Edgy Jet – LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020)

While I can’t judge the situation elsewhere on the planet, it seems to me that LEGO‘s Monkie Kid isn’t really taking off in a way the company would like. For my taste they are trying a little too hard to promote it through their LEGO Ambassador Network (LAN), throwing out free review examples left and right, yet the overall reception seems lukewarm, judging from comments. This lines up with my own feelings about the matter – would love to love it more, but something always feels off and it doesn’t help that some sets are a helluvalot expensive. However, there are some things I still like and that’s why the White Dragon Horse Jet (80020) still ended up finding its way into my home. Ironically it does so for feeling more like Ninjago instead of Monkie Kid, but more on that later.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Box

Contents and Pricing

As I mentioned already, the price policy for these sets is a problem – for me, anyway. That’s why I’m always extra wary when deciding whether to get them or not and this means that a set has to have either some desirable specific items or enough bulk so an investment feels justified. Since the sets at this point are exclusively distributed by LEGO themselves, there’s no wriggle room for discounts, making that an even more important consideration. In this case I’m happy to say that the math does add up. The set has 565 pieces and while many of them are small ones, there’s just as many larger ones evening out the balance. The overall usefulness and perceived value to someone like me is also greatly helped by the fact that many elements are unique to this set. There are some notable recolors, some entirely new parts and a good selection of standard elements that you can never have enough of. Always a good thing to have this stuff handy for your next MOC.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Overview

With all that in mind, I feel that 40 Euro is more than a fair price. This is on a level with some of The LEGO Movie 2 sets – after discounts – that weren’t all that bad, just pretty underrated because the film bombed so hard. In other words: You do get some good value for your money, both during the construction process as well as with the finished result.

The Minifigures

Unlike other Monkie Kid sets that are overflowing with custom figures tailored specifically to the series, this is perhaps the weakest part about this particular offering. The point here is that with Si, the leftmost figure, we get “generic guy no. 703” from the overall LEGO minifigure mix & match repository, with the individual parts having been used elsewhere already. Similarly, the spider army huntsman feels like every other generic Ninjago evildoer, with the effect being amplified due to the current jungle island series also having purple enemies. The distinction between Medium Lavender and the lighter regular Lavender after that becomes a minor one. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time, should your kids decide to mix figures from the different series. It could be confusing!

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Minifigures

Mei feels a bit like she actually doesn’t belong in this set with her clothing feeling a bit too traditional for a jet pilot. In fact this is a point where they perhaps should have included her twice or offer an option to swap out parts so she could be built with a fashionable flight suit or in this more traditional sword fighter outfit. Finally there’s Lu, Sandy‘s cat, that now also has already been included in several sets. I’m not complaining as it’s my first, but they may need to come up with a new mold or some different prints/ colors to keep it interesting.

The Hoverboard

Speaking of Lu – he comes with his own little hoverboard/ aerial drone. Apparently it’s armed, if only with two stud shooters, to fend off the spider army. It’s a cute and hyper-efficient small build consisting only of a handful of pieces, but does the trick quite well. It might have been a good idea to add a small launchpad or hide this in a small truck, though. It seems a little far fetched that this would appear out of the blue with no technical support anywhere to be seen.

The Spider Drone

The opposing faction does of course have its own little drone arsenal as well and so there’s this spider-like version in this set. It is similarly to the hoverboard built only with a limited number of parts and ultimately that’s only even possible because a new type of clip/ bar element has been introduced. Without the 90 degree bar piece constructing the legs would have been nowhere near as simple and stability would not have been that great if this was bashed together using multiple hinge bar/ clip combinations using existing elements. That being the case I’m pretty sure we are going to see this new element used a lot in no time.

The Vending Machine

Both Red Son’s Inferno Truck (80011) and the Monkey King Warrior Mech (80012) contain small extra builds of kiosks/ shops and sections of buildings as they may be typical in some densely populated Asian cities and many reviewers loved them to the point of lobbying for full building-themed standalone sets in this series. I can certainly see the appeal and would be all for it, so it’s nice that LEGO also have included one of those cutesy models here. It’s a somewhat generic vending machine, in this case one allowing you to purchase glass jars with fancily printed lids (Perhaps to capture spiders?), but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless. This literally could be standing at many a streets corners. As so often, of course the single biggest regret is that none of the tiles are printed. Especially the large banner on the side, represented with one of the new 2 x 6 tiles, would likely have been an extremely popular item for people looking to deck out their own LEGO Chinatown. Alas, ‘t wasn’t meant to be.

