Plant a Tree, Save the Planet? – LEGO Friends, Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707)

It’s been a minute since I last reviewed a LEGO Friends set and that has a lot to do with the rather atrocious “Magical Funfair” theme that just didn’t appeal to me both in terms of value for money and overall design aesthetic. The new early 2022 releases at least improve upon the latter, but not necessarily the former. It’s probably safe to say that unless it falls out of the sky for free, I won’t be reviewing a 150 Euro set like the Main Street Building (41704) and I’m not too certain about the Canal Houseboat (41702) and Friendship Tree House (41703), either, given that they have a lot of large compound parts like ship hulls and “tree” shells that I have no use for. Anyway, we’ll have top see how that goes, but for now let’s see what the Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707) does offer.

LEGO Friends, Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707), Box

Price and Contents

Sadly, LEGO have become very greedy lately and the pandemic with its supply chain issues and high demand because everyone is at home has been playing into their hands. This is also manifest in this set.

A 30 Euro price tag for 336 pieces may not look that unusual at first, but you can tell just by looking at the official promo images or my overview shot that many of these are just either small 1 x 1 pieces or insignificant standard elements that can be had for cheap on Bricklink. Except for a few more special parts it could be scraped together from other sources relatively easy for almost the same price. Our German LEGO price comparison site Brickmerge states a part-out value of around 45 Euro and that pretty much can only be blamed on some parts exclusive to this set like the Medium Azure slopes and a few items only found in other expensive sets like the 3 x 3 cylinders used here for the flower pots from Bowser’s Airship (71391).

With that said, of course the whole package thankfully can be had much cheaper at your favorite retailer. I got mine for 20 Euro, representing a 30 % discount, but lately it has dropped as far as 17 Euro for a 43 % price cut. As usual I would definitely recommend to get it as cheaply as possible, but I don’t feel bad about what I spent. While it may not offer a large number of pieces, it builds into two reasonably large models

LEGO Friends, Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707), Overview

The Glasshouse

The first build in the set is a glasshouse/ greenhouse in which the sprouts and saplings are grown until they can be planted in the wilderness. My problem here is that while it captures the feeling of such a building, the model is way, way, way too small to count as a professional operation. In fact this looks more like one of those greenhouses a hobbyist gardener would bash together from used doors and windows of dilapidated houses, something I remember well from my youth growing up in Eastern Germany where building supplies were always in short supply and people had to make do with what they could find.

The whole situation isn’t helped by how the plants are represented – a few vines and lots of large leaf-based builds just don’t give that sense of actual trees, but rather cabbage and flowers being pre-grown. That said, the greenhouse is nice in its own right, but for all intents and purposes this is more a conventional garden house than anything seriously to do with growing trees. On the bright side, this is the first time in a long while where the triple-split large window elements have become available in White again and the angled roof windows come with transparent glassing, not Trans Light Blue, so there’s that. If you need multiples of those, buying this set more than once certainly could be an option with the right discounts.

As they say “The lady comes apart” and the individual sub-assemblies can be placed separately for play such as they are. It doesn’t necessarily make that much sense, but is always a good option for the kids. That being said, the feeling that there should be more definitely lingers, in particular in terms of actual trees. There easily could have been another bit of soil with some tree stalks on it. This becomes even more apparent once you actually start to play with the two potted bushes/ trees to place them on the truck or elsewhere. This goes so far as the underlying plate assembly breaking up since the pots are also used as a structural element to hold the round plate and an extra 2 x 6 plate together. This is genuinely a major design flaw!

LEGO Friends, Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707), Glasshouse, Separated Parts

The Truck

We’re seeing trucks a plenty across all of LEGO‘s series and this therefore could easily be just another one of them. However, no matter how tired this trope may be, this little truck feels fresh enough to be interesting. I in particular like the compact, short design which makes it look cute. It’s a bit too large in scale to truly count as one of those small utility trucks such companies or public service providers maintaining parks and such often have. This is even more obvious since this is supposed to be an electrical car and the engineering metrics don’t make sense then. Still, not the worst LEGO truck I’ve seen.

Despite its other qualities, the color scheme of the truck slightly bugs me. I get it – with Olivia being the main protagonist they had to have her color scheme somewhere in this set, but clearly there is an over-abundance of Medium Azure in Heartlake City due to this color being used by multiple girls and I feel that they could have changed up the formula here in the interest of presenting something fresh. In keeping with the ecological subject I think this would have been a wonderful opportunity to give us a Yellowish Green vehicle. My reasoning here is that many electrical cars have very fashionable colors to distinguish themselves from conventional fuel cars, anyway, plus the color would help to communicate what it is all about. Alternatively Bright Green would also have been nice, as many such companies and agencies purposely use it.

