Tag: friends

Fortnight of Friends – Day 11: Butterfly Beauty Shop

Published / by Bill

Today is day 11 in our LEGO “Fortnight of Friends” series, and we tackle #3187, “Butterfly Beauty Shop”. This is the first LEGO Friends set I’ve done that has more than one minidoll in it… in this case, one of our main characters, Emma, and a new character, Sarah. Sadly, all the sign printing is done with stickers, which I didn’t want to apply, so the picture isn’t quite what is shown on the box…

Like the last few sets, this set comes in two bags. Bag #1 starts with a cute little water fountain and bench, then starts building the main building. It’s built on 8×16 pink plates, which is a new color/part combination that is nice to have. The architecture of this building reminds me of the old Paradisa sets from the 1990’s, which I’ve always liked.

As I mentioned above, this set comes with two minidolls. In bag #1, we get Emma. After a long drought of only getting minidoll parts in the stretchy, hard-to-open bags, Emma’s legs are in nice easy-to-open bags. But her torso, and both parts of Sarah (who comes in bag #2), are sadly in the stretchy plastic. I’ve gotten pretty good at opening the stretchy bags, by forcing the sharper corners of the dolls through the plastic, but I don’t think this packaging is good for kids to have to open. Most multi-part LEGO sets that have multiple minifigs give you all of them in bag #1, so this is a bit of a change.

With the second bag, you build up the top and interior of the shop. The interior features a bunch of new accessories. There’s a bag of light orange hair decorations and styling tools, and two little bags of lipsticks. There are four colors, and the two bags are identical. The lipsticks are in stretchy bags, but unlike the minidoll parts, the lipstick bags have easy-tear weak points and open easily. Why can’t they do this for the minidoll bags? The lipsticks are made of a rubbery material – grey rubber handles molded around colored rubber middles, which is a little weird. I would have expected the grey parts to be hard plastic.

As I mentioned above, almost all of the printed details are shiny metallic stickers (such as for mirrors, etc.), but there is a computer keyboard printed tile at least. I guess LEGO doesn’t have the technology to print shiny parts, at least in a cost-effective manner. I hate applying stickers.

I must say I have some qualms about this set overall though. I know they’re trying to win over girls to LEGO with this theme by putting construction sets into the “pink aisle” at toy stores. But I’m much more of a fan of something like Olivia’s Invention Workshop, which encourages girls to think about science, than the Beauty Shop, which just reinforces traditional stereotypical gender roles. I’m also a little uneasy about the racial message it sends, since it shows a white girl being waited on by a person of color… maybe I’m overthinking things – I dunno. What do you think?

Lipstick on display in the window
Interior of the beauty shop
Sticker sheet

Next up tomorrow is #3061, “City Park Café”.

Fortnight of Friends – Day 10: Olivia’s Tree House

Published / by Bill / 1 Comment on Fortnight of Friends – Day 10: Olivia’s Tree House

The tenth in our LEGO “Fortnight of Friends” series is #3065, “Olivia’s Tree House”.

Olivia makes her second appearance in the series so far with this set. She’s definitely the more tomboyish character in the series, and the one I can relate to the most. We’ll meet her again, and her parents, in the final set in a few days. She came in the stretchy bags, in case you’re keeping track. Besides Olivia, we also get a cute kitten and bird.

Like yesterday’s set and all the ones to come, it comes in the box with the bowed front. And like yesterday, we have a 2-part build. The first build is the cat box and the lower level of the tree – basically everything below the platform of the tree house itself. One curious feature that doesn’t make much sense is the hidden treasure. At the base of the tree you can see in the photo a small square area made of aqua colored 1x1x1 corner panels. Inside that box are two LEGO gems, and it is covered semi-discreetly by a tree branch. Also, oddly there is a bowl with a fish in it, and a carton of milk, just laying there on the lawn. I don’t think this shows a good example for children – fish and milk are both items that require refrigeration! I assume they’re meant as food/drink for the kitten. Anyway, I like this tree design, it shows a good fairly realistic shape, and offers a nice assortment of slope and half-arch parts in brown.

