Lots-O-Yello’ – LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551)

Love them or hate them, but you have to admit that the Despicable Me movies and their so far single Minions spin-off have been huge successes, both commercially and to some extent also critically. Personally I still prefer the original first movie with its heart-warming and funny story, with the sequels losing some of that charm, but others may feel differently.

Now the thing is that the set discussed here is actually a tie-in for the latest movie that was supposed to have come out early last year but due to the pandemic has ultimately been postponed to July 2022 (assuming they don’t change it again), which is an eternity. In that time they could have produced yet another complete film just as well. That’s why we essentially know squat about the exact story at this point and will have to judge this just on how well it captures some generics from previous movies. So let’s see if the LEGO Minions Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551) would be worth your time and money.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Box

Contents, Pricing and Availability

The sets have been on the market for quite a while, meaning since March/ April 2020 in fact. That is of course down to the fact that you can’t time these things perfectly and production and distribution has considerable lead-in time before the products are physically available, so LEGO evidently had pretty much pre-produced large numbers of these sets. They therefore released them despite the movie being pushed to later dates again and again so they would not clog up their own storage and logistics.

The downside to that naturally is that there was no recognizable marketing for the movie to bolster sales and to people not following the latest movie news it may even have appeared like those sets appearing out of the blue with no rhyme or reason behind it. As it is, overall sales therefore have been somewhat slow, though the first wave of this particular set last year sold out relatively quickly, regardless. I guess there’s enough die-hard Minions fans that don’t care for a specific reason, after all.

Another unfortunate side effect of this whole kerfuffle is that some sets from this line already have been earmarked as end-of-life (EOL) by LEGO, which could lead to the paradox situation that when the movie finally rolls out in theaters next year, you may no longer be able to buy and collect them all. For the time being, this set, it also being the largest from the series is not affected by this, but you never know. Holding off a purchase for forever may not be a good idea.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Overview

That said, of course I’m just as guilty of exactly that, having waited for prices to drop for almost a year. My reasoning here always has been that the suggested retail price of 50 Euro just never seemed good enough. Granted, you get two full buildable figures and technically there are 876 pieces, but it just didn’t feel right.

This boils down to two things: Many of the elements used in the construction of the models are 1 x 1 or 2 x 2 plates and bricks. This can easily be deduced from just looking at photos and can also be verified when downloading the digital instructions. The other point is that also very recognizable the models would turn out kind of small-ish. They are larger than Brickheadz, given that they are built on an 8 x 8 base rather than 6 x 6, but they are still not that huge. Both of these factors made me feel that the volume of stuff just isn’t there. Add to that that in theory you would need to buy a second box to build all three characters at the same time and you know where this is heading.

Basically my gut feeling has always been that this should have cost 35 Euro MSRP. That would have made it more feasible to buy those two packages right away and it would have felt better. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be and so my dream pricing is only available via discounts. Still, even that is not as easy as it sounds as due to circumstances prices are relatively high. My time to strike came when an unexpected Amazon voucher dropped into my lap, bringing their discounted 40 Euro price down to 30 Euro. It’s not the ultimate irresistible temptation, but was good enough.

In summary this set feels expensive, a lot more expensive than it should, but factually you as the costumer can’t do much about it. It’s not that easy to come by at all and when you spot it somewhere, you may have to pay more than you might like.

The Figures

The Minions of course have a very distinct pill/ capsule shape, which in and of itself is part of the appeal and quite ingenious even from the viewpoint of a 3D animator. It’s one of those “Why didn’t anyone think of this before?” things that feel so obvious once you realize the awesome potential. That by all means also includes how these little annoying creatures would translate to LEGO – you almost expect that they would just use a few existing round bricks, put some prints on them and then call it a day. This is however not the case and indeed they produced some new custom parts which indeed may have the advantage of working in reverse just as well should one day they decide to produce them in other colors without prints.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Figures

This set only contains characters based on the 2 x 2 round elements with them being  Stuart, Kevin and Bob, but there is a 3 x 3 version representing Otto in two of the other sets. It is also worth pointing out that in those other sets the recurring characters have different prints, so if you want to collect them all you may have to spend quite a bit of money one way or the other even if the general design is always similar. This even extends to the 1 x 1 tiles used for the eyes with different irises and eyelids in the sets. Building an entire army and customizing each individual could become quite a challenge. The basics are al lthere, though, and aside from the opacity of some prints leaving a bit to be desired they are executed well enough.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Figures

Of course I’m not revealing anything new when telling you that at one point Mega Construx had a license when the Minions movie was released some years ago. In fact that’s one of the reasons why I was rather skeptical about whether this theme would even be mildly successful when it was announced. It felt like everything already had been said and done and there was little room for anything to add to that. That is in a way true, given how few sets LEGO actually designed, but of course in light of the movie being unreleased we don’t know anything about future plans.

