Explorer-ing the Deep

It’s currently so hot outside, I sure wish I would live somewhere by the sea or underwater even, so it’s not at all that bad the latest LEGO Explorer magazine deals with the creatures of the deep and the exploration of same.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Cover

The overall structure of the mag still feels a bit too random for my taste with an “everything and the kitchen sink” vibe being prevalent. It feels like they are simply trying to stuff in too much and in this particular case couldn’t make up their mind whether to focus on the actual real creatures, their brick-modeled counter parts or the exploration vehicles. Dialing things down a bit sure would help and might actually be beneficial to the overall learning effect for the kids.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Sample Pages

Again several commercial LEGO sets make an appearance, including my beloved Deep Sea Creatures (31088). this makes things a bit more palatable to me, but overall I’m still not friends with this sort of over-commercialization, especially since it’s not bolstered by extra content like comics or a genuinely nice dedicated custom poster. If you will, it feels a bit too cheap and obvious.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Poster

The included model is an octopus – of sorts. If you know my Octopus MOC you know that I’m a bit obsessive about those creatures and thus very critical of any rendition. On the positive side, this one truly has eight tentacles at least. on the other hand it at best looks like a baby calamari or sepia to me. The pointed tube just doesn’t look right for an actual octopus. I also wish they had gone with a different color than Black. Keeping everything Red would have been a good start, but Dark Tan for everything would probably have been the best option. I also gladly would have traded the 32 White single studs for the suction rings for longer tentacles.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Squid Model LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, August 2020, Squid Model

Again this issue shows that they still need to work quite a bit on formulating the actual value of the mag and having a consistent style. Most disappointing is the fact that there is just not enough exclusive content. Everything feels like it was chopped together from the LEGO archives and the usual stock content libraries. One can only hope that this improves over time…

Revisionist Krakken

As happens so often when working on a project for too long you can’t see the forest for the trees, as they say, so a few minor issues crept into my octopus MOC instructions. Nothing major and by no means a deal breaker, just small oversights. I’m pretty sure I had all the best intentions of fixing them way back when, but then somehow forgot about them. Therefore I’ve now sat down again and got to it. I’ve edited the original post and updated all the links. The specific changes are as follows:

  • Fixed a bunch of spelling errors/ typos in the German version.
  • Changed the color of the 3L bar in the eyes to Black to correctly reflect availability (it doesn’t exist in Trans Neon Green and the one included in set 31088 is actually a 4L one)
  • Split up the 4 x 1 brick with sideways studs used at the top of the mantle into two 1 x 2 bricks because again it only exists in this form in Dark Blue. If you use other colors this will be irrelevant.
  • Fixed a DPI mismatch on the BOM pages that would make them appear larger than the other pages in non-DPI-aware PDF applications, e.g. in browsers.

For your convenience I’ve also created a MOC page on Rebrickable. This should make it simpler to sift through the parts inventory, compare it to parts you may already have (if you maintain your list on there) and provides a convenient way to order the missing pieces easily if necessary by pre-selecting them in Bricklink shops.

The Krakken has risen!

Important Note: Download at the end of the article! / Wichtiger Hinweis: Download am Ende des Artikels!

At long last I managed to finish my free instructions for my octopus MOC. Yay! I’ve been a bit under the weather last week so it still took me one week longer than promised, but I hope now that it’s here everything is fine.

Octopus MOC, Pages, Preview I’ve written about some of the challenges in my last article on the matter already and despite all the bugs, quirks and flaws of the programs I used I hope I managed to cobble together something decent and tasteful. The preview of some random pages should give you an idea what to expect inside the PDFs without actually having to download the whole 16.4 megabytes. That should make it easier to make up your mind before burning valuable bandwidth and download quotas on mobile devices. On that note I also kept things as barebones as I possibly could within the limitations to keep file size down, so you may have to wait a bit e.g. for page thumbnails to be generated.




Octopus MOC, BOMs for all Variants, PreviewAs I have hinted at multiple times, this set of instructions contains some alternate build variants. This is meant to help you save a bit of money if you are not able or willing to procure a shed load of extra parts e.g. from Bricklink. Still, with the mantle and upper “cloak” section of the tentacles being integral to the whole construction and always using the same pieces, at the end of the day you may not be seeing that much of a difference. Of course you can do your own re-engineering to optimize this further and perhaps if you come up with more efficient alternate designs might be willing to share it. I’d sure be interested to learn how other people might approach this. For your convenience I have also created a Rebrickable page to check the parts for the main most complex build and order missing parts from there if you feel like it.




The instructions are 100 percent free, but if you like them and think I should get something in return I’d sure appreciate being able to tick off some items from my wishlist. Just get in touch! 🙂 Feel free to post links to this article on forums, blogs and wherever you may be roaming the Internet to drum up interest, but please keep the copyright intact and don’t mess with the PDF files themselves by doing things like repackaging the pages with your own branding and redistributing them under your own name.

To download the instructions click on the image or the link below it. On mobile devices it may be necessary to keep your finger pressed down a bit longer in order for a menu to appear that may offer options on where to store or open the files. On desktop computers you typically should also be able to use a right mouse click and selecting “Save link/ target as…” to pick a specific folder for saving. If necessary check your browser configuration’s default download options to avoid confusion and having to download over and over again.

