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