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

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

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Cover

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

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Info Page

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

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Comic

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

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, September 2022, Poster

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

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

Car Triple – LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd’s Race Car EVO (71763), LEGO Creator, Street Racer (31127) and LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181)

As a LEGO user on a limited budget it’s sometimes not easy to find something to buy, strange as this may sound. Some sets don’t interest me right out of the gate, others I may actually want are out of my league and then there’s this weird thing where you have downright lulls when you have ticked off your “Must have” list and newer sets aren’t released yet or there’s no worthwhile discounts that deter you from buying something. In those situations, especially when the drought becomes too long and I get this nervous itch, I like to resort to my alternate “Would be nice, but only if…” list. This is sort of a random collection of sets that I might buy, after all, to scalp them for parts. This inevitably requires them to be cheap or offset the cost by being able to sell minifigures for a good price. The three sets featured in this article are exactly that. None of that means that they would be bad on their own merits, it’s just not the main focus of this review.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), Box

LEGO Creator, Street Racer (31127), Box

LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181), Box

Pricing and Contents

Not being much of an actual diesel head or any other kind of car aficionado, the underlying logic for these purchases has always been the potential long-term usefulness of the parts vs. the price and the short-lived fun I might derive while building. As it is, I never got too worked up over the specifics of Ninjago lore or the The Batman movie’s details and the accuracy of the model. With that in mind, the motto of the day always has been “It needs to be cheap!” and so I was biting my time on each of the sets until my gut feeling told me to buy them at what logically seemed to be the lowest price realistically feasible.

That mostly worked except for the Street Racer (31127) where I missed my window of opportunity and had to buy it at slightly higher cost. This one was 15 Euro, which is not too bad, given that a 20 Euro set would not be discounted as much proportionally compared to others. Interestingly, this set seems reasonably popular, so the price is pretty stable and it more or less never was “dumped” anywhere for 10 Euro during a promotion or something like that. The lowest I’ve seen is 13.50 Euro, which really isn’t that significant compared to what I spent.

The other two sets have a regular asking price of 30 Euro, which quite frankly is ridiculous, especially for the Ninjago car. Sure, the number of pieces is there that would fit the usual piece count x 10 Cent per piece = price, but there just is not enough volume of stuff. LEGO are even giving away their game with the marketing photos. One can’t shake the feeling that only half the parts are actually being used anywhere. That said, of course you can rely on discounts, which kind of is the point when you want things cheap, so I ultimately got both packages for around 18 Euro. That’s so much more tolerable and feels more in line with what you would pay for a comparable Speed Champions car for instance.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd’s Race Car EVO (71763)

Perhaps the most disappointing of the three, Lloyd’s Race Car will be the first to get a look. It comes with 279 pieces, which on paper sounds good enough, but as mentioned before it just doesn’t feel that way. This isn’t unexpected or even untypical for a lot of Ninjago sets, as a good chunk of the elements are always swords, blades and other appendages/ decorations as well as side builds and minifigure add-ons. Once you strip them down and put them on their own pile, you sometimes already have 50 pieces that don’t contribute much to the bulk. In this case this is further reinforced by the EVO concept where you are supposed to upgrade a barebones base build to a fully decked out maximum version or vice versa. More on that later.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), Overview

The minifigures in this set are very colorful with Lloyd having multiple shades of green and the snake warriors heavily featuring orange. This makes them almost look a bit too friendly compared to other iterations of these characters. Still love the snake head piece as much as back then, though. If LEGO were to produce Light Bluish Grey or Tan versions, they’d make for wonderful decorations of some similarly themed temple.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), Figures

There’s a small buggy for the bad guys, but it’s basically one of those lazy lackluster designs I’ve criticized a million times in my LEGO magazines reviews. It’s an utter waste of pieces and simply not worthy of even being there.

The main vehicle as depicted here is the maxed out and leveled up version. Not only was I simply too lazy to take photos of the lesser variants with some pieces removed, but in my opinion this EVO stuff also just doesn’t really work that well. The base version looks rather underwhelming and a bit weird and one can’t help but shake the feeling that this was fundamentally designed the wrong way. By that I mean that my overall impression is that the car was designed as the complete version and only then they started thinking about which parts could be removed when in fact it should have been the other way around.

This isn’t helped by the modular concept not having been thought through. Whenever you try to remove the sub-assemblies there’s a good chance you also pull off other parts that are supposed to stay on or at least you loosen up some connections. This isn’t the end of the world, just sloppy design and it feels utterly unnecessary.

The car itself is just fine and has a few things going for it in terms of useful pieces. For instance the green wedges haven’t been in any set in ages and could be interesting to some. Similarly, the relatively new golden “motorcycle style” wheel hubs haven’t been in too many sets yet. This package is also one of the few to have the 2 x 2 corner tile in Green. The most important item however, if you wanna call it that, is the transparent windshield element. It’s rather common in Trans Black, but outside this set it has only been once done in Trans Clear. That means it has been rather expensive (though not particularly rare) and increased availability will help to bring down that cost. Personalyl I can see that piece being useful if e.g. you want to convert a Speed Champions car to a different version and are tired of the shaded windows.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), Front ViewOn a somewhat broader note, I really hate LEGO for doctoring their promotional images the wrong way. I was under the impression that the Green would actually be Bright Green, which would have made the car look a bit more aggressive but would also have been cooler overall. You can imagine that I was mildly disappointed when I realized that. As a Photoshop user myself I find it baffling that they don’t put much emphasis on a reasonably correct rendition of their own colors. It really cannot be that difficult, considering that no doubt they can easily afford all the bells and whistles of expensive photographic equipment and high-end calibrated computer screens.

LEGO Ninjago, Lloyd's Race Car EVO (71763), CockpitThe play value of this model is acceptable. The car is pretty robust and the cockpit is large and accessible. However, there’s not much else to do. Unlike some other Ninjago offerings this one doesn’t have some hinge-based transformation features or hidden functions that can be triggered with some lever. Even the stud shooters feel less than ideal, considering that the round 1 x 1 studs more often than not tend to be consumed by the carpet monster and are harder to retrieve compared to arrow shooters.