Octopus MOC, Cover, English

Octopus MOC, Instructions, English

Zum Download der deutschen Version auf das Bild unten oder den Link darunter klicken. Auf Mobilgeräten kann es notwendig sein, den Finger länger gedrückt zu halten und entsprechende Option zum Speichern oder die Übergabe an eine bestimmte App auszuwählen. Auf Desktopcomputern kann die Datei in der Regel auch mit Rechtsklick auf den Link und „Link/ Ziel speichern unter…“ direkt in einen bestimmten Ordner runtergeladen werden. um Verwirrung zu vermeiden und die Datei nicht immer wieder neu herunterzuladen, überprüft die Browsereinstellungen für Downloads wenn nötig.

Oktopus MOC, Cover, Deutsch

Oktopus MOC, Anleitung, Deutsch

An Octopus will surface near you soon-ish – finally!

I know I have been promising this for way too long to have much credibility left, but trust me, it’s really going to happen. Yes, at long last the finish line on my free instructions for my Octopus MOC is in sight. After my last update in July I had hoped to finish it sooner (and I mean a lot sooner), but after it got off to a rocky start and what was supposed to be a quick two-month project already had turned into something else, there were some further setbacks, in light of which I then decided to take my time and figure things out and be as thorough as I can. Feel free to skip this boring part, but here are some reasons:

  • As I already wrote back then, I’m not a healthy man, so this summer’s extreme heat coupled with some temporarily escalating generic health issues turned me into a lazy slob. Yes, a pitiful excuse, but that’s just how things are.
  • My own drive for perfection got in the way. Being a graphics designer has the unwanted side-effect that one tends to think in very specific terms, meaning that page layouts have to be almost pixel-perfect and just look nice. That meant that I spent way too much time doodling around and trying to figure out how I could get LPub to do something at which it is notoriously bad. Speaking of which…
  • The aforementioned program is pretty obnoxious and just bug-ridden. I also filed a bunch of bug reports and improvement suggestions, but suffice it to say that the developers behind it appear not particularly focused on making it actually user-friendly or at least best in its class in the sense that as a minor it could possibly be the best of many pretty terrible options. Trust me, doing instructions can indeed be a long exercise in frustration in pretty much any of the programs available currently. Let’s leave it at that.
  • To somewhat mitigate those shortcomings, I had to spend lots of time developing workarounds. This means that my published file will be based on having multiple models in different states in the LPub file and on top of it it will be chopped together from multiple sources. I even spent good amounts of time copy & pasting things together in external text editors. At least that’s one of the few benefits of the text-based file format.
  • As if I wasn’t in enough trouble already, I also decided to design a set of custom icons to use in the instructions because – let’s face it – the default icons e.g. for model rotation look less than exciting. You will see and hopefully like my interpretations and additions.
  • Finally, amidst all of this I participated in a bunch of building contests in the hopes of winning some cool stuff. This naturally also consumed some time on my end because I literally spent entire evenings brooding over some minutia and conceptualizing the models in my head before actually assembling them. I might do a round-up post once the dust has settled on all that and I know in which places I qualified (or not).

On the bright side, all of this trouble has made me much more resilient and I learned a good share of new tricks along the way that may make things easier in the future. I also can say with confidence that now that I know what to do and which pitfalls to avoid there is a definitive ETA on the instructions so you can at least make the model and stocking parts for it part of your Christmas shopping list. Just give me another two weeks and I’m hopefully able to pull this together at last. Funny enough I just had another little setback with one of my hard drives crashing, but thankfully the files were not affected and thank the good lord I also do regular backups, so I can at least present a preview of the cover with my skin intact:

Octopus MOC, Cover, English

I need to fix the broken drive, naturally, but should be able to resume work quickly after that. Stay tuned for the pertinent announcement…

No-Good Octopus – Funny Octopus Ride (41373)

Being a lover of oceanic sea life, LEGO sets themed around this subject are of course high on my list even if they are only tangentially related. That’s why the Funny Octopus Ride (41373) from this years alternate-ish boardwalk fun park series in LEGO Friends ended up on my table.

First Things first

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Box

To get the obvious out of the way before digging into the details, given the title I chose: No, this set isn’t good. So many things with it are so wrong in so many ways, that I’m going to sound like a negative Nancy all throughout this article. Of course it’s up to you to make up your own mind and draw your own conclusions, but perhaps consider this a sincere warning about what you may get yourself and your kids into.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Overview

I myself had been pondering whether to get this set on and off so many times. The pro argument to pursue a purchase was of course once again my desire to get some good parts for my stock and funny enough the set delivers on that front. there are a number of unique parts in the form of re-colored elements that didn’t exist before, there’s a lot of Dark Pink elements, some of which like the smooth pin connectors are also a first and of course then there’s the balloon shells which I wanted to add to my collection, being that I didn’t have one of the older Friends or Elves sets they were featured in in the past. I have vague plans for a model in my head that I might actually need them one day.

