Blue Bird – LEGO Creator, Exotic Parrot (31136)

The LEGO Creator 3in1 sets have always been around, but I actually only became more interested in them in the last two or three years. Before that, aside from some of the houses and the annual incarnation of the beach van/ camper truck, the designs weren’t always attractive and the quality a bit over the place. In more recent time, however, the smashed it with truly impressive stuff like the Majestic Tiger (31129) and this year’s line-up doesn’t look too shabby, either. so lets continue our exploration with the Exotic Parrot (31136).

LEGO Creator, Exotic Parrot (31136), Box

Contents and Pricing

The 3in1 sets tend to offer good value for money, with a few notable exceptions every now and then affecting this perception negatively (think of the massively overpriced Caravan Family Holiday [31108] for instance, no matter how nice it was otherwise). This set is very much average in that regard, hitting the typical 10 Cent per piece mark, but at the same time not being priced particularly low, either. At 253 pieces for 25 Euro it is certainly okay, but slightly more costly in relative terms than e.g. the White Rabbit (31133) or even last year’s Majestic Tiger (31129). This impression is further reinforced once you actually have the model in front of you with it being more like a parakeet in size rather than a big parrot. I’m not complaining even if it may sound like it, but within this sub-theme it is a bit more on the costly side. This inevitably affects retail prices as well and they just won’t drop below a certain threshold. At this point the discounts have settled around the 17 Euro mark, which is also what I got my package for..

The Parrot

The main model is of course the eponymous parrot that lends the set its name. More specifically it is a Blue and Yellow Macaw, which is more than just a little obvious. With such a well-known kind of bird it’s of course easy to draw comparisons just as it is easy to find and point out potential flaws. As mentioned above, the scale is nowhere near the actual real life creature. At best it’s half the size if you assume a smaller specimen, but typically it’s probably more like one-third size, given how large those birds can get.

The build process is pretty straightforward, with the basic drill once more being that you build a central block from stacked plates and bricks for the trunk and then the rest of the elements are attached via SNOT elements and joints. As noted in my review of the White Rabbit (31133) this method inevitably limits the opportunities to create actual curved surfaces and transitions and while the contours viewed from the side look just fine, this shortcoming is immediately visible from the front and back. It’s really just a two studs wide cookie-cutter shape. It’s almost a bit of a joke that the wings have more depth and texture than the body. If it wasn’t for the gradated colors the whole creature would look very flat. That said it’s of course all just an illusion and viewed from a sufficient distance it still looks very believable. It’s just that a slightly larger scale might have been beneficial to add more details and add believe-ability.

One of those areas are definitely the feet/ claws. The placement is wrong to begin with and then of course they are used as the fixation for the body on the lower platform. Due to the requirements for stability we get a rather ugly lump of Technic elements with the claw’s fingers flung on. Is it tolerable? Absolutely! It’s just not correct and personally I could have lived better with some longer axle or even (transparent) liftarm holding the body with the feet moved further back, mounted at an angle and being more detailed. This might also have allowed to use a different build for the branch/ twig, which also feels a bit crude due to being assembled from more Technic pieces. It’s all a bit too straight and doesn’t feel organic.

LEGO Creator, Exotic Parrot (31136), Parrot, HeadThe highlight is definitely the face and it’s quite amazing with how few pieces it is created. That of course necessitates that pretty much each element is unique and has to have a very specific color to create the illusion. As a result we even get one of those super rare 1 x 2 plates with a rail edge in Dark Orange. The only thing that could have made this even better was if the beak hat an actual sharp tip. There’s just not an element for it. The symmetrical 2 x 2 wedge is too “fat” and the old Hero Factory claw too big entirely. Another good reason for making larger models perhaps? Dunno.