Bag #2 builds the rest of the kit – the treehouse platform, upper parts of the tree, and the birdhouse. It’s not very clear to me what the blue barrel at the top of the tree is for, except maybe just as a lookout that Olivia can climb up to. This bag also contained a bag of accessory elements – flowers and bugs. In one step you are to put all the flowers and bugs on the tree, except that one of the bugs actually should be held back and used later in the birdhouse. The instructions fail to make that clear, as I’ve read other reviewers of this set complain. This is a rather odd tree, horticulturally speaking, in that it grows three different types of flowers. The upper branches have daisy type flowers in the back, and I’m not sure what to call the ones in the front; the lower part of the tree sprouts roses. Very peculiar! The butterflies and ladybugs are really neat though. I look forward to using these flowers (especially the roses) and bugs in my MOCs.

The ladder up to the treehouse is light blue in color which seems silly to me. I don’t think using a black or brown ladder would be off-putting to anybody, and the cost of producing the ladder in this color seems like a waste. I worry that LEGO is going a little overboard with the color/parts pallette again, like they did in the mid-late 1990s. Most of the useful parts in the new colors are great, but this is a poor example.

Tomorrow’s set is #3187, “Butterfly Beauty Shop”.

Fortnight of Friends – Day 9: Heartlake Dog Show

Published / by Bill

The ninth day in our “Fortnight of Friends” series brings us the first “big box” set, #3942, “Heartlake Dog Show”.

Like all the $20 and larger sets, this set comes in a box with a new shape for LEGO. Instead of being a plain rectangular prism shape, the front of the box is curved, bowed outward, and in the front sides there is a bevel that produces this curvature. The clerks at the LEGO store hate this, because you can’t stack the boxes easily. You can see it in the photo of the box below.

Friends box, showing the beveled edge that produces the curved front

This set features a return of Mia, last seen on Day 5 (Mia’s Puppy House), showing her prize pet at the dog show. (Both parts of Mia’s body were in the stretchy plastic bags.) Did you know that you can fit the spray bottle into the torso of a minidoll? Well, you can. I think someone mentioned it on a mailing list I’m on (though I can’t seem to find the email right now to give them credit, sorry), and I tried it out with Mia and sure enough it works! It makes her look kind of like a mermaid. Also, since I noticed that in this set, you’re told to put the spray bottle between two studs of a 1×2 plate, that you can also put the minidoll’s legs the same way. It’s not quite as good of a connection as a regular LEGO stud grip, but it’s not bad.

Alternate ways to connect minidolls to other parts.

Anyway, on to the set. This is the first multi-part build Friends set. With the first bag, we get Mia and the two dogs, the accessories, and parts to build the small models. First up is the holding/grooming pen, which has a trough full of water (1×1 round trans-light-blue plates in an aqua colored rectangle made from short panels) with water spigot, a bowl with two bones, fencing, and a cabinet for storing stuff. Those cabinets, lime with white hinged doors, will be very handy. You also build a hurdle for the dogs to jump over, with a bar that can be knocked down if they don’t jump high enough; a catapult seesaw thingy for the dogs to walk along, which I guess tests their obedience in the face of losing balance (though as a boy, it screams catapult to me, and LEGO included the “don’t shoot into the eye” icon in the instructions that they always use for projectiles); and a prize stand with giant trophy.

Bag #2 is the main part of the build, which is a stage and catwalk for the dogs to show off on. There’s a camera on a stick with a telephoto lens, two spotlights, and flowerpots made from white plain minifig heads. There’s a sign above it all, a printed 2×2 round tile with a paw print, just as we saw earlier in Mia’s last set.

Parts-wise, this is a pretty good set. I like all the lime green and aqua parts. The dogs are adorable, and the trophy is nice – though I’m disappointed that it’s not chromed. We get the same accessories as in Day 5 but this time they are in light purple. I noticed that as I mentioned in Day 3 (Andrea’s Stage), the antenna piece has been changed to have a squared-off tip instead of the rounded tip it’s had for over 30 years.

Tomorrow the series continues with Day 10: #3065, “Olivia’s Tree House”

Fortnight of Friends – Day 8: Stephanie’s Cool Convertible

Published / by Bill

Today we start off the second week of the “Fortnight of Friends” with the first of the larger sets: #3183, “Stephanie’s Cool Convertible”.