LEGO Friends, Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707), Truck, Cockpit

One advantage of the oversized car is that both figures fit in it, further adding play value. The roof can easily be removed for full access. Now of course the short car has to have one disadvantage and that is that despite there being provision for two attachment points, not both flower pots can be loaded onto the cargo bed without getting in the way of each other or the small hydraulic crane interfering. The latter is also rather awkward to use and cannot be extended far enough for actual loading, so you may want to consider just leaving it off. Removing the crane would free up the one extra row of studs you’d need to move the jumper plate forward and then finally you could plug on both pots. This may have more play value for your child than clinging to the crane.

LEGO Friends, Tree-Planting Vehicle (41707), Truck, Cargo Bed


Concluding Thoughts

The elephant in the room is of course a simple question: What does this set actually have to do with tree-planting? It seems LEGO intentionally mislabeled this set to cater for the zeitgeist of presenting an eco-friendly image. Only too bad that things aren’t that simple even if the package actually resembled what it promises. We can plant trees all we want, but it won’t save the planet without other measures alongside! This really kind of riles me up…

My personal peeves aside this is certainly a pretty decent set if you take it for what it is – an interesting spin on (professional) gardening and green keeping that just can’t quite decide what it wants to be. A larger greenhouse would have improved this massively and if you have the cash, I would definitely recommend to at least try and buy a second set to bash something together that has a little more space. Otherwise it’s just fine and has enough play value for the intended demographic.

Similarly, the truck is good, but still could have been better with minor changes and a different color scheme might even have attracted people that don’t buy Friends sets otherwise. It really feels like a missed opportunity to bring something new to the Heartlake community. So for better or worse this set is “just fine”, when it could have been really great…

Back to the Woods -LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679)

The supply chain and overall availability issues that affect so many products during the pandemic also persist for LEGO, so it still takes forever until you can get your hands on some products at all or they are more widely available at reasonable prices. That’s why the Forest House (41679) from the LEGO Friends series only now found its way into my home now, almost two months after its May release in these parts.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Box

Price and Contents

One of the reasons I did not rush to the store for this set on day one is of course the usual price consideration. With 326 pieces and a suggested price of 30 Euro the value of this set is not bad right out of the gate, but every bit of money saved helps, apparently. I got this for 23 Euro and would predict that eventually it will level off around the 20 Euro-ish mark.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Overview

No matter the price, as far as LEGO Friends sets go this is pretty good value. I certainly had a number of stinkers in my short time doing this, but you really can’t complain about this set. As you may already gather from the overview image you get quite a bit of bulk here. The tree house is sizable, there’s three minifigures and an animal plus an extra piece of river/ waterfall and a canoe. If every set for 20 Euro was that rich we’d live in a better world.

The Figures

The selection of the minidolls in this set is a bit odd, to be honest, given that Mia and Ava (the kid) were already in the Heartlake City Organic Café (41444) earlier this year. Even if this would count as a spare time activity vs. their professional occupation it seems strange how the girls jump from activity to activity without much logic and a consistent story behind it. If this was a movie, you’d complain about the plot holes, if you get my meaning.

An interesting observation also is that the khaki shorts Mia wears at the café would be much more adequate here. A bit of body swap surgery might not be a bad idea if you have both sets/ figures, respectively. Similarly, a different dress color for Ava would have been nice. On the bright side we are getting Sand Blue pants by ways of Ann, which could come in handy as jeans/ worker pants for the few male characters in Heartlake City. Oh, and anyone notice the all three-letter names, anyway?

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Figures

The figures are easily outdone by the single animal in this set, the raccoon. This is a new mold and for the time being can only be found in this set and the Forest Camper Van and Sailboat (41682) also associated with the forest excursion sub-theme. It’s just plain and simple cute and apparently also one of the motivations behind getting this set. The only thing that could have made it better would have been the inclusion of a second raccoon or a baby version of it, but I guess LEGO are going to wait with that to give us a reason to buy more sets next year. 😉

The Side Builds

There are two side builds, with one of them really being limited to plugging the round tile and the foot holder element into the canoe hull. The Magenta is a new color and expands the somewhat limited color options for this mold.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Canoe