LEGO Creator, Exotic Parrot (31136), Parrot, FlowerThe two blossoms are quite strange. I think they were trying to mimic some of the many hibiscus-like flowers you can find in the tropical regions such as the South American sub-continent, but it just doesn’t work that well and I feel my brain tingle, being that creating digital 3D plants for computer graphics was/ is one of those weird obsessions of mine and I can go crazy over minutia, let alone a “wrong” plant. I won’t even ramble about the incorrect number of petals, but clearly selecting some thinner, more blade-like pieces would have been better. The slopes aren’t even used on the alternate models, so using something else wouldn’t have impacted them.

The Fish

The first alternative build is a fish, more specifically it is clearly supposed to be a Blue Regal Tang (Paracanthurus), member of the huge color family of scalpel fish/ surgeon fish. Of course this particular specimen is widely known thanks to the Finding Nemo/ Finding Dory animated movies by Pixar. As a 3D artist myself I have vivid memories of how enawed we were when the first one came out. That and of course I already have a deep-rooted fascination for most underwater creatures. Funny enough I’m completely intolerant to fish and sea food (I’ll throw up), so the “Fish are friends, not food!” line from the film makes even more sense to me.

The model follows the same pattern as the parrot and is also just a two stud wide block with contour shaping again while the fins and a few details are plugged on to the sides. This is often only by two or three studs, which means that overall stability of those appendages isn’t great. For instances those two large round plates on the head can come off quite easily. Not the biggest of issues for what’s ultimately meant to be a display model, but worth keeping an eye on.

The selection of leftover pieces is quite notable. As already mentioned, pretty much all elements constituting the flowers are not re-used again and neither are the Technic pieces for the branch/ twig on the bird. If it wasn’t for that, parts usage would actually be quite good with only a few unused (mostly Blue/ Dark Azure and Yellow) elements remaining.

LEGO Creator, Exotic Parrot (31136), Fish, Leftovers

The Frog

The third option in the set is a little colorful frog. It’s sort of a Red-eyed Tree Frog turned blue, but of course it could just as well count as a Poison Dart Frog of the blue variety. Any interpretation is valid and the model doesn’t go out of its way to tell you what it is meant to be. This one uses a more conventional building stile with plates and tiles being stacked vertically instead of being attached sideways. This helps to keep the creature small and facilitates quick building with only a few parts. However, it comes at the cost of things being rather fragile. Many elements literally only overlap or hang on one stud and you can imagine that this is a bit fragile.

One thing where LEGO lost me are the feet. Not including some blue-ish version of those leaf elements seems strange, given that there is so much unused extra stuff, anyway. Or they could have gone with a different solution entirely. You know, those minifigure swimming fins do exist in Dark Azure and may even have looked better…

LEGO Creator, Exotic Parrot (31136), Frog, Aft Left View

There’s again plenty of bits leftover and since there isn’t a base, there are even more of them.

LEGO Creator, Exotic Parrot (31136), Frog, Leftovers

Concluding Thoughts

Overall this set is decent enough. The main sticking point is that somehow the price feels off-balance. The main model is small, after all, and the secondary models are making even less of an impression due to their limited parts usage. They get the job done, but on their own merits probably wouldn’t justify getting the package. This is even more the case since it doesn’t include any desirable new elements except for the Dark Azure arches, which were  introduced as a recolor only last year. There’s also no good reason to scalp this for parts or get multiple sets. A few Euro less might have me look more favorably at it, but as it stands this feels a bit expensive for what it delivers.

Cheap Blue Sea – LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128)

As you know, I love underwater life. Not all forms of it, but I sure could get lost for hours just observing whales, sharks, octopuses, reef fish and so on. That’s why my recent excursion to the SeaLife & AquaDome in Berlin with a buddy of mine felt too short. You know, you almost wish that elevator inside the cylinder basin would get stuck so you can just watch the fish swimming around you for longer than those eight minutes just as I would spend more time inside the exhibition without someone hurrying me. Anyway, this little trip reminded me that I still had my photos from the LEGO Dolphin and Turtle (31128) set, that somehow slipped off my radar and I never published an article, so it’s now time to do just that slightly belated.