Anyway, given the overall design approach for the Minions it would be inevitable that their minifigures would turn out similar and that can easily be proven with a direct comparison. I had some of the Mega figures from two or three sets I bought back then so this was easy enough to do. Objectively the Mega versions do have more sculpted details and overall look more “realistic” with LEGO taking a more simplified approach more in line with regular minifigures or for that matter for instance the buildable Super Mario characters that also make use of the pin-based arms.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Figures Comparison with Mega


The first of the big characters is Stuart, representing the most prototypical Minions type in terms of size and proportions. Only his singular big eye makes him stand out. As you can see, the shape of the cross section is not actually round but rather an elongated rounded corner block. One could of course make up any number of rationalizations as to why they have opted for this approach and yes, some of it is necessary in order to actually be able to build something and get in some details, but for the most part it likely boils down to the simple truth that LEGO just doesn’t have enough rounded parts beyond the usual 2 x 2 quarter “macaroni” bricks and shells, the matching 4 x 4 cylinders, round plates and the large 5 x 5 bits. They have begun to address this with a handful of newer 3 x 3 elements, but there are still notable gaps in the portfolio.

Personally I don’t mind it too much though, as it has the advantage of making the characters look a bit stocky and clumsy like they do in the actual movies and just as well it also prevents too many large gaps appearing where elements are plugged on externally like the big eye. It’s also strangely enough much more presentation-friendly as you have a clear orientation for each model and don’t need to fiddle that much with getting them lined up nicely as you would with genuine cylindrical builds.

The interior has a functional area, i.e. “lair” but again without the context of the film we do not know if a) it’s real and b) what function it serves or c) if the LEGO designers have made it up entirely to add interest to models that otherwise would just be static hollow shells. For me it doesn’t do that much due to the restrictions of the limited space and how things can be put together, but I guess it’s okay. Regrettably this is also once more a case where you are supposed to use a lot of stickers, which I never do, so it looks a bit barren. It would have helped if they had decided on using a few different colors here and there to add interest. also the large knob in the middle to rotate the eye feels a bit superfluous, given that you can rotate it manually by grabbing it just fine.


Kevin is the tall guy of the gang and also the smartest, which is sort of visible by his less crazy behavior and somewhat nerdy overall look. The build is in large parts the same as for Stuart, only with some additional rows of bricks inserted and of course the conventional “goggle” style pair of eyes.

The interior plays on the nerdiness by representing a large control room with lots of computer screens and that’s why it looks particularly dreary without stickers. With there being eight screens it is slightly disappointing that LEGO couldn’t be bothered to at least print some tiles with a TV static/ noise, a “No Signal” message or a generic test pattern. This would have been useful and in fact those prints could have been re-used in the future for many similar scenarios. This is one of those small, repeating aggravations where I really don’t understand why they haven’t sat down a designer creating these tiles a decade ago already and could have had them in stock now…

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Kevin, Interior


When you’re done building the original two main models you’re left with a bunch of extra parts that are meant for a conversion of Kevin into Bob. initially I was loathe to the idea and really didn’t want to do it, but then I got over myself and spent an evening transforming the model.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Extra Parts

The reason why I was so teed off is the way you are supposed to do it. You are meant to basically rebuild the whole figure from scratch, which makes this even more repetitive than the whole process already is. I kind of hacked it, trying to keep large sections intact and only exchanging bits as needed and removing what would no longer be needed, but it was still time-consuming and frustrating. This is not very well thought through and not good engineering, even if you allow for the designers having to compromise due to lack of space and the specifics of the shape.

Point in case: It should have been as simple as lifting off the top section at some pre-determined separation line, removing the extraneous bricks and clipping in a new “module” for the interior decoration, give or take a few extra steps like replacing the tile for the differently colored eye. A more straightforward way of doing this would also facilitate and encourage people to build other variations of them little critters.

Bob‘s interior is apparently some martial arts dojo/ training gym and overall rather simplistic. It might have benefited from a pinch of extra gold by ways of throwing in some Ninjago stuff or some golden tiles on the floor.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Bob, Interior

Build Observations and Special Pieces

One of the things that became a bit annoying and literally also the reason why I built each character on a different evening is the tediousness of the actual build. As mentioned earlier there are tons of 1 x 1 elements and I really mean it. There’s around 70 1 x 1 plates in Black, Blue and Yellow alone for instance and they need to carefully be placed into some gaps left by other elements.

Another point that makes the build process a bit of a chore is the lack of vertical stability. Since you are essentially stacking elements directly on top of each other like a toddler with not many of them overlapping there is always the risk you may inadvertently crush your model when holding it too tight or grabbing it at the wrong position. This is all manageable, but you have to pay attention all the time. The construction just isn’t flowing along as nicely as with some other sets, even more so since some of the techniques and the order in which to build some sub-assemblies also feel odd. Also, even after you have finished the model you have to be careful to not push to hard or some stuff will warp out of alignment and expose some larger gaps.

Upon its initial release last year this set was the first to feature some notable new parts and recolored elements. One of those is the 3 x 3 rounded skinny plate without which these models probably would not even have been possible. At the same time they are not used as much as you may think or as I would have liked. I also think the new 8 x 8 rounded plates as found in the VIDIYO sets might have come in handy to mitigate some of those problems, but it did not (officially) exist in 2020 or only as internal prototypes, of course.

The recolors almost all relate to the pants/ dungarees as apparently there was not much of a chance to hide alternate colors underneath when you only have walls that are one brick thick and thin plates and they had to be consistently Blue. That includes the inverted curved slopes as used for the bottom, both in 2 x 2 and 1 x 2 flavors, the tall 1 x 1 x 2/3 brick modified and the 1 x 1 bracket.

The eyes are new parts in both versions with the 4 x 4 round brick and the 5 x 5 wheel only having appeared in a handful of sets at all so far. Of course those and the mouth panels are also the only areas where we get actual exclusive prints.

