Tiger Falls – LEGO Friends, Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423)

My hunt for this year’s Jungle Rescue themed LEGO Friends sets so far has been of limited success, given that prices due to the circumstances don’t seem to drop that much into a region that I would be willing to accept, but at least let me give you my views on the Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423) to bolster my review of the Panda Jungle Tree House (41422) somewhat.

LEGO Friends, Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423), Box

Contents and Pricing

The set consists of two main builds – the actual rescue balloon and a piece of landscape featuring a waterfall. The latter is more of the modest or even harmless kind as implied by way it’s built, i.e. it’s more your friendly “curtain shower” in the jungle than the river wild. Also included are of course the figures and the tiger cubs, but overall there is very little content. With that let me cut right to the chase.

LEGO Friends, Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423), Overview

The suggested retail price for this set is once more utterly ludicrous. I have no idea in what fantasy world LEGO live, but 40 Euro for this? That’s just insane. Now of course the detractors will be quick to come up with the usual rationalizations like there being some larger parts, but that’s just a poor excuse. Yes, while larger elements are slightly more costly, none of the parts in this set are actually new nor particularly complex or massive, thus not requiring overly complex molds that need to recoup their initial cost. There are enough smaller pieces in the whole LEGO portfolio that are much more demanding in terms of manufacturing.

So for what it’s worth, this is just another set where the company is trying to squeeze the customer hard and it’s just sad that retailers have to pick up the slack with discounts that curtail their own grosses whereas LEGO themselves are rubbing their hands and breaking revenue records every year. One can’t avoid but think that this is utterly intentional and part of their strategy to keep their hands clean. You know, it allows them to maintain the illusion of a premium product at a premium price and if the sets only sell at reduced prices, then it must not be their fault. *sigh*

Anyway, I got my copy for 30 Euro and while that’s not exactly cheap for so little value in return, it’s much closer to what I envision the real price for a set of this type should be. if we wouldn’t live in this crazy time of crisis there probably even would be a chance for this to drop around 25 Euro, but for now I guess this is as good as it gets.

Figures and Animals

The figures follow a similar pattern as Olivia and Mia from that other set, only this time it’s Andrea and Emma of course. They all have short pants/ skirts and the torsos have shirts and blouses with multi-colored patterns, some a bit more ornamental, others more like conventional random camouflage stripes and patches. Perhaps not the safest attire while traipsing through the jungle, but at least adequate in terms of wearing comfort under hot conditions.

LEGO Friends, Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423), Figures  LEGO Friends, Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423), Tiger Cubs

For the animals we get a measly two white tiger cubs and they don’t even have different prints. Compared to that you got three pandas in a cheaper set this feels extremely odd. It’s not the end of the world, but one of those “Wouldn’t it have been nice?” things. the tigers themselves look cute enough, but there just isn’t anything more to them.

The Balloon

I could of course make a whole song and dance about it, but the balloon just is what it is and if you look up any older Friends or Ninjago set you already may have stumbled upon it more than once. The large 1/8th radius shell pieces have existed for a while and due to how they work the underlying construction is always pretty much the same – the parts are clamped to the octagonal disk elements and on the inside they use Technic axles and connectors to get the right spacing. In fact you can even see that in the octopus carousel from last year as well.

LEGO Friends, Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423), Balloon, Front View

For me it’s a nice addition to get the elements in Dark Purple after having now amassed quite a few in White from other sets plus the eight Magenta ones from the octopus. Who knows, one day I might even put them to use on a steampunk-ish balloon air ship driven by a steam engine or something like that.

LEGO Friends, Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423), Balloon, Back View

The details of the balloon are otherwise severely lacking. Only the bare minimum has been done for the detailing of the main basket and the additional small rescue crate. Most annoyingly there isn’t even a ladder to climb into the basket and of course they could have included a bunch of ropes for securing the balloon or hauling in the tigers.

The Waterfall

The small section of land with the mountain and the waterfall flowing down it follows the same design philosophy found in the other sets. That means it thankfully mostly uses “decent” colors and is decked out nicely with extra greenery on top. this particular model also needs to be lauded as for once it actually has a recognizable internal logic with a narrow path leading up to the top, a cave and several places to hide behind/ underneath the water curtains. This should at least give kids some ideas on where to place the tigers.

