Explorer-ing… Dragons – LEGO Explorer Magazine, September 2022

There’s certainly no shortage of mythical creatures in the LEGO world, be that the good old Elves dragons, Ninjago dragons, Wizarding World creatures (Harry Potter et al)or even more generic variations on the theme in Creator 3in1 sets. Heck, they even opened up a new Mythica section in Legoland Windsor and the German Legoland is going to get one next year. They even have a dedicated promotional set for it with a winged lion (set 40556; if anyone knows a good way of getting one cheap hit me up). In light of this over-abundance of potential material, the latest edition of the LEGO Explorer magazine was an inevitability. In fact they could probably do another five issues to cover all of their own dragons alone. For now let’s see what we have here.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Cover

As usual we get a short editorial/ a few info pages roughly covering the most common mythical creatures. Well, at least the ones we all know rather superficially from them being talked about in documentaries on TV and in a very limited, uneducated typical European/ US American way. The old Babylonians would be upset about not even being mentioned and so would no doubt some South American, Asian and other cultures. At best it’s a course starter for kids, but not a complete meal by any stretch of the imagination.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Info Page

The comic follows suit and while I’m not getting much out of it, the depiction of “monster” minifigures, be that just the “guy in costume” variety almost makes me regret I started so late in LEGO and never collected minifigs. It’s really that you kind of develop a taste for it (at least the more interesting specimen from each series/ set) the more you’re exposed to it. I got the Centaur from the Collectible Minifigures Series 21 as a free gift when I bought something in the LEGO store last year, though. Go, figure! ­čśë

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Comic

As mentioned earlier, the poster could be filled with Ninjago dragons alone and that would in fact be true for every year even. I think in 2018 or so there were at one point nine dragons/ dragon-like creatures from two overlapping release cycles and if you count all the Elves dragons they, too would cover the entirety of this poster. Sneaking in the Komodo Dragon is an epic fail, though. The English name for this creature means nothing to Germans, where its correctly called a Waran (Varanus) based on its actual genus.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Poster

The extra unmistakably is modeled after the classic green LEGO dragon, variations of which are still prominently used in the promotional materials for the Legoland parks. The small model is done nicely enough, but does not offer any fancy building techniques and the only “special” parts are the pointed Red wedge plates used for the wings. In fact they make it look like a baby dragon whose wings haven’t fully unfolded yet.

The LEGO Explorer magazine really gives me an itch in places I cannot talk about. I always see the potential of what it could be, but most of the time we get those watered down articles that even as a kid would have bored me. You know, this could be a really fun STEM mag with a LEGO twist, but somehow it ends up being just another weird low brow effort. Well, at least the extras are good and for that I can recommend this issue. If nothing else, the little green dragon will give you ten minutes of good fun.

Shrimp Boat? – LEGO Disney, Boun’s Boat (43185)

I still haven’t seen Raya and the Last Dragon, but with its release on DVD/ Blu-Ray and digital download last week chances of that are increasing, now that it’s no longer chained to Disney +. In the meantime I won’t let this stop me from buying some of the sets, regardless, and so I ended up with Boun’s Boat (43185) as I hinted at in the comments of my first article on the movie tie-ins.

LEGO Disney, Boun's Boat (43185), Box

Contents and Pricing

It may be a tiring refrain, but yes, of course on the face of it these Disney sets are way, way overpriced even when compared to other already expensive LEGO stuff. In this particular case this means that you would have to pay 50 Euro full price for a measly 247 pieces. True, there are many recognizably big ones, but at the same time there are just as many small 1 x 1 elements. So whichever way you try to bend the math, it just doesn’t add up and there’s no acceptable median value here. 23 Cent a piece would indeed not be much for a large shell piece, but it’s a hell of a lot for a 1 x 1 cheese slope. Say what you will, the price sucks.

LEGO Disney, Boun's Boat (43185), Overview

Things only get slightly better with discounts, as retailers/ reseller naturally are limited by what they have to pay as wholesale price. The cheapest I’ve seen this set go for is 33 Euro and I got mine for 35 Euro, so that is pretty much what you can expect, barring some crazy flash sale or clearance. The financial metric otherwise only improve ever so slightly, but are still not great. That said, at least you get some decently sized builds out of it, so the perceived bulk/ volume is okay within the described limitations.