The other extra is a piece of river put together from a bunch of simple plates and bricks. Though the wild water rapids are hinted at, it cannot accommodate the full length of the kayak, so it’s not that useful for this. It will work wonderfully as a place to put the raccoon, however, with him having a sip from the clear water or washing his food in it. This little island also features one of the pine trees created from the new Bright Green versions of some elements specifically produced for this series.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), River

The Tree House

The actual tree house isn’t really a forest tree house but rather a somewhat luxurious backyard tree house or lodge as you would build it in your garden. Most notably it includes several “luxury” extras such as the barbecue grill, the large couch and the gazebo-like structure that you likely would not have somewhere deep in the Alaskan woods or similar. Still, the overall design is not bad.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Front Right View

The frame construction also serves as a clever trick to provide extra stability to the whole model and prevent it from toppling over, something many “single pole” tree houses can be prone to if they get too top-heavy. Furthermore it also indirectly reinforces the connections of the plates used for the ground. In engineering terms, it’s more or less a box frame visually disguised. Clever as it may be there is one caveat here, though, as the build sequence isn’t always ideal.

One very critical thing is for instance the 2 x 4 brick used for the grill which according to the instructions will only be added rather near the end of the respective build for this exterior area. I would recommend you jump ahead a little and at least put the brick itself in place early to strengthen the connection of the plates underneath or else you may struggle with the green 6 x 6 round corner plate coming off again and again like it happened to me a number of times. Not a big issue, but one that could have been avoided by shuffling a few construction steps around.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Front Left View

The back of the model and thus the interior of the house loses a bit of fancy compared to the front. I’m not complaining about the shallow depth at only four studs – that was to be expected in this price range – but personally I’m missing at least one cool detail. For all intents and purposes it is very mundane and ordinary. Simple things as an (emergency) gasoline lamp hanging from the wall or a candle might have already enlivened it and then their could be all kinds of outdoor equipment like a butterfly net, a fishing rod and so on as well.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Back Left View

One thing I was pleased with is that the model uses “sensible” elements that are reusable well enough for my own projects. By that I mean that the designers have actually opted to give us as much to build as possible and foregone using those awful elongated 1 x 2 x 5 bricks and similar that you find in so many Friends sets. Instead indeed we have a good number of traditional 1 x 2 and 1 x 4 bricks to build real walls.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Back Right View

This trend is also visible elsewhere with the arch elements being properly embedded in the walls, the number of big “shell” elements to shape the roundness of the tree trunk to an acceptable minimum and some smaller plates and tiles being pieced together to add some texture as opposed to using larger, more monolithic parts. I even like that they used colored windows to make it less monotone. It would just have been preferable if the window frames were Dark Green or something like that.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Detail Grapes

The greenery stuff is adequate, but could be a bit more dense in my opinion. This again hearkens back to this being more of a somewhat luxurious holiday cabin rather than an actual tree house where presumably you’d have quite some thicket coverage after not having been there for a while. that also makes the blue grapes look a bit out of place even if you interpret this as being bramble vines winding around the wood frame.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Detail Toilet

The tree trunk contains a small toilet, which is a little gag, but really not much more. Would people even go out of their way to build such a room or wouldn’t your camping loo or a separate outhouse make more sense? Again this space could probably have been used for storing some utilities just as well. The attic and roof are serviceable, but a bit barren. There’s a single grey tile on the outside on which you are supposed to put a solar panel sticker, but not even a matching light on the inside or a small radio which would certainly have made more sense than a perfume flask. It’s not really logical/ plausible and can only be explained away with the usual “It’s for kids, after all!”.

LEGO Friends, Forest House (41679), Detail Attic

For the exterior of the roof it would have been nice if they included some 1 x 4 and 1 x 3 tiles with wood prints to make it look a bit more rugged and improvised as if it had been bashed together from used wood boards originally belonging to something else like a transport palette. just two or three of those on either side would have greatly helped to further this impression.

Parts a Plenty

On the subject of new, recolored and printed parts this set is a well of joy. Some of them are very visible in the photos and should require no further explanation. I also already mentioned the canoe and the parts for the pine trees:

The other parts are a little less visible because they are used on the tree trunk:

Personally I was once more stumped that the 2 x 2 Macaroni never had been done in this color in all those years. Goes to show that there is still room to surprise even for legacy elements. There’s also the  Tile 1 x 3 in Bright Green, an item you likewise would think has existed in this color for forever already, but no, it’s pretty fresh in this color, though not exclusive and not limited to this set.