Fortnight of Friends - Day 8 - set

This is Stephanie’s third appearance in the series. We last saw her in Day 6, patrolling for pets, and her first appearance was in Day 1, with her outdoor bakery. And now we see why she has holes in the top and side of her hairpiece – to attach these decorative bits. (For those keeping score, both parts of her body were in those stretchy bags.) Like we saw earlier in Day 5 (Mia’s Puppy House), this set comes with a bag of accessory parts that can be attached to the hair or pets. There’s also an extensive assortment of grooming equipment included, but not featured in the set build. As a boy, this puzzles me, but I gather girls like to deviate more from the instructions when building sets… so go for it, girls! Anyway, these parts can be useful in MOCs so I’m happy to see them. She also comes with the same pink iPod-like device we saw yesterday, and a little pink purse/bucket.

This set is a little bigger than the ones I’ve reviewed until now, and lacks the shelf hanger flap on the top of the box. However the box is one of the usual standard LEGO box types, and is designed to be opened by putting your finger through a semicircular thumb hole on the bottom and ripping it open at the side. But I prefer to open this style of box by peeling off the bottom, leaving the rest of the box intact, which you can then dump the parts into for building the set. I’ve been doing this for years, but LEGO seems to use this box type less and less often, preferring the kind where you are supposed to cut the clear tape to open the ends of the box. I hope this is a sign LEGO plans to keep using this box type. You can see a picture below to illustrate what I’m talking about … just be careful not to cut yourself! I got a small paper cut opening this box.

Like all the Friends sets, this one consists of multiple builds, though only two in this instance. First you build a little roadside scene, with a lamppost (hooray for that transparent globe piece!), bench, and dog- or car-washing equipment. I’m happy to see the tap return, and the 2×2 white tile with a stud in the center is a newish part that I’m happy to have another of.

But the main feature of this set is of course, the car. It’s similar to a lot of the City cars we’ve had from LEGO lately, and is a nice design. The color scheme really works well and I’m happy to get so many parts in the new light purple color. I also am happy to get two of the 1×2-2×4 brackets, which are used to attach both front and back ends of the car. The only downside I see is that finally we have encountered stickers. I surmise that LEGO has trouble printing on the curved pieces, as these stickers only go on curved parts: the hood/bonnet, and the curved slopes at the rear. I chose not to apply the stickers, as is my usual practice. I will probably put them up on BrickLink for sale, as I don’t use stickers in my MOCs either. I don’t like to limit the reusability of the parts, and it’s so hard to apply the stickers perfectly straight and centered anyway. But since it’s for curved parts, I don’t really blame LEGO for not giving us printed pieces. Hopefully they’ll work out a way to print on those someday. For now, however, I’m happy to have these parts in plain light purple for future MOC usage.

One feature of this set that I found particularly noteworty is a new part. It’s similar to the 1×2 L-shaped panel piece, but with a center divider. In the car it’s used to hold Stephanie in place as she drives… minidolls lack the stud receptacles that minifigs have, so they needed some way to hold her in position, and I guess this is what they came up with. I can see this being a useful piece for decorative purposes, as well as holding minifigs in place. See the photos below for illustration of how it works on both Stephanie and a generic minifig.

Fortnight of Friends - Day 8 - box
Opened box - just peel back the bottom and you can build in the box, but be careful not to cut yourself!
Fortnight of Friends - Day 8 - minidoll
This new bracket part can grip the minidoll's feet to hold her in place.
Fortnight of Friends - Day 8 - minifig
The new bracket part can also grip a minifig's feet.

Tomorrow we progress to a still larger set with #3942, “Heartlake Dog Show”.

Fortnight of Friends – Day 7: Emma’s Design Studio

Published / by Bill / 2 Comments on Fortnight of Friends – Day 7: Emma’s Design Studio

Today is day 7 in my “Fortnight of Friends” series. We’re now half way through, and this is the last of the small sets. Today’s set is #3936, “Emma’s Design Studio”.

We previously saw Emma in Day 2, Emma’s Splash Pool. Now we learn that besides liking to splash about in pools, Emma is a fashion designer. The Emma minidoll in this set comes packed in the stretchy hard-to-open bags (both torso and legs). Like yesterday’s Stephanie, today’s Emma is the same face and hair as the earlier version but with different printing on the body. This will allow kids (girls) to mix/match outfits.