Figures and Animals

One of the reasons I even remotely considered this set are the apes. I knew that even if you could buy them separately somewhere like on Bricklink, it would likely be just as expensive as buying the whole set. You know, due to the price and other factors those sets get only parted-out in limited numbers and their contents therefore don’t proliferate widely, meaning you could only ever buy them from a bunch of dealers. Combine that with the fact that coveted items like animals are either not at all available at LEGO‘s official Bricks & Pieces service or sell out quickly, chances of ever getting these critters using other routes diminish considerably. That may be one of the strongest arguments pro buying this set, crazy as it sounds.

Anyway, the three ape characters called Ongi are named Uka, Pan and Dyan and very obviously stand in for the stereotypical comedy trio (in same order): the small, smart one, the lazy fat one who’s a willing adjutant to the wannabe boss and ultimately said boss who isn’t half as smart as he thinks. Due to my lack of knowledge of the movie I have no idea how they figure into the story, but I’m sure they somewhat predictably play some role in procuring one of the artifacts, be that as competitors or aides to Sisu and Raya. They could just as well also merely be set dressing on one of the temples or the floating market.

On that note, if you want a bigger crowd of apes (as is usually their way), you can at least get Uka also in the Raya and the Ongi’s┬á Heart Lands Adventure (30558) polybag. So having a temple ruin swarming with apes like you find them in many Asian countries is certainly a possibility.

LEGO Disney, Boun's Boat (43185), Figures

The “human” protagonists are a bit boring, as Sisu‘s human form forced into the limitations of a minidoll really doesn’t convey the slight wackiness of her character. At least that can already be easily verified by watching the trailer and promotional snippets. LEGO also didn’t really go out of their way here with making a really frizzled hair piece or hinting at the wild mix of lavender, pink and purple with some airbrush work like on Sweet Mayhem‘s shimmering hair piece from The LEGO Movie 2. Boun is okay and certainly will also make a welcome addition to Heartlake City, given how few male characters there are in LEGO Friends, let alone ones with colored skin. The short pants in Bright Light Orange would also be of interest for customizing other minidolls such as Andrea or Joanna as it appears that this color hasn’t been done before.

Sticker Alert!

One of the things that shall forever elude my comprehension (a.k.a. my understanding of common sense) is the extensive use of stickers in a set aimed primarily at nine-year-olds, especially such large ones. I’m not saying that it is impossible for girls and boys at that age to apply them perfectly, it’s just dang hard if they don’t get any assistance from parents and older siblings. The thing that upsets me the most is that even the various small flags aren’t printed. Similarly, the pillars/ supports for the roof might have looked great with the weave texture already printed on, ideally even on the concave insides for optical consistency. As usual I haven’t applied any of these buggers, but it would have been a major annoyance to do so.

LEGO Disney, Boun's Boat (43185), Stickers

Side Builds

There are two small side builds in this set. The first of them is a golden canoe/ paddle boat and there’s really not much to say about it, given that it uses the well-known singular solid mold that has existed for a good while. I’m pretty sure it looks completely different in the movie, though, so perhaps this is really a bit lazy.

LEGO Disney, Boun's Boat (43185), Canoe

The other model is a bit of wooden pier that from the looks of it is also inhabited/ controlled by the Ongi and presumably also plays a role in some heist/ chase scene in the movie or something like that. Again, I’m totally clueless as to what hijinx ensue and just spitballing. This little build looks okay, but overall feels rather amateurish in the sense that it’s lacking any finesse and feels like your kid could have come up with it by him-/herself. It’s the most basic vertical stacking. Hence stability isn’t that great, especially with the two base plates which are literally held together by a single 2 x 4 tile. That’s just not good building style.

A small positive surprise in all this are the two barrels, which are in Reddish Brown as opposed to the more widely available Dark Brown. Nothing revolutionary, but considering that there was a seven year lull where they weren’t in any new sets and you had to get them from second hand markets like Bricklink it’s still nice to see them pop up again, be it just for the convenience of obtaining them “incidentally” when buying a set.