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Box

Contents and Pricing

Regrettably, in recent years the pricing for Creator 3in1 sets has been all over the place with some seriously overpriced sets damaging the trust in the once very affordable staple of LEGO‘s product series, so I’m all the more happy to report that this one is a very affordable affair.

At 137 pieces its suggested retail price is 10 Euro, which is pretty reasonable. However, anyone is right who would point out that it really doesn’t look like there is actually so much stuff in there because the “hero” models of the dolphin and turtle look tiny. Another caveat on all of the three out-of-the-box models is that a good number of elements are only used for the base and its decorative adornments, thus not contributing to the volume of the creatures.

This can be slightly offset by discounts which bring the cost down to around 7 Euro in many online shops and physical retail outlets. During some crazy promotion shortly after I had already purchased mine, one vendor even fired out the sets for 5 Euro only, which would make this a total no-brainer. That is to say buying this set in triple to build all models at once would be reasonably doable, with or without those discounts.

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Overview

The Dolphin and the Turtle

The primary build is of course the dolphin and the turtle as advertised on the box art. The reason I opted to present everything separately is not just visual clarity, but also the fact that mounting the creatures on the stand doesn’t really work that well and looks odd in terms of scale. The panels would need to be much higher, but even then the limbs of the animals get in the way of each other. That and of course if you were to assume that based on the size of the eyes relative to the body this would be a baby sea turtle, the size of the dolphin would be unrealistic and implausible. Even newborn dolphins are much larger already. Therefore your best option is probably to indeed keep them apart to not give people ideas…

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Dolphin and Turtle, All Assemblies

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Dolphin and Turtle, Base The base is constructed from a bunch of round quarter plates in Tan, which at least is a useful generic color. I guess nobody would have been surprised had they gone with some crazy color like Coral. I have a feeling that Medium Blue would have been an interesting color, though. It would have looked like some distant sand bank whose color has been shifted by the light being filtered through the water and floating particles. The details on top feel a bit sparse and don’t really convey the idea of underwater vegetation or even a coral reef. It would have taken much more pieces to make this more lively.

The turtle immediately reminded me of the polybag set 30476 from 2017 that used a few similar techniques and was about the same size, even though it represented an adult specimen. Inevitably just like this version it suffered from the ball joints not having been recolored. At this size there’s simply no good way to disguise the grey elements and it limits how good everything looks. Mind you, it’s not that terrible here as in particular the gaps between different groups of pieces are small, but I still wish LEGO had gotten over themselves and colored the items in question in Sand Green or similar.

The dolphin shares the same issue with the color of the joints, but some effort has been made to at least bury the central one with in the body. At the same time, though, I feel that these connections are redundant, anyway. The body is too short and with so few segments there’s no good way of creating some dynamic and dramatic poses. Or in other words: As far as I’m concerned, this could be as solid and stiff as a bathtub toy for kids. Of course you could improve the design, but that would require more parts to create more segments, different wedges and slopes for more slender, elegant shaping and so on. At the end you’d probably end up with something completely different that barely bears any relation to the version from this set.

The Fish

I have to admit that the first alternate model, the fish, is actually my favorite from this set. It’s one of the few I actually kept around and it’s sitting on the shelf next to me looking cute, joined by the turtle from the first build. The fish itself is just some non-descript generic variant that could stand in for whatever is your favorite. From something as mundane as a Sea Bream to your most-liked variety of Scalpel Fish any interpretation is valid. Of course things would be even better if this actually used bright colors like real reef fish. Imagine how stunning this could look using Yellow, Blue, Orange or Coral contrasted with some Dark Bluish Grey or Black.

