side, is equally barren not just because the absence of stickers, but also not having that many details. You know, it just would have been nice if there was more to do and play with. There is provision to connect this smaller section to the big Raya and the Heart Palace (43181) with the blue ratcheted hinge piece at the end of the walkway. The big set has a matching element hidden underneath its central round floor disc. You can easily verify this by studying the PDF instructions. Just hope your kids don’t find out or thy’ll keep bugging you about buying the expensive package to complete their model…

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Temple, Back View

The only real play feature here is the hidden box with one of the gem stones in it, but even that feels half-hearted and doesn’t offer much in the way of playful interaction. they could at least have come up with some decorations for the hinge plate…

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Temple, Detail

Sisu

At the heart of the set is naturally Sisu herself which sadly also turns out to be the biggest disappointment. Where to even begin? There’s just so much wrong. First off let me preface this by saying that I’m fully aware that it may be extremely difficult to re-create a creature that is basically a flow-y, water creature with glowing skin in a medium such as LEGO bricks. inevitably there have to be some compromises and actually making good use of the 2 x 2 curved tube piece, new here in Medium Azure, isn’t the worst idea. The problem is how and where it is used.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Sisu, Left View

For starters, there could be more segments and the body be much longer. Nothing too excessive, but inserting an additional three or four such segments would have gone a long way. Yes, even if you merely watch the trailer you can see that Sisu is indeed that slinky and has a very elongated body almost like a snake.

Now of course this brings up the second problem: The whole trunk is effectively completely rigid due to how the tubes are connected directly. This more or less limits any poseability to the default, baked-in stance, an issue further exacerbated by the tip and the feathers/ water plumes attached to it also having a fixed curvature. Without some manual intervention to actually re-plug pieces, the sway to the left cannot easily be changed. Well, at least not without things looking wrong.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Sisu, Aft Left View

All that said, the apparent question hitting everyone is “Why aren’t there any intermediate segments or joints?”. I do get that it may have cost some extra effort to produce a few existing pieces specifically in this color for that purpose, but would it really have been that much to ask? Somehow one can’t help but feel that no consideration was even given to this and the whole budget burnt on the custom head.

This also extends to the legs, which ended up being the most basic build imaginable. They really only contain the bare minimum of pieces required to hold everything together, aided by the introduction of the new curved slope that allows them to use even less elements than might have been necessary before.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Sisu, Aft Right View

Point in case: The legs are so flimsy, barely hanging by the tiny ball joints that is indeed somewhat tricky to even get them aligned and touching the ground at the same time. The toes/ paws are downright pathetic – a simple 1 x 2 plate with a hinge clip and a 1 x 1 rounded slope on top of it. They couldn’t have been any lazier with this! Again, this is clearly a zero effort thing.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Sisu, Front Right View

What really broke me is the ugly head. It’s just wrong, wrong, wrong. The horn is way oversized and the hair feels more like a thick helmet. Whoever was responsible for sculpting this apparently did not understand that in order to get across the wispy feel of the fur in the movie you would have to reduce it, possibly even separating it into individual strands or breaking it up into multiple pieces that could be attached separately along the neck. As it is, this is more the stuff of nightmares than the funny, quirky face of a slightly annoying magical creature unaware of its own powers. It’s just upsetting that an expensive, triple-molded piece was ruined by utter ineptitude and bears no resemblance to the real thing.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Sisu, Front View

New Parts

One thing the set has going for it is the considerable number of unique parts. Some of them are genuinely fresh, others are recolors and revised versions of parts that have existed for a while. In the color shifting category there are a few Bright Light Yellow elements that to some of you may be familiar already from the Fiat 500 (10271).

Not quite unexpected, as you often can see these color waves ripple through the different series, meaning LEGO produces millions of millions of those elements for their stockpile and then uses them in as many sets as possible as a way of streamlining their processes. Yes, annoyingly this also means you get the “color vomit” hidden inside some models just because they use up their leftovers.

The hinge plate in Blue and the inverted slope in Light Aqua haven’t been around for a few years, so it’s nice to see them become available again, too.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Parts, Recolors

In the genuinely new department in addition to the already mentioned 2 x 2 tubes and “shoe” curved slope is the new 2 x 2 tapered and curved tree trunk/ creature tail element as well. This has also been sighted in screenshots of the Vidiyo app and with LEGO‘s recent obsession about selling artificial bonsai trees and similar I’m pretty certain we will see it in more colors soon-ish.

The same goes for the 4 x 4 inverted dish, which in my opinion should actually be sorted as a round “pancake” brick, given that it has fully formed anti-studs on the underside and can be used for regular builds without resorting to pins and axles. This item, too, is prominently used in the Vidiyo BeatBox sets to represent the headphones/ ear muffs and I’m sure we’ll see plenty of it being used elsewhere, too.