LEGO Minions, Brick-built Minions and their Lair (75551), Underside

Concluding Thoughts

While the outcome is satisfying enough, I found the way to get there unexpectedly difficulty and riddled with small hurdles. This seems really a case of “The ends justify the means”, but it wouldn’t have hurt had it been a a bit more fun. The build process feels rather convoluted and involved for something that looks so simple and the much-touted conversion from one character to another leaves a lot to be desired in terms of user friendliness not to speak of the fact that in doing so LEGO missed the opportunity to create a  “Build any Minion you want” kit.

Should that deter you from buying the set? No, not by any means. If you are even remotely a fan of those small, obnoxious yellow creatures and you can get over the slightly too high price this can be a nice addition to your collection and would look good on the shelf even next to some “real” collectible Minions figures. You just have to be aware that building them may not be a walk in the park and would also not be the easiest activity for children. In that regard the 8+ denomination on the package is almost a bit too optimistic even…

Not a Movie worth watching – LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448)

In my old life before my chronic illness struck I considered myself quite a bit of a film buff and would regularly go to the cinema, buy stacks of DVDs, write reviews of films I liked on my old blog and even attended official press screenings for yet to be released movies every now and then to write professional essays for some media outlets. These days the situation is a bit different for a multitude of reasons, but I still like to obsess about certain movies as much as I can. All the same, that’s why the idea of a LEGO cinema set appealed to me and I was pleased when the Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448) was announced late last year. Now that I finally have it, let’s see what it has to offer.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Box

Price and Contents

I had my eyes on this set from the day it was announced, but never had a real excuse to buy it. I thought the idea was cool and I wanted some of the parts in this set, anyway, yet it never became an urgent matter because otherwise the shortcomings this set would have were all too obvious. Even on the official promotional photos this does not look like you are getting a lot of volume for your money and the idea of using a smartphone as a screen was once more extremely off-putting, because it negatively influenced some of the design decisions that went into this set.

It’s that old thing of LEGO expecting six-year-olds to spend all day with a mobile device and integrating it in their models. True, kids do have access to these things and on the train and elsewhere I see parents letting their kids watch animated series on phones to distract them and soothe them all the time, but it’s not like you would want your pre-schooler spend their entire time doing that unsupervised while playing in their room. I have no kids, but having grown up in a different age and not being one to always chase the latest tech and social media trends I’m pretty much opposed to LEGO bastardizing their products in such a manner.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Overview

The set officially has 451 pieces, which sounds a lot, but at the end of the day it really isn’t. There are many rather large pieces like the rounded shells or the round canopy bricks, but also a lot of small pieces like the 1 x 1 quarter tiles or the Trans Yellow 1 x 1 studs for the marquee lights. In fact there is not that many regular pieces like 1 x 2 and 1 x 4 bricks, so right from the get-go you feel like there is not a lot of bulk. Given that, the original price of 50 Euro seems way, way too much. To me this indeed feels like it should always have not cost more than 35 Euro. Anything above that is a stretch.

Because of the inadequate pricing I leaned back and bide my time until some decent discount would come along. That happened very recently on Amazon Germany. They apparently really wanted to clear up space in their warehouse and wanted to get rid of some stock, so they fired this out in some sort of reverse auction scheme, i.e. one where prices are dropping continuously until the lowest bidder buys a product or the supply runs out. You could literally watch how this set dropped from its already discounted 37 Euro every day. I chickened out after four days and bought it for 28 Euro, representing something like a 45 % discount, but indeed I could have waited two days more and got it for 25 Euro, pretty much an exact 50 % off. Funny enough this pattern was repeating just this weekend on Amazon France.

For this low price the set is still not great, but it became acceptable and for me personally of course this brought it within the range where buying the individual parts on Bricklink would have been just as expensive.

The Figures

The number of figures is way too low for this type of set with only three being in the box. You know, while the promotional materials show the glitz and glamour of a red carpet premiere, in actuality this would be more like a poorly attended matinee. In addition to Andrea who can either be interpreted as a fan chasing for autographs or the organizer of the event, depending on how you feel about that, we only get Amelia in her Dark Turquoise evening gown as a genuine guest of honor.

The only guy in the room, Julian, is apparently one of them poor students who serve multiple functions at once in real cinemas, be that an usher, a cleaning maid, a snacks & drinks seller and whatever else needs to be taken care of. At least they gave him a decent uniform, old-fashioned as it may be. the practical value of the figures is limited, but you can at least some components for a bit of mix & match if you have other Friends or Disney Princess minidolls. It works of course just the same in reverse. The cyan dress would look nice for a ball at Elsa‘s palace or something like that. Other than that the only real highlight is the guy’s hair, which is a recolor of the Superman hair and so far is in fact only available via Friends sets (this one and the Heartlake City School (41682)) in the Medium Nougat color.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Figures

The Building

As you may have gathered already from my first few paragraphs I’m not particularly crazy about this set due to what I consider some serious design flaws. these become most apparent when viewing the assembled model from the top. The front section with the entry lobby and the signage looks actually okay and pretty massive, but the main screening room comes across as if it was merely plugged on as an afterthought.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Top View

The front facade is clearly based on classic 1950s/ 1960s American cinema designs as you probably still can find them in many small towns across the country even today, assuming they haven’t been replaced by a large multiplex. That’s a neat touch and the use of Light Aqua is a nice touch, not just because it’s one of my favorite LEGO colors. It’s subtle and classy enough that a restored old cinema could be painted in this shade without looking too crazy.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Front Right View