The first thing we build is a dresser, or chest of drawers. Each drawer has a different color tile in it, I suppose representing bolts of fabric. I’m really pleased to see so many sets containing the cabinets with drawers in the Friends line. I’ve always been a fan of doing the interior details of my MOCs, and these pieces have been traditionally hard to come by in the boy-focused LEGO sets. The cabinets being in purple, and drawers in pink, may limit their usefulness in many of my MOCs, but I’m sure I’ll find uses for them. Pink 1×3 tiles are new, and a nice treat. The dresser comes with a stool for Emma to climb up in order to reach the top drawer. I was surprised to find that this set came with a mix of old and new style jumper plates … the new ones with the fingernail groove, like tiles, and the old ones that mount flush to the part beneath, like plates. Two of them go on the stepstool and one goes on her work table – I put one of each type on the stepstool to call attention to this packing anomaly.

The next thing we build is some sort of easel or drafting table, with the printed dress design on it. You might have been wondering about printing vs. stickers on the Friends line, but I can assure you that there have not yet been any stickers in any of these sets. The paw print on Mia’s Puppy House, the blackboard on Olivia’s Invention Workshop, the printed tiles on Andrea’s Stage, and the umbrella on Stephanie’s Outdoor Bakery were all printed parts too.

Emma’s table is the next thing to build, which includes a nice little (printed!) ruler on a 1×6 tile, a pink iPod-like device on a pink 1×2 tile, a camera, a dark pink mug, and a flowerpot. The legs are light purple with purple feet, and the table is covered in 1×6 light orange tiles. There’s also a neat little lamp using a skeleton leg as part of the post, which I shall definitely copy in future MOCs.

Finally we get a desk for Emma, in a color scheme matching the table, with a laptop computer (a return of the part last seen in the Agents line) and what I can only assume is some sort of sandwich.

I am happy about all the purple parts and the aqua colored bricks. Like the other Friends sets, there is some pink, but it’s not overwhelmingly pink. The main color is purple. I doubt I’ll have use for the printed piece with the dress design, but the laptop computer is nice to see back.

Tomorrow we start the second week of the Fortnight of Friends with the first of the larger sets: #3183, “Stephanie’s Cool Convertible”.

Fortnight of Friends – Day 6: Stephanie’s Pet Patrol

Published / by Bill

The sixth in the “Fortnight of Friends” series is set #3935, “Stephanie’s Pet Patrol”.

Having seen all five of the Friends main characters now, in Day 6 we return to the one we saw first in Day 1, Stephanie. She’s got a different print shirt and skirt, but the same mold as far as I can tell. The shirt has long sleeves, so the color difference between the legs is not as jarring relative to the torso, but still noticeable. Finally, we get a minidoll that’s easy to open both bags! Both torso and legs are packed in the easy-to-open plastic similar to most LEGO bags, not that annoying stretchy plastic.

This set continues yesterday’s pet house theme with a wee wittle bunny howse. Sowwy, this is getting too cute. But really, this rabbit is adorable!! I’m not sure yellow roof goes with tan walls, but wook at the bunny!!!!!!

Ahem. Next we get a vehicle. Stephanie may not be old enough to drive a car, but apparently this little ATV is legal. I guess if the cops ever hassle her, she can just show them her bunny and they’ll let her off the hook. This is a pretty standard LEGO design, just using more pastel colors. The light aqua we first saw in the VW van “Fillmore” in the Cars 2 sets (such as #8487, Flo’s V8 Café) returns, appearing in the fenders and a 1×2 tile with rail. There is a new handlebar piece, similar to one we’ve seen for years for minifigs, but with extended bars that can be gripped by minidolls with their wrists that can’t turn. Stephanie drives the ATV while standing, which doesn’t seem like a very good idea to me… but given the limited usefulness of her hands, I suppose it’s the only option the designers had. Still, I think it sets a bad example for kids.

The final build is a trailer for the ATV. On the box it is shown with white wheel hubs, but they gave us grey ones. The instructions have the color right, though.

Tomorrow brings the first week (1/2 fortnight) of Friends to an end with day 7, #3936, “Emma’s Design Studio”.