The final minor addition is at long last a 1 x 1 brick with an axle hole, matching its brother with the pin hole. I don’t expect it to do anything revolutionary, as it still needs to be clamped in with other bricks to actually be useful, but it may occasionally come in handy when you don’t have enough room to use the conventional 1 x 2 brick of same ilk.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Parts, New Items

While I have bashed it for being used in the most terrible way just as an excuse in this set, the new part 70681 is actually something to welcome and applaud. It closes a noticeable gap in the line-up of the different N x 2 x 2/3rds curved slopes that have been around forever by matching the inverse curvature. This allows several new creative ways to enclose those other slopes and can be used to design patterns just as it can be used as a new method of fixating some items without actually connecting them. Furthermore, since the slope also has a one stud inset/ undercut at its base, it can also double as an alternative way to get stuff locked in place with the added benefit of then still propagating the stud it covers up to its top and freeing it up for use. I bet it won’t be long because we are seeing it used everywhere.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Parts, Slope Examples


Concluding Thoughts

Unfortunately this set does not deliver the goods. It’s one of those “You had one thing to do…” situations and in messing up the most important aspect, Sisu, the LEGO people pretty much ruin it for everyone. It is clear that all of this was likely a rush job (and from the looks of it so are the other sets in the series) that was caught up in the chaos of the delayed release due to the Corona pandemic. Nobody is faulting the designers for working off (possibly unfinished) concept art and not getting some things right, but they could at least have made an effort to make a “nice” dragon within the LEGO realm and bring it up to an acceptable level.

Now of course the detractors might argue “But it’s for kids!” which is a fair point and sure enough many of them won’t mind the shortcomings, but a short search on the web suggests that there are simply better toy tie-ins for the movie, including much better Sisu figures that actually look the part. One really has to wonder what went wrong here and it comes across as a non-effort on LEGO‘s part just as it makes you question the sanity of whoever signed off on this at Disney‘s licensing department.

Unless your kid insists it needs to expand its collection of brick-built dragons this is one of those moments where you are really being served better by other vendors. This set has not much to offer in play value and it looks at best mediocre. If you don’t have a taste for nerding out about specific pieces like I do, there is really no good reason to buy this even as an adult. It does not even come close to even the lamest Ninjago dragon and that in and of itself means a lot. Or to put it directly: If you’re looking for a dragon, you are being served better elsewhere.

The Not-AAT – LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank [AAT] (75283)

My love-hate relationship with LEGO Star Wars is really getting weirder with every set I buy as I’m realizing that despite new stuff being added e.g. based on the The Mandalorian series I realize I care less and less. I totally blame this on the sets becoming less attractive in terms of construction and how they ultimately look while prices reaching crazy levels. That is at least in the lower price tiers I move around.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Box

The Armored Assault Tank [AAT] (75283) is one such case, unfortunately. The version, or more specifically color variant in this set, can be briefly seen in the Revenge of the Sith Kashyyyk attack sequence in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment and I’m pretty sure it also appears in The Clone Wars and other later materials based on the prequels. The more regular ocre-/ tan-colored version is of course more prominent, be that the final battle in The Phantom Menace or other such occasions. However, despite all this there is surprisingly little information on the vehicle, except for one thing that is certain:

AAT mini Mk. IV e or what?

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Overview

The elephant in the room is of course that this has nothing to do with a “real” AAT as actually present in the movies and series – not by any stretch of the imagination. If at all, this would qualify as a heavily redesigned next version, a smaller side version or simply a newly constructed vehicle based on the same principles. The irony here is that in fact I quite like it to some degree, as the larger turret and less ellipsoid overall appearance give it its own unique and distinct look, but it just bears zero resemblance to the original vehicles. It might still have looked cool next to its bigger brothers, though.

The Minifigures

One of the reasons I got over myself and bought the set are – drumroll – for this rare occasion the minifigures. As you know from other posts I don’t proactively collect them, but if I stumble upon one that I like and may want to use later, I keep them around.

Of course the main appeal here is Ahsoka. she had been done a couple of times in the past, but I feel that this is the first time ever her specific appearance with in particular her striped hood has been captured correctly. Can’t help it, but the figure just is extremely nice. Predictably, its popularity can only grow now that the character has appeared in The Mandalorian and a dedicated Ahsoka series has been announced for Disney+ as well. I’m pretty sure we’ll see lots of different versions from here on, but this is a good basis, no matter what.