LEGO Friends, Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423), Waterfall, Front Right View

there are a bunch of other animals, but they feel a bit thrown together from what was left over in the LEGO factories. The small turtle from the Ocean Rescue series last year is nice, don’t get me wrong, but it should at least be a different color to add some interest and uniqueness. Similarly, I could have gone for a Coral colored frog to pose as a Strawberry Dart Frog. I blathered on about this in one of my magazine reviews already. Well, at least it seems next year we’re at least getting Bright Pink frogs one way or the other, so that’s something to look forward to. Re-using the old Elves bird on the other hand is really getting long in the tooth, especially since they can’t seem to even be bothered to come up with new prints. They really should do away with it and use other birds in nice colors.

LEGO Friends, Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423), Waterfall, Front Left View  LEGO Friends, Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423), Waterfall, Left View

The construction of the little mountain is adequate, but not outstanding. It does the trick, but like so many of these models it only stabilizes pretty late during the build. You spend quite a bit of time working on barely holding spindly long bricks and even the floor plates basically only stabilize once you have added the transparent arched panels for the flowing water. Funny enough, once you do that everything is pretty sturdy, give or take of course the large leaves that tend to come off occasionally. That at least, combined with the compact shape makes it easy to move the whole thing around and take it with you.

LEGO Friends, Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423), Waterfall, Rear View  LEGO Friends, Tiger Hot Air Balloon Rescue (41423), Waterfall, Right View

Concluding Thoughts

Unlike the panda set I found this one rather unsatisfying, mostly simply due to the absence of something special that would make you go “Ooooh” and “Aaaah”. It’s not bad, just kind of uninspired and generic. I would even go so far as to say that the waterfall itself might have made for a nice little 20 Euro set without the balloon while the latter just feels thrown on because they couldn’t come up with something better and needed to pad out the content and in turn the price. Likewise, the shortage of tigers and the lack of some small extras is simply disappointing.

Overall I therefore wouldn’t consider this set a must-have. You can sneak it onto your buying list if you have the money, your kid bugs you about it or you already have all the other models from the series, but otherwise you can easily pass on that one without missing much. It just doesn’t really add much that you haven’t seen before nor does it look that interesting, all things considered. It clearly feels like those work-mandated jobs where the designer wasn’t in a particularly good mood that day and didn’t put in much effort…

Explorer-ing the Rain Forest – LEGO Explorer Magazine, November 2020

This month seems to be shaping up as a good month, at least where the various LEGO magazines are concerned. Some are still due in the next few weeks, but for the time being I’m quite happy that the LEGO Explorer issue for November already has arrived. I was really excited and looking forward to this.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, November 2020, Cover

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, November 2020, ExtraThe main reason for this is of course the little frog included as a buildable parts extra. It already got me pumped when I saw the preview image in the last edition and now that it’s here, I almost can’t believe how gorgeous it actually is. Not only does it look anatomically reasonably realistic, but is also in its very own way kind of cute. This is really executed extremely well and the parts usage and their number is generous. That is to say that this hasn’t been optimized to the lowest number of pieces possible just to be maximum cost-effective/ cheap. It’s indeed quite elaborate on some level.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, November 2020, Extra, Alternate Color Variants That being the case, one of the only regrets/ complaints would have to be that they could have gone for completely different colors. Funny enough they are hinting at the sometimes really crazy colors those poison dart frogs and similar small jungle frog species often have, but they leave it up to you to build them, which depending on your parts stock and the exact frog type you decide on, could turn out more difficult than one might think. Naturally I would just have loved if they would have gone full crazy and given us e.g. one of the more pink-ish variants of the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog with Dark Pink and Coral pieces and then some… Thinking about it almost makes me want to add this as another project to my ever longer list of projects.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, November 2020, Trees

The rest of the magazine is pretty okay, also. I’m in particular satisfied that the promotional stuff for commercial sets has been dialed back, though admittedly this could merely be a side effect of LEGO currently not having a comprehensive jungle-based theme other than the one in Friends. Besides that there is several coloring pages and some reasonable quizzes/ knowledge pages making for enough distractions to keep your kids busy for at least a while.