LEGO Creator, Street Racer (31127)

I got this set somewhat reluctantly. It’s not that I totally disliked it, it just didn’t strike me as essential when viewed from the angle I was treating the whole operation. Arguably one could say that this is a bit of an acquired taste and my interest only grew when studying the digital building instructions and realizing that it would offer some unique Dark Turquoise parts and a few useful ones in Light Aqua as well.

LEGO Creator, Street Racer (31127), Front Left View

The set comes with 258 pieces and they are put to good use, at least for the primary model. Apparently I haven’t built the Formula X racer and the custom dragster, which use less elements. I might have if the set had a different color scheme, which is a bit of a qualm I have with this. I don’t mind the Dark Turquoise, but I feel that other contrast colors would have served the set better. The Light Aqua could have been substituted for Yellowish Green or Dark Azure and if nothing else, at least the Red decorations should be Bright Light Orange. That and of course the exhaust pipes and the compressor intake would look way cooler if they were in a metallic color.

Building the model is pretty straightforward as unlike some other cars this one use mostly conventional building techniques and not fancy sideways or upside-down construction as often found on Speed Champions these days. This makes for a rather relaxing time and a quick turnaround. I’m a slow builder at the best of times due to often being distracted with other stuff like watching TV, but this was a pleasant build that didn’t drag on for a whole evening.

One thing you’ll notice right away is that this car is rather big and has a lot of usable volume. The downside to that is that it’s definitely not minifigure scale and any of the little guys you put in the cockpit and behind the wheel will look like an elementary school kid having hijacked his parents’ ride. The available space is really huge as evidenced by the images below. There’s even a well worked out stowage area, it’s just that in order to actually use any of that and make sense scale-wise you may need to find some dolls/ puppets/ figures from an alternate manufacturer like Playmobil.

LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181)

The The Batman movie came and went without much fanfare. It was barely marketed and then it felt like it was in cinemas for two weeks only. The short window of opportunity certainly hasn’t helped to compel me to drag my lazy ass to the movies, but I won’t use it as an excuse. I haven’t seen the whole thing and only know bits and pieces from trailers and isolated clips. Based on that, the model appears to be an adequate rendition.

LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181), Overview

LEGO Super Heroes, Batmobile: The Penguin Chase (76181), FiguresThe set comes with minifigures of Batman himself and his nemesis The Penguin. The decapitated head isn’t some unfortunate victim, it’s a replacement for Batman without the cowl. I guess for the realistic look of the film they’re okay, it’s just that they don’t look very spectacular, either. Bats doesn’t even have any weapons and for Mr. Cobblepot  you can build a small rocket launcher (forgot to include it in the images), but that’s pretty much it.

The set officially has 392 pieces and they’re are used well. as you can see on the photos, it has a certain fine granularity with many individual details breaking up what otherwise would just be a sea of black. It even has the flames from the nitro charger to make things look more intimidating. They get a bit tiresome to look at, so if you want to keep the model around for your showcase, it’s likely better to remove those transparent blue parts.

The car in the movie is a custom build, though it has clear references to a Mustang, a Pontiac and some others, depending on which details you look at. Within reason that has been translated well enough to the smaller scale version, though of course some of the straight surfaces would be curved on the original. In terms of size this feels like an oversized Speed Champions car and it even builds similarly. You start out with a 8 wide chassis element which is considerably extended front and rear and then add the other elements.

One of the things I found slightly problematic is how fragile some assemblies are. It is inevitable that some of the flames will come off occasionally, but there’s also several other locations where pieces are only attached by two studs and you can break them off just by handling the model wrongly. The overhang of the front hood is the most annoying of those, but also some of the 1 x 2  slopes used for the sharp ridges tend to dislocate. Another weak spot is the “forked” suspension of the motor. With all that in mind you should handle the model carefully.

The interior details are sufficient. Personally I’m a bit irked by the shooter mechanism. It requires you to have the arrows in the model at all times or else the hinged mechanism will just drop down and stay at an angle, ruining the illusion of a solid surface on the hood. If I were to build this a second time I’d just forego the arrow shooters entirely and close up the gaps with regular bricks and tiles.

The motor is an interesting little assembly and sells the illusion nicely. Most importantly it does so by using some Flat Silver elements that have only been introduced in this color this year such as the 90 degree clip/ bar and the Fez cone. Definitely interesting pieces for anyone building machinery or designing Steampunk stuff.


Concluding Thoughts

Given that I bought all the sets under the premise that I would harvest their pieces and derive a little distraction from them rather than looking at them too critically for their originality, realism and other factors, I’m not that disappointed. Yes, they all have notable shortcomings, but I don’t find them too bothersome within my reasoning.

Of course my opinion would be most definitely different if I was more serious about the matter. I might criticize the lack of more minifigures on the Batman set and its less than robust handling and I might simply write off the Ninjago set as lame and unpolished in relation to the official retail price. In reverse this however also means that I really would not necessarily have bought those sets if they hadn’t been discounted massively. Such is the logic forced upon us by LEGO‘s crazy pricing.

To my surprise I really liked the Creator 3in1 race car and if you’re on a budget and can get over the slightly weird color scheme I would recommend picking this over the others. It’s just as robust as the Ninjago car while looking a lot better and at the same time it’s as big and reasonably detailed as both its alternative offerings. The Batman car would be last on my imaginary list due to its stability issues and boring black look. There simply are way too many other black cars out there.

Shallow Tournament – LEGO Ninjago, Tournament of Elements (71735)

With ten years under its belt, LEGO Ninjago is certainly that one big hit series every toy maker is hoping for and has become a staple of their product portfolio. The success is going so far that they introduced the Legacy sub-theme two years ago where modernized versions of older kits are re-issued to celebrate the memories and nostalgia. A good example for this is the Boulder Blaster (71736) from earlier this year.

LEGO Ninjago, Tournament of Elements (71735), Box

The Tournament of Elements (71735) falls in that category as well, though more in a hypothetical sense as technically this is not a remake of a previous set, but rather a completely new one based on the central theme of season 4 of Ninjago. There are temple-like sets for this season that represent individual bits and scenarios, but not this exact one.

Contents and Pricing

The Ninjago sets are, with a few exceptions that feel hugely overpriced every now and then, usually very reasonably priced and thus rather affordable even on a shoe string budget. With a recommended price of 30 Euro for 283 this one fits the pattern nicely. At first glance the average price per piece is of course slightly above 10 Cent, but the saving grace here is that you get seven (!) minifigures that already make up a huge chunk of the value. The rest comes down to what the pieces are worth to you for building your own “real” temple or expanding another model. More on that later.