In addition to Ahsoka herself we also get her personal bodyguard/ companion clone trooper for the first time, making this even more desirable. I’ve seen people on Facebook buying the set just for that and prices on Bricklink are also pretty crazy already. Finally there are two more Kashyyk droids, which are also kind of rare and fetch a good price. Earlier this year I sold some to someone intent on building a diorama with entire squadrons of them and apparently he had swept clean a lot of the market from the more affordable resellers already. So for all intents and purposes, it could be pretty easy to re-finance the whole set if you find people interested in the figures that you could sell them to.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Minifigures

Parts Cornucopia

In my world figures are nice, but parts that expand my portfolio are better, so let’s have a look at that as well. As you may guess from the sub-headline, the set doesn’t fare badly in this department. Many of the pieces, while not necessarily exclusive to this set, are relatively rare and either appear for the first time at all, have not been available in a long time or only in a handful of sets or are included in more significant numbers than previously in other sets. The individual parts are:

As always the point for me is to get as many of those pieces in one place instead of having to scrape them together from Bricklink or other sources at even greater cost and in that regard this set delivers. For me even more so since it has a few other parts that I didn’t have before like the curved wedges in Light Bluish Grey or the Dark Blue dishes. It’s all good stuff to have around just in case you may need it one day and you can’t go wrong with it.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Front Left View

The Price is still wrong

In light of the previous two chapters one might think that this is good value for money, but sadly it is not. For a bunch of pieces that essentially would fit into the volume of a slightly enlarged Rubik’s Cube, meaning a very small model that without its protruding gun barrels is 15 cm long, 15 cm wide and 15 cm tall, LEGO want you to pony up 40 Euro. That’s a big “No, Sir!” on my part and I can only once more conclude that they are pulling the prices for their sets out of their asses or throwing the dice in a drinking game. It’s just not worth that and seems ridiculous.

So once more I was biding my time until the set was closer to what I wanted it to be. At around 27 Euro I took the plunge, though I would have preferred for it to drop below the 25 Euro threshold. However, in the craziness that the year 2020 that seemed unlikely, given that there are genuine supply problems with LEGO vs. an extraordinarily high demand and so I didn’t put it off too long in order to not lose the advantage. Still, let me make it clear that I think that 25 Euro is actually the “real” price I would like to see this being sold for. Aside from a few larger parts and the minifigures there’s just not enough volume to justify more.

Deceitful Appearances

The reason why the model lacks volume and by extension thus can never be even close to an accurate representation of the real thing quickly becomes apparent when you swivel around it and view it from different angles. What looks okay from the front such as the big curved armored hull quickly falls apart when viewed from its rear side. It lacks all the transitional areas and worst of all exposes the raw underlying construction. This continues throughout the mid section of the turret, which similarly only looks good from the front, but when viewed from behind just looks like they ran out of pieces to cover it up.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Aft Left View

Worse, still, this section is not accessible from the rear because due to the small size of the model they had to use the space for a double-width window frame that acts as the support for the top section.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Aft Right View

As hinted earlier, the turret is way to big, most notably simply too wide. However, you have to give the designers some props for at least trying. The problem here is that on the real thing this is a very complicated shape with complex curvatures situated very far aft on the vehicle. In fact from a “real” military standpoint this probably would not make a lick of sense on an actual tank with it tipping over every time the turret is rotated off-center or from the recoil when it fires a charge. It’s one of those fictional things that would easily be defeated by actual physics.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Front Right View

Anyway, for all intents and purposes the turret should not be any wider than the extended handle it’s situated on and I feel that this is a typical case where the LEGO side of things got too much in the way. I think they were too bent on making the cannon movable and then ran into trouble getting enough stability in there, so they had to make things bigger. See what happened here?

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Left View with elevated Gun

The gun can be elevated and swiveled around 180 degrees, but as I mentioned that probably isn’t realistic to begin with and in the movies I haven’t seen the tanks fire anything but directly forward. It’s a nice play feature for the kids at least, but really not much more than that. On some level that also extends to “those other guns”, which are actually range finders and small lasers for self defense. they look rather crude on the model and the ugly black color doesn’t help. At least I’m glad they didn’t eliminate all antennas because, as you know, all the droids are remotely connected to their control ships in orbit. The silver rapier sticks out a bit too much, though.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Left Top View with elevated Gun

Adding to the play value is the ability to at least place the two droids that come with the set in the interior. Not in the technically correct positions, but let’s be grateful for small things.

LEGO Star Wars, Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283), Interior Details


Concluding Thoughts

Unfortunately this set fits the recent pattern of overpriced Star Wars sets whose value is primarily driven by the minifigures included while the models at best are adequate, but not great renditions of the originals they represent. This scheme becomes even more devious when figures are scattered across different sets. That is thankfully not the case here at least with no other specific The Clone Wars sets being available and requiring you to take out the purse just to get some company for Ahsoka, but this doesn’t make the situation any less unfulfilling.

As I already wrote, the tank itself is just fine. It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the Star Wars universe and even on it’s strict LEGO merits merely comes across as an uninspired run-off-the-mill job more than anything the designers put much effort in. It’s what in the media and graphics design industry we would call an “intern job” hacked together on a lazy afternoon, or in this case a recycled design from a few years ago that wasn’t correct then and isn’t correct now despite minor modifications and updates thanks to new parts.

The irony here is of course that I can neither advise pro or against the set, as it has its merits. Some will love the minifigs, others like me may see this as a good chance to rake in some interesting pieces and all the combinations inbetween. The only thing you really need to wipe from you mind is that the model has anything to do with a Star Wars AAT and in that regard it’s a complete fail.