It also so happens that quite incidentally the set also contains the exact four rounded plates in White that I might need to rebuild the smaller promotional Gingerbread House (40139) from 2015. With the official Winter Village Gingerbread House (10267) available and me indeed considering buying it eventually, this seems almost inevitable. I also like the transparent tubes. They could be a great way of decking out a better Hidden Side ghost lab or something like that. And finally there’s that printed 1 x 1 popcorn brick. I never bought the small Popcorn Cart (30364) polybag even when I had a chance, so it’s good to catch up on that, too.

Engineering Degree Failure

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Front View complete

The actual construction of the model is super simple and ultimately that’s the biggest failure of the set. It’s really not pretty to look at and as someone who started out with Technic and through his 3D work has a working understanding of some of the finer points of mechanical engineering (at least that’s what I like to think) it just feels wrong, wrong, wrong. Sure, it’s for kids and the build needs to be straightforward and easy, but it still doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Point in case: Someone forgot that there is this little thing called friction and ultimately the whole “system” (in the physical/ engineering sense) is totally bogged down by it. No, unfortunately it’s not as easy as turning the knob at the top of the octopus’ mantle. I as an adult struggle to overcome the initial “stickiness” (static friction), my mom can’t do it easily and I don’t even want to imagine how a first grade school kid will have to make quite an effort to even get this going.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Front View separated

There are two main issues here: First there’s the Technic elements used on the arms themselves and by extension the internal axis inside and turntable below the balloon-y body. It’s all a case of the overall forces becoming to strong no matter how much you wiggle the bushes around to loosen up the connections and reduce tension just like there is no good way of dealing with a 10 units and 12 units long axle plugged together and sticking them into stacks of axle holes at the top and bottom. This, BTW, is yet another exercise that requires so much force that it may be beyond a kid’s capabilities. There’s just no way to get this perfectly balanced so everything moves lightly and without getting stuck.

The second and by far just as critical an issue is of course the corrugated hoses vs. the arms themselves. If you think about it for a second, what you are creating here is a ratcheted mechanism with four (!) “teeth” burrowing themselves in the crevices of the hoses. Even if they do so only superficially it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how this adds up to considerable resistance. What’s worse is that even if you assume that part would work, there’s still this little problem with plastic sliding on plastic. Ironically the friction here is too insignificant to ensure that the connectors actually smoothly roll on the ridges of the hoses, and when they don’t, they just scrub along. After a while both the connectors and the tubes will get dull and show scratch marks. That much is certain.

Animal Pods or Pod Animals?

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Shark Pod What makes this so sad is that the passenger pods on the merry-go-round are actually quite neat they nicely illustrate that if the set wasn’t betrayed by its shoddy cheat mechanics it could have been something great. The shark is particularly nice and if you replace the foothold piece for the figures with a tile you could re-use it in many scenarios once separated from its mounting plate. It would even fit into the Dolphins Rescue Mission (41378) as a shark circling the ship wreck just as it might fit e.g. as decoration on the Pirates Theme Park Rollercoaster (31084). The highlight here is of course the little 1 x 1 modified hinge plate in Dark Blue, a new and thus still relatively rare and expensive re-color of this element.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Clam Shell Pod

The clam shell isn’t nearly as complex, but for what it is supposed to represent sufficient plus you get another load of the Bright Pink 1 x 1 heart tile.






On first sight the crab looked a bit weird to me until I realized what this was actually supposed to represent. Aside from the way too short “legs”, which really are only stumps, I guess the failure is the lollipops/ paddles not being in Yellow plus there being no claws. In a way this makes the whole thing look more like a bug.

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Crab Pod  LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Crab Pod

The turtle is basically just another variant of the one in the Turtles Rescue Station (41376) and the poly bag variant mentioned in the article or for that matter even the Elves oneLEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Turtle PodDepending on how you interpret it, the basic ingredients are always the same as is the building style and whether one’s shell is Dark Azure and the other’s Reddish Brown ultimately makes little difference. in the end it’s probably down to there only being so many ways to skin a cat, i.e. building this model, if you want it to be at a specific size. Similar to the shark here at least another re-color of that little round hinge in regular Green making this worthwhile. A small complaint would have to be that they easily could have included angled 1 x 2 wedges (29119, 29120) to represent the flippers, given that they already have the 1 x 1 modified plates with the clip in Bright Green in place. This would not have interfered with the rest of the model and made it so much more “realistic”

Stranger in a strange Land

LEGO Friends, Funny Octopus Ride (41373), Fluke PartIn yet another anecdote of LEGO‘s quality going down the drain these days, this time I actually had a completely wrong piece in my set, meaning an utter fluke that doesn’t even remotely resemble any item that the set actually uses. The part in question is a 2 x 4 curved slope part in Dark Orange from the Deep Space Rocket and Launch Control (60228) set in the City line of products where it is used on the large central booster sections.

The irony here is that this single piece gives me so many ideas, I almost wish they had mixed up an entire bag that contains all the eight slopes used in that other set. If you look at it long enough, you just can see how this would make a perfect padding for an ocre-ish colored leather sofa or padded seating bench in a restaurant, bus or train. With this yet again being a new re-color of this part for the first time exclusive to the set you can see how this would be valuable to a guy like me who’s always thinking about the next possible project.

and what was the part it was actually supposed to be? Of all things a Dark Bluish Grey 4 x 4 round plate used on the socket of the octopus mantle! See how neither the shape nor the color relate to one another? Those sorting cameras at the LEGO factory really must have had a bad day. Anyway, thankfully I had a few of those pieces in my stockpile and in fact the color doesn’t even matter because the parts are mostly invisible and any of them would do, but if I hadn’t, I couldn’t have finished the model that evening. It’s one thing if some small 1 x 1 tile is missing that you can add on later, but it’s a different thing when a critical structural part is missing from a bag.

