Day: January 3, 2012

Fortnight of Friends – Day 1: Stephanie’s Outdoor Bakery

Published / by Bill

As you have probably seen by now, LEGO has a new line of sets targeted at girls, called “Friends.” Today I went to the LEGO store and bought all fourteen of the sets in this line. Over the next fourteen days, I’m planning to review each of the Friends sets, one per day. I’ve organized the sets first by price (lowest to highest) and secondarily by set number. Since there are fourteen of them, I’m calling it the “Fortnight of Friends.” Hope you enjoy. The first set is #3930, Stephanie’s Outdoor Bakery.

The Friends sets come in new style packaging not seen in other LEGO themes. As this is a small set, it comes with a flap on the top that can be used to hang it on a display. But I quickly found that it also facilitates opening – just pull on the flap and the front cover of the box tears open. I’m not sure if that’s intentional – they still have those taped, unglued sides like most LEGO boxes these days – but it is easy to open if you don’t mind destroying the box itself.

Like any LEGO set, the first thing you build is the figures. The sets feature “minidolls” instead of minifigs, which are figures a little taller than minifigs, and thin and curvy rather than blocky. Like a minifig, the minidolls come in sections: legs, torso and arms, head, and hair. The legs and torso come packed separately in small plastic bags that are really quite difficult to rip open. The bag is made of a stretchy plastic and there’s no “tear here” weak point as we’ve seen in some of the other recent similar packaging (e.g. Toy Story figures). I believe these are made in China like some of the other specialty items we’ve seen in recent sets, especially the Disney branded sets. The minidoll is articulated at the shoulders and hips – the arms move independently but the legs are locked together, so you can’t pose them walking the way you can minifigs. The hips have a 90 degree movement, ranging from straight upright to sitting. The connection between the legs and torso is a new shape for LEGO – it’s a single ovoid shape plug on the legs part which goes into a similarly shaped hole in the bottom of the torso. It seems to be slightly asymmetric, making it a little harder (but still possible) to put the torso on facing backward. The hands are similar to minifig hands – they don’t rotate though, so they are limited in what they can grip. The arms and legs are both “flesh” colored (Caucasian, at least in Stephanie’s case) but since the legs are cast in light purple and painted, and the arms are cast in “flesh” they don’t quite match in color. The head is mounted on a post that’s the same diameter as LEGO minifig tools, which would make it easy to impale the head on lots of standard LEGO parts besides just the Friends torso. It’s been reported elsewhere that the hair/hats are interchangeable between minifigs and minidolls, and in fact on the inside of Stephanie’s blonde hair I can even see the outline of a minifig’s shoulders.

Like most of the Friends sets this one is not one model, but a small group of them. I imagine LEGO did some focus groups and found that girls wanted multiple items they could rearrange for maximum playability. This set includes a small round table with an umbrella, a stove/oven range with a cake(?) in the oven and another one on display on the counter, and a sink with what I guess are two bottles, one white and one trans-blue. All of these are quick, easy builds, good for someone getting the feel of LEGO, but are as detailed as any LEGO set. My only objection is that the round cake is a little bigger than the bowl you’re supposed to put it in, so it doesn’t sit level. Other than that, the models are just fine – not too exciting to me, no tricky techniques, but solidly does what it set out to do. One of the big complaints about Bellville was the fact that there wasn’t much assembly required; so far at least, Friends appears to have addressed that issue quite well.

Besides the new minidolls one of the things about Friends that is remarkable is the colors. Pink is back in a big way, but most of the models are mostly whites and pastel colors other than pink. In this set, pink is just an accent color. The sink has two panels in a new shade of light blue, but the rest of the colors (white, lime, tan, pink) are existing LEGO colors. There are two printed pieces, the umbrella and a carton of milk. I’m glad LEGO avoided using stickers for these, as I’ve always found stickers to be frustrating and don’t like to even apply them – I just put them up on BrickLink for sale.

Since I build a lot of Town models for the BayLTC train layout, I’m happy to be getting a lot of the accent colors and pieces from the Friends sets. I’m especially looking forward to all the new female hair pieces which I can use to help even out the gender imbalance in minifigs generally.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the other small set, #3931 “Emma’s Splash Pool”.