LEGO Ninjago, Tournament of Elements (71735), Overview

Despite the already not too crazy price I took my time and did not rush to buy it. I had it somewhere in the middle of my virtual “Sets I might consider buying one day” list, but this was not an urgent case of “must have” and more an optional “would be nice”. That’s why I only picked it up now for 20 Euro. To me this simply felt more adequate in relation to the overall contents.

The Minifigures

Unusually for me, the minifigures were a big driver for this purchase. I’m still not a minifig collector and likely will never be, so they have to appeal to me with special features and a certain underlying charme. This is definitely the case for the for elemental masters with the guitar-playing Elvis-wannabee Jacob and and the stick-wielding “wild man” Bolobo taking the cake. Gravis is also not bad, be it just for the fact that turbans are extremely scarce and having this headgear piece alone would open up a few possibilities for customizing your little guys.

LEGO Ninjago, Tournament of Elements (71735), Minifigures

All of the minifigs also offer nice production value with some very complex and detailed prints, even the more ordinary Jay and Kai ones. this may not be up to the insane level some recent more exclusive Collectible Minifigures have reached, but is more than sufficient for characters bundled with buildable sets.

LEGO Ninjago, Tournament of Elements (71735), Minifigures

This being a tenth anniversary thing there is also another golden ninja, this time Lloyd. I guess if you really were a completionist and wanted to collect them all this would be a good thing, but by themselves I find that these don’t do much for me and chasing for them seems unnecessarily stressful. You’re probably better off just buying them as a complete lot from Bricklink.

LEGO Ninjago, Tournament of Elements (71735), Minifigure

The Temple

The temple isn’t really much of a temple, but it’s more being alluded to by representing its balconies/ gallery as some sort of panoramic stand for the minifigures and some of the iconic accessories. Stylistically it captures the overall appearance and mood, but it seems that this isn’t rooted in any concrete details from the actual animated series. I never actually watched it, but what trailers and snippets you can find on the internet suggest that this is all much more elaborate and more detailed.

LEGO Ninjago, Tournament of Elements (71735), Front View

The build follows pretty much the same design pattern for each of the three panels and thus the whole process is rather repetitive and boring. By the time you build the third segment you don’t even need to look at the instructions any more. For what it’s supposed to represent this is serviceable, but really not more than that.

Sprinkled throughout are the various elements from the standard Ninjago weapons pack, only this time they are done in Bright Green for the first time after previously only being available in Pearl Gold, Flat Silver and oddly enough most often in Trans Neon green. The green of course is supposed to represent some form Jade. The more interesting aspect to this is that the pieces could come in handy to represent body parts of insects such as mandibles and wings or perhaps could even be used to add some plant-like stuff.

LEGO Ninjago, Tournament of Elements (71735), Front View, Top Section

Unfortunately the temple does not have an actual yard or arena where the contestants could battle it out and that is easily my biggest gripe here. Given how the layout is built already it should have been easy enough to add some more plates, a bit of fencing and perhaps one or two stone benches as seating for the audiences.

On that same note, the back sides could have had preparation areas for the various protagonists or at least some random storage or other facilities like a toilet. I get that they may not have wanted to inflate the parts count unnecessarily, but c’mon! This simply feels a bit too lazy.

In the same vein I completely miss some relation to the actual elemental powers. In the trailers you can see the temple area being transformed into a lava pit and some stuff with water/ ice, so integrating a few of those things certainly would have been a good thing. Ideally each minifigure would even have its own separate little island demonstrating its individual powers where appropriate.


Concluding Thoughts

If you don’t warm up to the minifigures, then this set isn’t really for you. Around 70 percent of the ideological value just come from the characters while the building itself is nothing special. It fits with the underlying story and certainly your could turn it into something if you have another Ninjago temple floating around or a willing to buy this set multiple times and complement it with lots of extra parts from your collection, but on its own merits it’s one of the most basic LEGO builds I’ve seen in a while.

For me it had some minor extra value due to some of the pieces that I didn’t have in my portfolio yet like the modified plate with two studs in Dark Blue or even something as trivial as the ten Black 1 x 2 x 2 slopes, an otherwise common part, but outside that there is very little of value to be had here. At the end of the day they could likely have sold the figures in a different kind of package with even less buildable elements and it would have been just as good or bad.

For my taste there’s simply not enough here and all things considered it would have been preferable to have a “real” building even if the set then would have cost 50 Euro or something like that…

Something to be proud of? – LEGO Everyone is Awesome (40516)

As I stated in my recent VIDIYO review/ ponderings, at the end of the day LEGO‘s product choices most of the time are very conventional or even conservative. They like to play it safe and not risk damaging their bottom line by offending anyone. On top of it there are the self-imposed rules about family- and kids-friendliness, which unfortunately are based on dated tropes and stereotypes from a different time and don’t keep up with modern times. That’s why it was extremely surprising to release the Everyone is Awesome (40516) set, which clearly takes a step into a different direction.

LEGO, Everyone is Awesome (40516), Box

Controversy in Rainbow Land

The apparent observation would have to be that this is a set aimed at the LGBTQI+ crowd or for that matter addresses “diversity” in the broadest possible sense. Is it, though? Ultimately it becomes a question of whether the set is catering for those demographics or just pandering to them. Point in case: The deciding question is whether or not LEGO are legit on this subject and their heart is in the right place.

As a gay person and thus a member of one of those groups I have ambiguous feelings about this. Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way: Regardless of the rest, this set has the unfortunate stench of “corporate pride” all over it, i.e. the typical scenario where big companies and organisations pull their rainbow flags from storage once a year, put out some nice ads and sponsor a bunch of events for Pride Month and then the rest of the year not much else happens to foster inclusivity and diversity. This duality in fact could be observed just today when UEFA prohibited illuminating the Munich stadium in rainbow colors for tomorrow’s match during EURO 2020. You know, when it comes to their money and truly sending a message, they get touchy.