The front is divided into three distinct sections, with the box office/ ticket booth being on the right of the building, a central entry section with dual doors and a small “celebrity photo stage” on the left side. While visually it looks nice enough, I got miffed here for the first time. the small protrusions in the middle and the fenced-off pedestal are only attached by a handful of studs and fall off as soon as you move the model. This is for all intents and purposes just bad engineering. Such things are barely tolerable for collectible models for adults and shouldn’t even have been approved for a set aimed at children.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Front Left View

You would be correct in guessing that many of those large areas are supposed to be covered with stickers, but as you know I never use any of those. This also goes for the marquee area. Personally I don’t mind, but it’s not much of a stretch to conclude that at least some parts should be printed. Either that or they could and should have included a solution where some posters or marquee text could be dynamically substituted by stickers applied to flag/ tapestry elements, a technique used extensively for instance in the big Ninjago City (70620) set.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Front View

The back side or interior by comparison looks extremely simple and barren. The lack of actual walls on the side is one thing that contributes to this feeling, but not using the space on the top and housing in the film projector are too blame just as well. that and of course the absence of am actual screen box/ stage and only some flimsy Technic liftarms serving as the holders for a smartphone.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Back Left View

I’ve already criticized this, and it becomes even more upsetting the more you look at it. It’s not like they didn’t have options here – a slide frame into which to place some printed cardboard screens with famous film scenes recreated in LEGO style sure wouldn’t have been too much to ask and could by itself have added quite a bit of coolness. If the graphics were done right, people might even have hung them up as posters or used them as postcards and LEGO could have made a quick buck on selling extra packs…

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Back Right View

Another thing that bothered me massively is the overall fragile construction due to the hinge mechanism. It’s not done very well with only two hinges on either side and, which is the real problem here those hinges barely being locked in by other bricks. As a result the model is prone to warping when opening the sides to the point where you can literally just break things apart by applying too much force and Archimedes‘ law of the levers taking effect. I found myself pressing stuff back in place way too much for my taste.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Open Wings

The details intended for play scenarios are sufficient, but not great. There’s simply not much to do and for instance the box office/ snack bar has far too few items. Even just adding a few ice cones would have gone a long way, not to speak of things like a popcorn machine, chocolate bars and so on.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Detail Box Office

The bathroom is also devoid of details. Don’t mind the toilet being placed so oddly, that’s entirely my own mistake. Anyway, they’re not using this space very efficiently, as most of the curved space remains open.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Detail Bathroom

Once you study the details and put your mind to it you also realize that LEGO have been playing it cheap and not recolored elements specifically for this set. Having all arches in Light Aqua as well would have made things a bit more harmonious at least.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448), Detail Screening Room

Concluding Thoughts

This is by no means a good set by any measure. The idea is actually great, but the execution suffers from that nonsensical mobile device integration at every turn. Unfortunately it’s also not as simple as saying “Buy a second set and create a better model.” because many things would need major restructuring and you still need to dig into your own parts supply. It’s really regrettable, as this could have been something really great, but LEGO completely squandered the opportunity.

I can hardly justify buying it for the massive discount I got it for and would definitely not at all recommend it at full price. This is once more a case of where the math worked out for me because I wanted the pieces, but this wasn’t much fun building, it’s not much fun to look at and quite likely it wouldn’t be much fun to play with, either. Your money is definitely spent better on other sets.

Small, but good – LEGO Creator 3in1, Cyber Drone (31111) and Tuk Tuk (40469)

Finding happiness in the LEGO world often depends on the size and complexity of a model determining how it ultimately will look. While that certainly implies that bigger, more detailed models are usually better, sometimes small models still manage to surprise positively and that certainly is the case with the Creator 3in1 Cyber Drone (31111) and the Tuk Tuk (40469), which I’ve rolled into a single article.

Contents and Pricing

Both sets sell for 10 Euro, with the drone having 113 parts vs. 155 on the Tuk Tuk, which is pretty much in the usual range for these sets. With the Tuk Tuk being a LEGO exclusive set only available from them directly you have no real options to get it cheaper, anyway, but thankfully for once I don’t consider this too much of a problem with the model turning out reasonably sizable and looking good. The drone is available via normal retailers and due to its relatively small size definitely worth looking for discounts, even if it’s only the typical 20 or 30 percent. Those two or three Euro really make a difference, even more so if you plan on getting multiple sets to build the alternate models that use significantly less pieces compared to the primary build.

The Cyber Drone

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Box

The cyber drone represents a bit of an odd paradox in that it is a drone (plane) being flown by another drone (humanoid robot). In a real world scenario that probably wouldn’t make too much sense. The flying drone would already have all its own autonomous systems in place and not require anyone to control it, while the robot itself would then merely be a passenger. In a way this feels like those old sci-fi movies from the 1980s and early 1990s where everyone assumed that because computers were so expensive, you’d only have one and move it around in to plug it into dumb devices rather than those devices having their own intelligence. Of course today things are much, much different.