No Fun in the Fun Park

While I’m certainly not a fan of entertainment parks and fun fairs, I can get behind the concept as a technical and artistic challenge in the LEGO world. In fact I have been tinkering with such mechanisms on and off and if I ever finish them, one day some pretty awesome contraptions might come of it. Yupp, it sounds like self-indulgent  boasting, but at the very least it’s going to be better than this. A lot (presumably). It shouldn’t be too much of a challenge to surpass the hacky cheat mechanics, if you allow me to put it that way.

Overall I don’t know how to sum up all my frustrations with this particular set. It’s neither a good example for overall design and aesthetics nor for engineering. It just falls short of even the lowest expectations and is for all intents and purposes quite terrible. Unless you have a specific use case like myself for scalping the parts and/ or are willing to put in some major work to improve the details, you are not doing your kids or yourself any favors. I paid 25 Euro during an Amazon flash sale for this, but at the end of the day this feels too much for such an awful set. Paying the full 40 Euro would be totally crazy.

didn’t want to look at this abomination for much longer and couldn’t disassemble the set fast enough to salvage the components while they still were pristine. That’s how bad it is. Clearly the mess with the missing/ wrong part did nothing to improve my mood, either. The only things that gave me some joy are the little pod creatures, but that’s just not enough, unfortunately.

Update x2

The heatwave in the last few weeks and a few other things haven’t made it easy to actually get any work done, but now I’m actually a bit closer to getting the instructions for my Octopus MOC done.

It seems a funny coincidence that as I was dabbling around in the likes of LPub3D, putting up with its quirks and trying to figure out a few specifics for structuring the instructions, a new parts update was released. The octopus doesn’t use any of them, but I’m more than happy to finally have the new bracket types available. As you well know, I’m obsessing about this stuff all the time. Just to prove it and in case you have no idea what I’m talking about here’s a little Stud.io render for you:

LDraw, Parts Update 1/2019, Brackets

While it may take me still a while to get the instructions actually finished, which mostly is to blame on my desire to make them look nice and professional and thus requiring lots of manual intervention in the formatting, here’s a preliminary listing of the parts used in the build (a.k.a. BOM – Bill of Materials) to get you started on stocking up and giving you a chance to order additional parts on Bricklink if needed.

Octopus MOC, Preliminary Bill of Materials (BOM)

Remember that this project originated based on four sets of the Deep Sea Creatures (31088). It will not be necessary to buy four sets as well, but it sure helps if you get at least one to obtain some of the parts, in particular some of the Dark Blue pieces. Also keep in mind that you can do color swaps and e.g. the Red parts will be invisible. So feel free to use whatever you have at hand.

This BOM represents the maximum variant as shown in my photos, but the final instructions will also contain some alternate building using a few different parts. Of course you can also save greatly by using shorter tentacles and thus reducing the number of slopes and ball joints. More on that as things progress on my end…

Krakken Alert – An Octopus MOC

Back then when I was writing my review of the Deep Sea Creatures (31088) set I was quite enthused as you may have noticed, yet something was missing that I would have considered essential – an octopus model. This compelled me to actually sit down and create one of my own. That may sound simple and obvious, but of course there’s a specific twist to the whole story, so allow me to tell you a bit about the thoughts and design process behind this project.

The Objective(s)

Before I even started to actually construct the model I knew how I wanted it to look and feel eventually. How to get there was a different story entirely, so I had to establish a few rules and parameters.

Octopus MOC, Comparison with the Squid from set 31088

Size Comparison with the original Squid from the Deep Sea Creatures (31088) set

The scale should match the generalized “squid” model one can build with one of those sets. This would not only reduce parts count to something sensible, but also keep things manageable since I wanted to include tentacles with a realistic length and on top of it all eight of them as you would find them in nature. Ideally I also wanted them to act and look naturally with some tapering and possibly also the “wings”/ skin webs between them at least hinted at.

It also set up a nice challenge in that it would require some strategic thinking to capture the shape of the creature, build a robust and stable model and still keep it poseable. If you get my meaning – building a large model and getting a good approximation even of complex surface curvatures is easier, but the real crunch comes when you have to express them with a limited number of pieces crammed into a small space.

The model itself should be based on the four sets I ultimately had bought as much as possible, meaning it should use the parts contained therein without having to throw in too many extra parts. This would save cost and avoid too many leftover bits clogging up drawers and storage boxes. Resorting to some additional parts from my collection should be kept to a sensible minimum, though I was aware that I possibly could not avoid it entirely. Some elements I planned on using are just not part of the original set.

The two factors combined resulted in a third prerequisite presenting itself: The overall parts count would and should be in a region that equals that of a commercial mid-range set, i.e. the accrued cost should ideally not exceed the combined value of the initial four sets plus some minor spending for the extra parts. Reigning in the cost would make it feasible to create instructions for the model and publish them so others could possibly re-create it without going broke in the process.