Concluding Thoughts

This is by all means a nice model and even in my world as a very critical reviewer this would score an 8.5 out of 10 at least, give or take a few minor niggles. There is very little to complain about. The set is full of new useful pieces and color variants, it is very affordable and to top it off comes with a completely new animal. This is basically the kind of set that just by buying it once will give you ideas on what you want to do with the bits from it and it gives a major boost to your parts stock. Could some things have been better? Sure, but for around 20 Euro you can’t really argue.

This is one of those little gems that regrettably have gotten so rare in the LEGO world. Where other (Friends) sets feel they are merely created to deplete overflow part supply or sell expensive extras like animals at ridiculous prices, this one gives the impression that some thought and love was poured into it to make it well-balanced and worth your money. I can highly recommend this set as it hits all the right notes from being very playable and robust to just looking nice.

Yellow Forest Hideout – LEGO Disney, Aurora’s Forest Cottage (43188)

I must admit that despite my best attempts at resisting the temptation I always get myself into trouble over “cute” stuff. So it was a given that on day I would buy Aurora’s Forest Cottage (43188) one day as soon as I saw the small deer included in the package when first photos became available. Now that I have it, let’s look what it has on offer.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Forest Cottage (43188), Box

Contents and Pricing

Let’s not kid ourselves: Disney Princess sets are hopelessly overpriced. LEGO and Disney clearly know that they can get away with everything as long as they can rely on little girls (and boys) bugging their parents about their favorite character from an animated movie. This is no exception.

At a suggested street price of 40 Euro for a mere 300 pieces the usual metrics of 10 Cent per piece are seriously out of whack on the wrong side of the scales. That being the case, there’s limited room for the retailers to go lower, as no doubt they feel the squeeze just as hard, so the best you can hope for is the usual 20 to 30 percent discount reigning in the price at around 30 Euro. For my taste that’s still way too much, as the contents is simply rather sparse, all things considered, and at the end you have a relatively small model. Again this is one of those situations where 25 Euro would be much more preferable and an MSRP of 30 Euro would have been sufficiently adequate.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Forest Cottage (43188), Overview

The actual contents consist of the main building, the cottage, a small bridge, two minidoll figures and a couple of animals with the only real exclusive items being the Maleficent figure and the small deer/ fawn/ Bambi. the rest is standard fare, though I don’t necessarily mean this in a bad way.

Figures and Animals

As indicated above, the Maleficent figure so far is exclusive for this set. There have been versions of this character before, but this one has a new face print as well as more elaborate prints on her gown compared to older editions. Aurora has also some new prints, so at least there’s that. The two figures will be enough to play out some of the plot beats of the movie(s), but I find it troublesome that not more were included. I’m dying for at least one of the three fairy godmothers or a non-descript palace guard or forest huntsmen. This seems so obvious to me!

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Forest Cottage (43188), Figures

The animals are a line-up of Aurora‘s little pets/ friends, one of Maleficent‘s spy crows and a random blue bird, which similar to the humans is not nearly enough in my opinion. In the movies, the swampy glade where Aurora tries to hide is overflowing with natural life, so there should be more of these creatures.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Forest Cottage (43188), Animals

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Forest Cottage (43188), BirdsA lot more in fact. The point that bothers me the most is that there easily could have been five or more of the pigeon-like small bird in different colors just to perch them on the house and the hinted-at tree. I think it would have been wonderful to have some in the “light” yellow, blue and pink colors and of course I wouldn’t have minded a bunch of grey and brown “sparrows”, either. On that same note I once more think that reusing the old Elves birds is no longer a good idea and they really, really need to consider creating an actual mold to be used as a crow/ raven/ magpie with that threatening pose.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Forest Cottage (43188), PetsThe other animals go of course also back to the Elves era, but since I didn’t have any of those and the whole point kind of was to get the Bambi with this set, that’s actually okay, even more so since the squirrel also only got a re-issue last year and thus isn’t that widespread yet.