The Boat

The boat is just a weird contraption with my biggest regret here being that very apparently it manages to capture the style of these Asian river boats very well, but does not make much of an effort to go all the way in with more details and different construction methods. It realyl relies way too much on those large single pieces for my taste, be that the boat hull, the supports or the roof. All of these could have benefited from being built up or at least bolstered by some smaller parts. This would have allowed for an even better representation of some surface curves and also helped stability.

I’m really quite miffed about the protrusions on the side to widen/ thicken the hull being only attached to a 1 x 4 SNOT brick. You can easily break them off. Similar things could be said for some of the visible gaps under the roof and a few other areas. Some of that could have been avoided with a more granular building style using smaller elements. Nothing spectacular in fact, just a few bits here and there that act as fills where there is too much open space.

At the same time there is a weird dichotomy here in that someone invested quite a bit of effort into “branding” the boat as a shrimp/ crayfish fishing boat. The large prawn on the top is simple, but efficient as are the details on the side using the yellow croissant and feathers. It’s amazing that they even spent their budget on having the parts manufactured in those colors exclusively for this set. Arguably of course that’s also the reason why the rest is lacking in places because the budget ran out. See what happened there? That may also explain the “color vomit” elsewhere, i.e. using parts in other colors that would have required to also be produced in the new, matching color variants such as the hinges to which the large blades are attached. there’s always a trade-off.

In terms of play features there’s not much going on in this set. In fact I was puzzled when I realized that this set doesn’t even have the usual inverted dish knobs/ plates to make it glide more smoothly over surfaces and to stabilize connections from the underside. You can still use it this way of course, just with a little less robustness and a greater risk of the loops from carpets getting tangled on sharp edges. There’s a small cargo hold/ hiding place in the ship’s hull, and no, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. Those bright reddish-orange-y squares are indeed the ends of some Coral 1 x 6 tiles used inside. See my “color vomit” comment.

LEGO Disney, Boun's Boat (43185), Boat, Interior Detail


Concluding Thoughts

This set is pretty clearly one of two different mindsets clashing with one another. There’s a tangible schism between a reasonably large and solid play set versus a more detailed replica of the actual in-movie item to put on display. Unfortunately the set does not fully succeed at either and so we once more get a somewhat tepid, half-baked result where you somehow can’t help but wonder what might have been.

Having prints instead of stickers for several items alone would have gone a long way to improving the situation and would have served both sides. Building on that, some more fine details, consistent color use and substituting a few large solid parts for more refined buildable sub-assemblies could have taken it to a whole new level on the presentation side without sacrificing too much playability. It’s really regrettable that we ended up with such a mish-mash that can’t decide what it wants to be.

Overall this is not the most terrible model I’ve come across in my time, but it’s just not particularly good, either. I would only reluctantly recommend it and the usual disclaimers and caveats apply: Only get it if your kid insists or you get some specific other value out of it and when you do, get it the cheapest way possible. It’s definitely not worth 50 Euro and the exclusive Bright Light Orange items and the Ongi figures can’t justify that, either.

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.

Rider on the Storm – Stormbringer Dragon (70652)

Within my limited options I’m trying to live as environmentally and socially conscious as I can and part of that is not ordering every bit of toilet paper online and having underpaid people deliver my stuff. On the other hand of course I have to be cost aware out of necessity, so I can’t entirely avoid making a good catch on Amazon every now and then. Naturally, last week was Prime Day and the offer they had on the Stormbringer Dragon (70652) was ultimately too good to pass up.

LEGO Ninjago, Stormbringer Dragon (70652), Box

As you know from this article, I’m a bit wary of dragon models due to the many hinge and joint parts left over after disassembling the models and using the rest of the pieces for other builds. That’s why I had this set somewhere on my virtual wishlist, but not very high at the top. When the price dropped to 24 Euro on that magical day the math started to add up, though – it was the threshold where I would effectively only pay for the “good” parts and would not regret ditching the rest and burying it deep in one of my storage boxes later. Or in other words: In my mind this was the point where the joints and hinges were included “free”. With that said, the original 40 Euro price just doesn’t feel right and had this special offer not come my way, I’d simply let it be.