Time for some Action…

Building the model took quite some time. I’m a slow builder who likes to take his time to properly check and evaluate each step to begin with and naturally, getting the most out of limited resources presented its own challenges, given that my parts repository isn’t endless and even small changes can cause delays if you don’t have the right piece on hand and have to wait for that Bricklink order to arrive. I’m also a bit obsessive about making things stable and unbreakable, requiring even more thought to go into how you attach individual elements so they don’t fall off easily.

Octopus MOC, Head in resting Position (closed)

Head in resting Position

Octopus MOC, Head in swimming Position (open)

Head in swimming Position

Given those circumstances and my self-imposed rules I started out with the main part of the head, the mantle. Visually it is the largest body region on most octopus species due to it being more or less a big hollow sack inflated by water inside. Naturally the main purpose is to provide jet-like propulsion when said water is pressed out through the siphons, but the mantle also plays an important role during mating rituals or in its deflated form for camouflage when the octopus is resting. Incidentally it also looks like a big bulbous nose, which in not so minor parts is one of the reasons I think octopuses are cute. Getting this right therefore was important to me.

The tricky part for this section of the body was squeezing in all those elements necessary for the perpendicular building, so the various slopes could be attached to the sides, front and top. The problem here is not so much that it would be impossible overall, but rather that you have so little room and in some corners three different “flow” directions converge. One has to find ways of fitting in all those different brackets and bricks with studs on sides.

After that was done and I had arrived at a satisfying look the model rested in a box half-finished for quite a while. During this time I dabbled on and off with the aft section to which later the tentacles would be attached. In the process I must have started over and rebuild this segment at least five times, optimizing the various sub-steps over and over.

Octopus MOC, Tentacles fanned out

All eight Tentacles fanned out

Octopus MOC, Top View with spread Tentacles

Top View, notice the Shape and Volume of the Mantle

The point here is that the eight ball joints for the tentacles needed to be placed in a very specific way. They had to be far enough apart to accommodate the tentacles themselves, yet close enough to keep the body section compact and small to match the mantle’s scale. Additionally I also wanted to retain some semblance of the attachments being placed in a circle.

All of this made this quite complicated, even more so as later this little part would have to be solid enough to not fall apart when the tentacles were attached and exerted their force. In the end I opted for an alternating placement of the square ball joint plates with the longer bar and the regular short versions. This would also come in handy since it allowed for some overlap of the tentacles without them getting canted.

Octopus MOC, Tentacle, Side View

Tentacle Side View

Octopus MOC, Tentacle, Top View

Tentacle Top View

Compared to all that, the tentacles themselves were more or less a walk in the park as their construction is pretty obvious in the first place. Once you have decided on the length and number of the individual elements it’s merely a matter of building the segments eight times each and clicking them together. A bit repetitive, but perfectly manageable. In the interest of easy modifications I kept the design quite generic and the tentacles are interchangeable for different positions. There’s a million ways to handle this, so you could naturally also build your completely own interpretation, vary the overall lengths or build specific versions for each attachment point.

Mission accomplished?

The measure of how well I may have achieved my own goals depends on a few factors.

First, the re-usage factor of pieces from the original Deep Sea Creatures (31088) sets can be anywhere from around 60 percent up to 90 percent. I wanted my model to look “nice”, so I did quite a few color swaps/ replacements by digging into my parts repository and this value is therefore inevitably on the lower end. In particular I shunned all the red pieces from the original sets, if they would be visible. If you can live with that, the number will go up.

Octopus MOC, Tentacles partially curled up

Tentacles partially curled up to illustrate Poseability

The same goes for compromising on some structural parts like the ball joints. Unfortunately the sets only contain so many of them and they are not always in the right orientation. Unless you seriously spend at least a bit of money on additional such parts you could swap out some of them with the regular hinge joints at the cost of reduced stability and limited posing options. Good candidates for this would be the tips of the tentacles where the loads and forces aren’t that extreme.

Octopus MOC, Rear View with open Tentacles (Attack Posture)

Rear View with open Tentacles (Attack Posture)

The previous point also extends to the overall realism. A good chunk of parts is genuinely consumed by just the tentacles. As it turned out at the length I built them the pieces from the set didn’t suffice in quantity and I had to complement them with additional ones. The more you shorten the arms and use fewer segments, the closer you get to not having to rely on extra stuff. This is entirely up to you.

Though generally I’m of the opinion that the length of the arms is often totally underestimated and misrepresented, there’s no denying that different sub-species of octopi have different lengths. As a general rule you can say the smaller the creature, the shorter the tentacles. This includes infantile and adolescent specimen not yet having fully formed tentacles, but also small variants like the poisonous blue-ringed octopuses appearing more stubby to begin with.

Octopus MOC, Rear View Detail with Beak

Rear View Beak Detail

With all those optimizations you can trim down the overall parts count from above 600 pieces to 400 and below. You can take this even further and only use six tentacles if you want to match it up with the squid, though then you may require quite some reworking of the aft head section. In any case, anything is possible and more than anything else I consider my model one possible approach and solution with lots of room left for alternatives. In fact even now I’m considering options on how to improve this further.

Instructions are coming?!