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Overview

The minifigure, while not exactly a foreign concept in the 3in1 sets at large, is certainly unique for such a small set. Most of the time you only find them in sets for houses or larger vehicles that offer play features. What makes this even better is the fact that this figure is quite unique and elaborate. It has an overall Flat Silver body with a detailed multi-color print on the upper torso. The latter features the classic LEGO Space logo and in fact the whole harness design may be derived from an older astronaut figure, but i was too lazy to really investigate this. Similarly the head has some nice metallic printing stenciled out with Black and Medium Azure “glowy stuff”, making it indeed looking like exposed internal circuitry. for such an inexpensive set it’s really a great minifig.

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Minifigure, Front View  LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Minifigure, Back View

The drone itself is recognizably based on the “drop ship” designs found in many classic science-fiction movies such as Alien, Terminator and a few others with a chunky section holding the cockpit or cargo bay and an extended tail boom with V-shaped control surfaces. there’s also the typical massively oversized jet engines that make the vehicle look imposing and threatening.

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Front Left View

In terms of construction the set doesn’t go out of its way to do anything all too fancy or revolutionary. For me personally the only real novelty is the use of the 3 x 3 square Technic connector since I did’t have it yet in my collection. It is however not used as an essential structural element and more of a way to quickly bulk things up without having to use more extra pieces. You could totally build the relevant sections with other parts. You’d just have to do it differently and use extra bits to fill gaps.

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Aft Left View

One thing I definitely don’t like is the reliance on so many hinge-style connections. Aside from the double ratcheted plates used to attach the tail boom acting as a stiff connection all the other hinges are single axis/ single point connections, meaning the parts attached to them can easily be brought out of alignment. This begins with the engine pods themselves and continues with the various flaps. The point here is not so much my own nerdy obsession about engineering stuff, but this minimizes stability for play and could become a bit annoying if kids need to realign things over and over again.

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Aft Right View

The weakest area on this model is easily the aft section on the fuselage just behind the cockpit. The main issue here is the many large gaps and overall openness of the space that exposes too much of the construction details. This really feels like adding two or three more slopes would have gone a long way toward making it look better. 

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Front Right View

As explained previously, the set seems to assume that the pilot drone would connect directly with the onboard systems and thus there are no real details in the cockpit. the only concession are the grip knobs on the sides, which is more or less only a sneaky way to find a use for the ball joint plates that are needed for the alternate mech build. Regardless of this it would just have been nice to have some dials for the cockpit or for that matter an actual connection wire/ hose for the data link between the two machines.

LEGO Creator, Cyber Drone (31111), Cockpit

The Tuk Tuk

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Box

The Tuk Tuk essentially fell out of the blue and surprised many people, including myself. Who could have thought that LEGO even were capable of coming up with something this simple, yet highly original? It’s not entirely unexpected, given that they are expanding in Asian markets, but at the same time not very typical of them. I’m also pretty sure their competitors in those regional markets already have covered the subject of these various Rickshaw-like vehicles quite sufficiently, making this even more unusual.

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Front Left View

While I’m usually more for a harmonious color scheme, the Tuk Tuk appealed to me because very much like the original it is just the opposite. With many of these vehicles being under constant repair and being heavily customized by their owners in terms of colors and decorations, pretty much any and every combination of shapes and colors is fair game, not to speak of the ones that have been built from scratch using old motorbikes and random spare parts. Therefore this particular model more or less may only represent one exact real counterpart that is driving around somewhere.

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Aft Left View

The overall build is simple, yet efficient and pretty stable, given that the whole cabin is mostly a hollow box with relatively thin walls. This makes handling the finished article quite easy and it also doesn’t break apart immediately when it topples over sideways due to the small wheels and the high center of gravity. It does this quite a bit on surfaces that are not perfectly level, but it’s not entirely unexpected.

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Aft Right View

One thing I’d definitely wouldn’t have minded is simply more of this craziness. This is one of the few cases where in fact I might even have plastered the model with stickers, if it came with any. The more wacky these things look, the better. I think it would also have been nice if the vehicle had an extra external stowage box at the rear end.

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Right View LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Front Right View

One of the questions on everyone’s mind has been whether this will fit your custom LEGO city layout and streets and the answer here is “Kind of it may, but then again it may not.” The point here is that this model is not only notably wider than the regular 4 studs (even if you were to remove the little step protrusions), but it is also quite tall. A direct comparison with a minifigure seated inside reveals that it would actually be undriveable for this little guy.

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Size Comparison, Driver seated

Things do look a little better if you are playing on some optical illusions and your perception. In the image below the figure is placed just about 5 cm away from the model, yet due to the short focal length of my camera and resulting strong perspective distortion it looks much more to scale. That could mean that if you place the vehicle strategically in your scene without some other object near to it as size reference, it could still work out short of giving the model an actual work-over based on its original design.

LEGO Creator, Tuk Tuk (40469), Size Comparison, Driver standing

Concluding Thoughts

Both sets turned out unexpectedly well. The most important takeaway here is that not only do they look good, but also have some actual play value, meaning you can’t do much wrong regardless whether you want them as display items for yourself or as toys for your kids. There are of course some limitations that are more or less inherent in the limited number of pieces and the resulting building style, but they are perfectly acceptable. There’s some good value here no matter how you spin things and that is something you cannot always say about this type of sets. I definitely can recommend a purchase for both items, assuming they suit your overall preferences and tastes.

Risen or Fallen?

Since it’s kinda relevant to LEGO, even if only tangentially, I figured I’ll sneak in my review of the latest Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker here. I won’t obsess about the sets too much, as the involvement of the various vehicles is rather minor, after all, but more on that later.