LEGO Ninjago, Stormbringer Dragon (70652), Overview

The set itself was released last year already and reflects the dragon hunter/ diesel gang theme that was current back then. Somehow this never fully took off and unlike other themes that had a longer lifespan it was already superseded by Forbidden Spinjitsu and Legacy this year. You can still buy the sets, yes, but I’d wager by the end of the year most of them will be pulled. Anyway, the one thing I particularly liked about this were the pale-faced gang members. The set includes two of them plus the usual color-themed figure associated with each dragon, i.e. Jay, the blue ninja and his companion Zane.

LEGO Ninjago, Stormbringer Dragon (70652), Figures

As a gimmick and sort of a cheap marketing ploy to get people to buy more sets there was also this golden armor thing with separate pieces in each box. This one contains the shoulder harness and a dragon hilt for the bone sword. The harness is nicely presented on an anvil-like pedestal with a piece of rock underneath, making for a lovely little side build and an interesting little eye catcher for presenting the stuff on your shelf or showcase.

LEGO Ninjago, Stormbringer Dragon (70652), Golden Armor

To my surprise the dragon turned out larger than I had estimated based on photos and videos. It’s by no means as long as the green dragon from the movie, but still a sizable beast. I blame the misleading perception mostly on two factors: One, the dragon is overall very thin/ slender or even scrawny and two, the head is relatively tiny. If it wasn’t for the various spikes and protrusions, it could almost pass as a normal lizard. Photographing it from certain angles furthers this impression even more.

LEGO Ninjago, Stormbringer Dragon (70652), Left, Side View

The skinny nature of the creature can of course be attributed to its somewhat barebones design. Only a minimum number of pieces have been used to cover up the various joint and hinge elements and most of them are flat pieces that don’t add volume like curved slopes and wedges would. Even the central trunk/ spine element is more or less just two studs wide all the way with some decorative bits attached to the sides to give the idea of scales. I like that they shaped it like a cat’s back, though, giving it a nice aggressive stance.

LEGO Ninjago, Stormbringer Dragon (70652), Front Left View

The head and neck part are a bit of a weird thing. The front looks very bird-like and with some printed 1 x 4 bricks used to represent the eyes is quite interesting, but then you stare at this gaping stair-stepped area at the back of the head. Even if you give credit to the fact that they may just have wanted to keep the neck thin by not adding further slopes for a gradual transition it just looks weird. It’s like someone carved out a perfectly rectangular piece with a chainsaw.

The decorative bits don’t really do much to disguise this. Arguably the head has been constructed upside down even, as of course the spine transitions into the upper skull, not the lower jaw, the need to integrate the arrow shooters notwithstanding. Dunno, it’s one of those things where I understand the limitations and it’s actually also cool on some level that for once the arrows really do come out of the mouth, but at the same time I can’t shake the feeling of possibly a better solution having been feasible.

LEGO Ninjago, Stormbringer Dragon (70652), Rear Left View, Seat and Head

The reason I ultimately decided to take the plunge are of course the many Dark Blue and Blue pieces one can never have enough of. The duck beak wedges are perhaps not the most useful, but the many curved slopes and even the shield-shaped tiles definitely are. I also think I might have an idea for the wings/ flaps one day. interestingly, I also didn’t realize I don’t have any of those small horns in Bright Light Orange yet and only ones in regular Yellow. Funny how one stumbles upon new discoveries even in the most mundane sets sometimes.

LEGO Ninjago, Stormbringer Dragon (70652), Rear Left View

With the design aspects talked about sufficiently, we need to have a word about the play value. As I wrote in that other article, I don’t think these long and slinky dragons are particularly safe for children under a specific age ore more specific a certain size where they would have sufficiently long enough arms and larger hands to actually hold the moving parts in check without gouging their eyes. Conversely some force is required to overcome the resistance and friction of the joints to be able to pose the model. The latter is very limited due to the rigid construction of the legs without knee joints, so basically the only way to get a stable position is to always move the legs in pairs and have the dragon stand flat.