Fortnight of Friends – Day 5: Mia’s Puppy House

Published / by Bill

The fifth set in the “Fortnight of Friends” series is #3934: Mia’s Puppy House. Of the sets we’ve seen so far, this one is far and away the “pinkest.” All the sets so far have featured one unique minidoll, and there are five main characters in the Friends line, so we now have one of each.

The minidoll for this set, Mia, comes in two bags that are the difficult to open stretchy plastic. I’m surprised at the inconsistent packaging LEGO is using for these various parts.

Mia is the first doll we’ve seen so far that has a hair accessory. All of the minidoll hair pieces have one or more holes in them for attaching bows, tiaras, etc. The puppy in this kit also has the hole in its head for attaching a bow. This kit comes with a whole bag of accessories:

  • Eight head bows, four with hearts and four without
  • Two prize ribbons (marked “1” and “2”) – it seems odd that these are both dark pink, since “1” should be blue and “2” should be red, but I guess that would be too expensive to produce, or maybe they just do things differently in Denmark.
  • Two large oblong rounded brushes
  • One small round brush
  • One oval thingy (bar of soap, I guess)
  • One comb with heart
  • One spray bottle with heart

All these accessories are in dark pink, and are well suited to this set’s theme, where Mia is washing her dog, who has apparently won both first and second place in the dog show. My understanding from reading other blog entries about the Friends line is that there are other sets we will see with similar “accessory kits” which are apparently treated by LEGO as one part. The bows and ribbons all have small pegs sticking out the back which I believe is the same type of connection used in the past by accessories such as the tiara in Willie Scott’s hair in the Shanghai Chase Indiana Jones set. It’s also the same size peg used to attach flowers to stems. In addition, the ribbons have a stud-sized cutout in the back surrounding the pin, so that they can mount on a (hollow) LEGO stud. The other accessories are all sized so they can be gripped by a minifig/minidoll hand (or any 3mm clip).

The first thing you build after Mia is the doghouse, which is a basic 3×5 stud tan and white house with a dark pink roof. Building odd-numbered-sized models in LEGO can be tricky, because so many parts only come in even-sized parts, but it works pretty well for this model. It uses some basic SNOT (Studs Not On Top) techniques to attach the ribbons and the paw print over the door. A brief aside about the paw print – it’s a 2×2 round tile, which is an unusual part in LEGO because it has more attachment points than any other part its size. There are no fewer than eight points where you can attach a stud to the underside of these tiles, and this model uses one of the unexpected points – centered on the top of the piece.

After the doghouse, you build a simple lime table with yellow legs in only 3 steps on one page. Finally, you put together the tree, which cleverly uses a Technic brick to represent a hole, perhaps dug out by a woodpecker? The rest of the parts are more staged than built – fill the bucket with dog washing tools, put out the dog bowl with bone, etc.

Tomorrow, we revisit Stephanie, who we saw in Day 1, with #3935, “Stephanie’s Pet Patrol”.

Fortnight of Friends – Day 4: Olivia’s Invention Workshop

Published / by Bill

This is the fourth set in the Fortnight of Friends series, #3933: “Olivia’s Invention Workshop”.

Today’s set features Olivia at work in her laboratory. There are four workstations: a blackboard, a lab table with a microscope and Erlenmeyer flask, a shelving unit with jars of mysterious chemicals, and a workbench with tools. She has an adorable little robot that she’s controlling with a remote control.

Due to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) nature of this model, I consulted my dance partner, who is not only a girl but also a high school math teacher. Her first reaction was, “Why is gravity pointing up?” in reaction to the force diagram on the blackboard. I had her build the set – she’s pretty inexperienced with LEGO but has two boys who are LEGO maniacs – and these were some of her impressions:

  • She likes the jars & bottles, and the cabinet with drawers
  • The microscope seemed odd, looking at a big gem. You can see it with the naked eye!
  • She likes the idea of the blackboard, but wishes it had something related to something in the lab (e.g., a chemistry formula). Boys are always referring to things in math/physics class from toys/games (e.g., they know about Dyson spheres and rings from playing Halo)
  • She doesn’t like that Olivia is wearing open toed shoes in the lab and didn’t have safety goggles
  • She was confused by the extra parts (I explained that all LEGO sets come with extras of the small parts, but she initially thought she had missed a step… which was compounded by the fact that the pages showing how to make the little robot were sticking together)

In discussing it, we had an idea – LEGO could show variations on the models as you build. Girls are less inclined to slavishly follow instructions as boys, and instead to add their own custom touches as they go. It was like following a recipe, where you might substitute, omit, or add ingredients as you go to taste. There’s no “season to taste” in LEGO.