From the start I planned to create instructions for this little critter, but as a matter of fact I haven’t even started yet. Given that I built the model physically, I have to go back, disassemble it and back-trace what I actually did at each step. That’s gonna take some time, so bear with me and check back in a few weeks. In the meantime you can always support my efforts by ticking a few items off my wishlist as encouragement and motivation. Lately I’ve had this weird image in my head how the octopus would look hugging the ship in the bottle or something like that, for instance. 😉

Under the Sea – Deep Sea Creatures (31088)

WhaleTurtoiseI love all kinds of underwater creatures. It’s a subject that keeps following me around and from watching documentaries to it being a recurring theme in my artistic work, be that computer graphics or traditional drawings, it’s something that simply massively interests and inspires me a lot. To give you an idea I’ve included those three little preview images for some stuff I had on one of my old web sites and I still have stacks of unfinished sketches and scribbles of even more creatures.

All that being the case, it seemed an almost inevitable, natural development and foregone conclusion that I would buy the Deep Sea Creatures (31088) set one day. In a way I was pretty excited and really looking forward to its release as part of this years first wave of new sets. Oddly enough, while LEGO seemed to have no issue rolling out their The LEGO Movie 2 sets even before Christmas last year, this one took quite some time to even appear in online shops and on store shelves. I was only able to order it around the end of January.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Box

Now I don’t buy the basic Creator sets a lot. If you are a reasonably seasoned LEGO user, there’s not much you can gain from them. Most of these sets fall basically in one of three categories:

  • Cars and other vehicles, many times extremely simplified and stylized.
  • Simplified and often quite small houses and buildings.
  • Animals and robots based on hinge and joint armatures with some cover pieces.

To make a point: It’s quite repetitive to a degree and quickly becomes a matter of “Seen one, seen all.”.  There’s not much incentive to revisit this series once you have built a small number of similar sets, if you wanna put it that way. It’s also usually a very short-lived bit of fun with the build process being (by necessity and intentionally) quite simplistic and quick. Finally, also inherently a limitation of who those sets are designed for, you won’t find that many valuable special parts in there, so they aren’t the best way to bolster your repository, either.

There are of course exceptions and the Deep Sea Creatures set is one of them. Basically in the aforementioned scheme it would fall into the mechanical puppet category, but from the outset I had a much different feeling about it in that it clearly aimed at a bit more realism and more complex design. I immediately took a liking to it and therefore right from the start decided I would get at least two sets on the chance I might want to keep the assembled models around permanently. At some point I then decided to go full on crazy (and incidentally make it simple to compare all models for this article) and got myself another two of those boxes, bringing it to a full four.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Lineup

The four models in question are the actual main build from the set, the Great White shark and the secondary builds for the squid and the angler fish. The sperm whale is a bonus build based on a digital instruction you can download for free from LEGO‘s building instructions archive.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Lineup with leftover Parts

Having four sets at hand allowed me to lay out the models and what pieces are left over with each build, which kinda reveals that I may have gone a bit too crazy on the whole matter. Except for the shark that apparently was used as the foundation, the other sets do not even come close to using all items in the box. If you plan to pursue the same strategy, be prepared to end up with a ton of extra hinges, small plates and also some larger parts for the spares box, not all of which may be that useful. Personally for me I would likely have preferred it the other way around – some more parts in the set and the models built to a slightly larger scale, thus using up more of those extraneous parts – but I’m not complaining. All of this stuff will find its use eventually.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Overview

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Crab As already mentioned, the hero model is a Great White shark which is not only proven by it using all the parts, but on balance it also being the largest item and in my view also the one with the most emphasis on overall design. It’s just looking damned good! This model also perhaps has the best little companion creature by ways of a crab. That’s not only a neat way of sneaking in the surplus parts needed for the other models, but in this case also gives you a sizeable second creature to play with while at the same time totally being something simple enough you could have thrown together from your own parts collection. On the other hand the “treasure chest” with the sea weed doesn’t feel that useful, even less so since it’s literally not used for the other variations, either. I guess one way of looking at it would be that I now at least have four of those elements in Bright Green when I only had them in other colors before.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Left

The shark’s body is made up of three segments that are assembled individually and then connected using small ball joints. This allows for some poseability, but not that much in the end. However, it apparently was enough to inspire JK Brick Works to create their own custom moving version of it with the necessary modifications for more flexibility and less friction and the video dropped just a few days ago just in time for this article. It produces a nice swimming motion, which however would be more in line with smaller shark species. If you check out videos, Great Whites move actually rather slowly and rigidly, with the main drive coming from the tail fin, not the overall undulating motion of the body. That is to say for ultimate realism you would need to change the motion pattern or redesign the model to represent a different variety of shark.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Right

The building techniques in this model are quite varied and use anything from large wedge elements to represent the head’s top to a bunch of perpendicular/ studs on sides construction to attach curved slopes to the sides and capture the curvature of the body. Regrettably, LEGO opted to not design some custom fin parts or include suitable re-issues from their back catalog (this wing element in a different color and with less prominent texture looks nice for instance), so all the vertical fins are made from 1 x wide bricks and slopes, making them rather thick. The smaller fins are represented by flag pieces and wedge plates, which preserves at least some semblance elegance.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Bottom