Because it happened to come out around the same time as this set, I got myself a couple of the Tropical Parrot (30581) Creator 3in1 polybags as well to compare the fish in there with the one from this one. The little red fish is notably more crude and simplified, but does not look at all that bad next to its bigger brother. In addition, the smaller offering comes with some actual leaf elements and a few wedge slopes, the latter of which even perfectly matching in their Lime Green color, which could be used to enhance the larger fish or the scenery around it.

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Fish, Comparison

Since we’re already here, here’s also a look at this bag’s main hero, the parrot. It was released pretty widely, including some cardboard promo boxes in regular grocery stores, so it should be easy to find and even be obtainable for 2.50 Euro or less sometimes. Another of those little gems that you should not miss out on.

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Fish and Parrot

Back to the main subject of this review, there’s a good amount of leftover pieces that aren’t used. Not too dramatic in absolute terms, but in relation to the size of the set still notable.

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Fish, Leftover Pieces

The Seahorse

The third model is a little seahorse and next to it its companion sea slug/ snail. The upper body half of the little vertical swimmer is reasonably proportionate, but the tail is way, way too short. This is one of those situations where throwing in ten more pieces or so could have made a huge difference even if the tail was presented coiled up. Also, since these little critters are latched on to a grass blade, plant stem or even just a piece of material floating in the water it would have been nice if there had been some elements to mimic that.

The number of leftovers is rather moderate, though following through with some plant-like structure for the little guy to cling on could have reduced it even further by e.g. using the yellow blossoms on a coral twig and hiding the crab underneath.

LEGO Creator, Dolphin and Turtle (31128), Seahorse, Leftover Pieces

Concluding Thoughts

While it doesn’t get me quite as excited as the Fantasy Forest Creatures (31125), this is still an excellent little set. That is, if you remove the somewhat nonsensical forced combinations of elements and the resulting scale issues from the equation. More or less the animals should be viewed and treated as separate entities and treated this way while you dispense with the rest. The uninspired presentation is really the biggest issue and it may be worthwhile to invest some time in building pimped bases if you feel so inclined.

Otherwise it’s a very enjoyable experience. The builds don’t take too long and aren’t in any way convoluted, yet still look good, which makes this a good option for kids. The finished models are also reasonably robust for play within their design restrictions, so your little tyke swooshing around the dolphin, turtle or fish is perfectly possible. I’d definitely recommend this package. Even if you don’t have a particular interest in underwater creatures, it is relaxing fun and the set is very affordable.

Explorer-ing… Birds – LEGO Explorer Magazine, July 2021

With a much more pleasant spring this year with a lot more rain and colder temperatures compared to the hot droughts we had the last three years, even the birds are taking notice and there’s a lot more activity everywhere. Even the annual bird counting a few weeks ago confirmed that. So it’s kind of fitting that the latest LEGO Explorer for July 2021 also focuses on this topic.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2021, Cover

With such a broad subject it’s inevitable that you can only cover a very, very limited section of it at all, and therefore the issue focuses on some basics and presenting a bunch of interesting brick-built examples of birds, some of which have even appeared in sets. Additionally, the mag takes the time to explain the relation of today’s birds to the dinosaurs on another info spread.

The poster picks up on that in a comparison of the fastest animals on the planet and puts a bald eagle at the center of the show.

LEGO Magazine, LEGO Explorer, July 2021, Poster

The buildable extra is a small parrot, apparently inspired by the Scarlet Macaw. It’s done nicely and captures the overall appearance well enough. Funny enough, it exposes the limitations of LEGO not producing certain structural pieces in custom colors as explained in my recent review of the various Mega Construx Pokémon sets. Wouldn’t the little creature have looked even more nice if the joints were fully blue or red as well, don’t you think?

Overall this is a good issue, in particular thanks to the nice macaw build. Other than that of course my point I made in one of my older reviews for LEGO Explorer remains: It would be beneficial if they were more selective and didn’t overstuff the mag so much by being all too generic. Limiting this to “exotic colorful birds” already would have given this a totally different scope and meaning…