Going into the movie I did not have a particularly predetermined opinion. Of course I already had read and watched some written and video reviews and knew how potentially unsatisfying it could be, but suffice it to say the movie is not nearly as bad as those negative reviews make it sound in my opinion. Sure, it’s not without issues and has a lot of lapses in logic even by Star Wars standards with all its canon-vs. non-canon mess created when Disney took over and declared a lot of the old lore no longer valid, but it’s still enjoyable and, which I guess is important, structured well enough so even a casual fan like me can follow the story.

There’s no denying that the film is overstuffed, which contributes a lot to the inconsistencies and jumps. Now it would be unfair to totally bash Rian Johnson for The Last Jedi, as it sure has a few good moments, but the fact of the matter remains that it didn’t do much to progress the overall story arc and was to busy turning everything on its head when it didn’t need to. Had it not squandered so much valuable time with pointless story points, it most definitely would have been easier to tie up everything in episode IX without it feeling rushed.

Personally I was a bit miffed by the many, many unnecessary small cameos and guest appearances, too. It seemed everybody & their mum wanted to get one last moment on screen for bragging rights or was brought in as fan service, yet very few of those moments carried much meaning, either. It didn’t help that they also introduced several new characters that had to get their due as well. Arguably some of them were planted as seeds for spin-off movies to explore their past or send them on their own adventures, but still… It felt unnecessary.

The overall story isn’t anywhere as dramatic as the trailers made everyone think and Disney once more have proven that they are the masters of deceptive trailers, with many of the shots used in the trailers not being what you may have thought or more or less being pretty unimportant in the film itself. That goes for instance for the Knights of Ren who ultimately act as just another hunting party chasing the heroes, the much touted Sith Troopers, who are barely actually seen in the film but just as well applies to the secret fleet. The final battle is not even close as impressive or innovative as e.g. some stuff in Rogue One.

Probably owing to the overall forced nature of the script, the acting is quite terrible at times. Much was made of Palpatine‘s return, but to be honest, his appearances feel like extracts from some cheap B-movie. It’s just so over the top, at least I could never take it seriously. Similarly, a lot of dialog felt like it had been ripped from a textbook on what not to do in writing school. Some of it was extremely cheesy and the less Poe Dameron we get, the better. I’m sure it’s not Oscar Isaac‘s fault, but this is as one-dimensional as it gets. At least the interactions between Kylo Ren and Rey were pretty good. I even liked the idea of them actually physically sharing the world when communicating through the force.

The comedic elements felt a bit out of place. I didn’t mind Babu Frik, but the “hairdryer on a wheel”, D-O, really didn’t have to fill the “yet another cutesy robot” niche. Him having of course important info on where to find Palpatine‘s secret hideout was a bit too convenient. Likewise, the whole plot with C3-PO built around the same premise of deciphering Sith glyphs didn’t make too much sense. It also seemed to me they didn’t quite know what to do with BB-8 as well this time.

Visually the movie is of course pretty impressive, but these days with even Open Source 3D programs like Blender offering an unprecedented level of realism one can take that pretty much for granted, even more so on a 200 million dollar budget.My favorites include the ocean simulation on the planet where the Death Star crashed, which made me almost seasick, as well as some other environmental stuff. The space battles left me pretty underwhelmed and just felt too static. You know, those Star Destroyers lined up like ducks in a shooting gallery was perhaps not that believable, after all.

On that note: Of the vehicles you can buy as LEGO sets only a handful get notable screen time those being Kylo Ren‘s TIE Fighter, Poe Dameron‘s X-Wing and of course the Millennium Falcon. Most others have “blink and you’ll miss it” moments, are disguised and/ or can only be partially seen for the majority of the time or like the new Sith TIE Fighter with the triangular panels only appear as background filler. That makes it at times nearly impossible to judge the validity of LEGO‘s representation of these items and you’ll likely have to wait for one of those tie-in art books to come out.

So what’s the verdict? As much as the movie is riddled with flaws and shortcomings I still enjoyed it. However, there can be no denying that it could have been so much better. My biggest gripe is that JJ Abrams seems to indeed have been focused too much on pleasing a certain type of fans and it shows how things have been bent into place. It’s just too obvious that many characters didn’t need to be there and it’s equally apparent how some of the new characters along with open-ended story threads for existing ones were planted for future movies.

After all, most of the actors are quite young and there’s nothing speaking against another Rey-centered trilogy ten years down the line, as much as Disney may proclaim they have no plans for it currently. Mark my words – they’ll do it because passing up such an opportunity to make more cash would be stupid. Who knows, by that time we probably all have dissected The Rise of Skywalker and watched it a million times and the speculation game will start all over again…

Failure Explained? – A Look at Solo – A Star Wars Story

Since I’ve already reviewed two sets associated with the Solo – A Star Wars Story movie (see here and here) I figured, now that it’s available on Blu-Ray/ DVD/ Digital, it would be time to take a look at the film itself and possibly find the reasons why it failed to make an impression in cinemas and how that may relate to the LEGO sets.

Solo - A Star Wars Story, DVD, Cover

The movie itself in my view is not as terrible as all those reports about the changes and the turmoil behind the scenes made it sound. What becomes apparent rather quickly, however, is the “Too many cooks…” problem. Even if you are not a Star Wars buff at all you will quickly notice the constant shifts in tonality. There are very dark scenes depicting the evil side of the syndicates and The Empire intermingled with supposedly funny bits and action pieces and you can tell that they all come from different versions of the script right down to the very different shot compositions used by the different directors and production units. It’s highly inconsistent and only underlines that the movie and the people producing it in the end didn’t have much of an idea what they wanted it to be.