Overall this is an excellent issue. The frog model alone is worth every penny, and if nothing else, the other magazine content isn’t as annoyingly LEGO-y as in some of the earlier editions. Seems like they are slowly getting there and finding the right balance…

Panda Jungle – LEGO Friends, Panda Jungle Tree House (41422)

This year isn’t necessarily a good year for LEGO fans in that due to the ongoing Corona virus crisis a lot of sets are in short supply and thus you either have a hard time to get them at all or at least getting them with an ounce of discount. At least I regularly feel quite stressed out from hunting for low prices, which in my situation is an inevitable thing. That’s why actually being able to purchase the LEGO Friends Panda Jungle Tree House (41422) was a bit of a pain in the rear parts.

LEGO Friends, Panda Jungle Tree House (41422), Box

Contents and Pricing

Next to the Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421) this is the second cheapest set of this year’s jungle-themed series. At 30 Euro it isn’t that terribly costly, but of course it’s always good to save a buck or two and so I got it for 23 Euro. I’m willing to concede that buying it for full price isn’t beyond the realm of possibility without feeling bad, though. The reason for this naturally has to be that the contents of the package are adequate, meaning you need to feel like you got your money’s worth. this is definitely the case here.

Aside from the main attraction, the three Panda babies, you are getting two minidoll figures, some small side builds and the main build, which is some sort of office built on top of a tree stump with a sizable piece of “land” around it. Simply put, there’s enough volume/ bulk to the set to not feel like you got a bad deal.

LEGO Friends, Panda Jungle Tree House (41422), Overview

Figures and Animals

LEGO Friends, Panda Jungle Tree House (41422), Figures, Mia and OliviaThe Mia and Olivia minidolls are unique to this set. That is if you do not have the funds or do not want the two “big” sets, the Jungle Rescue Base (41424) and the Alpaca Mountain Jungle Rescue (41432), where one in each of them is also used, respectively. The prints and designs are okay, but even so this doesn’t change the fact that the minidolls still look all to same-y to me and overall this is getting a bit stale and boring. I think they really need to throw in more alternative characters and at the very least change the hairstyles every now and then.

LEGO Friends, Panda Jungle Tree House (41422), Pandas

The pandas are of course cute and on top of their dual-molded black and white bodies have some fine print details. You get two standard versions with green eyes that in my mind are girls and a third one with blue eyes and bushy eyebrows that has soiled himself while being fed, which I imagine could be a rambunctious boy. The specks and splotches are likely supposed to represent some sort of porridge or similar.

Unfortunately those Tan colorations aren’t as visible as one would conclude from the photo. They are much fainter in real life and depending on the lighting are barely noticeable or look like actual dirt stains. I feel that a different color would have made them stand out more and a different shaping like for instance a contiguous drip/ drool pattern would have looked better.

On that note, it would have been nice if there was at least a third eye color like Dark Orange to make each Panda distinctly its own. Ideally there also would have been a walking version, but I guess expecting them to produce another mold would be too much.

The small Stuff

The side builds are not that extraordinary or unusual, in the Friends world at least. You get yet another version of a hand-pulled cart, a seesaw and a small scale for weighing the Pandas. Really nothing you haven’t seen before with the only “highlight” being the inclusion of an extra separate bamboo stalk.

LEGO Friends, Panda Jungle Tree House (41422), Extras

The main Build

The main build/ building is the tree or more specifically the decapitated remnants thereof with the office built on top of it. A first glance also immediately shows what bothers me the most in this set: the Dark Pink slide and ladder. No, this has nothing to do with wrong expectations for realism – after all, I’ve bought enough Friends sets in my life already to know that weird colors are part of the game – but here it really feels out of place and forced for no good reason.

I suppose the actual point indeed is that these elements could have been in the traditional yellow and the model therefore had been all the better for it. Of course I’m not denying that in an ideal world at least the ladder would be Reddish Brown, Medium Nougat or Black like in so many other sets, but hey, one can’t have everything. Still, I maintain that the pink color is perhaps not ideal, no matter how you spin it.

LEGO Friends, Panda Jungle Tree House (41422), Front Left View

One good thing that contributes to this model feeling “rich” is that it’s pretty decked out with greenery and in addition has a lot of smaller details in the right places, providing an overall nice balance. It doesn’t feel too overstuffed and cluttered, but also not too barren. Even more importantly everything remains quite accessible despite those details, including the fact that those bits and pieces are reasonably fixated to not fall off if your hand gets near them. This is a feat not often achieved in a good chunk of Friends sets, so props to that.