LEGO, Everyone is Awesome (40516), Front Left View

Then of course there’s the other side of the equation, the general population and by extension the AFOL crowd. I’m struggling for words, but the craziness even the announcement for this set caused has me baffled. I was seriously shocked about the level of intolerance this brought to light in way too many people. C’mon, folks, it’s 2021! Don’t get me wrong – I’m not waving around rainbow flags all day as I much prefer to be “That normal guy you’d never have thought being queer.”, but isn’t that in itself a point. Shouldn’t we not even need to talk about this?

So as you see, this is indeed more controversial than it may seem at first, but overall I’m glad that this set even exists. Raising awareness is more often than not painful and you can’t make everyone happy, but doing nothing is certainly not an option, either. I just wish LEGO had went about this a bit smarter. They could have released this earlier and collaborated with an LGBTQI+ charity and it would have been the better for it and not come across as such a cheap move to exploit pride month. People still would have bought it and the discussion around it might have been more civil and fruitful.

Pricing and Contents

While the set’s name of course is derived from that “Everything is Awesome!” song from The LEGO Movie, the price really isn’t that awesome. For the time being this is a LEGO exclusive only available at their retail stores and online shop and at 35 Euro for 341 pieces it is definitely a tad on the expensive side. You have to cut them some slack for having to manufacture a few pieces in new colors, including some minifigure parts, that naturally drive up the cost, but overall I feel that the value present here is more in the 25 Euro range.

The point here really is that aside from the arcs and the minifigures you are dealing with basic bricks and tiles, many of which are readily and cheaply available on Bricklink and other sites and as such are also part of LEGO‘s standard supply flow because they are in many other sets. they could have been a bit more generous about that and shaved off at lest 5 Euro. Does this make it a bad deal? The answer to that are actually the minifigures.

As anybody who has tried may know, scraping together monochromatic minifigures can be a major pain. It’s easy enough to find unprinted legs and heads. The latter are occasionally used as decorative elements, lantern inserts or fruit (the notorious orange pumpkin for instance, before LEGO had a special mold for this) whereas most basic Creator or City sets feature figures with plain legs. Things do however get infinitely more difficult for finding print-free torsos, colored hands/ gloves and hair pieces. Some “rare” colors where a specific part has only been done once on a minifigure this can be almost hopeless even.

For this reason any such single-colored figure on its own can already cost you a major fraction of the price for this whole set. Even when sufficient options are available, you may have to buy three or four other figures (or at least parts of them) to bash together a new one. Once you figure that in, this set may almost feel extremely affordable. I would maintain, though, that the set should and could be more affordable.

The Model

There’s a million ways to skin a cat and so are the possibilities for presenting the rainbow theme, but the designer(s) opted for the most basic approach and simply recreated the stripes of the original pride flag and gender identity flag as a presentation stand.

LEGO, Everyone is Awesome (40516), Left View

As it is, there isn’t really much to say about it as building the back wall is a tedious and repetitive task of stacking bricks and tiling over the “stage” area isn’t much more exciting, either. There’s just no technical finesse, no unusual building techniques, no nothing and building drags on, despite a limited number of parts.

LEGO, Everyone is Awesome (40516), Back View

Personally I was most disappointed that the inner corner did not also have a fillet/ curve. That would have added some extra value. Similarly, they could have staggered the stripes in some fashion, both horizontally and vertically and the resulting steps would have added interest and then they could have gone even more crazy by making them “liquid color” with drips and puddles where they melt and blend. There’s so many ideas here. You can do all of that yourself, of course, but it would have been nice to have some more options of of the box.

LEGO, Everyone is Awesome (40516), Front Right View

One of those might also have been rearrangeable stripes that can be reordered and plugged together with pins. This would have allowed to create a bunch of custom flags for some sub-communities and if they had included more colors like Lime Green, Tan, Dark Azure, Medium Nougat and others it would have expanded the options even more. I’m sure some Furries out there would just love to have their flag on the shelf in LEGO form…

LEGO, Everyone is Awesome (40516), Bottom View

Now I don’t want to ruin everyone’s day, but we really have to talk about LEGO‘s quality issues because they are so painfully apparent. Yes, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, the 6 x 16 plate on the left is indeed much more yellowish and that is after tweaking the photo to look nicer. This is only tolerable because the colored elements distract enough, but imagine this was a winter scene with those white parts fully exposed. It would be a nightmare and sadly this is so common these days, that I don’t find it acceptable. A company that claims to be the market leader should not have any such issues even if parts are produced in different factories!

LEGO, Everyone is Awesome (40516), Minifigures

The meat of the set and in fact probably the only reason this set sells outside the queer communities are the monochrome figures for the reasons I explained earlier. The selection is what I would call eclectic, but overall still limited. Most notably and one of the oversights they could have fixed easily is that each figure has only a fixed hair style. Given how much I love pink colors, I certainly wouldn’t have minded having a “male” hair piece in that color. It would also have been nice if they had included a bunch of accessories like headphones, scarfs, beards or even those Ninjago bandanas as mouth coverings. After all, the Corona pandemic is still raging and it would be a nice nod to that.

LEGO, Everyone is Awesome (40516), Minifigures

The shapes of the hair pieces are familiar, but there is exactly one completely new piece on the blue minifigure. This rockabilly style hairdo has many people speculating about a new Stranger Things set as apparently it fits one of the characters there. We shall see once it makes an appearance in a then more traditional hair color.


Concluding Thoughts

One has to be thankful for small things, so as a way of representing diverse communities this set certainly is a start, but a humble one. Unfortunately LEGO have settled on stereotypes and compromised a bit too much as well as simply having been miserly (again) and this just isn’t what it could have been. Combine that with the awful timing and you really can’t shake the thought that their thinking is just still as biased as any other company X. Indeed “corporate pride” that’s only on display when it’s convenient or beneficial for their image.

As a LEGO set in the strictest sense this is more or less a fail if it wasn’t for the figures. It’s the sole reason I immediately got two of these sets just in case I might ever need those monochrome buddies for a project. It’s something I almost never do, but I’m not trusting them to keep this around forever, so if you have even the slightest interest in those minifigs, you should not put off a purchase for too long. Eventually they’re simply going to move on and not produce it anymore, latest when perhaps next year they bring out another pride-themed set.