I’m pleased by all the new color parts in azure and light azure colors. I think the microscope and vise are really clever little bits of SNOT building that will teach valuable skills to anyone who is new to LEGO who builds this set. And I’m really pleased to see a toy for girls that highlights a girl doing science.

Tomorrow’s set is #3934: Mia’s Puppy House.

Fortnight of Friends – Day 3: Andrea’s Stage

Published / by Bill / 4 Comments on Fortnight of Friends – Day 3: Andrea’s Stage

The third LEGO Friends set in my “Fortnight of Friends” series is #3932, “Andrea’s Stage”.

Andrea's Stage

Like the two smaller sets for the past two days, this slightly larger box has a flap on the top that can be used to hang the sets on a display rack. And also like those sets, by pulling on that flap you can open the box rather neatly. I’ve gotten the hang of doing it a bit more neatly now; once you lift up the hanger flap, the whole top of the box opens nicely.

Andrea's Stage Box

This set features a new minidoll with dark skin named Andrea. This African-American (African-Danish?) character adds some racial diversity to Heartlake City. The legs this time are in the easy to open bag, and the torso in the stretchy plastic. The color matching between the legs (which are printed brown on white plastic) and the arms/neck/face (which are cast in brown plastic) is much better for Andrea than for the previous two minidolls. The hair is curly, which is rare for minifigs.

The first thing you build is a little boombox, with a nice printed red 1×4 tile for the speakers and CD player. Next comes the stage, made from quarter-circle purple plates, with footlights and a microphone. After that, you build the backdrop, with slopes representing red curtains drawn open, and a printed 2×4 tile with “Andrea” above it. I like the light purple half-arch pieces and the pale yellow 1×2 tiles. Finally you build the piano, which is a nice model of a baby grand, using white grille tiles to represent the keys. It comes with a wine glass (tip jar?) and a microphone stand. Although the instructions only show one microphone being used, they supply us with an extra one, which you could put on the piano.

I think LEGO made a big mistake in not having the wrists be articulated in these minidolls. With regular minifigs, you can have the figure hold the microphone up to his/her mouth. But with minidolls’ long arms and fixed hands, the microphone can’t go anywhere near Andrea’s mouth if she holds it in her hand.

I’ve also noticed that the microphone stand is made using a new piece. The traditional antenna piece has a rounded end, and has been around since the days of Classic Space in the late 1970’s. The length is the same, but the tip has been changed. I’ve always thought it would be better if it were squared off, even when I was a kid, and now it finally has been.

Tomorrow we tackle one that I’ve been really keen on, #3933: “Olivia’s Invention Workshop”

Fortnight of Friends – Day 2: Emma’s Splash Pool

Published / by Bill

The second small LEGO Friends set is #3931, Emma’s Splash Pool. This is day two in my Fortnight of Friends series, and the last “impulse item” sized set.

The box is the same size and type as yesterday’s, and the minidoll of Emma is pretty much the same as Olivia, but with dark hair. Yesterday I complained about the packaging of the minidolls, and it looks like they listened: today they’ve given me a torso in a nice easy to open bag similar to the bags that the LEGO parts in. The legs are still in that annoying stretchy plastic though.

Today we get a bit more pink, along with plenty of lime and white. The set consists of multiple models again: a small 4-piece planter, a lounge chair with lots of pink and lime green, and the main model, the pool, which has a pink floor. It’s called a spash pool, but I think it’s more like a hot tub. Though I would have put a blue or better yet, trans-blue bottom on it personally. Using pink makes me think it’s got some very odd pollution in the water. There are no particularly clever building techniques here, but I really like the new color “macaroni” bricks, and the lime green radar dish has some potential.

Next up tomorrow: #3932, “Andrea’s Stage”, moving up to the next bigger size sets.