LEGO Friends, Panda Jungle Tree House (41422), Back Left View LEGO Friends, Panda Jungle Tree House (41422), Detail, Office

The office area is built on a semi-open deck and in its reduced, yet slightly chaotic layout is likely pretty close to how it could exist in the real world as an improvised daytime surveillance shelter on a platform somewhere up in the trees. It doesn’t really offer much beyond that.

LEGO Friends, Panda Jungle Tree House (41422), Back Right View

The backside of the model allows access to the hollow tree underneath the office and even has a bed-like area, which is unfortunately a bit uninspired and only presented with flat tiles. That being the case, I’d almost prefer they had designed this area as a utility shed/ storage and thrown in some stuff to put in there. In fact having a wheelbarrow would have made perfect sense for cleaning up the Panda poop in addition to the shovel and broom and I’m sure you could have fitted in some other little gimmicks as well.

LEGO Friends, Panda Jungle Tree House (41422), Detail, BathtubAnother interesting little detail is the bathtub/ trough. They even went through the trouble of not only adding a bunch of pearlescent 1 x 1 tiles for the “water” and a smoke puff for the foam, but also threw in a Yellow 1 x 1 tile for the washing sponge.

LEGO Friends, Panda Jungle Tree House (41422), Detail, More BambooA small thing that kinda bugs me, and you can call me silly  and obsessive for it, are the bamboo stalks. Don’t misunderstand – they are fine as they are – but still could have been done better, at least in my opinion.

What I’m specifically aiming at are the actual growth segments inbetween the knots, represented here with Sand Green cones. in my thinking this would have made a perfect use case for the new candle elements introduced a while ago. Naturally, with bamboo just being oversized grass, the optics would have benefited immensely from a more slender appearance.

The actual point, however, to me is that this technique would have allowed for more stalks and also potentially building some very long ones as well. This wouldn’t have been as limiting as only allowing two cones height for stability reasons (The stalks are not reinforced with bars inside!). And of course going entirely crazy you could even have represented different growths/ ages by varying the colors from Lime Green to Dark Green and anything inbetween. I really think LEGO need to do this one day. The idea is just too cool to me!

Concluding Thoughts

After my long and trying journey to even get the set, I’m quite satisfied having bought it. Within the limits of the weirdness that is LEGO Friends this isn’t all that bad and if I were serious about integrating this into a greater jungle scenario/ play world, it would be a good basis and not too difficult to swap out the more colorful parts or just leave them out for a more realistic look. Of course it’s also true that with just a few more pieces and a few changes here and there this could have been positively awesome.

Overall I’m not complaining, though. The build process was reasonably enjoyable, I got a few useful parts and the theme as a whole is not bad, as much as I may have wished for a continuation of the oceanic rescue series from last year. Now I only need to figure out how to get my hands on the other sets from the series without ruining my finances…

Baby Alarm – Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421) and Dr. Wu’s Laboratory – Baby Dinosaurs Breakout (75939)

One of my more specific obsessions with LEGO is that I try to get my hands on as many of the molded animals as I possibly can. Unfortunately the company has the bad habit of putting many of the coolest creatures, be that mammoths, dinosaurs, sharks, polar bears or whatever in rather expensive sets. It’s of course just a sales tactic, but it’s not particularly nice of them, even more so since it means that those animals remain costly even on the secondary market such as Bricklink. So I have to make do with what I can afford and lucky enough, there’s some interesting sets this year with the LEGO Friends Jungle Rescue series and also some new molds for LEGO Jurassic World.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Box

First let’s have a look at the Friends Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421). This is the first set I was actually able to procure because due to the Corona virus crisis product availability for these new releases still isn’t that great, especially when you need to keep an eye on the price. At a regular price of 20 Euro it’s not entirely out of reach, but the typical discounts make this effectively a 15 Euro set, which is even better. For that it’s pretty good, actually. I can tell you that beforehand.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Overview

The main attraction is of course the little blue baby elephant. Some people have complained about it not being grey, but hey, it’s Friends we’re talking about! The Bright Light Blue isn’t that bad, especially when you consider that the mother and sister elephant in the Jungle Rescue Base (41424) are Medium Blue and Lavender, respectively. There’s really no reason to get wound up over this. For me it’s also a bit of a funny coincidence in that it reminds me of some elephants in video games I used to play in the 1990s that similarly used such colors, not “realistic” greys.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Baby Elephant

In the play fantasy of the set the little unlucky elephant is supposed to be caught in a mud puddle somewhere in the jungle under a tree. This is displayed in the main scenery piece. Rather untypical for Friends sets it’s actually executed reasonably well and very usable. It’s also looking nice enough.