Where it totally fails is the interpersonal relations between the different characters. You never buy into that relationship between Han and Kira and neither do you ever feel that the interactions between Han and Beckett or Han and Lando serve any other purpose other than providing a background for exchanging some quips or old-man-wisdom. Even Han‘s relation to Chewie isn’t really explored and comes about very casually as if you could meet any stranger on the street and be life-long best buddies the next day. A lot of that can be blamed on very poor acting. Most of the time it’s simply incredulous and artificial like a B-movie and by that I don’t even mean Alden Ehrenreich‘s failed Harrison Ford impression which he was forced to put on.

Regardless, the whole thing is entertaining in its own way. The Conveyex train heist is easily the best sequence in the movie and if more stuff of that kind would have been included, it would have been quite a ride. Unfortunately the other action scenes don’t live up to it and like many other parts in the movie feel dragged out. E.g. the scene with the Maelstrom beast feels unnecessarily long. You really find yourself thinking “If the gravity well is really that strong, why doesn’t this beast die already?”. Similar observations can be made elsewhere, leading to the simple realisation that excising some of that filler stuff would possibly have made for a better, more exciting movie.

Getting to the LEGO-specific parts, things turned out as I feared. Most vehicles are barely even in the movie and if they are, only very shortly. According to the bonus materials of the Blu-Ray there were plans for a whole story thread involving Han in a TIE Fighter, but this isn’t in the final version, so any you see on-screen are just small renditions used as background filler. The Landspeeders are also only in the first ten minutes and then completely forgotten. For the most part the only vehicle that regularly and consistently appears on-screen throughout the entire duration for better or worse is the Millenium Falcon. This lack of exposition of the individual vehicles clearly isn’t helping sales.

What’s also not helping is the half-baked nature of some models. When you watch the movie, LEGO‘s poor efforts on the Imperial Conveyex Transport (75217) and the Imperial AT-Hauler (75219) really become agonizingly obvious. It’s not just that the train is way too short/ small and incomplete, but the figures and some construction features in the sets make it painfully apparent that the whole scene was initially meant to play out completely differently and LEGO just didn’t have any opportunity to adapt their sets, no doubt based on early concept art, to the later script changes. So by all means this is a bloody mess.

Overall I feel once more vindicated that LEGO perhaps would do better to let Star Wars rest for a while. As this example shows, chasing every buck and hopping onto the bandwagon isn’t doing them any good, least of all when a movie totally bombs just as this one did. I also can’t help the impression that neither side, meaning Disney and LEGO, are committed enough to really care for the products. It feels too much like that Monday morning call: “We need something by Wednesday for presentation on Thursday, so the CEO can sign it off on Friday.” . Everything looks thrown together with the barest minimum of effort while at the same time maxing out the profit margin. Under those conditions it won’t be long before even the most ardent Star Wars fan finally gets fed up for good…

Dino Time! (Round Two)

As previewed back then, the second volume of the Jurrassic World movie tie-in LEGO magazine Dino Special came out today here in Germany and of course I had to check it out, though a bit reluctantly.

LEGO Magazine, Dino Special, Cover

As I said in my original article, I would have much preferred to get another dino instead of a minifigure. Now of course this little matter kind of resolved itself in an unexpected way, but I’d still prefer to get one more of those little green goblins or for that matter perhaps even a third variation on the theme. The matter isn’t helped by the Owen minifigure being rather generic and to boot being included in several of the commercial dino-themed sets currently available. This diminishes the value of the mag further for people already owning one of those.

The parts for the surveillance post on the other hand are pretty useful, so not all is lost. There are some Dark Tan plates plus a good selection of brown parts which are easily reusable on other projects. The wedge part in Dark Bluish Grey for the roof is okay, though I would have prefered to build this from slopes, again for better reusability. The operator’s console is a printed part, but an old pattern that has been used a million times.

LEGO Magazine, Dino Special, Poster

A little surprise is the centerfold poster, which actually almost looks like something that I’d put up on my wall. the image composition is interesting and it’s simple and elegant. In the English version the tagline probably reads Tyrannosaurus ROCKS. Overall, though, this isn’t a must-have magazine. There’s simply not enough incentive for the adult LEGO connoisseur because at the end of the day there’s nothing truly exclusive about it.


Oh LEGO, oh LEGO! What has happened to you? You collaborate with companies on re-creating models that others would lick their fingers for, and then this?!

Sadly, the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 (10262) turned out exactly as I feared based on the first leaked image on that imaginary driver’s license card two weeks ago. In no way does it do the real car any justice. A while ago I was joking on Facebook that it looked like a customized Trabant (you know, that notorious vehicle from former Eastern Germany) and this is exactly that.

LEGO Creator Expert, James Bond Aston Martin DB5 (10262)

James Bond Aston Martin DB5, Photo ©2018 The LEGO Group

Of course there were and always will be limitations in capturing the complex curves of elegant cars just with LEGO and all the curved slopes in the world won’t change this, but this is disappointing, both when viewed as a LEGO aficionado and a fan of the James Bond movies (well, at least some of them, including Goldfinger with the great Gerd Fröbe).