If none of this matters to you in any way, than this just isn’t for you. You can have enough sets that are much more interesting to build, look more attractive on display and also have equally if not more interesting figures. Come to think of it, some VIDIYO figures would probably be good donors for colorful parts to create a pride parade or design a drag queen…

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

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

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

Contents and Pricing

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

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

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

Figures and Animals

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

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

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

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

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

Sticker Alert!

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

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

Side Builds

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

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

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

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

The Boat

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

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

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

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

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


Concluding Thoughts

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

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

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

Another Pistol Jet – LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736)

Right after I had finished my review of Red Son’s Inferno Jet (800019) another not quite dissimilar model found its way in my home. The Boulder Blaster (71736) is a remake of the 2015 model of same name (70747) which apparently was prominently featured in series 4 of the LEGO Ninjago animated TV series. That’s why this modernized and optimized re-issue appears under the Ninjago Legacy sub-theme.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Box

Before you think I have gone completely OCD over those pistol-like planes I have to clarify something: No, I haven’t. The only reason you even get to see a review of this set is because I won it in a raffle in the run-up to the Easter holidays. Aside from this super-weird coincidence, both in the timing and subject, there’s really not much more than that to it.

Contents and Pricing

As just mentioned, I got this set for free, so the pertinent question becomes whether I would actually ever have bought it and if so, at what price. The set officially retails for 40 Euro. Within the Ninjago universe that is not a bad price for 450 pieces, but not exactly a bargain, either. There have been sets with a better price-to-part-ratio when you break it down to each individual element. In addition you have to consider that it’s just a remake of an older set that people who may be interested in also purchasing this new variant may still have floating about.

That’s why right off the bat I think 35 Euro would have been a better price. With discounts that could have brought the cost further down to around 25-ish Euro as opposed to the 29 Euro which at this point appear the best discount you can get anywhere. As usual this is of course quibbling over something that you can’t control, anyway, and all things considered 40 Euro plus whatever rebate you get that is still not really terrible in the weird world of LEGO. Still, the plane may not be attractive to many people and aside from the totem pole there is not much else except for the four minifigures. It’s the old gag of the set missing that little bit extra that would make you feel okay or good over what you pay for it.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Overview

The Minifigures

While four minifigures isn’t a bad deal for such a relatively small set at first glance, the not so great news is that none of them are particularly special. If the Kai figure wasn’t golden and thus coveted by collectors looking for a complete set the metrics would be even worse. Lloyd, Cole and Eyezor have either been featured in other sets or don’t deviate much from their standard appearance if you don’t count the specific vest prints. far be it for me to complain too much, but maybe they could at least have included some exclusive weapons or another little gimmick. On the bright side their ordinary nature means that the minifigures will be available in abundance on Bricklink and similar sites for minimum cost – except for the golden boy, of course. On the merits of the figures alone this set would not be worth buying even for a die-hard collector.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), MinifiguresLEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Minifigures

The Totem Pole

The only extra build is a basic totem pole/ cage contraption. The black disk is supposed to have a sticker with a shield pattern, which obviously I did not use. You are supposed to “shoot” at the shield/ snip you finger at at, so it tips over and unlocks the bars. this works well enough and you can place a minifigure behind the ladder in the closed position, but it does not have any studs for fixation.

The Jet

The bulk of the set is of course the model of the eponymous Boulder Blaster jet. in terms of design it is based on a Canard style plane, with smaller fins, the actual canards, in the front and the wing moved far aft. There are advantages to this design, but equally as many disadvantages, so it never made huge inroads on actual aircraft (like so many other things) if you don’t count super-sonic planes with delta wings like the Eurofighter and a few others. For sub-sonic planes I more or less only remember the MiG Utka and some experimental Italian┬á Piaggio planes. I’m sure if you research it a bit you could come up with a few more examples, scarce as they may be overall.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Front Left View

The proportions are credible and the whole layout even makes some crude sense from an engineering point of view, though the plane would probably be terrible to fly in the real world. The pistol-like nature of the thing is disguised a bit better, not least of all because the large main wings obscure some areas that otherwise would be more visible and also visually distract by themselves.

The grip handle and the extra bits for the firing mechanism of the arrow shooter array only become noticeable at certain angles and otherwise blend in more or less nicely. Of course there’s still room for improvement and LEGO could easily have substituted the few grey pieces for black ones as well. Still, within reason perfectly acceptable the way they are.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Aft Left View

One of the areas lacking a pinch of finesse is once more the main jet exhaust on the tail. At least its in Pearl Gold and being a proper wheel hub/ rim element it has some structure, so it doesn’t entirely come across as a non-effort like the one on on the White Dragon Horse Jet (80020), but there could definitely be some more details to spice things up.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Aft Right View

The front section is extremely bulky, which only in part feels like it’s owing to the design. It’s just as much a limitation of the mechanism and the gearbox having to fit in there and the way the shooter array is constructed. In that regard Red Son‘s jet offers the better solution, though with not nearly as many shooters. Admittedly even if they had opted for a similar approach the likely could only have squeezed in four shooters, not eight. There would only be so much room even in the largest cowling.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Front Right View

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Front View

The wings are built surprisingly simple, yet effective by using the relatively large 4 x 10 plates on the undersides and the large curved slopes on the top. In addition with the Orange trim line this provides a nice “frame” for the whole area and a believable structure. After all, the smooth sections could be ailerons, air breaks or some other type of the many flaps you find on an airplane. The wings are plugged into the fuselage using pins and locked in place using two 4 x 4 plates on each side, with the new pauldron-like wedge element behind the cockpit sealing everything off.┬á

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Top View

The underside view once more underline the odd decision to use grey elements on an otherwise almost completely black model. Swapping out those bits for Black versions would not be much of a problem if you have the parts and most likely I would take it one step further even and get rid of the T-shaped Technic liftarm that is part of the wings’ socket construction. I’m confident I could come up with something that’s a bit less obvious and would allow me to create something smoother, including also removing the 16 units long Technic bricks. I know why they did it this way for strength, but I would gladly sacrifice the shooter functionality and some stability for a better look.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Bottom View

On that matter: I found the arrow shooter rather unsatisfying, not only because it makes the front section look so bulky. The mechanism is a case of “It works sort of, but not very well.” the rear ends of the arrow are supposed to “ding” against the small wheel hub piece underneath the big golden one so they are released from the spring-loaded bricks, but this doesn’t really work to a degree where you would feel happy. There is too much resistance and overcoming it comes at the cost of poor targeting. This is yet another area that would need major rethinking and re-engineering.