LEGO Ninjago, Stormbringer Dragon (70652), Rear Right View

I wouldn’t say this is a particularly outstanding model, but overall it’s okay. For the price I got it it’s perfectly acceptable, though likely that in itself is a statement. Amazon aren’t known for having the lowest LEGO prices here in Germany (thankfully there’s some good alternatives) and them firing this out as Prime bait likely means they were sitting on a large stockpile that didn’t sell that well. With that in mind you likely only will truly enjoy it if you are a Ninjago nerd, generally have a thing for dragons or like me are always on the lookout for good parts sources that don’t break the bank…

Blue Turtoise – Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191)

As should be abundantly clear from previous Friends-related articles, I kinda love LEGO‘s somewhat weird girl-ish series.┬áLEGO Elves falls into that category as well. Unfortunately it never really took off because it is stuck in a very specific corner (which is entirely LEGO‘s own fault), so there’s only a handful of sets every year. While half of them are probably not worth mentioning, the other half is actually quite interesting once you allow your mind to attune to the subject and Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191) is one of those latter sets.

LEGO Elves, Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191), Box

Compared to other LEGO series, Elves sets are extremely pricey (despite most dealers having massive discounts on them), which is probably one of the reasons why they may not sell that well and are not as popular. This set is no exception and typically comes in at around 18 Euros. Considering the slightly bonkers MSRP of 25 Euros that’s okay, but still expensive for only a handful of actual pieces once you subtract the custom items for the turtle head, the figures and a few other parts.

LEGO Elves, Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191), Overview

The most significant item is of course the large turtle itself, which is put together from a bunch of simple parts for the body and shell and uses a large custom head. The limbs are attached using mini ball joints and are poseable, though it’s questionable how useful this may actually be, given the limited range of motion a turtle has in general. It doesn’t really add much here and once more to me this is a case of where it would have made more sense to focus on a better design with a few more pieces even if they were rigid. Making the creature larger as a whole also would have helped to allow for more details.

More or less the proportions only are applicable to a baby turtle, anyway. On an adult turtle the shell would look considerably larger compared to the head and the legs would be farther apart and taller. Arguably that’s within what you can do with a sets for kids, though it makes the inclusion of the mini turtle a bit odd, even in terms of the story. If you get my drift – it’s difficult to differentiate them and one can’t shake the feeling that there should be some mother turtle big as a mountain somewhere, with these two examples only being her middle and smallest offspring.

LEGO Elves, Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191), Turtle

The second major part is the little island with the “trap”. Considering most turtle species are vegetarian and couldn’t be lured in with fish, the orange critter is really a strange detail in this context. The element in the middle is a disc shooter which also doesn’t make much sense beyond perhaps knocking whoever is riding the turtle off its back. It would probably have made more sense to build it larger, forego the shooter, deck it out with water lilies galore and have a little island on it for the little goblin to sit on. Something like that would have made more sense to me. Then they also could have done away with the ridiculous tiny boat.

LEGO Elves, Naida & The Water Turtle Ambush (41191), Island

As should have become clear, this set is extremely specific. LEGO missed the mark on playability by miles on that one, but if you like turtles in any form and shape, this could be a cute little display item for your showcase, even more so if you invest building a little diorama around it. I’d even wager that for people who collect turtles in all forms and shapes (I happen two know at least two) this could make a nice gift with a slightly humorous undertone…

Lotso Green! – Green Ninja Mech Dragon from The LEGO Ninjago Movie (70612)

Do you know this weird situation when you want a specific LEGO set for a number of reasons, yet it never becomes a top priority or you even dislike it for certain other reasons? This weird dichotomy happened to me with the Green Ninja Mech Dragon (70612) from The LEGO Ninjago Movie and it always prevented me from buying the set. Fortunately I got a lucky break with a discounted price I couldn’t resist, so things worked out, after all.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Green Ninja Mech Dragon (70612), Box

To clarify this mystery, allow me to delve into the details a bit. First let’s look at why I possibly wanted this set. In my case the answer should be pretty predictable by now if you have read some of my other articles – it’s about the parts and their potential to be re-used in other projects. In that regard the set is almost a dream.