The Jet

The meat of the set is of course the jet itself. It immediately caught my eye the first time I saw pictures of it due to its color scheme and overall appearance. Clearly the LEGO designers were aiming for something completely different from the done-to-death standard designs we’ve seen over and over again in the Ninjago universe. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but the formula gets a bit stale after you’ve built your third plane with sweeping wings or spreading “feathers” (swords), respectively. In that regard it’s really nice to see something that hasn’t been noodled out as much. Arguably of course soem will recognize a bit of Nexo Knights in here with some typical elements being featured and the general faceted look, but even then at least the overall impression is still something else.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Front Left View

Despite its brute-ish appearance the plane is in fact not that large with only slightly above 20 cm in length and just shy of that in wing span (depending on the inclination of the wings you chose). Point in case: The plane looks large, but really isn’t. This impression is furthered by how much weight the thing has. This is kind of inherent in how it is built: The cockpit area alone consists of multiple rows of the 2 x 2 plate modified with studs on the side and those add up, minor as each individual piece’s weight may be otherwise. Likewise, the model uses a lot of other small plates and bricks in many places to create the necessary staggering for all those wedges and slopes to be plugged on or to create specific patterns with differently colored elements. This also includes a few extra parts used to connect the left and right halves of the tip and other such directional changes.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Aft Left View

The exhaust/ speed streak is an element should be familiar if you even remotely have had an eye on one of last years cyber-themed Ninjago sets where they were included in almost every set in Trans Neon Green and Trans Neon Orange. The new version is Trans Bright Green, matching the rest of the color theme. Usually I wouldn’t make much of it and the blade element is easily enough removed, but once you do so (well, actualyl already during the build) you realize that it is just a cheap disguise.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Streak detached

Yes, while recognizably a lot of love went into detailing the rest of the plane, the jet engine is a non-effort on the part of the designers. Exactly zero energy was spent on it other than walking to the storage drawer, taking the old wheel element out of it and plugging it onto the rear end of the plane. they didn’t even bother to at least build a recess/ some panels around it, much less anything that would seriously resemble an exhaust if a contemporary jet plane. The funny thing is that, given the overall style of the vehicle, it would have been simple to just use the spiked coverings of e.g. an F-22 Raptor‘s slit-like thrust-vectoring engines as an inspiration, blatantly obvious as it may have been, but it at least would have been a lot better than what we got.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Aft Right View

The lackluster engine is particularly painful to see due to the stark contrast with the surroundings, which have been meticulously detailed. the “gills” on the back of the engine on a real plane likely would even have small hydraulics pistons or servos to change their angle in order to regulate cooling and airflow. Or they could be some extreme form of air brake… The large 1 x 8 slopes for the vertical fins is okay, all things considered, but of course I still would have preferred if they were build up from smaller elements. That might in fact also have helped with covering up the atrocious engine with some transitional pieces.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Gills Details

The cockpit area uses an existing canopy, but mounted in the reverse direction, a tactic which lately LEGO have used a number of times to add a bit of originality into existing parts usage. Interestingly, for this part the Trans Bright Green coloration is also a first, something which I wouldn’t have expected. In my mind it feels like I’ve seen this a ton of times on Nexo Knights and other sets, but with so many different types of windshields out there it’s easy to get them mixed up.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Front Right View

The cockpit interior is parse and doesn’t really make a lot of sense functionally. The most apparent shortcoming here is the odd placement of the singular instrument panel and the awkward flat, lying position the pilot is supposed to have. This would never work, both in terms of battlefield awareness and sustaining g-forces. You know, there’s a reason why pilot seats in combat aircraft are almost always mounted at a very specific angle that has proven the most efficient. For a play fantasy it’s acceptable, though.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Cockpit Detail

One of the reasons for the very bed-like seating arrangement undoubtedly is the extremely recessed canopy not allowing enough headroom – literally. This is one are I feel could have been improved just as well with a more conventional mounting point higher up instead of placing the hinge directly under the wedge bricks constituting the tapered area in front of the cockpit. If I were serious about it and planned to keep the models around for longer I would likely seriously dedicate some time to changing and fixing this.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Front Right Lower View

The other thing that becomes apparent from this low viewing angle is the complete lack of an undercarriage. I would not consider this essential for a model that is primarily meant to be swooshed around, but it would have been nice and given the structure there would have been room for it to the point that it might even have been integrated so well, that it could have been hidden under some panels and then only unfolded/ deployed if and when needed. This is yet another area I definitely would look into if I were to customize this model.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Front Left Lower View

In all of this I have one more peeve with the model: It looks awfully militarized by LEGO‘s own standards. The thing is that as someone who is still proactively interested in military aviation and occasionally also watches some gameplay footage of shooter games I do not strictly have an issue with weapon-laden vehicles in the general sense, but here it just doesn’t feel right. This is a kids series, after all and yes, Ninjago has cannons and rockets, too, but here I feel they overstepped that fine line between tolerable and too much. If your entire wing is a gun array and then there’s extra stud shooters something is wrong. If this were another manufacturer I wouldn’t be surprised, but for LEGO, who like to endlessly go on about their toys being creative and kids-friendly it comes across as if they operate on inconsistent rules and will break them if only it serves as a means to an end.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Underside

Finally a small little gripe with the underside, also slightly related to my comment on the landing gear: It would have been nice to have at least the central fuselage section covered with inverted slopes. While it’s not that visible and the colored stripe pattern is done well enough, it might just have been nice to add that little extra touch and in fact it might have been a good opportunity to do a version of this element, just with straight angled faces to match the overall style.