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Detail Arrow Shooters

The cockpit is a minimalist affair, but serviceable for what it’s supposed to represent, but not more than that. And now for the big one: For the time being the new canopy piece is exclusive for this set. Before you get too excited, however, here’s some news for you: According to leaks of the upcoming next summer wave of Ninjago sets it will be used prominently there. The series has an underwater theme and on the images I have seen, this canopy/ windshield piece is literally in every set, be that on a small submarine or another vehicle. So certainly there is no rush to get this set just to get the cockpit element. Still, it’s a nice one with its integrated, dual-molded golden frames and should proof popular (among other things like an actual black & white Manta Ray based on the new mold from last year).

LEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Detail CockpitLEGO Ninjago, Boulder Blaster (71736), Jet, Detail Engine


Concluding Thoughts

If I hadn’t been lucky enough to win it, would I have bought this set? It’s still a tough question to answer. This is by no means a bad model, but at the same time it doesn’t get me excited enough that I would have lost sleep over it. This one is more or less “for fans” who actually watch the animated series and may get a kick out of seeing the vehicles shown there as real counterparts on their shelves.

For most others it will be too much of a “your mileage may vary” thing as once you strip out the shooting functionality, you have a nice, but imperfect model that could use some work to bring it up to code. I might have only picked this up during a really good sale if nothing else was around and/ or I really wanted to scalp it for parts, but even in that department it doesn’t do much for me. It relies mostly on established standard pieces and does not include highly desirable exotic new parts or color alternates. At least it netted me 17 more of those sexy 1 x 2 ingot pieces in Pearl Dark Grey and some Dark Bluish Grey minifigure pirate pistols.

From where I’m sitting this is not an essential model and unless you want to relive the nostalgia of the old Ninjago days you could easily ignore it and save your money for what’s coming now that you’ve been told about it…

Water Snake? – LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184)

I always try to resist the temptation of squandering my money on these Disney sets, but alas, here we go again with another review of one of them, this time for the Raya and the Last Dragon movie. The specific set in question is the smallest one from the line-up, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184).

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Box

Important Note: Since I don’t have a Disney+ subscription I haven’t seen the full movie yet and all my info is based on the trailers, clips, reviews and synopses of the film. Hence I may not get a few details right or mix them up. So please be forgiving and feel free to add any corrections via the comments.

Contents and Pricing

As usual, the set is technically too pricey. I’ve said it before and I make no bones about it here, either. With only 216 pieces, a regular 30 Euro price simply doesn’t make that much of an impression. The only consolation here is that the set uses a lot of large elements, resulting in the finished model(s) having some noticeable size and volume. At least on that level you could therefore get a certain satisfaction out of it and feel like things are acceptable. Of course I still didn’t pay the full price and relied on the usual discounts, regardless. At around 22 Euro things are simply more tenable. there’s likely some more room toward the 20 Euro mark, but I would not expect things to go much lower other than on clearance next year or so.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Overview

Figure

There’s only one figure in this set, a minidoll of Raya herself. While that’s okay in terms of the story, it feels a bit too sparse, contributing to the not so great price-to-content ratio. The specific point here is, that in a set dedicated to Sisu I would have expected that at least they would also include her in her human disguise. That appears to be one of the funnier moments in the movie and it would have made for a wonderful over-the-top colorful figure. It’s really regrettable that this opportunity was missed.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Minidoll

The Raya figure is done well enough, but ultimately nothing special. If it weren’t for the Jade sword and the printed tile with the map showing Sisu in her “sleeping” form as a river, there really wouldn’t be anything special here. Another miss is the new wicker hat. Don’t get me wrong – I love the design – it’s just too bad it’s integrally molded with the hair, thus preventing it from being used elsewhere. It would have nicely complemented the versions known from Ninjago. Maybe we will get a separate variant one day?

The Waterfall

The first model is a small section of the waterfall and the hidden shrine/ cave behind where Sisu and Raya first meet, if I’m correct. This is pretty much a no-frills affair using the most basic techniques you could imagine. As such it is serviceable, but not much more than that. An unwanted side effect of the oversimplification is that the model is actually kind of difficult to build. With the tall bricks and golden pillars you just don’t have too many stable connection points when adding the arches on the top and it’s easy to push them away when using too much force.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Waterfall, Front View

I also would have hoped they’d at least try and include a bit of the rock/ cave somewhere to make the model look a bit more interesting. The area behind the water curtain appears very bland and empty and at least a narrow plate to extend the surface “inwards” would have been a nice touch. On that note, the transparent piece for the water sometimes gets stuck a bit, again owing to the basic construction not being able to ensure consistent tolerances and not being stiff enough to avoid those tiny variations in gap widths and angles.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Waterfall, Back View

The Temple Entrance

The second model is a section of the temple, more specifically one of its entrances. This is again built with many large pieces and simplified considerably to the point of not even making an effort at e.g. covering up the angled plates. It’s really just purely functional, though with limited success. I found the connection far too unreliable as the large panels with the small arched windows used on the sides simply don’t exert enough clutch power. It’s really easy to break off the plates at the bottom. It really wouldn’t have hurt if this had been shimmed over with additional plates or at least there were some extra curved slopes to clamp in the V-shaped elements.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Temple, Front Right View

As usual I did not use the stickers, so the walls look plain white an uninteresting. If I did things might look a bit more interesting. I still can’t wrap my head around this, though. On one hand LEGO seem to go out of their way to dumb down the building process for young kids while at the same time they expect those same children to accurately place large decals. Just doesn’t make any sense.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Temple, Front Left View

The back side, or more accurately the inner courtyard side, is equally barren not just because the absence of stickers, but also not having that many details. You know, it just would have been nice if there was more to do and play with. There is provision to connect this smaller section to the big Raya and the Heart Palace (43181) with the blue ratcheted hinge piece at the end of the walkway. The big set has a matching element hidden underneath its central round floor disc. You can easily verify this by studying the PDF instructions. Just hope your kids don’t find out or thy’ll keep bugging you about buying the expensive package to complete their model…

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Temple, Back View

The only real play feature here is the hidden box with one of the gem stones in it, but even that feels half-hearted and doesn’t offer much in the way of playful interaction. they could at least have come up with some decorations for the hinge plate…

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Temple, Detail

Sisu

At the heart of the set is naturally Sisu herself which sadly also turns out to be the biggest disappointment. Where to even begin? There’s just so much wrong. First off let me preface this by saying that I’m fully aware that it may be extremely difficult to re-create a creature that is basically a flow-y, water creature with glowing skin in a medium such as LEGO bricks. inevitably there have to be some compromises and actually making good use of the 2 x 2 curved tube piece, new here in Medium Azure, isn’t the worst idea. The problem is how and where it is used.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Sisu, Left View

For starters, there could be more segments and the body be much longer. Nothing too excessive, but inserting an additional three or four such segments would have gone a long way. Yes, even if you merely watch the trailer you can see that Sisu is indeed that slinky and has a very elongated body almost like a snake.