It’s overflowing with elements in Sand Green. Somehow I have that weird image in my head that on day I might build something where I’m going to need a ton of these pieces, be that a building with a green patinated copper roof, some ginormous sculpture or a vehicle and that’s why I can’t stop myself collecting sets with parts in this color, even if it may not be of any particular immediate relevance. In case of this mechanical dragon those inner urges are amplified by the inclusion of a large number of golden elements and some further ones in Dark Green. If you will, it’s the perfect bait in the sense that procuring those parts separately would be a lot more difficult and costly.

The reasons I was hesitant and that kept me away from buying this set for a long time are equally numerous and complicated, yet still somehow have to┬ádo with the parts. Correct, this creature is what I’d like to call a “Joints and Hinges Monstrosity” with half the mass and volume of the set being spent on those bulky large ball joints and 2D pin joints. If I was into building robots and other mechanical creatures all the time I might welcome this opportunity, but since i don’t, those parts are mostly wasted on me (they may come in handy in some form one day, though, I’m sure).

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Green Ninja Mech Dragon (70612), Overview

Further contributing to this “I don’t care much!” feeling was/ is the overall blandness and dullness of the set. Indeed I simply do not care for getting the 500th Master Wu or Lord Garmadon and there is little to nothing else to sink your teeth into in terms of details. It’s really just one big-ass dragon. That in itself represents a bit of a problem, as effectively the thing is way too large for kids to actually be able to decently play with it.

Basically you always have to be careful to not whip the tail in your face and hold it with two hands, making it nearly impossible to intuitively pose the model. If you put up the dragon straight in its fully stretched out form, this becomes even more apparent because the actual range of motion of the individual body segments is rather limited, i.e. they can partially move left or right, but not necessarily a lot up and down and vice versa. Ironically this is necessary because otherwise it would be completely unstable. You couldn’t put it on its feet and it would curl up like a snake all the time.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Green Ninja Mech Dragon (70612), Length

Despite its already huge size the model in no way captures the style and elegance of the version used in the movie. Mostly it simply looks too skeletal with the joints being too exposed. In the film the model is about twice as large, allowing each segment to be shaped with much more elements and looking much more organic. Something has definitely been lost scaling it down, as to my eyes it looks neither here nor there. In fact it would have been fine with me if they had made the best of the situation and actually played with the idea of exposing more of the inner parts, giving it a more mechanical look and feel.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Green Ninja Mech Dragon (70612), Engine Detail closed

A lot of the odd “caught between a rock and a hard place” feeling in my opinion also has to do with the inconsistent use of color and some crude, simplified parts. Had they run with my idea of a more mechanical creature, they would have had to use more gold and possibly tons of tiny elements in silver as well to represent some inner structure.

Just the same I feel that having a single molded part for the feet is not ideal. It may add stability, but it simply doesn’t look very pretty. They should have used some of the techniques that are commonly employed on LEGO Elves dragons where the feet typically are assembled from curved slopes and other parts and are just as stable while at the same time looking more convincing. That argument BTW also would apply for a larger, more organic version of the beast.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Green Ninja Mech Dragon (70612), Engine Detail closed

Color usage rubs me the wrong way in that they seemed to be unable to make up their minds about when to use black and dark grey vs. the greens. As a minor I would have expected that they settle on just black or just grey for the joints and not a wild mix of both, but ideally of course those parts would have been in Dark Green or Sand Green as well. Some additional covering up of exposed areas with plates and slopes also wouldn’t have hurt.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Green Ninja Mech Dragon (70612), Engine Detail open

The inconsistent colorization makes the various openable/ poseable appendages a lot less attractive than it would seem at first, too. It’s literally like you open up a hood and something ugly that totally doesn’t match in style is staring back at you. In particular the engine section really makes you go *eek*. Not that I think using an L-shaped Technic element is a good idea to begin with, but at least they could have made it black. This would have also made the silver “exhaust nozzles” stand out more and overall simply looked cooler.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Green Ninja Mech Dragon (70612), Engine Detail open

There’s a first time for everything and so after having had to get a replacement part for a set a while ago, I now had to request extra parts from LEGO service because they were actually missing. Under the two levers in the cockpit where I inserted some 1×1 round tiles there should actually be golden 1×1 square plates with clips to act as temporary weapons holders while the dragon is being operated.