LEGO Creator Expert, James Bond Aston Martin DB5 (10262)

James Bond Aston Martin DB5, Photo ©2018 The LEGO Group

What makes this even worse is that they didn’t even bother making this a special color. It would have been nice to at least get some metallic parts, but apparently all they could manage is to doctor up the photos so heavily to make it look like it has a metallic coat sheen when it’s actually just plain grey. Funny enough this more than seems to confirm that they were fully aware of this and still cheated.

So in conclusion this is yet another of the many half-fails of this year with ugly models in weird colors being sold at slightly mental prices. Nothing to see here, really, though I’m pretty sure there will still be enough people buying it.

Honesty Reward!

Sometimes things work out in a weird way and so despite not really having an intention to buy one of the Jurrassic World sets, I still ended up with one of the promotional Velociraptor Play Pen (30382) bags that you would otherwise get if you were to buy products from that range of a certain value. How did I do that? That’s an anecdote so odd, it’s definitely worth telling.

LEGO Promotional, Velociraptor Play Pen (30382), Bag

I was on the road yesterday in the next big city close to where I live, Leipzig, and for a few years now (three or four, I believe), we have our own LEGO store, so I always make it a point to at least stop by and sneak in, looking if I can get something that fits my limited budget, ideally at reduced prices. There wasn’t much in the way of actual sets, but I picked up a bunch of minifigures and shovelled a few hands of loose bricks into a small Pick a Brick cup since it doesn’t happen that often that you get Sand Green 2 x 1 bricks en masse.

I paid my stuff and then left the premises to check out some other shops in the mall and all the while I had this nagging feeling that something was off and I didn’t pay what it should have cost. So when reorganizing the contents of my backpack I took the chance to check the receipts whether I had missed some discount or something like that and there it was – they young lady operating the cash register had missed on checking in my PaB cup and the bill was 10 Euros short.

Since I’d like to think I’m an honest guy, after all, I returned to the LEGO store and in slightly theatrical fashion dug out the unpaid cup and asked, whether I could still keep it even if I hadn’t paid for it. Imagine the stunned looks! After the first moment of surprise had settled, I jokingly said that I would only pay it if I got one of those dino bags. Of course I would have paid either way, but the guys played along and as a reward for my honesty I really got one of the bags, which is great! Now little baby T-Rex from the magazine set has a friend to play with! 😉

LEGO Promotional, Velociraptor Play Pen (30382), Overview

The set itself is simple enough, but what of course stands out are the Dark Blue elements, which LEGO uses throughout the entire Jurassic World series. They also match the little Velociraptor‘s colors since he goes by the name of Blue due to his dark side stripes. Personally I just love those toned down, soothing colors. For my taste the set could have been a bit wider/ have had more depth, but at least judging from photos it seems that even the commercial sets are more built like narrow facades, so this would fit the theme.

In any case, I’m a happy camper and such little funny incidents show that “Life finds a way!”, as Dr. Malcolm always says in the movies. Thanks again to the staff of the store for being game and indulging me!

Dino Time!

This week had a nice surprise by way of a LEGO Magazine dino special as a tie-in to the upcoming second Jurassic World movie.

LEGO Magazine, Dino Special, Cover

As a goodie, the mag comes with a poly bag of LEGO parts, the most important of which is of course the little baby T-Rex. This little critter is/ will be included in some of the thematic large LEGO sets for the movie as well, but since it’s unlikely I will buy any of those (not enough value for money on the parts, though some of the dinosaurs look quite nice), I figured I take the opportunity and get the mag.

LEGO Magazine, Dino Special, Poly Bag

In addition to the little dino it also has two eggs, which unfortunately are not specifically colored or printed like real dino eggs would be (most likely some sprinkled camouflage pattern in earthy colors). A nest for the eggs is provided based on the octagonal “crow’s nest” / sail platform part onto which you are supposed to clip some brown 1×1 hinge/ bar holder parts. The surroundings are created with some grey wedge bricks, some plant parts featuring the newer 2018 flower stem element with a pin and a single leave plus a few tiles. A 6×6 wedge (triangular) plate as the base in Dark Tan.

Other than this ground element, unfortunately neither of the other parts is specifically colored to match the prehistoric/ jurassic theme, which really is a shame. Especially the nest could have looked much more interesting in a natural color or by at least providing a round tile in such a color to put on top. Also the flower stems could have had at least one blossom each. We’re not talking about something exotic here, just some minor parts literally worth pennies. To illustrate my point, I plugged the little tyke onto my doodle plate that I use to experiment with techniques and arrangements.

LEGO Magazine, Dino Special, Dino Vignette

Little T-Rex himself looks very convincing and has a nice printed-on pattern. Of course the scientific merits can be discussed endlessly, but for what it is and for the usual target demographic, this should do just fine. If these kinds of things are up your alley, buying the mag wouldn’t be a bad thing, even more so if you have some use for the other parts.

LEGO Magazine, Dino Special, Dino Detail

Unlike the normal regular LEGO Star Wars and so on magazines with their ever same parts or minifigures, I totally think this is worth it. Grab it while you can still get it, assuming your country has these LEGO-themed magazines! There’s a second one supposed to come out in August, but sadly it won’t have any more dinos and just a minifigure and some parts. I would much have preferred to get the Velociraptor version of the dino baby in grey/ green/ blue, but I guess LEGO are going to keep that exclusive for the retail sets for a while…