Looking at the underside reveals that the model is made sturdy by some large parts such as the inverted curved slopes on the tail and the straight symmetrical slopes in the middle section. On the other hand from that angle you also see the lack of coverage on the jaw, indicating that this model is really not meant to be viewed from this position and ideally would just sit flat on the table/ floor. Not a biggy, but I would argue that they could have thrown in those two or three extra slopes.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Mouth

How aggressive and convincing the shark looks is of course all in the facial features and thankfully the LEGO designers were able to capture this perfectly. The head looks strong and bullish while retaining its sleek, dynamic overall appearance. Somehow even the teeth look convincing, though the genuine article naturally has a lot more of them and they are smaller. regardless, the proportions are pretty well-balanced and it just works.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Shark, Mouth

The eyes are an interesting construction with a transparent neon yellowish green bar being inserted into a black Technic pin and the eye being further enlarged by a bushing on the pin. This makes the eye stand out and contributes to the fierce look because otherwise it would be barely noticeable – in nature those eyes are quite large, but buried deeply in the skull, so typically only a small dot can be seen. I quite like how the were able to resolve this dilemma without making it look too ridiculous.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Squid, Left, Mantle closed

The second model you can build from this set is a squid and I mean that in the broadest possible sense as a squid just being some underwater creature with tentacles. The funny thing with this critter is that the model represents all of these species, subspecies and variata, but at the same time not a specific one. It encapsulates typical features from calamari, sepia and octopi, more hinting at them than explicitly re-creating individual bits 100 percent in perfect detail.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Squid Left, Mantle closed

That’s amazing, yet also massively confusing as the interpretation as to what it may be entirely depends on how you view it. Are the tentacles at the front or rear end? Is it swimming forward or in reverse? Is it idle and waiting for prey or already attacking? You literally can waste an afternoon speculating on the details and then further complicate things by doing your own modifications. A simple change of pose or reversing the direction of a slope can totally change your story. My preferred interpretation is that this is some infant or adolescent calamari that could happily be swimming in the more shallow regions of the Caribbean before its big enough to venture out further.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Squid, Left, Mantle open

No matter which view you adopt as your own, one point is very obvious: There are only six arms. To boot, they are pretty much way too short for octopi and calamari, yet also not a good match for sepia. If one were serious about this, this would need to be changed from the ground up. Since I now have four of those sets and some extra Dark Blue parts in my collection, I have it on my agenda to create a more correct looking squid one of these days.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Squid, Right, Mantle open

It’s not all bad, though, as you can see that quite some thought was spent and the limitations most likely stemming from the lack of more parts. After all, this is just derived from the first model and needed to fit in its part allotment and financial budget. The hinge on the mantle is a nice touch, though admittedly in the open position it looks way too much like someone chopped into the creature. If at all it would have to be the other way around with the open sack being at the bottom, so for your own build you might consider using a fixed position or padding out the interior with some extra bricks to make it look more solid.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Squid, Right, Arms expanded

Due to the absence of two arms, posing the tentacles and finding a nice position can be a bit tricky. The main hiccup lies in the lack of volume on the blue arms in this case. It also doesn’t help much that they are mounted at the center when in reality they would be attached to the outer hull. Another point that would need improvements in a potential reworking of this set.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Squid, Bottom, Arms expanded

The underside is in principle pretty much the same as on the shark, so no big surprises here. In terms of the tentacles to me it almost looks better than from the top, though.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Angler Fish, Overview

Moving on to the third model in the set, the angler fish is a really ugly mofo just like its counterpart in nature. It’s my least favorite of all the options and in this case the problem is exacerbated by some clunky construction techniques. Once more you very much feel that it could have been done differently, but there was no room in the budget for the extra parts that would have been needed and the designers had to settle on less.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Angler Fish, Right

Out of these issues, the inadequate rendition of the actual lure is the thing that stands out most. It really looks like an odd street lamp. A better way to emulate its appearance would naturally have been the inclusion of one of those dinosaur tail pieces that LEGO so often uses elsewhere. Conversely, the teeth would of course look a lot more “correct” if the had been made up from claw/ barb elements as they are commonly used for spikes and thorns on dragons and such. It’s in a way even ironic that they added multiple rows of teeth when that would have been more adequate for the shark.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Angler Fish, Mouth, Right

The bright green eyes distract a lot and assuming they are supposed to large bulgy ones would be more appropriate for one of those fish that bury themselves in the sand near shores and reefs. Seems to me a black 1 x 1 tile or plate would have sufficed, as the eyes are really tiny, beady things on real angler fish.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Angler Fish, Mouth, Front

The fourth and final model, the sperm whale, is a kind of stylized, comical version of the beast. That’s fine by me as with the shortened, stubby body it really looks like a baby whale having fun. In my opinion it’s better than the squid or angler fish and perhaps should have been in the set right away in place of one of the two even if it is stylistically very different.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Whale, Overview

The construction is quite similar to the shark with only some parts having been switched from front to back and the middle segment apparently removed, yet at the same time it also borrows some techniques from the squid’s mantle for the shaping of the upper mouth/ head. I wouldn’t necessarily say that they trimmed away the fat, but the simplifications make an already accessible build even simpler. This could be a good model even for smaller children that they can finish quickly. It also is the least scary-looking of them all and even cute, so you might want to consider starting at the end and building this first.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Whale, Right

Returning to the anatomical correctness of features one last time, it should be little surprise that they don’t hold up. Aside from the overall body length being too short, the fins and fluke are also way too small. There are large specimen of whales out there where a single ventral fin is three meters long! They literally could smack you to death without taking any note of it.