The Bridge

The only small side build in this set is the bridge leading to the cottage over a small stream in front of it. For this set this has been kitsch-ed up to the max with a few Pearl Gold elements and of course the Dark Pink bubbles. I would much have preferred this to be a little more mundane, but bigger instead, be it just for the simple fact that it’s so tiny and narrow it doesn’t even hold up with the figures next to it. This is one of those cases where the protagonists would simply take a wide step to pass the river. Making it about one third larger at least would have conveyed the idea much better.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Forest Cottage (43188), Bridge 

The Cottage

The house is overall acceptable, but pretty plain, all things considered. At only effectively seven studs deep it is quite shallow and being that it’s only around 20 cm wide and tall you can imagine how small it actually is and there’s only so much you can cram in.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Forest Cottage (43188), Front Left View

The color choices no doubt will be a matter of personal taste but I quite like the Bright Light Orange to give the illusion of a golden thatched roof gleaming in the sunlight. The rest of the colors is also surprisingly consistent and almost restrained if it weren’t for the Medium Lavender and Dark Pink elements (excluding the leaves). Even using the brown support piece is fitting to support that feeling of a timber frame house.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Forest Cottage (43188), Left View

At the risk of beating this to death, one of my main qualms with this set is the absence of that busy feeling of an old, overgrown house and this is unfortunately not really mitigated by what little greenery is there. The front “lawn” is barely used and could easily have been plastered with tons of flowers. The tree integrated in the cottage is also a bit on the sparse side. It should have been extended to tower over the house itself and of course then it should have had many, many more branches with leaves. This also harks back to my point about the birds earlier – bigger tree = more birds.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Forest Cottage (43188), Back Left View

As you would expect with such a small building there isn’t really much going on on the inside. Then again a small cottage isn’t a luxurious villa to begin with, so that’s probably in a way appropriate. the essentials are all there with a small dining table, a fireplace and the upstairs bed. There’s just not much else and at the least they might have included a ladder to the upper deck.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Forest Cottage (43188), Back Right View

The smoke vane is the new cloud element introduced in the Monkie Kid series and while not physically present, the fairies are at least hinted at with their magic wands. The chimney is bobbing up and down with a simple mechanism and in addition the water wheel makes rattling noises with some 1 x 1 round bricks inside. There’s not really much more than that to play around with.

LEGO Disney, Aurora's Forest Cottage (43188), Right View


Concluding Thoughts

I guess at the end of the day this set is what they call “serviceable”. It basically does nothing wrong, but denies itself its own chance of being really great. The specific point here is of course that it has been trimmed down to cater for the 5+ crowd, but personally I feel that this for once would have been a chance to go the Harry Potter route and make the set a little more realistic and complex without losing its appeal to the younger crowd, either. So for me it’s a story of more than one missed opportunities. The fundamental ideas are all there and given the nature of the thing it should have been simple enough to expand upon them, they just didn’t for whatever reason.

On its own merits, however, this is funny enough one of the better Disney Princess sets, as at least you’re getting a decent house out of it and not just a vignette with some tie-in character dolls. However, it’s still seriously overpriced, so carefully consider how much you or your kids need it. I’m pretty sure if Elves was still around with new sets I would have made a different decision and many of you may see this just as much as merely a compromise.

January Wood Chopping

My already somewhat low activity in recent weeks had been further impaired by having caught a pretty nasty cold and pulmonary infection, so I’m pretty late with this month’s updates on the latest magazines.

Funny enough Blue Ocean, who publish these mags in our region also contributed to the mess by delaying the LEGO City magazine by one week. They kept printing December 10th as the announcement date in every of their mags, yet it only arrived this Tuesday the 17th. One can only speculate what went wrong. A botched print run? Those little bags not delivered in time from the LEGO factory? Who knows! I’d sure be interested to find out one of these days.

LEGO Magazine, City, January 2020, Cover

The LEGO City issue focuses on wood chopping which at this point of course could be interpreted as a sign of things to come once people start slicing up their Christmas tree after the festive season. The parts coming with the magazine are very much standard fare and similar to what came with the mini version of the forest tractor last year with some minor variations on the theme in terms of colors used and the prints on the figure. The feet are in Sand Blue, BTW, they were just printed excessively blue-ish so the colors look very different.

The City magazine continues to deliver with a satisfying mix of activities for your kids and a well done comic, so not much to complain about. The posters are okay, though I still wish they would use panels from the comics instead of those CG-generated versions. There’s just a specific charme to classically drawn stuff and the color contrast is better.

LEGO Magazine, Hidden Side, December 2019, Cover

The Hidden Side mag came out earlier and I’m only mentioning it for completeness, but somehow I feel that it just isn’t gaining traction. I played that fun trick last month, so I’m not going to do it again already, but can you spot what might be wrong with the cover? Yepp, it’s yet again Jack front and center for a third time in a row. Calling it repetitive and boring would be stating the obvious. It’s not helped by the extra being Parker of all things. I haven’t even bough all sets yet, but already have amassed a graveyard of the ever same figures. This only goes to show how named characters can quickly back you in a corner…