Unique Parts

As mentioned already here and there this set comes with a good selection of new and not so common parts that boost the value for potential alternate uses later on. As a structural part that solves many construction problems the 90 degree clip/ bar is perhaps the most noteworthy. The “cosmetic” items, however, don’t disappoint, either. as such the shield piece in Bright Light Green is exclusive to this set for the time being, but I have no doubt it soon enough will be used more widely elsewhere as well more important to me are the Metallic Gold grille and the ingot piece in Pearl Dark Grey. Both components will be extremely valuable to anyone occasionally building vehicle and machinery stuff.

On that note, of course I also like the new 1 x 2 tile with the control panel print. The clearer, more generic graphical style may not be everyone’s thing, but it’s always good to have options. That extends to the round 1 x 1 tiles as well. thanks to them being used as the lids for the glass jars in the vending machine you get a good selection of them that you would have had to source elsewhere otherwise. The golden eye so far only appears in the Monkey King Warrior Mech (80012) and the ladybug has been included in the respective collectible minifigure. The spider symbol is the mark of the evil guys and appears in other Monkie Kid sets as well.

LEGO Monkie Kid, White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), Jet, Unique Parts

Concluding Thoughts

All things considered this is a good enough set, if a bit of a weird one. The overtly militaristic look and feel is definitely going to rub some people the wrong way and takes some getting used to even for me. I also can’t shake the impression that within the Monkie Kid series this doesn’t quite fit into the general design aesthetic and story. Mind you, it’s not bad, but I view it strictly on its own merits decoupled from the rest or at best as a different spin on what potentially some Ninjago aircraft could look like. If you can see it the same way, you might enjoy it. The build is reasonably complex and satisfying plus it looks interesting. The price point is acceptable, too. It’s not perfect, mind you, but you definitely could do worse. If you have those 40 Euro and feel like killing a bit of time with an enticing model, this could be your thing.

Ambassador of Nothing anymore?

I rarely post any specific news from the dark LEGO underbelly, be that Ideas or the LEGO Ambassador Network (LAN), but this one kind of amused me, so I have to jot down some thoughts on the matter.

Since you no doubt most of you are much more social media savvy than myself this may be old news, but Ryan McCullough of M&R Productions on YouTube got indeed removed from the LAN “for reasons”. He’s talking about it in this video. To me that’s not much of a surprise as this has been brewing for quite a while and at the risk of sounding utterly pompous, the writing has been on the wall for this. It would have happened one way or the other. If you do a bit of research and look at my older blogs and stuff you know that I was reasonably well-known throughout certain spheres of the Internet and the long and short of it is that I know how the dance goes. Been there, done that.

First there’s of course this “Wanna play with the big boys? Gotta follow the big boys’r rules!” thing. Now we likely will never find out what exactly transpired, Ryan has always navigated on the edge of what may be possible within those rules. Personally I’ve never followed his videos that closely, so I’ll be careful, but apparently he’s at least slipped out a few things he better might have kept to himself. I’ve also often wondered how he got away with showing sets days or weeks before official release, even if he bought them himself in a store that unwittingly (or actively ignoring LEGO‘s “Don’t put on shelves before…” stipulations) already put them up for sale. I would well imagine that this caused quite some consternation. After all, you can say what you will, when you apply to become as an Ambassador, you pledge to adhere to specific rules.

Was it that bad, though? Somehow LEGO‘s stance in the matter is just as dubious. What seems to be going wrong here is that the LAN appears indeed more of a LEGO Advertising Network” rather than actually fostering a community. I’ve always already been extremely skeptical about those blogs and YouTubers telling me that a 400 Euro set they got for free is the hot shit, but now I’m going to be even more wary. If those minor disagreements and transgressions can’t be talked over and smoothed out, then what’s the point? It’s just weird that you would use such a system as an extension of your own corporate policies and only look to include people who agree with you, anyway, or have something to gain. Sometimes constructive dissent can be an asset, not a threat to your bottom line.

Either way, the positive news here is that M&R productions appear to stand on stable ground and their world won’t come to an end without those free packages dropping on their door. The interesting thing will be how it affects their view on LEGO as a whole. Maybe they’ve even held back in fact already and now we’re going to see even more “leaks” and ponderings on unreleased sets? Mmh…