The mud is represented by some Dark Tan bricks of different types forming a tray in which a panel is sliding upon some tiles. You’re meant to put the elephant on this contraption and then literally pull it out. The one weak spot here is that the panel itself isn’t locked into place by rails or similar and thus falls out of its position easily. This gets a bit annoying over time and would have been easily avoidable with some extra elements.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Tree, Front Left View

On that same not, a few bricks more would have helped to avoid this feeling of things only being half finished. The many exposed studs on the mud and the tree give the impression that they had to stop to not stretch the brick allotment budget at the cost of things being not fixated as firmly as they possibly might have been. E.g. the Lime Green bamboo stalk element is easy to break of accidentally. It seems to obvious me that they could have clamped it into place with another curved slope on top.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Tree, Front Right View

As I said, the tree is small, but fleshed out enough to convey that idea. Still, I feel that that one extra branch could have been added on top with an arch element. that might also have allowed to add a web for the spider or include a second one. Another idea might have been to include a parrot, a small bird or a nest to cover the top.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Tree, Back Side View

While the front is structured reasonably, the back side is rather plain. The Dark Orange studs are alternate positions for the spider, by the way, but sure enough could have been used for something else.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Vehicle, Front Left View

The rescue vehicle is your standard run-off-the-mill Friends car with the necessary modifications and variations to fit this particular set. It literally has been done a million times and at this point is nothing special. For me it would have made more sense if they had created a somewhat larger pick-up truck with a sufficiently large platform and an actual hoist.

LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Vehicle, Aft Left View LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Vehicle, Aft Right View LEGO Friends, Baby Elephant Jungle Rescue (41421), Vehicle, Front Right View

Moving on, the other set is Dr. Wu’s Laboratory – Baby Dinosaurs Breakout (75939). It’s in the same price range as the Friends set, so no extra comments on that. The same rules apply.

LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Box

In addition to the two bay dinosaurs the set comes with two minifigures – Dr. Wu and Owen Grady – plus a sizable chunk of lab equipment. The latter often feels like thrown on after the fact, that is it gives the impression of having been constructed around the dinosaurs to bulk up the content of the box, not organically create an environment for the little tykes. It seems they wanted to do the baby dinos, but didn’t quite know what to do with them once the decision was made to create the new molds.

LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Overview

LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Baby Dinos, Left View

You heard that right, both of the creatures are completely new creations just for this set. I’m pretty sure, though, that we’ll get them in different  colors in other sets down from here on.


LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Baby Dinos, Right View

The baby Triceratops would of course mix well with its “parent” in Triceratops Rampage (75937).The Ankylosaurus isn’t an orphan child, either and finds its mom or dad in House of Gyrospheres (75941). This is insofar remarkable as the big version is also a completely new mold debuting in this particular set.


As a small side build there’s a lab table, which to me is actually a bit macabre. With its inverted slopes on the underside and the white “ceramic” tiles on top it more looks like a section table in a pathology lab. On the bright side, they included the transparent orange brick with the mosquito amber print, which is a new item and highly desirable as a decoration piece, not just for this dinosaur stuff.

LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Table, Right View LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Table, Left View

As I wrote already, the lab itself looks kinda *meh*. In my case it looks even more bland because I never use the stickers, yet the set relies heavily on them to represent large computer/ video screens. That’s perhaps my biggest peeve here – they could at least have included one of the screens as an actual print to spice things up. More generally speaking, that’s also the one thing I feel is missing – just one more small extra. I could for instance also have gone for eggs in Light Bluish Grey with brown speckles. that would have been pretty awesome!

LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Lab, Front View

Things don’t look much better from the back side, further seemingly reinforcing my point of this being mostly an afterthought.

LEGO Jurassic World, Dr. Wu's Laboratory (75939), Lab, Back Side View

Overall both sets are what they are – meant to sell the animals with everything around them being just a “free” extra. The Friends one surprisingly manages to fare much, much better in terms of actual usefulness and play value. The Jurassic World set on the other set would be rather disposable if it wasn’t the only way to get the new dino babies. It’s very forgettable, but hey, at least some new Dark Blue parts for my collection….! The consolation here is that the animals are executed superbly, so I don’t mind the rest being mediocre.