Now of course this brings up the second problem: The whole trunk is effectively completely rigid due to how the tubes are connected directly. This more or less limits any poseability to the default, baked-in stance, an issue further exacerbated by the tip and the feathers/ water plumes attached to it also having a fixed curvature. Without some manual intervention to actually re-plug pieces, the sway to the left cannot easily be changed. Well, at least not without things looking wrong.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Sisu, Aft Left View

All that said, the apparent question hitting everyone is “Why aren’t there any intermediate segments or joints?”. I do get that it may have cost some extra effort to produce a few existing pieces specifically in this color for that purpose, but would it really have been that much to ask? Somehow one can’t help but feel that no consideration was even given to this and the whole budget burnt on the custom head.

This also extends to the legs, which ended up being the most basic build imaginable. They really only contain the bare minimum of pieces required to hold everything together, aided by the introduction of the new curved slope that allows them to use even less elements than might have been necessary before.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Sisu, Aft Right View

Point in case: The legs are so flimsy, barely hanging by the tiny ball joints that is indeed somewhat tricky to even get them aligned and touching the ground at the same time. The toes/ paws are downright pathetic – a simple 1 x 2 plate with a hinge clip and a 1 x 1 rounded slope on top of it. They couldn’t have been any lazier with this! Again, this is clearly a zero effort thing.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Sisu, Front Right View

What really broke me is the ugly head. It’s just wrong, wrong, wrong. The horn is way oversized and the hair feels more like a thick helmet. Whoever was responsible for sculpting this apparently did not understand that in order to get across the wispy feel of the fur in the movie you would have to reduce it, possibly even separating it into individual strands or breaking it up into multiple pieces that could be attached separately along the neck. As it is, this is more the stuff of nightmares than the funny, quirky face of a slightly annoying magical creature unaware of its own powers. It’s just upsetting that an expensive, triple-molded piece was ruined by utter ineptitude and bears no resemblance to the real thing.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Sisu, Front View

New Parts

One thing the set has going for it is the considerable number of unique parts. Some of them are genuinely fresh, others are recolors and revised versions of parts that have existed for a while. In the color shifting category there are a few Bright Light Yellow elements that to some of you may be familiar already from the Fiat 500 (10271).

Not quite unexpected, as you often can see these color waves ripple through the different series, meaning LEGO produces millions of millions of those elements for their stockpile and then uses them in as many sets as possible as a way of streamlining their processes. Yes, annoyingly this also means you get the “color vomit” hidden inside some models just because they use up their leftovers.

The hinge plate in Blue and the inverted slope in Light Aqua haven’t been around for a few years, so it’s nice to see them become available again, too.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Parts, Recolors

In the genuinely new department in addition to the already mentioned 2 x 2 tubes and “shoe” curved slope is the new 2 x 2 tapered and curved tree trunk/ creature tail element as well. This has also been sighted in screenshots of the Vidiyo app and with LEGO‘s recent obsession about selling artificial bonsai trees and similar I’m pretty certain we will see it in more colors soon-ish.

The same goes for the 4 x 4 inverted dish, which in my opinion should actually be sorted as a round “pancake” brick, given that it has fully formed anti-studs on the underside and can be used for regular builds without resorting to pins and axles. This item, too, is prominently used in the Vidiyo BeatBox sets to represent the headphones/ ear muffs and I’m sure we’ll see plenty of it being used elsewhere, too.

The final minor addition is at long last a 1 x 1 brick with an axle hole, matching its brother with the pin hole. I don’t expect it to do anything revolutionary, as it still needs to be clamped in with other bricks to actually be useful, but it may occasionally come in handy when you don’t have enough room to use the conventional 1 x 2 brick of same ilk.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Parts, New Items

While I have bashed it for being used in the most terrible way just as an excuse in this set, the new part 70681 is actually something to welcome and applaud. It closes a noticeable gap in the line-up of the different N x 2 x 2/3rds curved slopes that have been around forever by matching the inverse curvature. This allows several new creative ways to enclose those other slopes and can be used to design patterns just as it can be used as a new method of fixating some items without actually connecting them. Furthermore, since the slope also has a one stud inset/ undercut at its base, it can also double as an alternative way to get stuff locked in place with the added benefit of then still propagating the stud it covers up to its top and freeing it up for use. I bet it won’t be long because we are seeing it used everywhere.

LEGO Disney, Raya and Sisu Dragon (43184), Parts, Slope Examples


Concluding Thoughts

Unfortunately this set does not deliver the goods. It’s one of those “You had one thing to do…” situations and in messing up the most important aspect, Sisu, the LEGO people pretty much ruin it for everyone. It is clear that all of this was likely a rush job (and from the looks of it so are the other sets in the series) that was caught up in the chaos of the delayed release due to the Corona pandemic. Nobody is faulting the designers for working off (possibly unfinished) concept art and not getting some things right, but they could at least have made an effort to make a “nice” dragon within the LEGO realm and bring it up to an acceptable level.

Now of course the detractors might argue “But it’s for kids!” which is a fair point and sure enough many of them won’t mind the shortcomings, but a short search on the web suggests that there are simply better toy tie-ins for the movie, including much better Sisu figures that actually look the part. One really has to wonder what went wrong here and it comes across as a non-effort on LEGO‘s part just as it makes you question the sanity of whoever signed off on this at Disney‘s licensing department.

