My latest LEGO model, just in time for Christmas, is the Nutcracker, a classic Christmas icon. In fact, it was built on Christmas Eve!
Inspired by the ballet by Alexandre Dumas père (an adaptation of the story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by E. T. A. Hoffmann), set to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and staged by Marius Petipa. My wife and I saw the San Francisco Ballet version of this last week, and I’ve been wanting to make a LEGO nutcracker ever since. I was going to make a big one, about two feet tall, but haven’t got around to it yet… in the meantime I really like the way this little guy came out.
The mechanism functions pretty well; by lifting his coattails his mouth opens, just like real wooden nutcrackers. Of course, being the size that he is, you can’t crack much of a nut with it, which is probably just as well since it would most likely fall apart in your hands if you tried – LEGO studs’ clutch power is no match for your average nut.
Like last year, LEGO came up with two advent calendars, only one of which was sold in the U.S. The 7687 City advent calendar was sold everywhere, but the 6299 Pirates calendar was only available in Europe. (If you’re not familiar with advent calendars, they basically consist of 24 different gifts, one to be opened on each day of Advent, the traditional Christian season that precedes Christmas, or in other words December 1-24. These days, it’s secularized – fine by me, since I’m not religious – but the name has stuck.)
Last year, LEGO accidentally shipped a few sets of that year’s specialty calendar, which had a Castle theme, to the U.S. Shop-At-Home warehouse, and since the fans were complaining so loudly about it not being available in this country they were convinced to make them available through a special mail-order setup. But we didn’t have any such luck this year with the Pirates calendar, so unless you had a friend in Europe willing to ship it to you, there was no way to get it.
Well, my friend Holger Matthes in Germany was willing to do this favor for me, and I was hoping to get it in time for December 1st so I could post each day’s set like I did last year (each of those words is a link to a different day’s calendar from last year; days 1-7 and 24 are shown, but I bet you can find the rest). But alas, the package took a long time getting here (not Holger’s fault; he shipped it as soon as I gave him the details – but DHL took its sweet time in delivering it. Next time I’ll pay extra for airmail/express, or just order sooner. Though hopefully LEGO will have learned its lesson and won’t require me to jump through such hoops…)
If you want to see more clever coverage of the Advent calendars than I can provide, check out Chris Doyle’s Reasonably Clever blog where he’s included each day’s calendar prizes into the BRiCK House web comic.
Anyway, I didn’t get the Pirates calendar until December 18th, so I put photos on Flickr of the first 19 days the next day and have updated it today with the rest. You can see the City and Pirates sets for each day in my 2009 Advent Calendars set (or view as a slideshow).
I was surprised to see that both calendars had the days in the same quasi-random order. It made it easy to build them side-by-side; once I found that day’s door in one calendar, the other calendar had the same number in the same position. It did seem to me that all the doors were printed upside-down; the flap of the box was in the way if you tried to open the doors with the printing facing right-side-up. Last year, the direction of the printing was opposite on the two boxes, if I recall correctly.
Today is Christmas Eve, the final day of Advent. Though I don’t practice religion these days, I appreciate the tradition especially when it involves getting LEGO :-)
Anyway, today’s entry for City is a girl building a snowman; on the Castle side we have the famous Court Jester minifig that people have been so excited about. I put him to work helping with the snowman:
Over the course of the past 24 days, we’ve had a number of extra parts accumulating. LEGO always throws in a few extra items from a few parts which are easily lost. I guess they are worried about reducing the call volume to Customer Service. Anyway, over the span of the advent calendars these pieces have added up to quite a pile:
Finally, remember the Good Twin and Evil Twin? Well, I went through all the models from both calendars and sorted them out into good and evil factions. Here are the good guys first:
And the forces of evil ready to do battle with them:
The snowman, of course, is the king of the evil side, and today’s minifigs are his minions. Mwahahahaha.
Happy Holidays to everyone! Hope Santa brings you plenty of great new LEGO sets!
This is the penultimate day in the advent calendar… after tomorrow (Christmas Eve) there will be no more advent models to blog about. Happy Christmas Eve Eve!
Anyway, the City calendar brings us a snowmobile, I guess. Of course, it lacks any kind of motor or propulsion system, so I’m not sure we can really call it a snowmobile. Maybe it’s a sleigh and there just aren’t any reindeer? On the Castle side we have a treasure chest guarded by a spider, which translates fairly well into WoW, though in the game most treasure chests are guarded by humanoids, and the spiders you see in WoW would be about ten times that size.
Six days ago, we got a bit of a surprise as the wrong minifigure was included in my Day 16 box. I was supposed to get a police photographer but instead got a mountain climber.
In the comments for that entry, we came to the consensus that today, #22, we would probably get the cop at last, as 16 and 22 are adjacent in the grid, and minifigs tend to come 3 days apart. When I opened the box for #22, I found that in fact, the climber is supposed to be in this box. What surprised me was that he actually was there, so now I have two of them, and no photographer.
The Castle set had no such errors; it yielded up a nice little catapult. Nothing terribly remarkable about it, though it is surprising how many pieces they included to make this item, as most Advent days are pretty light in the parts count department.
So anyway, I suppose all hope of getting that police photographer is lost. But really, I don’t mind. The parts included with this hiker are a lot more useful anyway – dark green pants, white backpack, etc. Though I guess I could call Shop At Home and complain, and probably get the missing cop in the mail….
Today, the Castle scene gets a scary orc warrior, while Town gets an innocent-looking pallet with twelve bottles.
Combining this with the past two days, you can see that the orc is attacking the inn, frightening the innkeeper who has to fend him off with her trusty broom. (As you can see her face is reversible; originally from the Spider-Man sets, it has a happy expression printed on one side of the head, and a scared one on the other.)
Meanwhile on the town side, our villain, dressed innocently as a train maintenance worker so he could get into the warehouse, makes off with the bottles of mysterious and important-looking fluid.
(Twelve trans-smoke 1×1 cones! Hooray! You may recall that when I built my sushi bar I didn’t have enough of those, so I had to use black ones for some of the soy sauce bottles…)
We’re getting down to the wire here folks. Today we get more accessories, but tenuous connection if any to previous entries…
For Castle, we get a really nice table and chair with gold metallic bowl and goblet (plus extra goblet and brown cylinders). So I guess our maiden from a few days ago is an innkeeper after all. Though of course the innkeeper in Stormwind is a blonde.
On the City side, we get a really nice pallet jack. Our train worker from yesterday is supposed to use it, I guess, so I guess he uses it to load cargo onto boxcars?
Today we get a bearded railway maintenance worker for the City calendar, and a bowl of produce for Castle.
Neither is particularly remarkable, though the scale on the fruit & veggies is a bit out of whack with minifigs. No surprise, as they were originally made for Belville. But on the City side we get new minifigures two days in a row! That’s unusual for an advent calendar; usually they’re about every third day.
As for fitting these into any kind of coherent story, I could say that the produce is for sale by a food vendor, so clearly yesterday’s minifig was selling food in Stormwind, but the only kind of apples I’ve ever seen in WoW are red and I’ve never seen a carrot there, so that is tenuous at best.
Today both calendars bring new minifigs. In the Castle calendar, we have a female NPC (non-player character), probably an enchanting vendor, with broom and a rat. I wish it had been a cat instead of a rat, so I could say it was the Crazy Cat Lady from Elwynn Forest. On the City side, we have a suspect for the interrogation chair of yesterday. Will tomorrow bring a waterboard?