The parts have arrived ever since I took the photos, but still – I’ll never quite understand why LEGO insist on their bean counting and you even have to use your spares sometimes instead of just throwing in enough elements to begin with. The padded envelope and mailing cost from Billund to Germany definitely cost them more than those two extra parts worth fractions of a Cent. It’s even more ridiculous when you consider that overall there are supposed to be ten of these golden clips on this model, so the jump from those seven to a generic pre-sorted mini bag with ten of these items seems trivial – in my mind at least.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Green Ninja Mech Dragon (70612), Cockpit Detail

Luckily nothing else was missing, so decorating the head with golden parts proceeded as planned. All of them are movable one way or another, so it’s entirely up to your taste how aggressive you make it look by spreading them out or conforming them more to the streamlines. the same applies to the black spikes which in contrast to the original design I added in their perpendicular position, not flat. The blades not being actually symmetrical kinda teed off my orderly tendencies.

An interesting detail are the golden bananas for the tear bags, which made me grin when I first saw photos of this set and realized what they actually were. Similarly, using a magenta flag for the tongue is an interesting solution. The rest is a mix of some minifigure accessories, Bionicle parts and the already mentioned regular recolored hinges and plates.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Green Ninja Mech Dragon (70612), Head closed

Similar to the Elves dragons I’m not friends with the jaws and nose being specifically molded parts, as they end up in the “useless” bin once you disassemble these models and use their parts elsewhere, but in this scale and in light of the absence of some specific curved elements I guess it is the simpler solution than trying to create the from individual parts.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Green Ninja Mech Dragon (70612), Head open

After so much criticism, why did I end up with the set, after all? As written earlier, this was a case of mere chance and the price was simply so ridiculously irresistible, it alone made up for all the shortcomings.

This is going to turn some of your faces blue and green from jealousy, but honest to God, I got it sealed and unused with a 45 percent discount in a regular store. Yupp, hard as it is to believe, I got this set, which is still current and retails for 50 Euros regular price for a mere 27 Euros. The crazy story behind this is that it had been lying unnoticed in a drugstore chain’s toys shelf for a while and when I first noticed it, it already had been reduced to 35 Euros. Because it wasn’t a high priority, I didn’t pick it up, hoping to get it even cheaper one day, most likely in some online clearance sale.

Two months later I stopped by in the same store and lo and behold – the box was still there, now for a lowered price of 30 Euros. I once again abstained from a purchase, still not thinking much of it, though admittedly afterwards I had regrets not having jumped the chance when telling my mom about it. Fast forward another two months and the exact same set was still there and I got this gut feeling of “If I don’t take it home now, it will be gone.”. Still somewhat reluctant i finally got over it and snatched it. This was simply too good a chance to pass up. Things then got even better when I got a further ten percent discount due to an ongoing special promo in this exact week when I buying it. So there you have it – that’s how I arrived at 27 Euros.

I wouldn’t call it a sign from a higher power, but the box having sat there unscathed for half a year in the end must have meant something, considering that despite everyone ignoring it and walking by this is a large and busy store, regardless. I guess sometimes even I get lucky.


In conclusion, my points stick: This isn’t really a must-have model. Similar to the Garmadon shark sub it isn’t in any way representative of the version used in the movie, so in no way is everything awesome in Ninjago City. It also is simply too unwieldy to play with it and due to its size you will be hard-pressed to find a place to store it. Display model collectors will also likely scoff at the simplifications and lack of some details as well as the color usage.

Don’t get me wrong – I feel that I got what I wanted, but I never had plans to keep the assembled model around for long to begin with and primarily had my eye on the parts. That being the case, getting the whole package for 27 Euros certainly is a good deal, but I wouldn’t have gotten it at much more than that, anyway, as essentially in this case I only paid for the useful parts (slopes, plates and details) and got the ‘”useless” ones (figures, joints and integrally molded one-offs like the head) for “free”. Talk about the economics of LEGO