Sunday, 12 December 2010

So this is Christmas....

I love Christmas, and thankfully so do the LEGO company, who have blessed us with a multitude of Christmas sets of various shapes and sizes over the years. For as long as I can remember they've produced at least one advent calendar per year, and also a clutch of Christmas themed impulse sets. There are also the more idiosyncratic seasonal items such as Holiday Ornaments (i.e. Christmas tree baubles), Christmas magnets and the truly bizarre (to me at least) LEGO Holiday Countdown Candle, plus if we're really lucky a bigger, more ambitious set.

Although the LEGO company have been churning out Christmas-themed items for years, they have in my opinion really excelled themselves recently. I'm referring of course to the wonderful Winter Toy Shop set which was released in the latter half of last year to widespread critical acclaim, sold out at retail, and has of late once again been wowing the punters after being sensibly re-released for this Christmas period. There have certainly been other larger Christmas sets in the past which have their passionate supporters, notably Set 10173 Holiday Train, but for me the Toy Shop is the daddy of LEGO Christmas sets and I absolutely love it.

Set 10199 Winter Toy Shop
So where to start with this set ? Firstly, the overall design of the Toy Shop itself is wonderful - it brings to mind a gingerbread house - and I can confirm that it sits very comfortably, indeed proudly, amongst all the usual Christmas tat that people leave lying around on mantlepieces and next to the tree during the festive period. It even comes complete with a LEGO light brick to illuminate the interior ! Then there are all the brick-built accessories that come with the set - the excellent Christmas tree surrounded by some really neat gifts and draped with Christmas lights, and some olde worlde street lights and a bench (pics below - click to enlarge)

As well as the building itself and the above accessories, the set comes with lots of minifigures including some excellent carol singers, a shopkeeper and some skiiers. Given the ever expanding popularity of the LEGO minifigure, including all these minifigs is a bit of a masterstroke, further expanding the appeal of the set.

"Jingle Bells....."
You can see all the elements of the set together below. Surely only the most hard-hearted cynic could fail to love this set - just looking at it makes me feel Christmassy !

Winter Toy Shop set - the full Monty
And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, the LEGO company go and bring out  a new set which is clearly motivated by, and designed to complement, the Winter Toy Shop - Set 10216 Winter Village Bakery. Taking its design cues from the Toy Shop and following the adage of "if it ain't broke don't fix it", the Bakery follows the successful recipe laid down by the Toy Shop to a tee. Quaint design ? Check. Loads of minifigures ? Check. Superb accessories ? Check. It certainly ticks all the boxes, and while the cynic could with some justification accuse this set of being an entirely formulaic cash-in (particularly as it has less pieces than the Toy Shop but nevertheless costs more), my perhaps predictable view is that for all that it's still beautifully designed and will complement the Toy Shop perfectly. So I've bought it, and that's that.

Set 10216 Winter Village Bakery
Having built the Toy Shop last Christmas and subsequently disassembled and re-boxed it, it will I suspect almost certainly be hauled out and rebuilt every Christmas to come, such is its appeal. I've not built the Bakery yet, but if it turns out to be even half the set that its predecessor is then it'll be joining the Toy Shop on the mantlepiece year on year. You can currently snag yourself copies of both sets direct from LEGO if you like the look of them (links for UK readers are Toy Shop and Bakery). Hope you enjoy the Toy Shop as much as me !

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