LEGO Creator, Deep Sea Creatures (31088), Whale, Mouth

If you disregard my nerdy obsessing about some details simply because I love this stuff so much and those tidbits of info I’ve seen in hundreds documentaries keep popping into my mind, this is an overall excellent set. The models are well thought out and fun to build. Even better – while not the most exotic and rare parts, all of them are actually pretty useful. I must admit that hadn’t there been so much Dark Blue, I probably would have been reluctant to get four sets, but the way it is they can be used for roofs on buildings, nice looking cars or even just generic, unobtrusive details on other models and that can never be bad.

On the subject of color there is of course any number of ways to skin this. make no mistake – the Dark Blue is not “realistic” by any stretch of the imagination nor are the white bellies. This is unfortunately something that strikes me as an unresolvable conundrum – many sharks are all sorts of grey, so anything from Sand Blue to Dark Bluish Grey would work. The same goes for whales while on the other hand squids can be anything from pale White to Dark Orange or Dark Red, including all sand and earth colors inbetween as well as greys. Conversely angler fish can even be transparent. They couldn’t have accommodated all the options and you have to be fair about it.

I at least could try that Sand Blue shark thanks to garmadon, Garmadon, GARMADON (70656) and the other The LEGO Ninjago Movie sets I bought and whose parts I therefore have in my collection. It should also be relatively simple and cost efficient to rebuild the models in Dark and Light Bluish Grey if you can spare a dime on Bricklink. And if you don’t, the original set is still a superb little purchase for around 11 Euros or even the MSRP of 15 Euros and gives you some nice items to put on your shelf.

News & Masters

This week has been full of news with LEGO rolling out imagery for the soon to come wave of new sets for early 2019. While 2018 will certainly go down in history as a not so great year for many of the regular product lines, things seem to improve quite a bit next year. Check the official photos on whatever is your favorite LEGO news site such as this one for instance.

I don’t care much for a Porsche being a Porsche, but what gets me pumped is that at long last we will be getting white mudguard and curved rectangular panels with Technic set 42096. This would finally allow to rebuild some older sets in consistent colors. The other Technic sets look quite okay, too, though with my drawers being filled to the brim with parts it’s unlikely I’ll get the Corvette (42093) or Tracked Loader (42094).

The new Stunt Racer (42095) somehow has the crowd divided with most criticizing the increased price while the model contains a few less parts and is smaller. While people accuse me of being overly negative at times, this time it seems the situation is reversed. If I didn’t already own the old Tracked Racer (42065), I’d be totally up for this model.

The point here is of course that nobody forces you to buy on day one at full price and I’d bet that just like the old set you can get the new one for 45 Euros one day if only you wait patiently for the right opportunity. That and of course you simply don’t buy these kits for design, you buy them to play. It’s a simple “Use it or don’t.” situation. My only peeve is that they are not using the new Powered Up! stuff, which I take as a bad sign that there are technical issues and the cost is too high. Likely another technological dead end LEGO created for themselves.

Elsewhere the The LEGO Movie 2 sets made waves. Personally I can’t get behind the retro-looking stuff, since I never had any interest in LEGO until a few years ago, but other people love it, so I guess those Benny the Spaceman (and his crew) minifigure sets will sell like crazy. For me the Systar-themed sets are much more interesting, which should come as no surprise if you read this blog regularly and know my inclinations towards Friends sets and the like.I really like those rounded shapes in White, Dark Turquoise and Magenta and the new Salmon color is the icing on the cake. Lots to love there for me.

The rest of the new releases (so far) are of limited relevance. I’ve never been much into City, so I’m not getting particularly giddy over the reintroduction of light and sound bricks, but of course it is a step in the right direction and should at least catch up a tiny bit to Playmobil et al. Star Wars is definitely showing signs of fatigue with most sets once again just being rehashes of older ones with the necessary adaptations and improvements. I kinda love the Microfighters set with the Sand Green Dewback, though, so it may be worth a look.

Overall I’m pretty pleased, even though of course on a highly selective basis. This most definitely gives me a much better gut feeling than many of the half-baked releases this year, especially when it comes to sets that are within my typical range of what I might be able to afford. Of course not all sets have been revealed yet and there’s still room for super-expensive disappointments, but at least there’s some options to fall back to. I’m ending this week with a good vibe after it started out rather icky with the German version of LEGO Master.

Yepp, I indeed wasted an hour of my life on Sunday watching it and I just found it plain awful. To me it’s typical low-brow private TV fare. Everything was hopelessly exaggerated and schmalzed up, but in the end it was just as boring as those cooking and baking shows following the same pattern and dragged on for way too long. Most disappointingly, though, it didn’t seem to be anything about the mastery of LEGO techniques. Lumping something together that halfway works seemed to be enough and that’s simply not interesting to watch when it should be all about finesse and sophistication….