Thursday, 5 June 2014

Family Values

So there I was, having a relaxing sit down and a nice cup of tea after my epic two-part Sea Cow review. The pressure was off - two whole weeks to figure out what to write about next, to do any building and photography that needs to be done, and to formulate, format and publish the next Gimme LEGO posting. Deep breath in, exhale, and chill out.... Then in walks my other half and my youngster fresh from a last-minute trip to LEGOLAND Windsor, and they've bought me a present ! Surely not a LEGO set, though - I've got pretty much all of those already. Except, wait a minute - not this one.....

Set 40115 LEGOLAND Entrance with Family is apparently a LEGOLAND exclusive and only available from LEGOLAND parks. While I was aware of its existence before it arrived in my house, I had yet to see any reviews of the set on the sites that I frequent. I therefore decided to dive straight in and check it out for myself.

The box is fairly compact, with a footprint of 26 cm x 14 cm. It's surprisingly deep and heavy for such a small set, however, and unusually for a box of this size it's secured with tape seals rather than providing the option of thumb tabs. The box art is about as simple as it gets, with an image of the completed build posed against a simple backdrop dominating the front of the box (above); a small inset image to the bottom left of the main image offers a clue to the most intriguing aspect of the set, however, and when you flip the box over this feature is revealed (below - click to enlarge). The set contains the necessary elements to build both a light-skinned and a dark-skinned family, albeit not at the same time. I've never seen a LEGO set offer this particular customization option before, and I'd be fascinated to know if this is a LEGO first.

Cutting the tape seals reveals four un-numbered bags of elements, two slim instruction booklets, a cardboard backdrop, and an 8 x 16 light bley plate loose in the box. There's no DSS.  You can see the backdrop below; the foreground is printed with a fairly crude and generic representation of the entrance to the LEGOLAND parks, with a silhouette of the park attractions in the background. The backdrop is perforated close to its lower edge by a couple of slots which will be used to attach it to the finished model.

As reflected by their front covers (pictures below), one booklet contains instructions to build the dark-skinned family, and the other to build the light-skinned family. Both booklets are around 40 pages in length, with one being a couple of pages longer than the other by virtue of the inclusion of a 2-page inventory of parts at the end. Unusually, apart from the LEGOLAND references there's absolutely no advertising in either booklet.

You can see a selection of some the more uncommon elements contained within the set below. There aren't any elements unique to the set, although the dark tan 2 x 2 tile printed with the gold star has only previously featured in one other set, the Palace Cinema. Other elements such as the tan modified 1 x 1 plate with vertical clip and the left and right dark green 6 x 3 wedge plates can only be found in two other sets, and this is only the fourth appearance of the ovoid shield with lion head motif. All other elements in the picture have appeared in ten sets or less.

The build itself is predictably fairly simple. You start out by assembling a stand using green and light bley plates; this is then decorated with dark green wedge plates, some dark bley 2 x 2 round tiles and 1 x 1 round plates, and a few bright light orange and dark pink flowers. Then it's time to start work on the Miniland-style figures themselves.  There's liberal use of plates modified with clips, closed handles and hinges to allow some arm movement, and clips and clip lights are pressed into service as hands so that the figures can hold a variety of accessories including a sword, a shield, a wand, a brick-built camera and a bunch of flowers. Mum has a 2 x 2 turntable at waist level so is able to rotate the upper part of her body; all the figures have a 1 x 1 round plate for a neck, so head rotation is simply a case of twisting the head to the desired position. Baby's curls are formed from modified 1 x 1 plates with clip light, while dad has for some reason got the dark tan printed 2 x 2 tile stuck on his chest, presumably to represent a naff sweater....

The picture below shows how the backdrop is attached to the base. Dark green 1 x 3 tiles pass through the two slots at the bottom of the backdrop and attach to structures behind and in front. This securely anchors the backdrop to the base, although it does have a tendency to lean forwards or backwards a little.

As previously discussed, the set contains parts and instructions for an alternate build which you can see below (click to enlarge). Here, all the tan elements in the figures which represent exposed skin are substituted by reddish brown elements, with the exception of the elements making up the hands which are replaced by their black equivalents. This is understandable in the case of the 1 x 1 plate with clip light which doesn't exist in reddish brown, but less so for the 1 x 1 plate with vertical clip which appears in reddish brown in one of the currently-available Minecraft sets. Additionally, mum and baby get black hair.

Set 40115 LEGOLAND Entrance with Family is available now from LEGOLAND Windsor and other LEGOLAND parks. It contains 270 pieces and costs £12.99. As a fan of 'old school' builds I found the model to be quite charming, although the crude, simplistic nature of the Miniland-style figures won't be to everybody's taste, and some will no doubt complain about the lack of minifigures.... At £12.99 for 270 parts it's decent value for money, and it isn't often that you can say that about any aspect of the theme park experience.

Next time on Gimme LEGO : we're overdue a dig through the archives and another dose of Classic Space I reckon.... ;-)

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