Unless your kid insists it needs to expand its collection of brick-built dragons this is one of those moments where you are really being served better by other vendors. This set has not much to offer in play value and it looks at best mediocre. If you don’t have a taste for nerding out about specific pieces like I do, there is really no good reason to buy this even as an adult. It does not even come close to even the lamest Ninjago dragon and that in and of itself means a lot. Or to put it directly: If you’re looking for a dragon, you are being served better elsewhere.

Yellow Eyes of Evil – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, March 2021

Time is flowing by fast and February is the shortest month of the year to boot, so here we go again already with the latest LEGO Star Wars magazine for March 2021.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, March 2021, Cover

This one yet again comes with a free sticker album, but i wasn’t compelled to actually collect in September last year and I’m not compelled now. I know it’s a huge market, but I couldn’t be bothered. The poor parents who have to take tens or hundreds of Euro extra to the newsstand every month for trading cards and sticker packs! with Ninjago, Jurassic World and Star Wars having such series you can spend a small fortune on this alone, not to speak of soccer cards and other lines of collectibles and toy magazines. Just crazy!

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, March 2021, Comic

The comics are drawn nicely, but have not the least bit to do with actual Star Wars lore this time. the one thing that really surprised me was the poster, well, its back side to be exact. The slightly abstract graphical style is wonderful and just effective. In fact having a full line-up of all Storm Trooper minifigures released so far might even make for an awesome commercial poster. It would have to be pretty huge, though, so perhaps the best we can hope for is more such small posters in future mags. The only thing that slightly bothered me is of course the thin paper and some nasty print artifacts from air bubbles and dust. you can even see the white specks in the photo.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, March 2021, Poster

The minifigure is naturally the highlight of this edition, featuring the one and only Emperor Palpatine. He comes as the version also found in the Death Star Final Duel (75291), a rather expensive set that I likely wouldn’t ever buy unless it really came with 70% discount or something like that. Since many people are in the same boat and old Palps hasn’t been in that many sets to begin with, no matter his guise, this will make many Star Wars aficionados happy. Even I was surprised how different the figure actually feels with the pale Tan skin and the piercing yellow eyes. It’s genuinely well done.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, March 2021, Minifigure

Overall this is quite a worthwhile issue to buy for at least two reasons – the poster and minifigure – even if you’re not the ultimate Star Wars fan. It just feels like you’re getting some good value here.

A Day at the Lab – LEGO Jurassic World Magazine, March 2021

While there’s still not much going on in the outside world due to the pandemic, at least the flow of LEGO magazines seems to have stabilized after it got a little stutter-y last year and so my little excursions to the local newsstand are sometimes the highlight of the week. I was definitely looking forward to the Jurassic World magazine for March, so let’s see what we have here.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, March 2021, Cover

The comic revolves around turning a Brontosaurus into a hungry predator due to a wrongly injected serum, which is kind of a weird concept to me, but I guess for the kids this will work, no matter what. The puzzles/ questionnaires and other activities as usual are super simple, so not much to talk about there.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, March 2021, Comic

The posters are excellent this time around and that goes for both the front depicted here and the reverse. Their reduced style that actually emphasizes the protagonists instead of drowning them out with too much fluff surrounding them is exactly what I think a good poster should be and it helps that this time there’s also no awkwardly translated text. Definitely worth a look and you really could hang up both.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, March 2021, Poster

As a small bonus/ free extra this issue comes with a sample pack of the new LEGO Jurassic World collectible trading cards and an additional limited edition “rare” card with metallic print. If you know the respective Ninjago and Star Wars counterparts you know the drill. I’m not really into collecting this stuff and my news agent has tons of these packs catching dust on the shelves, but the situation may be different elsewhere and apparently it makes Blue Ocean enough cash to justify doing it for this series as well, regardless.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, March 2021, Trading Cards

As so often the highlight for me is the buildable extra. Having bought Dr. Wu’s Lab (75939) already I don’t necessarily need his minifigure again, but it’s still nice to get a bit more variety with the figures instead of the trillionth Owen. Things get more interesting with the mosquito enclosure in the amber by ways of a Trans Orange brick, which is also included in the lab set already, but you can never have enough of them. That also goes for the Tan egg, which is still a lot rarer than the White version.

The really exciting thing for me, however are the computer screen and the keyboard tile. Not for the reason that they are included at all, but rather that they represent the new late 2020/ early 2021 versions of these items which so far have only been seen in a bunch of LEGO City sets. Granted, nothing earth-shattering, but still extremely useful if like me you don’t really use stickers. It’s always good to have printed substitutes for such situations. Finally, the dino this time is Delta so even without ever having bought the T. rex vs Dino-Mech Battle (75938) you should now have a complete gang of the Velociraptors – that is except for the really exclusive grey version of Blue.

LEGO Magazine, Jurassic World, March 2021, Extra

This issue is a pretty good one for multiple reasons and you can definitely buy it without much reservation even if you don’t share one of my nerdy obsessions. The posters are really nice, the play set works and the comic is okay. The only real problem you may face is your kids bugging you about buying more card packs if they develop a taste based on the free sample…

Yellow April

Just another month, just another LEGO City magazine one might say. Yes, the April issue is already here.

LEGO Magazine, City, April 2020, Cover

First thing to note: Blue Ocean seem to be using a different glue for the tacked on bag with the buildable elements (and also in this case a free sample pack of Ninjago collectible cards). It appears to be a bit less elastic and thus sticks to the paper more. Being unaware of this and following my usual method i therefore managed to shred the cover and rip of bits of the top layer of the paper, hence the white areas. I need to be more careful next time.

The parts included are touted as being for a bulldozer, but honestly words begin to fail me. It’s quickly becoming pointless to even include these elements if the supposed vehicle is barely even recognizable. They are clearly taking the reductions too far. The pieces are not without merit for me, though. Funny enough in all those years I never had come across this particular wheel hub type in yellow nor did I have the shield element in Dark Blueish Grey yet. So at least it’s a minor addition to my parts stock. The yellow hubs might come in handy if I ever decide to build a DHL/ Deutsche Post (German postal services) vehicle at least.

The comic is pretty wild and colorful, which I guess is natural when it’s about a rainbow-colored theme park being built. The activities, i.e. puzzles and so on also tie in quite well with this subject. And for once there’s even a pretty good poster (the one with the construction worker standing on the steel bar in mid-air). While certainly not essential, this is overall a good enough issue.